Top Gear host James May says he won't return without Jeremy Clarkson

London (Reuters) - Top Gear host James May said Thursday he would not return to the top-rated motoring show without co-host Jeremy Clarkson, who was sacked by the BBC last month for attacking a colleague.

May, 52, who hosted Top Gear with Clarkson and Richard Hammond, told British newspaper The Guardian that it would be "lame" to return to the program with a "surrogate Jeremy".

"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. I don't believe they would be stupid enough to try that," he said.

Earlier in the day, the BBC said on its website that Top Gear producer Andy Wilman "has quit the BBC show in the wake of Jeremy Clarkson's departure".

It added that Wilman "was an old school friend of Clarkson, helped reinvent the show and oversaw its growth into a globally successful programme." Wilman had previously denied he was leaving when a leaked email suggested he was, the BBC said.

The Guardian also reported that Episodes actor Stephen Mangan is the replacement for Jeremy Clarkson on Friday night's episode of hit BBC1 quiz Have I Got News For You.

Clarkson, an opinionated and outspoken media figure, was suspended by the BBC in March after he was involved in a "fracas" while on a shoot for the show, which is syndicated around the world and is one of the BBC's most successful and lucrative programmes.

Just over two weeks later, the BBC announced it had dropped Clarkson, saying he had been responsible for an "unprovoked physical and verbal attack" that left a colleague bleeding and in need of hospital treatment.

A BBC investigation found that Clarkson had subjected Oisin Tymon to a 30-second physical attack following a sustained verbal tirade, after which Tymon sought medical help.

Clarkson, who had generated both controversy and profits for Britain's publicly funded broadcaster, had been on a final warning over accusations last year that he had used racist language while filming the show.

Last October, the show sparked a diplomatic incident between Britain and Argentina, which went to war in 1982 over the Falkland Islands.

A Top Gear television crew was forced to flee Argentina after driving a Porsche 928 GT with the registration number H982 FKL, which some people suggested could refer to the Falklands conflict.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.