Jeremy Clarkson used to bribe the 'Top Gear' audience.

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

The 60-year-old TV star - who hosted the motoring show on the BBC from 2002 until 2015 - has revealed that in the early days, he and his co-hosts, Richard Hammond and James May, made sure the audience didn't leave early by paying them to stay put.

Speaking to George Nicole on 'The DriveThrough' podcast, Clarkson confessed: "One of the very [unfortunate] things is when we first began very few people were watching.

"Not just in the studio - we were having to pay, and this is out of our own pockets, we'd get a studio audience of probably, I don't know, 30 people, and by the end of a recording, we'd probably be down to 10. They'd just leave. They were bored.

"And we were having to pay out of our own pockets for them to stay. 'Here's a tenner. Please stay, please just stand in the back of shot, please don't go!'... 'Here's 50 quid. Please don't go!'

"We were battling and nobody was watching on television either, really, not in the first couple of years."

Clarkson also admitted to struggling for inspiration towards the end of his 'Top Gear' run.

He said: "In the early days it was dead easy thinking of madcap ideas. 'Let's see if we can build better ambulances, let's see if we can make a car that will drive across the channel or let's see if we can make a car into a train'.

"But there comes a time after 15 or 16 years when actually you've done everything and so the production meetings became more tricky.

"We started to realise guests are always tricky to get hold of and particularly on a show that was transmitting several weeks after.

"So if they're promoting a film or a book, which is almost always why a guest goes on a show, they're unwilling to come on because they're not promoting something that's happening eight weeks down the line.

"So guests were tricky. Thinking of ideas was becoming tricky."