► Chris Evans confirmed for Top Gear
► New lead anchor role for next season
► Co-hosts as-yet unconfirmed
Never believe a denial from an entertainer, it seems; after weeks of assertions on-air that he wouldn't replace Jeremy Clarkson as Top Gear's main presenter, Chris Evans was tonight confirmed as the anchor for the BBC's flagship motoring programme.
The radio and TV broadcaster has signed a three-year deal to lead an all-new Top Gear line-up - and one that won't include James May or Richard Hammond, the BBC has confirmed.
'I’m thrilled, Top Gear is my favourite programme of all time,' said Evans. 'Created by a host of brilliant minds who love cars and understand how to make the massively complicated come across as fun, devil-may-care and effortless. When in fact of course, it's anything but and that's the genius of Top Gear's global success.
'I promise I will do everything I possibly can to respect what has gone on before and take the show forward.'
Speaking on his Radio 2 breakfast show the morning after the announcement, Evans described the circumstances surrounding his appointment.
‘Here’s what happened with me and Top Gear. Last Thursday, I got a text from Mark Linsey who is the head of entertainment from BBC TV. Basically it said: ‘Would you be interested in having a Top Gear conversation?’ I had never, ever been offered the Top Gear job before that.
‘Whenever I said I categorically rule myself out [of running for the role], it was because I didn’t want to be a pawn in a chess game involving three of my friends. I did not want to be involved in bookies’ odds and all that kind of stuff.
‘It’s my favourite television show of all time. And so I said yes. We decided we were going to announce it at 7.15 on the BBC Twitter feed. We pressed the button and waited for our phones to melt.’
Top Gear TV: the Jeremy Clarkson scandal
The motoring programme is being reinvented in the wake of the scandal that erupted after Clarkson punched a producer in a late-night 'fracas' over hot food during filming in Yorkshire. After much hand-wringing, the BBC suspended and then dropped Clarkson - leaving it with the tricky problem of how to protect its most valuable TV franchise and its 350 million-strong global audience.
Click here for more on why Top Gear TV was suspended.
Now all eyes are on who will be joining Evans in the new iteration of Top Gear. Guy Martin and Jodie Kidd have been linked with the appointment, but there's no reason why they must stick with the gang of three...
The new era: 2016 and beyond
Filming for the new series of Top Gear will begin in the next few weeks, it was confirmed tonight, and it isn't expected to air until 2016. The BBC is expected to repackage the remaining unbroadcast episodes of Clarkson-era Top Gear and air them later in 2015.
Kim Shillinglaw, the controller of BBC Two, said: 'I am so delighted that Chris will be presenting the next series of Top Gear. His knowledge of and passion for cars are well-known and combined with his sheer inventiveness and cheeky unpredictability he is the perfect choice to take our much-loved show into the future. Chris is a huge fan of Top Gear and has great respect for the craft and work ethic of one of the best production teams in the world.
'He knows the phenomenal attention to detail it takes to make a single sequence of Top Gear, let alone a whole series. He is already full of brilliant ideas and I can't wait for him to get started.'
Evans, meanwhile, made it clear within minutes of the announcement that he would not be leaving his Radio 2 breakfast show. Do you think he'll make a good Top Gear lead presenter? Have your say in the comments below.