In a recent interview with The Telegraph, May said: “One of the reasons the show works is because we are creatively fuelled by a mutual loathing. TV is difficult with three people. Other shows have tried to do things with three presenters and what they never grasp is that you have to choose three people who annoy each other. That’s the key to why our dynamic works.”
While it seems clear that May’s comment was tongue-in-cheek, Clarkson was asked about the sentiment in a new interview with The Times.
“We’ve spent more time in each other’s company than our families’ over the last 25 years so I don’t think it would have lasted as long as it did if we’d hated each other as much as James likes to think.”
Asked by the interviewer if there was any creative tension between the trio, Clarkson responded: “No. They do as they’re told.”
Clarkson, Hammond and May hosted the BBC’s flagship car show Top Gear together from 2002 to 2015. When Clarkson was dismissed after punching a producer on the set of the show, May and Hammond also left, with all three moving to Prime Video in 2016 to film The Grand Tour.
The series saw the three hosts travel to far-flung places to complete automobile-related challenges similar to those they did in the Top Gear specials.
In The Times’ interview, Clarkson said it simply felt like the right time to end the series. “I’ve driven cars higher than anyone else and further north than anyone else,” he said. “We’ve done everything you can do with a car. When we had meetings about what to do next, people just threw their arms in the air.”
The show, he added, “is immensely physical and when you’re unfit and fat and old, which I am… If you’re Bear Grylls you go to a hotel – there aren’t any hotels in the Sahara desert.”
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in December, May, however, disagreed that the concept of the car show was finished.
“I do think that despite us obviously coming to the end of our time doing this and the cancellation of Top Gear, there has never been a better time (for a car show).
“Things like the future of autonomous cars, new means of powering cars, a change of general attitudes towards cars and driving, there’s never been a better time for a car show. And the car show itself requires reinvention.”
May has previously said he believes that Top Gear needs a “rethink” before it returns to the BBC.
Production on the show has been halted since host Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, the 45-year-old former England cricket captain, was taken to hospital in December 2022 after he was badly hurt in a crash at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey.
“There must be another way of doing a show about cars that will perhaps embrace more fulsomely many of the questions that are being asked about cars that weren’t being asked for a long time,” May said.
In the same interview, he criticised fans who had apparently been asking if he, Clarkson and Hammond would return to Top Gear after Flintoff’s crash.