BBC2 controller Roly Keating has denied press speculation that the three-strong Top Gear presenting team could split over a contract dispute.

The Media Guardian section of the Guardian newspaper had reported last week that James May and Richard Hammond were considering quitting the popular motoring show after failing to agree a pay deal that gave them parity with co-host Jeremy Clarkson.

But speaking at the launch of BBC2's autumn season on Thursday, Keating expressed his confidence that the trio would remain in place on the show.

Last week's Guardian report claimed that May and Hammond were unhappy that they were not given the same deal as Clarkson, who is rumoured to have agreed a contract that includes royalty payments from Top Gear merchandise and live shows.

"Internally there is talk that there might be a chance for the first time that there could be a break up of the team, it has got that bad," a source was quoted as saying.

"There has been a lot of pulling out of hair, a Mexican stand-off. For the first time it is possible that one or both might leave."

But while unveiling the channel's roster of programming for this autumn, Keating dismissed the reports.

"I'm confident the Top Gear team will be there for autumn - and beyond," he added.

11/07/2008 08:53:53