Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman has quit the BBC motoring show in the wake of Jeremy Clarkson's sacking. Wilman and Clarkson, who are old school friends, are rumoured to be planning a rival show.

Jeremy ClarksonJeremy Clarkson was sacked after a francas at a North Yorkshire hotel

In an email last month - widely regarded as a letter of resignation - Wilman told staff: "Our stint as guardians of Top Gear was a good one, but we were only part of the show's history, not the whole of it. Those two words are bigger than us."

Top Gear was on the verge of being cancelled in 2000 before Wilman and Clarkson came up with new ideas to reinvigorate the programme.

More: Jeremy Clarkson: "Top Gear is not for people who wear pink ties"

"The two old school friends turned a slightly worthy motoring consumer programme in to an entertainment show that was funny, irreverent, highly-produced and a hit around the world," said the BBC's media and arts correspondent David Sillito.

News of Wilman's departure comes just 24 hours after co-presenter James May announced he would not be returning to Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson. He hinted that Richard Hammond was of the same opinion.

More: Jeremy Clarkson will return to the BBC, says head of BBC Two

Clarkson was suspended and later sacked by the BBC following a "fracas" with producer Oisin Tymon in a Yorkshire hotel. The presenter was said to have been incensed that no hot food was served following a day's filming.

On Wednesday, Kim Shillinglaw, head of BBC Two and BBC Four, said Jeremy Clarkson "will be back on the BBC" in some form, strengthening rumours that he could set up a new show.