Fast cars, exotic climes, leather jackets, designer goatee… and a walking stick.
As the image cultivated by The Grand Tour’s three amigos goes, a polished cane to ward off stumbles doesn’t exactly fit.
But Richard Hammond, 49, is many road miles beyond caring about his street-cred these days.
After cheating death twice in fast car stunts for his world-famous TV shows, the fact he uses a walking stick from time to time is the least of his worries.
“I smashed my knee to pieces, it does hurt a bit from time to time. It has metal and bolts in it,” he concedes.
The £2million electric supercar Hammond was racing overturned and caught fire during filming of an episode of Grand Tour
(Image: The Grand Tour/Richard Hammond)
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Richard jokes he’s actually learning to quite relish the distinguished air the cane gives off. “It’s quite a cool prop, you can point at things with it, it lends me a certain authority.”
It’s more than 18 months since he shattered his knee, and nearly lost his life, when the £2million electric supercar he was racing overturned and caught fire.
That came 11 years after a 300mph crash in a jet-propelled car on Top Gear left him in a coma for two weeks. He knows his knee will never heal properly and using a stick when he’s in pain is the price he pays.
“It ain’t going to get any better and will need replacing one day but you put that off as long as you can because new ones don’t last very long,” says Richard.
“I run and am quite active so I would wear it out really quickly. I’m going to try and function with my own dodgy knee for as long as I can. Also, technically it’s a machine, so I’d probably crash it.”
Not a lot gets Richard down, or at least that’s the Tigger-like persona he likes to present.
Understandably, he feels he has a lot to be grateful for – cheating death twice and living in a converted castle near Ross-on-Wye with wife Mindy, 53, and teenage daughters Willow and Isabella.
And he isn’t prepared to jeopardise it again with high-risk stunts.
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, James May – back in the trio’s Top Gear days
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“I don’t want to throw my life away!” he laughs when I ask about any near misses in the new series of The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime.
The show, which he, Jeremy Clarkson and James May launched after Clarkson’s bust up with a producer ended their stint on Top Gear in 2015, has been running since 2016. “I have an amazing job and beautiful wife and two daughters, I don’t want to miss out on all of that. So I’m not gung-ho,” Richard insists.
"He’s not extra careful these days? “We already were extra careful, it’s just I ballsed it up. But then mistakes happen,” he adds, more quietly.
There’s at least one moment in the new series that did leave him fearing for his life again. And he’s not looking forward to the moment Mindy sees it.
“There’s a certain bridge in Colombia I find myself on and you can see I’m shaking from head to foot, because the bridge, from where I was sitting in this tall truck, seems only to be just about as wide as the truck,” he says.
“I was unspeakably frightened but I didn’t plummet to my death so that’s a good result for me. I’m going to make sure I’m out when my wife sees that.”
Hammond, pictured here with a guest, says he has an ‘an amazing job and family’ and doesn’t want to miss out on that
The trio have decided to focus on big trip escapades on the show because they “know that’s what viewers love”.
And he says it will not mean the three hosts spend much less time together – despite Clarkson’s recent claim they weren’t really pals.
Richard, by contrast, insists they are. “We’ve spent 17 years working together, you’d have to be,” he says. But he concedes he’d never tell them.
“I’d be a bit sick if Jeremy was nice about me. We are never nice about each other, we would be embarrassed, and it would be awkward,” he chuckles.
But he admits long periods spent in each other’s company can grate.
“You know each other’s foibles. James confessed to me, ‘Hammond, I hate the way you stick your knife into the edge of the toast to clean it after you have been spreading Marmite’.
“You pull it out and it’s all clean and nice,” he explains.
Again, like the stick, not looking too rock ’n’ roll, Richard. But he doesn’t care a jot. Life is, as he knows, too short.
- The Grand Tour Series 3 returns to Amazon Prime Video tomorrow.
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