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Jodie Kidd in the driving seat to join Top Gear
Chris Evans today said that he would be joined on Top Gear by a female co-presenter after taking over as host of the hit BBC show from sacked Jeremy Clarkson.
The radio DJ and TV presenter insisted he was '100 per cent' certain that one of his co-hosts would be a woman, with model Jodie Kidd installed as the bookmakers' favourite to take on the role.
Evans, pictured above, categorically denied he would join Top Gear three months ago, and said that he had ruled himself out of the job because he didn't want to upset the former presenters - before changing his mind when it was confirmed that they would not be returning.
He suggested this morning that he had only agreed to host Top Gear - on a contract rumoured to be worth £5million - after being told that James May and Richard Hammond had decided to quit the motoring show last Wednesday.
However, May today denied that he was offered a new deal by the BBC, saying: 'I didn't choose to leave, I haven't been asked to return.'
Radio 2 host Evans insisted on March 11 he would never take on the role, but last night he wrote on Twitter: 'First tweet as new Top Gear host. I would like to say Jeremy, Richard and James are the greatest. And NO I'm not leaving the R2 Breakfast Show.'
Kidd is favourite to join him as co-presenter, with bookies offering odds of 5/4 on her being appointed by BBC bosses. She is said to have been 'tight-lipped' about the possibility.
Evans today suggested that his co-hosts would be announced tomorrow, but warned that a 'shortlist' had not yet been drawn up.
Speaking on his radio show this morning, the DJ described how he was tapped up as Top Gear last week, and told listeners: 'I promise I will look after it.'
He said that he had previously ruled himself out of the running because of his close friendship with Clarkson, Hammond and May, but changed his mind when he heard that the two co-hosts had definitely pulled out.
It had previously been assumed that Hammond and May would be leaving Top Gear, but this is the first confirmation that they are quitting. It is not yet known who will replace them as Evans' sidekicks on the revamped programme.
May welcomed the news that Evans would be taking over - but described it as a 'ballsy call' in a tweet that appeared to suggest he was surprised by the decision.
Evans is set to become one of the highest earners at the BBC, with a contract said to be worth £5million over three years.
The Guardian newspaper reported this week the presenter will become executive producer of Top Gear, providing a boost to his earnings from the show.
The bulk of his salary will apparently be paid from BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation, rather than out of licence fee funding.