Richard Hammond hasn’t had the best run this year, after having two separate accidents during filming for The Grand Tour series 2. Back in March he was knocked unconscious after falling off a motorcycle in Mozambique, and just a few months later crashed a Rimac Concept One electric supercar at a hill climb event in Switzerland.
Hammond required reconstructive surgery on his fractured left knee having escaped the wreckage just seconds before it went up in flames on June 10, and vowed to ‘quit TV’ if he crashes again.
Born in 1969 in the British town of Solihull, Hammond started his career in local radio before getting a break on a cable TV car show where he was able to hone his presenting skills, safe in the knowledge that no one was watching. In 2002 he was given his big break on BBC Top Gear and has never looked back, except when pulling out into traffic. He lives almost in Wales and is known as the Hamster, though only by people he has never met.
Richard – can you introduce the second series of The Grand Tour…
“The second series of The Grand Tour kicks off soon and hopefully, we have learned from the first series by taking the really good bits (the best bits), worked them up, made them better and then we’ve added some new stuff as well. The idea as always is to make it bigger and better.”
Where have you been in terms of locations around the world?
“For series 2 we have continued travelling around the world, usually in inappropriate cars. We have been to Colorado, we have been to Canada, it’s not just places beginning with C though. We have been to South West France, Spain, in fact we have been all around the world once again… Mozambique, Switzerland, and many more.”
And would you say that you have been doing more travelling if that were possible than in the first series. Is the scope wider this time?
“There is a real sense for series 2 that we want to stress the touring is the films – that is what people love about our show. We have dialled it up, we are really conscious now that when we take the viewer somewhere, we are taking them somewhere that they maybe have not been or thought of going and certainly to do something that they have never thought of doing. It is a unique way of seeing places and that matters to us. People love that, people love to see places they would not see otherwise.”
What sort of challenges, competitions have you set one another this series and crucially who has been winning?
“We can never resist challenging one another in one way or another. We do enjoy healthy competition, usually. So, from hill climbs to skiing to drag races in unusual vehicles in unusual locations, and sometimes really deeply inappropriate locations, so we have continued with that.”
In terms of things that went wrong, can you say what went wrong this series, and what went really, really wrong?
“Things that have gone wrong this series, I think we missed a flight or two but that is just logistics. Imagine corralling us around the world, it is not an easy task. I had a slight incident in Switzerland when I departed the road backwards in quite a fast car but I also crashed a number of times on a motorcycle in Mozambique. Basically, what’s gone wrong is I keep getting injured.”
Am I right in thinking that all three of you have been in hospital this series but not always with driving-related injuries?
“There was a point part way through recording this series of The Grand Tour when things came off the rails quite badly for all three of us. We all three ended up in hospital one way or another. Me, because I had broken my knee in a crash, Jeremy because he managed to catch pneumonia in Majorca. Yes, it is really cold and damp there, he caught it on a superyacht apparently. James was dispatched to hospital with an as yet unspecified complaint that he will not tell us about which has lead us only to speculate that it must be something “down there”. So yes, all three of us were hospitalised, not even at the same time, we took it in turns, it was like a relay! James came out, I injured myself, I was in hospital, I came out of hospital and then Jeremy went into hospital. We are clever like that, the way we covered a couple of months of not actually being available for work. Genius planning!”
Which moments in this series have you found the other two most infuriating and why?
“There are always times working together as much and as closely as we have to that one will find the other two irritating. I find it is at its worst when they are conscious and present and speaking about anything. So as long as they are not either present or speaking or moving I do not find them annoying generally unless I think about them. So as long as they are not in my mind or in front of me, I am fine. If both of them were never spoken about and erased from history I would not find either of them irritating.”
So you were very happy with the hospitalisation?
“I was very happy to be in hospital in Switzerland because they were not there and it was just me and my poorly leg and a telly and some very nice nurses and doctors who made me better and correct, no Clarkson and May at all. It was great, happy times, I miss them!”
Am I right in thinking that in Croatia, possibly the first time you went there you were just winging it with no particular plans, just to see how things turned out?
“We went to Croatia to make a film because we had received criticism from a couple of people that things were scripted so we thought we would address that head on by going out and making a show with no script at all. It turns out it is better if you plan it as you will see from the film. It lacks a certain cohesiveness with all three doing different things and we have not got a plan or access to any of the things that we would have access to had we planned it.”
The cars: what have you driven this series that has particularly inspired you?
“Every series there will be vehicles that we drive that will inspire and engage us. The motorcycle I had in Mozambique was terrible and did not inspire or engage. I have driven the McLaren 720S which is just mind-blowing, but wait till you see it; make your own mind up. I loved it. The Lamborghini Huracán Performante version, which just takes it to another level, I loved that. I do not want to give too much away but there are some old Jaguars that we drove and I loved mine, absolutely adored it.”
“Obviously, the vehicles are front and centre; they have to be. It helps that we are the car geeks, you do not have to be a car geek to watch the show, we do that for you but therefore, as car geeks, there are times when you just think this is a treat to get to grips with this thing.”
If you were asked to put any vehicle in human history into a space time capsule what would you put in there?
“I think right now is the best time to be doing what we are doing, to be commenting on cars because it has been undergoing a fundamental change. We’re seeing the biggest changes that have happened to the whole motoring sphere since it was invented not that long ago… But if I were asked to put into a space capsule to be possibly seen by aliens as an example of what it was about, I would probably, and this is going to sound quite cheesy and predictable but for good reason, I would put a 1961, 1962 Jaguar E Type Roadster because it encapsulates something about the ambition, the beauty, the grace. It comes from a time before anything was watered down and the design was compromised by right of concerns for pedestrian safety, for crash safety, for economy, before all that”
“It did not simply resort to having an enormous engine, it had a magnificent 3.8 litre, one of the all-time wonderful engines that was wrapped in one of the most beautiful bodies ever created. It sings with speed, of beauty, of grace, of one of the high points of what motoring had become about; far more than the business of getting ourselves to the shops and to work. It challenges something deep down in our make up as human beings and it is about display, it is about territory, dominance, speed, it is human and I think the E type very nicely captures that with its simplicity, its beauty, its uncompromised beauty, it is impeccably and measurably absolutely beautiful.”
Speaking of which, of all the places you have been to over both series, is there a ‘Hammond heaven’? Is there one place where you could see yourself settling?
“Whenever we travel there are moments when you find yourself thinking I could live here. Africa is a big continent but there are bits around – and I have travelled it pretty extensively – where sometimes I find myself thinking, ‘Do you know what? I could stay here.’ Part of it is being a Brit, I think. There’s something about the terrain – it looks very familiar but it is dialled up to eleven. The scale, the stretch, the scope, the views of the sky… so I could settle in Botswana or the Lake District in the UK because that is my favourite place on earth.”
The Grand Tour Series 2 will be available on Amazon Prime Video at midnight GMT on December 8th. If you don’t have Amazon Prime subscription, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial at PrimeVideo.com.