May in 2006
James Daniel May
16 January 1963
|Residence||Hammersmith, London, England|
|Other names||Captain Slow, Mr Slowly|
|Alma mater||Lancaster University|
|Occupation||Television presenter, author, columnist, journalist|
|Height||6 ft (1.83 m)|
|Partner(s)||Sarah Frater (since 2000)|
James Daniel May (born 16 January 1963) is an English television presenter and journalist. He is best known as a co-presenter of the motoring programme Top Gear alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond from 2003 until 2015. As of 2016 he is a director of the production company W. Chump & Sons (founded July 2015) and is also a co-presenter in the television series The Grand Tour for Amazon Video, alongside his former Top Gear colleagues, Clarkson and Hammond, as well as Top Gear's former producer Andy Wilman.
May has presented other programmes on themes including science and technology, toys, wine culture, and the plight of manliness in modern times. He wrote a weekly column for The Daily Telegraph's motoring section from 2003 to 2011.
James Daniel May was born in Bristol, one of four children; he has two sisters and a brother. May attended Caerleon Endowed Junior School in Newport. He spent his teenage years in South Yorkshire where he attended Oakwood Comprehensive School in Rotherham and was a choirboy at Whiston Parish Church.
May followed his passion for music, studying a Bachelor of Music, specialising in harpsichord and piano at Pendle College, Lancaster University, where his love for music flourished: his favourite composers include Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt and Scott Joplin. In addition to piano and harpsichord, May is a keen flautist and saxophonist. After graduating, May briefly worked at a hospital in Chelsea as a records officer, and had a short stint in the civil service.
During the early 1980s, May worked as a sub-editor for The Engineer and later Autocar magazine, from which he was dismissed for performing a prank. He has since written for several publications, including the regular column England Made Me in Car Magazine, articles for Top Gear magazine, and a weekly column in The Daily Telegraph.
He has written the book May on Motors (2006), which is a collection of his published articles, and co-authored Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure (2006), based on the TV series of the same name. He wrote the afterword to Long Lane with Turnings, published in September 2006, the final book by motoring writer L. J. K. Setright. In the same month he co-presented a tribute to Raymond Baxter. Notes From The Hard Shoulder and James May's 20th Century, a book to accompany the television series of the same name, were published in 2007.
In an interview with Richard Allinson on BBC Radio 2, May confessed that in 1992 he was dismissed from Autocar magazine after putting together an acrostic in one issue. At the end of the year, the magazine's "Road Test Year Book" supplement was published. Each spread featured four reviews and each review started with a large red letter (known in typography as an initial). May's role was to put the entire supplement together, which "was extremely boring and took several months".
To alleviate the tedium, May wrote each review such that the initials on the first four spreads read "ROAD", "TEST", "YEAR" and "BOOK". Subsequent spreads seemingly had random letters, starting with "SOYO" and "UTHI". The curious noticed that the letters spelled out a message. May's original message, when punctuated, reads: "So you think it's really good, yeah? You should try making the bloody thing up; it's a real pain in the arse." The editors of Autocar missed the 'joke' and only became aware of it when readers started calling in about it, thinking there might be a prize.
His past television credits include presenting Driven on Channel 4 in 1998, narrating an eight-part BBC One series called Road Rage School, and co-hosting the ITV1 coverage of the 2006 London Boat Show. He also wrote and presented a Christmas special called James May's Top Toys (for BBC One). James May: My Sister's Top Toys attempted to investigate the gender divide of toy appeal. In series 3, episode 3 of Gordon Ramsay's The F Word, May managed to beat Ramsay in eating bull penis and rotten shark and with his fish pie recipe.
May was briefly a co-presenter of the original Top Gear series during 1999. He first co-presented the revived series of Top Gear in its second series in 2003, where he earned the nickname "Captain Slow" owing to his careful driving style. Despite this sobriquet, he has done some especially high-speed driving – in the 2007 series he took a Bugatti Veyron to its top speed of 253 mph (407 km/h), then in 2010 he achieved 259.11 mph (417 km/h) in the Veyron's newer 16.4 Super Sport edition. In an earlier episode he also tested the original version of the Bugatti Veyron against the Pagani Zonda F.
May, along with co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson and an Icelandic support crew, travelled by car to the magnetic North Pole in 2007, using a modified Toyota Hilux. In the words of Clarkson, he was the first person to go there "who didn't want to be there". He also drove a modified Toyota Hilux up the side of the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajökull.
Following the BBC's decision not to renew Jeremy Clarkson's contract with the show on 25 March 2015, May stated in April 2015 that he would not continue to present Top Gear as part of a new line-up of presenters.
May presented Inside Killer Sharks, a documentary for Sky and James May's 20th Century, investigating inventions. He flew in a Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon at a speed of around 1320 mph (2124 km/h) for his television programme, James May's 20th Century. In late 2008, the BBC broadcast James May's Big Ideas, a three-part series in which May travelled around the globe in search of implementations for concepts widely considered science fiction. He has also presented a series called James May's Man Lab. In 2013, May narrated To Space & Back, a documentary on the influence of developments in space exploration on modern technology produced by Sky-Skan and The Franklin Institute.
James May on the Moon (BBC 2, 2009) commemorated 40 years since man first landed on the moon. This was followed by another documentary on BBC Four called James May at the Edge of Space, where May was flown to the stratosphere (70,000 ft) in a US Air Force Lockheed U-2 spy plane. Highlights of the footage from the training for the flight, and the flight itself was used in James May on the Moon, but was shown fully in this programme. This made him one of the highest flying people, along with the pilot, at that time, after the crew of the International Space Station.
Beginning in October 2009, May presented a 6-part TV series showing favourite toys of the past era and whether they can be applied in the modern day. The toys featured were Airfix, Plasticine, Meccano, Scalextric, Lego and Hornby. In each show, May attempts to take each toy to its limits, also fulfilling several of his boyhood dreams in the process. In August 2009, May built a full-sized house out of Lego at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey. Plans for Legoland to move it to their theme park fell through in September 2009 because costs to deconstruct, move and then rebuild were too high and despite a final Facebook appeal for someone to take it, it was demolished on 22 September, with the plastic bricks planned to be donated to charity.
Also for the series, he recreated the banked track at Brooklands using Scalextric track, and an attempt at the world's longest working model railway along the Tarka Trail between Barnstaple and Bideford in North Devon, although the attempt was foiled due to parts of the track being stolen and vandals placing coins on the track, causing a short circuit.
In 2013, May created a life size, fully functional motorcycle and sidecar made entirely out of the construction toy Meccano. Joined by Oz Clark, he then completed a full lap of the Isle of Man TT Course, a full 37 3⁄4 mile long circuit.
In late 2006, the BBC broadcast Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure, a series in which May, a committed bitter drinker, travelled around France with wine expert Oz Clarke. A second series was broadcast in late 2007, this time with May and Clarke in the Californian wine country, and was followed by a third series in 2009 called Oz and James Drink to Britain.
May lives in Hammersmith in west London with dance critic Sarah Frater, with whom he has been in a relationship since 2000. In July 2010 May was awarded an honorary doctorate by Lancaster University, where he had previously studied Music.
In August 2014, May was one of 200 public figures who signed to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in September's referendum on that issue. In June 2016 he supported Remain in the EU referendum.
May has owned many cars including a 2005 Saab 9-5 Aero, Bentley T2, Rolls-Royce Phantom, Triumph 2000, Rover P6, Alfa Romeo 164, 1971 Rolls-Royce Corniche, Jaguar XJS, 1992 Range Rover Classic Vogue, Fiat Panda, Datsun 120Y, 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera S facelift, Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1, Ferrari F430, Ferrari 458 Italia, 1984 Porsche 911, 2005 Porsche Boxster S (which he claims is the first car he has ever purchased new). May currently owns a BMW i3, a 2018 Alpine A110 and a 2014 Ferrari 458 Speciale which he ordered following his exit from Top Gear. He often uses a Brompton folding bicycle for commuting. He passed his driving test on his second attempt and justified this by saying "All the best people pass the second time".
May obtained a light aircraft pilot's licence in October 2006 having trained at White Waltham Airfield. He has owned a Luscombe 8A 'Silvaire' and an American Champion 8KCAB Super Decathlon with registration G-OCOK.
|1999||Top Gear (original run)||Presenter|
|2005||James May's Top Toys||Presenter|
|2006–2007||Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure||Presenter|
|2007||Top Gear of the Pops||Presenter|
|2007||James May's 20th Century||Presenter|
|2007||James May: My Sisters' Top Toys||Presenter|
|2008||Top Ground Gear Force||Presenter|
|2008||James May's Big Ideas||Presenter|
|2009||Oz and James Drink to Britain||Presenter|
|2009||James May on the Moon||Presenter|
|2009||James May at the Edge of Space||Presenter|
|2009–2014||James May's Toy Stories||Presenter|
|2010–2013||James May's Man Lab||Presenter|
|2011–2012||James May's Things You Need To Know||Presenter|
|2014–2016||James May's Cars of the People||Presenter|
|2014||Phineas and Ferb||Guest voice (as Ian)|
|2015||Building Cars Live||Presenter|
|2016–Present||The Grand Tour||Presenter|
|2016–Present||James May: The Reassembler||Presenter|
|Oz & James' Big Wine Adventure: Series One||Acorn Media||2006|
|James May's Motormania Car Quiz||DMD||2006|
|James May's 20th Century: The Complete Series||ITV||2007|
|Oz & James' Big Wine Adventure: Series Two||Acorn Media||2008|
|James May's Big Ideas: The Complete Series||DMD||2009|
|James May on the Moon||BBC DVD||2009|
|James May's Amazing Brain Trainer||DMD||2009|
|James May's Toy Stories: The Complete Series||Channel 4||2009|
|Oz and James Drink to Britain||Acorn Media||2009|
|Top Gear: Apocalypse||BBC DVD||2010|
|James May's Man Lab: Series One||Acorn Media||2011|
|Top Gear: At The Movies||BBC DVD||2011|
|James May's Man Lab: Series Two||Acorn Media||2012|
|Top Gear: Worst Car in the History of the World||BBC DVD||2012|
|James May's Man Lab: Series Three||Acorn Media||2013|
|James May's Toy Stories: Balsa Wood Glider/Great Train Race||Channel 4||2013|
|James May's Toy Stories: The Motorcycle Diaries||Channel 4||2014|
|James May's Toy Stories: Action Man at the Speed of Sound||Channel 4||2014|
|James May: The Reassembler: Series One||Spirit Entertainment Limited||2016|
|James May: The Reassembler: Series Two||Spirit Entertainment Limited||2017|
|May on Motors: On the Road with James May||Virgin Books||2006||Reprinted 2007|
|Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure||BBC Books||2006|
|Notes from the Hard Shoulder||Virgin Books||2007|
|James May's 20th Century||Hodder & Stoughton||2007 (H/B)||Reprinted 2007 (P/B)|
|James May's Magnificent Machines||Hodder & Stoughton||2008|
|Oz and James Drink to Britain||Pavilion (Anova)||2009|
|James May's Car Fever||Hodder & Stoughton||2009 (H/B)||Reprinted 2010 (P/B)|
|James May's Toy Stories||Conway (Anova)||2009|
|James May's Toy Stories: Lego House||Conway (Anova)||2010|
|James May's Toy Stories: Airfix Handbook||Conway (Anova)||2010|
|James May's Toy Stories: Scalextric Handbook||Conway (Anova)||2010|
|How to Land an A330 Airbus||Hodder & Stoughton||2010 (H/B)||Reprinted 2011 (P/B)|
|James May's Man Lab: The Book of Usefulness||Hodder & Stoughton||2011 (H/B)||Reprinted 2012 (P/B)|
|James May: On Board||Hodder & Stoughton||2012|
|James May: The Reassembler||Hodder & Stoughton||2017|
|Forza Motorsport 4||Turn 10 Studios||2011||Voice over|
|Forza Motorsport 5||Turn 10 Studios||2013||Voice over|
|Gran Turismo 6||Polyphony Digital||2013||Voice over|
|Forza Motorsport 6||Turn 10 Studios||2015||Voice over|
May created his own YouTube channel, titled "JM's unemployment tube", in 2015 after Top Gear was postponed by the BBC following Jeremy Clarkson's dismissal. Where (as of 2018) May still produces videos. May created Head Squeeze (now renamed "BBC Earth Lab"; May no longer features as a presenter). The channel is a mix of science, technology, history and current affairs. The first video was published in December 2012. Videos are produced by 360 Production for BBC Worldwide. In 2016 May launched, with his former Top Gear presenters, a social network for motoring fans called DriveTribe.
James May with his Brompton bike
| Guild of Motoring Writers
Journalist of the Year Award
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