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7 Questions with The Grand Tour's Richard Hammond: ‘I expected James May’s arms and legs to come off’
Richard Hammond talks to us about The Grand Tour's season 5 special A Scandi Flick, his love for Subaru and, for once, not being the member of the trio who crashed a car.
Lockdown is over and Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are back on the road for season 5 of The Grand Tour.
The trio’s latest special for Prime Video, the cheekily titled A Scandi Flick, finds the chaps heading for an icy adventure across the Scandinavian Arctic Circle in their three favourite rally cars.
Trekking from Norway to the Russian border, the boys are back to their silliest, wildest and most accident-prone best. But for once, it wasn’t Richard Hammond who ended up in A&E.
We caught up with Richard Hammond to find out more about the Arctic road trip….
1. What were your first thoughts when James crashed his car?
When I heard the crash, my immediate thought was "Oh my God I’ve had a crash… wait a minute, it’s not me!" So that was quite an odd situation to be one of the ones watching.
It’s much more comfortable. I didn’t get a ride in a helicopter or a ride in an ambulance. It was a fresh experience to be on the other side.
He’s not that tightly bolted together, James May, so I expected his arms and legs to come off. I thought he might disintegrate. He was definitely a bit sore.
2. Did it make you reflect on your own accidents?
When one of us crashes, you are bound to think about crashing. It was a pretty poor effort compared to some of mine.
I did think, "hang on… that’s my thing". When we first did Top Gear, I wore very loud shirts and then James started doing the same, so I stopped. He’s also now grown a little beard. And now he’s taken up crashing.
I don’t mind him taking the crashing off me. He can take that mantle off me. It means I’ll get less encounters with taxi drivers who say, "Why are you always crashing, mate?".
3. If James didn't have his accident in the tunnel, would you have crashed?
No. I’d have gone for that pedal in the middle that slows things. I’ve used that before. It makes the world pass the windows much less quickly. It changes the rate that the scenery goes past. It’s very clever. I would have adjusted the pace of the scenery passing until it came to a complete stop.
4. Tell us about your love affair with Subaru
I’ve always loved them. I was just delighted at the opportunity to take one and unleash it a bit. We wanted rally-bred cars, but mine is the only one that, out of the rallying, came first. It was built as a rally car, then compromised and turned into a road car. Whereas James’s is the other way around, and with Jeremy’s it was never a rally car. They did make one, but it wasn’t that one.
So I was more than happy with my choice. I love the Subaru because it’s analogue, and I’m analogue. It’s not a digitally enhanced car. It’s just built to do what it does, so it’s technically inclined to do what it does. It doesn’t need persuading by a computer. I love that.
5. Where do you want to go for the next special? Somewhere hot?
I’m not sure about going somewhere hot after the summer we’ve just had. We need to go somewhere that has a story to unpack. There has to be layers to it beyond us having a good time. But it’s getting harder to do that, because we’ve been to all the places.
I’m very conscious that the last 22 years have been the best and most incredible of my career and all because Andy Wilman and Jeremy said, "Oh we’ll have that little fella from Birmingham". I’ve been incredibly lucky and hopefully we can keep doing it for as long as we can.
6. Do you ever think you might be to old to race cars with skiers and bus shelters tied on the back?
Jeremy and James are nearing a hundred and they’re doing it. So I’ve got 50 years to go.
7. What has been your favourite Grand Tour special?
I particularly loved this one because of the Subaru. But the ones we filmed in lockdown conditions were probably my favourite.
It’s easy to say we didn’t get to go on a big adventure, but what we did get to do was strip it back to what the show is at its heart, just three blokes who are mad about cars, going on a journey. It didn’t matter that there weren’t any volcanoes, deserts, mountains involved in it. It did us good to remind ourselves what the show is really about.
And now we can get back out there again, we can go to exciting places, but bring that learning with us.
The Grand Tour presents: A Scandi Flick launches on Prime Video on 16 September.