Go figure: Jeremy Clarkson’s smashed thumb was the biggest mishap to hit Season 3 of “The Grand Tour.”
That’s quite a dramatic injury departure from last season, which was nearly derailed by Richard Hammond’s fiery crash in Switzerland while test-driving an electric car (he shattered his tibia and broke several ribs) and Clarkson’s bout with double pneumonia — leaving only co-host James May unscathed (at least physically).
“We managed to get through the whole thing with nothing worse than me nearly cutting my finger off in Azerbaijan — that was the only injury,” Clarkson says of Season 3, available on Amazon. “I was trying to bash the beak off a porcelain duck with a hammer and it didn’t work — isn’t that weird?
“I somehow managed to nearly cut my hand off.”
This season, “The Grand Tour” takes Clarkson, Hammond and May around the world — including Detroit, Mongolia, Scotland, Colombia, Georgia (in Eurasia) — as they test drive cars cool cars and engage in various challenges.
Clarkson, 58, has a history with Detroit, featured in this season’s opener (the guys drive three Muscle cars: a Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Camaro Exorcist). He’s been to the city many times, including a 1997 episode of his former series, the BBC’s “Top Gear,” which didn’t exactly go as planned.
“Somebody held a gun in the railway station against my head — we got quite badly mauled,” he says. “So there I was [in Detroit this season] and not 100 yards away and I was having dumplings with goose broth. Well, now that’s a bit of turn. [Detroit] has such a rich history; not just the cars, but the music. It’s very nice now that there’s little green shoots of recovery with hipsters and bicycles and dogs and their urban Ramen — which is lovely — but I wish it could get a bit of its soul back.
“The most surprising place [we visited] was Mongolia,” he says. “We drove, and even in a big country like the US or Australia you couldn’t do this. We drove for six days using nothing but a compass and we saw not a road, a farm animal, a person or any evidence that man had ever existed. You can’t even do that in the Sahara. It’s all green but it’s not grass — it’s either rosemary sage or thyme; as you walk or drive along the smell is just extraordinary.
“It’s like being in an herb garden.”
Clarkson, Hammond and May were plunked in Mongolia and tasked with building a car (the supplies were air-dropped in wooden crates) and using a compass to navigate to civilization.
“We were simply dropped in the middle and told that if we wanted to get out we had to build the vehicle that would get us out,” he says. “That was an exciting conceit and a rather good story actually developed because of it.
“I don’t know a lot about cars — if had been just me, I’d still be there now,” he says. “I literally can’t wire a plug, can’t sharpen a pencil and can barely tie my own shoelaces. Luckily we had Richard Hammond. So basically I made tea while he built the car. That seemed to me to be the answer — ‘Get Hammond to do it.’ ”
Clarkson says that the series’ storylines always come first — and not the cars featured in each episode.
“When we do stories and films and go around the world we always choose the story first, always, then pick cars that suit the terrain and whatever it is we’re doing,” he says. “When we wanted to go to Detroit, we said, let’s get those three nuts in Muscle cars; when we crossed Azerbaijan and Georgia — we actually didn’t know anything about Azerbaijan, we just took a punt that it would be all right — and we drove in an Aston Martin, a Bentley and a BMW … and hoped the cars fit what we hoped would be right.
“And we were right.”
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