The second series of The Grand Tour is just around the corner – and is news which will no doubt have fans around the world readying their internet connections, stocking the pantry full of tasty snacks, and eagerly reading up about what they can expect to see over the coming weeks.
The first series of the Amazon Prime show got a lot more things right than it did wrong, but it still did have its fair share of parts which were, well, a bit rubbish. But the team have gone back to the drawing board and polished things up for series two – and who better to tell you all about it than Jeremy Clarkson himself.
Clarkson was born in 1960 in the Yorkshire town of Doncaster in the North of England, an area renowned for its loud shouting and rampant exaggeration. He went to Repton school but didn’t really pay attention and then got a job with a local newspaper where he was famed for stories such as ‘Literally 50 billion people visit cake sale’. A chance meeting with a BBC producer saw him cast in the hit show Top Gear and the rest is history. Except for jetpacks, which are the future.
Introduce the second series of The Grand Tour…
“The second series of The Grand Tour I was going to say is very similar to the first series of The Grand Tour… but actually, it is not because we have taken out the bits that people said they did not like and replaced them with things which we hope people will like.”
What sort of places have you visited on tour and what’s happening with the tent?
“We are keeping the tent in the second series in the same place, conveniently and completely coincidentally, right at the bottom of my garden! Everyone is saying ‘so it is not a grand tour anymore’ but it is… in the last few months we have been to Mozambique, Spain, France twice, Italy, Canada twice, New York, Colorado and I can keep going on and on and on. I mean (Heathrow) Terminal 5 is my new home – flying endlessly in and out of Heathrow to go and make the show – it was a huge amount of touring, a massive amount.”
Have you visited more locations than the first series?
“There are way more locations with this one, way more. We have only filmed about half a dozen things in the UK. The rest of it is all around the world.”
And what have you been doing in these various locations?
“Often throughout my television life people have actually written in to me. Usually, they are called Monaroboy6321 or something like that and they write in to say that they did not like the scripted stuff and they don’t like planned stuff because they are used to watching YouTube where if somebody falls over or a cat goes in a waste disposal unit, fine. Then they don’t like it when they watch a film, you know, something like a James Bond film, where they thought they knew he was going to do it.”
“Anyway, we thought we would try and do a film where nothing is planned in Croatia and that was actually quite funny – everything goes wrong as you can imagine. In general, though, most of it is carefully thought out and planned as to what we are going to do. I mean some things go wrong but sometimes they don’t and that is just the way the world works out. But yes, Croatia was the most interesting film because we simply did not know what was going to happen every day. We did not know where we were going to go.”
Did you have an overall aim?
“No, because Monaroboy likes it when, you know, a cat falls into a washing machine. You can film your cat all day long but there are hours and hours and hours of it not falling in the washing machine and that is what television is for. That is what entertainment is all about.”
What specific challenges did you set throughout the series?
“The challenges were sometimes set by the office, some by Mr Wilman, the producer, and sometimes set by one another. One of the more interesting and scary ones we did this year was we went to a ski resort called Telluride in America with three old Jaguars and tried to drive from the very highest point of the ski resort back to the town on the snow which sounds like a riot. Belting down the green or blue run – that was great, but some of the points on that run were very narrow black, steep, sheer drop, icy, tricky bits.”
“There were some bowel loosening moments doing that, really really scary actually but we all made it through that one unscathed.”
Am I right in thinking that all three of you have been in hospital one way or another this year?
“Yes, all three of us have been in hospital this year for different reasons, Hammond obviously, because he can’t drive. Me because I somehow managed to get pneumonia while we were in Majorca where it was 100 degrees and James, well he would not tell us what was wrong with him. We do not know what was wrong with him and he will not say. He said it was food poisoning but I’ve seen him eat mud and he doesn’t get ill! So I do not know what was wrong with him but he was out for a couple of weeks. Hammond was out for six and I was out for five which has slowed us down.”
Do you still get excited at the prospect of visiting these various locations?
“I love it, there are certain parts of the world that I don’t care for and it is annoying when you go back to them, thinking ‘yeah I have been here before’. There has never been a time in my life where I have not landed in Nice or Johannesburg or actually in Los Angeles and not been excited. Even though I have been there loads and loads of times before, you get excited. When you land in a new place, I mean that little tiny airport in Mozambique, ‘I’ve never been, who knows what we will see and find here?’ It was all amazing.”
At the other end of the spectrum what would you say was the dumbest idea that anyone had over this course of the last series?
“I think the dumbest idea was Richard Hammond going ‘I’ll do one more run up this hill in this all electrical Croatian supercar.’”
A lot of the entertainment comes from you three bickering. I wonder do you ever find the other presenters genuinely annoying? Is there a specific thing about them that you would change if you could?
“What makes the show work is that we are all very different. We have no friends in common and certainly, we would never socialise with one another away from the show. But, I did once go to a James Blunt gig with James, that was the weirdest thing in the world but we did.”
“Also, I once went to see Roger Daltrey and Wilko Johnson with Hammond but socially that is it really in all the years we have worked together and yet, even though we are all very different, it does work on TV. The reason it works is because we genuinely do manage to get on actually, despite the claims to the contrary over the years, we do get on very well when we are working together because we know each other so well now. I mean yes James drives me mad with his pedantry because I am the opposite of a pedant. Anything will do, I do not care, I just do not care about anything and he cares about everything.”
“Then you know, Hammond, well it is not his fault, it is because he cannot drive and he went upside down and damaged his brain. He has no capacity for remembering anything and some of it is because he is not interested in anything and some of it is because he has had brain damage. So, you can tell him something and then literally five seconds later it is gone out of his head. But that is not really entirely his fault, it does not really matter though because the three of us work very well as a unit on television and the reason is as I say because actually, we do get on very well when we are working together.”
Quite often in the challenges you set, you are in competition to see who will come out on top. Are there moments in the series where you feel like you prove your obvious superiority?
“Yes, I mean I am always the first, always fastest, always the best, obviously. I mean look! No, you do want to win, you always do want to win but the really good thing about us three is that we embrace failure. Almost everywhere else in the world of television there is jeopardy – will they catch the train, will the dog survive – and it always does and they always do.”
“Whereas with us, the dog sometimes does not survive and sometimes we do miss the train – and that is what happens in real life. Will I get that promotion at work? No I have not. When they watch us three they see ‘well actually failure is alright, it does not matter that my life did not work out as well as I had hoped and I have ended up on a bicycle, it is fine.’ So we do not really mind losing, I think that is what it boils down to.”
People find your repartee very funny. Is there a specific time you can think of where you guys had to stop because you were making yourself laugh?
“Hammond is really funny, he is really funny, annoyingly mostly when the cameras are off but he is really, really funny. Just over lunch today – and I have worked him for 15 years – he was making my throat hurt I was laughing so much. Very funny man.”
Of all the places you have been if you had to pick one in which you would stay where would it be?
“Well we went to South West France and it would not be a hardship to stay in South West France. We have not been to Denmark, which is where I always said I would go if I had to leave Britain for whatever reason, but South West France is pretty agreeable. We were down near the really agreeable city of Pau where they held the first ever Grand Prix in 1901 through the streets. They still race through the streets to this day and they closed the streets to let us race there and issued 140 parking tickets to people who did not move their cars because a TV show was coming. I mean imagine if they did that here! But South West France: I would be extremely happy if somebody said I had to go and live there.”
Which car have you loved the most and which have you loathed this series?
“The car I hated most of all is the car I liked most of all which is an Aston Martin DB4 GT. This was a car they made in 1959 to about 1964, they stopped making it and then recently they started making it again using exactly the same materials as they did, with slightly overrated brakes and so on and it was an unbelievably exciting car to drive, beyond belief exciting. You look at it and call it a James Bond Aston basically but it was a rather special version of the car that Bond drove, an updated version.”
“So it was fabulous except it was very hot down there, it had no air conditioning because of course, it was from the early 60s. The windows did not wind down, the heat of the engine coming in was brutal and you couldn’t not double declutch, you couldn’t not do heel and toe shifting so you had to drive like they drove in those days. The gearbox was fantastically difficult. So it was an awful thing and a wonderful thing all at the same time but I properly loved that car, really loved it.”
What would be your space capsule car?
“If I were to send a space capsule up and choose a car to go in the capsule to show future generations or alien life our greatest achievement…you’d have to put the Bugatti Chiron in there…the latest Bugatti which is in Series 2. I drive it across France and Italy and go skiing and live the jet set lifestyle with it. However, I’d also put a Lexus LFA in there because the Bugatti is the son of human achievement in terms of the immense speed it can achieve, but a Lexus, that particular Lexus, captures what motoring is all about and the howl of that V10 engine! I can even now feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up because it’s such an evocative sound and what really defines what makes me interested in cars, the LFA does.”
“The Bugatti is “well done Germans you built an amazing car!”. But the LFA was really the brainchild of a young Japanese kid who loved cars and they let him go and build one… what a thing!”
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.