Jeremy Clarkson has compared his recent run of bad luck to a theory about old stars.
“Just before they die,” he says, “they burn more brightly than ever before, then become a black hole and collapse in on themselves.”
So have Clarkson, Hammond and May passed a point of no return, and begun their collapse into star death? Physically, things were not looking so good earlier this year.
“James was the first to be hospitalised,” Clarkson says. “He did a couple of weeks in hospital. Unspecified illness, who knows. May called it ‘essentially very severe food poisoning’ which required ‘elaborate antibiotics’.
“So he was out, then as soon as he got better Hammond went upside down again, broke his leg,” Clarkson added.
Hammond was filming for The Grand Tour when the Rimac Concept One electric supercar he was driving left a mountain road in St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland and burst into flames. Jeremy Clarkson tweeted about the accident, saying: “It was the biggest crash I have ever seen and the most frightening but incredibly and thankfully, Richard seems to be mostly okay.’’
Hammond now has 10 pins and a metal plate holding his leg together, and will probably never run again.
Then, as soon as Hammond could get back to filming, Clarkson went into hospital with double pneumonia.
“I’m made of wood and stone so it didn’t really put me out of action for very long,” he says. “But I look at what we’ve done the last nine months and think ‘how the bloody hell did we do that’? … In the tiny little gaps where all three of us were fully functioning we’d get out there and drive really fast before one of us was ill again.”
Clarkson also insists that The Grand Tour isn’t actually a car show at all.
“It’s a travel show, it’s an adventure show, it’s a show about three old men falling over,” he offers. “If you actually look at the world, the sales of car magazines is dwindling, the number of carmakers in the world is dwindling. The interest in cars is at its lowest point probably ever.
“If you went around saying ‘yeah we’re making a car show’ nobody would watch it. It would be like saying ‘we’re making a show on mangles’.”
And it’s a place where a certain, old-fashioned view of the world can feel at home.
“We are known for speaking our minds and saying what we think,” Clarkson says. “People get fed up and then they watch us … and they see people talking how they talk. It’s kind of quite nice.”