Tuesday 14 August 2018

'Sometimes we make noises when we’re getting out from a car, but otherwise we’re still the same' - James May on the return of The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour season 2 returns to Amazon Prime Video on Dec 8

The Grand Tour - James May, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond
The Grand Tour - James May, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond
Amy Mulvaney

Amy Mulvaney

The very first episode of the new season of The Grand tour promises to be pretty dramatic as it features Richard Hammond’s death-defying crash in the Swiss Alps.

Hammond’s electric Rimac Concept One supercar crashed off the road and careered over 100 metres down a mountainside before bursting into flames during filming for the second season of the show with co-presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May.

Thankfully, he survived, albeit with just a knee injury (although he later said one leg is now shorter than the other), and Amazon were granted car show TV gold with the horrifying footage.

Behind the scenes, however, as Hammond dusted himself off, Clarkson was hit with a bout of pneumonia, leaving May holding the Grand Tour fort for a while.  When he spoke to Independent.ie at the time, he wasn’t remotely fazed by the situation.

The wreckage from Hammond’s crash in Switzerland (Freuds/PA)
The wreckage from Hammond’s crash in Switzerland (Freuds/PA)

“There’s nothing major wrong with them.  I’m not worried about it,” said a characteristically laid back May.

“Hammond is here, driving cars and Jeremy is lying around somewhere moaning. I wouldn’t say I’m holding the fort because we’re a few weeks ahead of schedule so we’ve time to catch up. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet to be honest.”

British television presenter Richard Hammond gesturing towards an x-ray of his injured knee as he sits in a hospital room in St Gallen, after he was involved in a car accident while filming in Switzerland. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
British television presenter Richard Hammond gesturing towards an x-ray of his injured knee as he sits in a hospital room in St Gallen, after he was involved in a car accident while filming in Switzerland. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The first series of The Grand Tour was met with mostly positive reviews as the trio’s trademark Top Gear banter survived the move from the BBC to Amazon and money was clearly no object when it came to production.

They were seen racing beach buggies across Namibia, they toured Italy with May in the Rolls-Royce Dawn, Clarkson in the Aston Martin DB11 and Hammond in the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. We saw them in London, Stuttgart and Rotterdam.

Jeremy Clarkson (The Grand Tour)
Jeremy Clarkson (The Grand Tour)

Its success eased the pressure for season two, admitted May.

“It shows that some people still like us, even though it’s a different show,” he told Independent.ie.  “We’re needy folk, us TV presenters. Hopefully if we keep doing something similar, with a few changes, it will continue to be a roaring success.

“For season two we’ve filmed in Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, the Middle East and the UK. It’s been an adventure. Next we’re going to America, and it’s somewhere you’ll never find me.”

He added, “I quite like travelling from country to country. We’re older than we were before, so we’ve to sit down more and sometimes we make noises when we’re getting out from a car, but otherwise we’re still the same.

The Grand Tour
The Grand Tour

“I liked all of the places for the second series because we chose them. I was most surprised by Switzerland because three of us went, but only two of us came home,” he said, referring to Hammond’s crash.

This series will also see the return of the Celebrity Face Off and the guests are even starrier with our own Rory McIlroy among names including Luke Evans, Kiefer Sutherland, Hugh Bonneville, Kevin Pietersen, Dominic Cooper, Dynamo, Michael Ball, Alfie Boe and more.

The first episode pits former TV talent show judges against each other. David ‘The Hoff’ Hasselhoff from America’s Got Talent goes up against Ricky Wilson from The Voice UK.

Speaking about the lap, The Hoff said: “I’m basically an actor, I’m not really a good driver but I just look good doing it” and Ricky Wilson commented: “I’m fiercely competitive and whilst I don’t know the results yet, it’s ok if Hasselhoff beats me because he’s my hero! I really enjoyed it and I hope it looks as good on TV as it felt being in the car."

It's a tweak on the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment from Top Gear.

Richard Hammond: My wife will be cross if she watches my car crash on TV 

The trio famously left Top Gear and the BBC in 2015 after Clarkson was sacked from the show for allegedly punching a producer.  May and Hammond followed suit.  They were snapped up by Amazon for a reported £10m a year.

“Amazon leaves us alone for the most part,” reveals May.  “They hired us for us to do what we do, and now we’ve our own production company so that’s great. It’s a slightly different job than working with the BBC because it’s a state broadcaster, whereas Amazon is a subscription service.”

Top Gear has struggled without them.  Host Chris Evans left quit after just six episodes when the show as deemed a failure but his co-presenter Matt Le Blanc remained. 

May is not gloating about his former show’s struggles, however.  He says there’s more than enough room in the petrol head town for both Top Gear and The Grand Tour.

“I do think there is enough room for Top Gear and The Grand Tour in petrol heads’ lives.  It’s a healthy thing,” he muses.

Grand Tour trio are back in show’s thrilling new trailer 

“For years Top Gear was the only mainstream car show, and now with the way things worked out, I don’t see anyone losing out. For car enthusiasts and people who like to watch programmes about cars, now they’ve two to watch and I think that’s very healthy.

“And now I’ve one show that I can watch that I’m not in.”

It’s quite likely May enjoys watching a show that also does not feature his Grand Tour co-presenters Clarkson and Hammond.

 “By the end of the series I’m sick of Hammond and Jeremy,” he reveals.

“I spend more time with them than anyone else in my life. We have breakfast, lunch, dinner, watch TV together. The only time that I’m not conscious that we’re together is when I’m asleep. I don’t think they sneak in to my room, anyway.

“There’s a lot of joy and emotion when we finish up.”

The Grand Tour season 2 lands on Amazon Prime Video at midnight tomorrow December 8. Customers can re watch all of series 1 anytime on Prime Video

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