I can’t recall a time where I felt so anxious to be watching an episode of The Grand Tour, or even Top Gear, as I was when I watched the opening episode of The Grand Tour Series 2. My heart was truly in my mouth as I watched Richard Hammond thundering up the hill in the all-electric Rimac, carrying the weight of Croatia’s pride on his shoulders.
The accident was every bit as shocking as we expected it to be, but unfortunately there were no cameras present at the crash location to cover the incident and some questions have been left unanswered. What caused the crash exactly? And was Hammond or the Rimac at fault?
Back in July, Hammond sat down with Rimac CEO Mate Rimac to discuss the incident on DRIVETRIBE. But, unfortunately again, the video came across as being mostly an advertisement for Rimac – perhaps something the manufacturer was owed following the incineration of one of their US$980,000 Concept One supercar.
Speaking of the accident, Hammond said: “The last run of the day, at the top just over the finishing line… [the back end] got away from me and I went over the edge. There’s a slight right and a left, and as I went ’round the left the back end stepped away.”
But what caused the back end to step out as Hammond went around the left-hand turn? And didn’t this happen quite some distance after the finish line? To investigate this further, we first need to look at the course map of the Bergrennen Hemberg hill climb itself.
From the start location at the bottom of the valley, the 1,758-metre course winds its way up the hill to the finish line located a few hundred metres from the town itself. It is important to note that the finish line has been positioned along a relatively straight piece of road, providing plenty of space for racers to slow down upon completing the course.
Despite this, Hammond’s Rimac managed to leave the road approximately 200 metres after the finish line, immediately following the right and left turns which you can see on the map above. The vehicle left the road sideways, travelling at approximately 130 km/h (80 mph).
Mr Rimac suggested to Hammond: “You were running out of road, you were going too fast, so you wanted to get through the corner anyway.”
“What happened there in my opinion.. you have two inputs – the steering and the brake and the throttle pedal,” Rimac added. “This is what you [use] to tell the car this is where I want to go and this is what I want to do. So when you do this [turn the steering wheel left] it says ‘okay, you want me to go there’, but there is not enough road and it will rotate the car more than the tyres can handle.”
Here’s what we see: After crossing the finish line, Hammond’s Rimac appears to continue accelerating (or at the very least does not slow down dramatically) until it reaches the right turn. As it enters the right turn, the rear end steps out and the car begins to over-steer / slide to the right. Hammond most likely counter-steered into the slide, but as the car regained grip, it snapped violently to the left and left the road sideways.
Hammond never mentioned the rear end stepping out as he entered this first right turn, yet the tyre marks left on the road clearly show this is the case. So what caused this to happen?
For one reason or another, whether it be brain fade or poor judgement, Hammond appears to continue at race-pace after crossing the finish line and didn’t lift off the accelerator until he reached the entry to the right-hand turn (‘A). As he entered the right turn, he suddenly realised his predicament and lifted off the accelerator before applying the brakes – unsettling the car and unwittingly creating a state of lift-off over-steer due to the forward weight transfer (‘B’).
Hammond would have panicked at this point (perhaps when he is heard saying “CRAP!” in the episode audio) and attempted to steer left – counter-steering into the slide – in an effort to stay on the road. But the Rimac was still travelling too quickly at this point, and as the car stopped over-steering and regained grip, it snapped violently across to the left and exited the track sideways (‘C’).
Had he succeeded, Hammond would have unwittingly achieved a move which would have been remarkably similar to a ‘Scandinavian flick’ or an ‘Inertia drift’ – but he entered the turn far too quickly, and as a result, maintaining control from that point onward was pretty much impossible. It was the forward weight transfer that unsettled the rear end, and caused an otherwise under-steery car like the Rimac to bite and bite hard.
Despite all of this visual evidence, at no point has Hammond ever admitted to going too fast, or forgetting to slow down after crossing the finish line – but James May alluded to this in the second episode of The Grand Tour series 2. May pointed out that they missed a train in the New York to Niagra Falls challenge because Hammond “doesn’t know how to slow down when it says ‘finish’ across the road”. Yikes.
The evidence against Hammond is even more damning when you consider the Rimac requires just 31.5 metres of braking distance to come to a complete stop from 100 km/h. So how fast would it need to be going to require more than 200 metres to stop, or at least slow down enough to take those turns safely?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.