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Band of Brothers: May and Hammond not coming back to Top Gear without Clarkson

If anyone with their head buried in the sand needed further proof that Top Gear as we know it is gone, a few more show critical members of the team have officially jumped ship.

Front and center of it was co-presenter James May telling The Guardian in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t return to the show without his comrades in cars.

“Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn’t work. That would be lame,” May said. “It has to be the three of us. You can’t just put a surrogate Jeremy in and expect it to carry on. It would be forced.”

James May Top Gear

May is of course referring to the incident in which the Top Gear frontman verbally and physically assaulted a producer on the show, after which the BBC decided not to renew his contract. May and the show’s other co-presenter, Richard Hammond, consequently allowed their contracts to run out without further renewal.

Therein lies a key factor that May points out people have overlooked: He technically wasn’t fired.

“The BBC haven’t completely closed the door on Jeremy’s return. They’ve not banned him or fired him, only just not renewed his contract for the moment. It’s a subtle difference but an important one,” May explains. This nugget may leave fans hopeful that the trio will somehow come back, and May doesn’t rule this out. “In the future, when all this has blown over, there might be an opportunity for three of us to get back together on the BBC to do Top Gear or a car show of some sort.”

As for Hammond, his only statement on the matter has been on twitter, addressing the same technicality that “There’s nothing for [him] to ‘quit.’ ” He then reaffirms his commitment to the trio, albeit all in a very nebulous 140 characters.

The biggest death knell blown to the existing format of Top Gear is that the show’s long time Executive Producer, Andy Wilman, announced his departure from the show. Wilman had very much been the unseen fourth member (or fifth member, if the Stig counts), largely contributing to the personality the show had been imbued with.

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He was the one Clarkson tasked in revitalizing the show after its previous incarnation ran its course, subsequently building the successful program into what it is (was) today. Wilman previously denied he was leaving the show as a response to a “goodbye email” he had sent to the show’s crew.

Related: With Clarkson gone, Top Gear Presenter James May scrambles to sell his Ferrari

“… In 2002, the brief was to reinvigorate a car show and get an audience of three million. What you all ended up making was one of the most iconic programmes in TV history, a show about cars that went global, won countless awards, was devoured by non car fans and ended up in the Guinness Book of Records,” Wilman said in the email.

What Wilman plans to do next is unknown. Same goes for the presenting trio, but it looks like whatever happens, the three of them are sticking together.