When Jeremy was suspended from the BBC back in March, James May wrapped up an interview with reporters on his doorstep with the phrase “If you’ll excuse me, I very desperately have to write the eBay listing for my Ferrari.”
I dismissed the phrase as a joke and eBay has remained James-May-Ferrari free in the time that has passed since, but I think I finally know the reason he may have said it.
Not long before the whole Jeremy Clarkson fracas / steak-gate scandal went down, the Top Gear boys were actually on the brink of finalising new Top Gear contracts with the BBC, as James explains;
There we were, all three of us, on the brink of a new three-year contract to make Top Gear, after which we would definitely chuck it in with dignity and hand the reins to a new generation, assuming we were still alive. There were a few details to resolve about time frames and other mundane stuff, but the groaning draft version of this document was actually sitting on my desk.
This was a great privilege, and a once-in-a-lifetime event; an invitation to continue presenting the world’s biggest TV show for – let’s not be shy – a handsome salary.”
Rather fittingly, James thought he’d celebrate and started looking at purchasing a new Ferrari – namely the £200,000 Ferrari 458 Speciale. He acknowledged the car was pricey but that “like every hopeful classic car owner in the land, I could claim it was better than money in the bank”.
“Smoke poured from the back of my man-maths calculator as I made this case to Woman, whose arms remained resolutely folded throughout; as well they might because our house needs a new roof. I’m pleased to say that common sense prevailed – on her part, I mean – but only because I didn’t admit to my plan for gold wheels.”
But then after Jeremy punched producer Oisin Tymon, James’ contract was rescinded.
“Everything in the future shattered like the mishandled Christmas bauble that the future turns out to be. It all evaporated, exactly as the poet Thomas Gray warned us: “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r, and all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave” – along with the unsigned contract on my desk and unspoken permission to use the Concorde room at Heathrow terminal 5. It had all gone. All, that is, except the order for a 458 Speciale lodged in Ferrari’s factory system, with only the final details to be confirmed. Oh cock, as I used to say when I was on telly.”
Talking about the future of Top Gear, he added:
“The three of us may be reunited on screen, we may go our separate ways, or we may disappear from the television altogether and each assume a place, alone, in the corner of a pub where any unsuspecting passing drinker who strays into an exclusion zone studiously avoided by the locals will be subjected to a predictable “I used to be on TV” routine.”