Top Gear presenters Richard Hammond and James May are said to be threatening to quit unless they receive the same pay as Jeremy Clarkson.

Media reports have claimed that while Clarkson is paid a reputed £1 million a year to host the BBC motoring programme, Hammond and May earn around £15,000 per show.

But after Hammond's 200mph crash and May's BBC 2 wine series, the co-presenters believe their profile is now high enough to compete with Clarkson's and are said to be demanding a pay rise.

The BBC disagrees, however, and it is understood that negotiations have come to a halt.

The current six-programme series of Top Gear is to end this summer and although the team are contracted for a 12th series in the autumn, all plans for subsequent runs of The Cult show have been put on hold, according to the Independent.

The newspaper quoted a source close to the negotiation as saying "Richard and James are adamant that they will no longer be second rankers to Jeremy on this.

"They feel they all have similar profiles now and should be receiving similar fees. It is possible one of them, or both, might feel compelled to leave," it added.

The BBC said it does not comment on specific contract negotiations.

The show regularly attracts controversy and was recently criticised for showing the presenters drinking a gin and tonic at the wheel while driving a 4x4 vehicle to the North Pole.

05/07/2008 16:52:52