James is one of the nation’s favourite motoring presenters, best known as a presenter of BBC2’s hugely successful Top Gear. He is also an exceptionally skilled motoring journalist writing for Top Gear Magazine and The Daily Telegraph and has contributed over the years to Car Magazine, The Scotsman, Country Life and various technology and travel titles.
He has presented a variety of programs on themes including science and technology, toys, cars, wine culture, and the plight of manliness in modern times. In addition he has released a variety of DVDs and books with similar themes
During the early 1980s, May worked as a sub-editor for The Engineer and later Autocar magazine. He has since written for several publications, including a regular column called England Made Me in Car Magazine, articles for Top Gear magazine, and a weekly column in The Daily Telegraph.
His past television credits include presenting Driven on Channel 4 in 1998-99, 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) exploring the toys of his childhood.
He has written a book titled May On Motors, which is a collection of his published articles, and co-authored Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventure, based on the TV series of the same name.
May first co-presented Top Gear in 1999, before it was axed by the BBC because of poor viewing figures. He rejoined the show in the second series of the present Top Gear format in 2003, where he earned the nickname “Captain Slow” owing to his careful driving style.
He also became one of the first people – with co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson and an Icelandic support crew – to travel by car to the magnetic North Pole, using a modified Toyota Hilux.
May obtained a light aircraft pilot’s licence in October 2006 having trained at White Waltham Airfield.
He has also written 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. His book, Notes From The Hard Shoulder, was published on 26 April 2007. James May’s 20th Century, a book to accompany the television series of the same name, was published on 6 September 2007.
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.
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.
May received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Lancaster University on 15 July 2010.
James is very highly rated as an after dinner raconteur, his style is a relaxed, flowing and humorous series of observations of modern life, past times and social habits.