James May is an English television presenter and journalist best known as a co-presenter of the motoring magazine programme Top Gear, replacing Jason Dawe from Season 2 onwards.
A popular TV presenter and award-winning journalist, May has been broadcasting and writing about cars, bikes, pies, American hard gums, poetry, hats, aeroplanes and quite a few other things for most of his adult life.
May was born on 16 January 1963 in Bristol, a large historic city in south-west England. He is the son of a steel worker and has an older sister Jane, a younger sister Sarah, and a brother.
The family moved around the country during his childhood. James was educated at Caerleon Endowed Junior School near Newport, South Wales; and Oakwood Comprehensive School in Rotherham (the same North Yorkshire town where Jeremy Clarkson began his journalistic career).
As a child James was a choirboy at Whiston Parish Church. A keen flautist and pianist (he also plays the harpsichord), he later studied music at Lancaster University, where he was a member of Pendle College and was once involved in lining the walls of the corridors with paper printed with the Union Flag.
He first co-presented Top Gear in 1999 and then rejoined the show in Season 2 of its revised, present format. Of the three named presenters, he is the craggy, rumpled, gentle one with long blond hair – and a bit of a nerd.
Clarkson lost no time in finding a nickname for him: Captain Slow, allegedly due to his 'careful' driving style (unlike the others, he is no fan of speed despite the fact that he has occasionally driven at exceptionally high speeds on the show).
He is also known for his belief that bigger is better when it comes to testing or buying vehicles.
His other TV credits include presenting Top Of The Pops on 29 January 2006, two series of Oz and
James's Big Wine Adventure for BBC2, Inside Killer Sharks – a documentary for Sky, James
May's 20th Century – a series about inventions and discoveries and James May's Big Ideas.
Prior to Top Gear, his television credits included presenting Driven on Channel 4 in 1998-1999, narrating the eight-part BBC1 series 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 BBC1) on toys from his childhood and the BBC2 sequel James May: My Sister's Top Toys.
As well as a TV presenter, James is an award-winning journalist. During the early 1980s, he worked as a sub-editor for The Engineer and later Autocar magazine (from which he confessed he was fired after inserting a hidden derogatory message in one issue in 1992).
He has written for several publications, including a regular column called England Made Me in CAR Magazine and articles for Top Gear Magazine, in addition to being a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph's Saturday Motoring section since October 2003.
In 2000, he won the Guild of Motoring Writers Journalist of the Year award. He has also has contributed to the online motoring humour magazine Sniff Petrol.
A collection of his published articles was published in his book May On Motors, and he co-authored
Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure based on the TV series of the same name. He also wrote the afterword to Long Lane with Turnings, the final book by motoring legend LJK Setright.
His other books are Notes From The Hard Shoulder (published in 2007) and James May's 20th Century (published in September 2007 to accompany the television series of the same name).
James passed his driving test on his second attempt and has owned many cars, including a Bentley T2, a 1971 Rolls-Royce Corniche, a Jaguar XJS, a Range Rover, a Fiat Panda, a Porsche 911, a Porsche Boxster S (which he claims is the first car he has ever purchased new), a Mini Cooper and several motorbikes.
He has also had a light aircraft pilot's licence since October 2006, plus five motorbikes and a folding bicycle.