7 Questions with… The Grand Tour’s Richard Hammond: Car crashes, pirates and the most brutal road trip ever

We hear from The Grand Tour presenter about his punishing journey - hunting for treasure in a Ford Focus - in the road-tripping trio's Madagascar special A Massive Hunt.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 4 December 2020 - 12.57pm

The Grand Tour is back on Amazon Prime Video this Christmas with an exotic special filmed on the islands of Reunion and Madagascar.

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May may have thought they would get it easy this year after their perilous boat trip across the South China Sea in 2019. But producer Andy Wilman had other plans.

The Grand Tour presents A Massive Hunt finds the trio on the search for treasure across the beautiful landscapes and beaches of Madagascar. So far, so good. However, there is one tiny catch: the journey takes them on the toughest road in the world.

Driving a Bentley (Clarkson), Ford Focus (Hammond) and Caterham (May), the chaps aren’t prepared for the brutal, vehicle-wrecking trek ahead.

We caught up with Richard Hammond to find out his highs and lows from the epic adventure...

1. Looking back, do you regret picking a Ford Focus for this trip?

Richard Hammond on the beach in Madagascar with a metal detector Prime Video

I think my choice of car was pretty questionable. It was the toughest terrain I’ve ever encountered. We were told it would be tough, but we thought, ‘this is us, we’ve driven all over the world many, many times, we’ll be fine’. But it was the most punishing and brutal road I’ve ever driven anything across and my modifications weren’t brilliant. I messed up a little bit there.

2. You’ve been all around the world. How do you rate Madagascar?

It’s up there for sure. What a place and what a way to visit it. It’s just so rich in terms of flora and fauna. It has a rich history as well. And we’re so incredibly lucky in the way we get to travel. I know you’ll laugh, but we are in these places to work. I know, I’m sorry, it’s not a real job, but we are there with a job to do. And that means we meet people and see things in a different context, not just floating through. You meet people not just as a tourist, but for real.

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Don't miss The Green Knight, Nine Perfect Strangers, Clarkson's Farm, Cinderella and more.

3. What was your highlight and lowlight?

Richard Hammond's modified Ford in The Grand Tour presents A Massive Hunt Prime Video

Best moment was - and don’t laugh at me - the whole treasure hunt element and playing pirates. I do love all of that. I was genuinely excited by that.

The worst moment - just the terrain. When I realised the grind it was going to me. When my tyres broke *again* and I had to get out and fix them for two hours at midnight when I was eight hours away from where I needed to be. There were a few heart-sinking moments like that.

We weren’t worried, we thought we’d seen it all before, but this was brutal. It goes on and on and on. It takes two hours to get [the length of] a parking space away from you.

4. You’ve been working together for 17 years, what is your secret?

Clarkson, Hammond and May larking around on The Grand Tour in Madagascar Prime Video

Our show is a great chance to offer people an escape to another world. And, particularly this year, we need that. 

And it’s not just the places we go or the people we see, it’s the escape from normal rules or constraints. We’re doing crazy, stupid things with cars that they were not designed for and this is one of those occasions. I beat that car up pretty hard.

If I’m driving along normally and I slowly back into a bollard I’d be flapping around, "oh no what a terrible accident" but when we’re doing this show I’ve had rolls where I go all the way over and the car's flipped back onto its wheels and I’ve just carried on. You wouldn’t do that in normal life. 

“I have had a lot [of crashes]. I think it's boyish exuberance on my part, a lack of ability or possibly common sense”
- Richard Hammond

It’s all an escape to another world, a crazy place we live in this show.

Jeremy said it best when he said, "When I go away on my own or with my family, I don’t roll cars or get a boat that sinks, there’s hardly ever a fire, nothing explodes - so why does it happen when us three get together?"

And the answer is, it just does.

5. You had another crash in Scotland this year. How are you still in one piece?

I have had a lot. I think it’s boyish exuberance on my part, a lack of ability or possibly common sense. I have been lucky with a few of them and bits of me are held together with metal and creak a bit now, but I’ve always run and tried to keep reasonably fit so that helps.

I’m also a small man. You may not know that, it’s not very well known, it’s a well kept secret. but I’m only 5 foot 7. That means there’s less of me to break, which is useful.

6. If you had to lockdown with Jeremy or Richard, who would you choose?

Obviously neither. But it’s a hideous thought that us three have spent a large chunk of the last 20 years locked down together or in a bubble together. We know that we are capable of talking rubbish between us endlessly, so I know that we could definitely do it if required. 

Look, I’m not saying I want to do it, I’d rather be locked down with a hungry tiger. But in terms of getting through it, if you think of the thousands of hours we’ve spent on flights, cars and boats, waiting to do things, spending time with each other is the easiest thing in the world. 

7. How long can The Grand Tour keep going?

Clarkson, Hammond and May on the beach for a promotional Prime Video poster

We’re all still so young, boyish and fresh. Look at us! We get asked that a fair bit, but genuinely I don’t know. 

We still love it. The day I wasn’t excited to fly off somewhere and do something crazy in a car, I simply wouldn’t do it. 

We’re not going to run out of ideas. We’ve still got stories to tell. 20 odd years ago when we started working together, I thought it was my dream job and I was lucky to do it for a few years. It’s turned out to be a whole lifetime.

We all just wanted to make the best show, have some fun. None of us thought 20 years later we would be sat here talking to you about our new show. Not for a second. 

I can’t look forward and guess what we’ll be doing in the future, maybe we’ll be sat here in another 20 years. Although Jeremy will be 100 years old and James 120 at that point. But it’s possible.

The Grand Tour presents A Massive Hunt is available now on Amazon Prime Video.

Watch The Grand Tour seasons 1-3 and specials on Amazon Prime Video now.

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Don't miss The Green Knight, Nine Perfect Strangers, Clarkson's Farm, Cinderella and more.