Richard Hammond on the Future of Cars and The Grand Tour Season 2

Wheels.ca was lucky enough to chat with Richard Hammond on the phone ahead of the premiere and discuss the new season.

Kunal Dsouza By: Kunal Dsouza December 1, 2017
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Exciting locales, brilliant cars, great storytelling, big-budget filming and probably best of all, three older blokes bickering with each other at any opportunity they find.

This is an easy way to sum up the Grand Tour, Amazon Prime Video’s motoring television series presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

I think these three are just natural hosts, they know how to captivate and entertain an audience. This is something sorely lacking in many car shows. The “new” BBC Top Gear is a case in point, a show that I now find a bit contrived and awkward to watch. Maybe it’s a lack of chemistry or experience or familiarity—either way Top Gear’s monumental viewership figures have never recovered.

Season 2 of The Grand Tour premieres on Dec 8th  and there are some changes. First and foremost, the studio tent will stay put in the UK near Jeremy’s house in the Cotswolds. Celebrity Brain Crash will be replaced with a segment where the celebrities don’t actually die and the angry American Mike Skinner probably isn’t coming back.

So some pretty big changes, but still enough petrol fueled excitement for us enthusiasts amidst all the change in the automotive world.

Wheels.ca was lucky enough to chat with Richard Hammond on the phone ahead of the premiere and discuss the new season. We also got his thoughts on the future of the automotive landscape. Also we didn’t feel it necessary to bring up the Rimac crash, something that has been reported on to no end by most media outlets around the world.

Would you be able to let us in on some of the exciting locations and stories featured this season?

We’ve been recording and filming in Colorado, Dubai, Croatia, Switzerland, Mozambique, across the UK. I mean we continue to tick of places and visit new places and find new challenges. It’s the way we go about it. We are story led. We’re always looking for the story, which might involve a car, people, place, location, time and climate. All of these have to come together to give us enough to fashion a story from it. Well we could simply go, hello here is the new “insert name with car here.”

Personally I can’t wait for Season 2, but I wonder how you guys will top Clarkson’s meat car this time around?

Ahhh, It was disgusting! The crew was sick actually dealing with it. Yeah, we’re always doing new and interesting things. I for one would say perhaps not using meat to build a car.

One of the main reasons I think the Grand Tour is so popular is how the automobile is romanticized. The on-screen chemistry between your trio is undeniable and hilarious to watch, Are the three of you genuinely friends off air?

Yeah we are, we bicker and squabble and fight and it’s simply terrible, but yes we are as with any bunch of people who spend a lot of time together. And you’re right about romanticizing about the car, not a word we bandy about but you’re right in essence its about cars and people. A quiet cold machine is of little interest to people, its only when its fired up and used in the human sense does it become interesting, and that’s where we put ourselves editorially.

When are you going to do a story in Canada?

We are travelling constantly, so there’s a very real possibility that we could come to Canada soon to make a film. And that’s when we really get to see a place, when we are touring, it’s when we’re out making our films.

Going to a live studio taping is a dream of mine

It’s rubbish, really, you’d be bored (chuckles).

Richard Hammond interview

I love cars, as I’m sure you do and can talk about them all day long. For me it’s the freedom, the noises, the smells, the speed…it’s intoxicating. What excites you about cars?

It’s exactly that, that empowering facility that allows you as a flesh and blood person to explore your territory and to be very quickly in another place. It’s also a form of expression. There’s so many things about ourselves we don’t always choose to say, but we can say it through vehicles and I think that makes them a tremendously exciting proposition.

It’s exactly that, that empowering facility that allows you as a flesh and blood person to explore your territory and to be very quickly in another place.

What is one the most memorable experiences you’ve had in a car?

Um, millions…driving across Africa, one of the last drives of the day back to where we were camping that evening and everything was perfect. The light, the timing, the car which was the Opel Kadett that I took home. There’s been many times in my life and its made a more meaningful moment that might otherwise not have been.

Do you still own Oliver (referring to his Opel Kadett)?

Yeah, got him at home. Still works, yeah…still works.

What is your everyday car? The one you gravitate towards in your own garage?

A 1969 911T, which I habitually use a lot. Or if I’m just hacking about in the country where I live—a Land Rover.

The UK’s recent announcement of banning the sale of gas cars by 2040 was a bit of a shocker. What are your thoughts on this supposed electric future?

I think the electric future is gonna happen. There are gonna be alternate forms of propulsion. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that because there’s sufficient of an appetite. I think it goes a bit beyond being used as a political football, and the car is politically demonized, there’s no doubt about that—it’s an easy target. There are other things we can be doing to cut out our own output of carbon.

Nevertheless there will be alternatives and I think it will be incredibly exciting and wonderful. Those same manufacturers that build cars with flair and passion will do the same making electric ones, using different materials. There’s many opportunities to make things that inspire and ignite our passion now as there were over 100 years ago. But I think it’s a really exciting time to see change from the industry and we shouldn’t be scared. Human nature will be defined in essence. We will get what we demand and people will make it. It will fit with us because it’s of us.

I think it’s a really exciting time to see change from the industry and we shouldn’t be scared.

Will there ever be such a thing as an emotional electric car? Something that would give you the fizz as May puts it, or are they all destined to be appliances with wheels?

I think we all demand far more of these cars. The autonomous cars we see constantly now are upright town cars with an electric motor. It scratches an itch, it performs one need…but we will demand alternatives to that. We will demand aesthetically pleasing, proportionately pleasing electric cars, which send out a different message beyond the simple practical desire to get from one place to another.

Quite often those clamouring and complaining and talking about the fear and excitement and the thrill they get from petrol engines. Are they?? I think that’s just thinking about it. It’s not actually using, driving, experiencing, these things. It’s like a motorcyclist whose rear tire only has a band of wear down the middle and then will go on about a sport bike. Really, you’re not actually using it. I think those who use will demand and they’ll get what they want.

It’s market forces. It will happen that way and there’s never been a more exciting time to talk about cars. Manufacturers are going to and have already made mistakes and that’s great. That gives us a chance as commentators to say, Whoa, this is awful isn’t it, and as consumers to buy cleverly and experience and enjoy new things. That hasn’t been possible in a long time.

And are you really telling me that there’s that much passion in a lot of common cars. Like a Lexus with a petrol engine. Is it really, Is it REALLY giving you the fizz for filling any throbbing desperate feeling deep in your trousers for the internal combustion engine. I don’t think it is.

richard hammond interview

Wise words from the “Hamster”, it has to be said.

It makes sense that the cars made my manufacturers will eventually reflect the wants and needs of the consumer, mostly satiating any need for the internal combustion engine.

I’m still not so convinced. Governments change, laws change, but I think we will find a way to appease both sides. In the meantime manufacturers are producing some of the most exciting and advanced road going machines ever made and at the tiny volume they are produced, their carbon footprint is comparatively zero.

And seriously, seeing these cars driven in incredible locations all over the world brings out the 8 year old in all of us and that’s never a bad thing.

The Grand Tour Season 2 is available on Amazon Prime Video on December 8th. Prime Video is automatically available at no additional cost to Amazon Prime members.

All pictures provided by Amazon Prime Video

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