When Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, and James May left Top Gear, fans were in panic mode. How could any other hosts match the brilliance and chemistry of these car reviewers? The American version of Top Gear was a dud, and the current hosts of the program aren’t winning over audiences.
Thankfully, Amazon saw an opportunity. Jeff Bezos and his crew knew these TV personalities would be an excellent addition to the Amazon Prime streaming service. Thus, the Grand Tour was born. So far, two seasons of the car-culture show have aired.
Our three favorite car nuts have drag-raced in Croatia, tested electric supercars, and trashed rally cars. The show is everything Top Gear used to be and more. Here’s a look at 17 facts you need to know about Amazon's the Grand Tour.
17 There was a segment called "Celebrity Brain Crash" that was canceled.
When Hammond, May, and Clarkson hosted Top Gear on BBC, they had a lot of famous celebrities on as guests. For the Grand Tour, they planned to continue that trend. The original plan was to have a celebrity-trivia showdown segment called Celebrity Brain Crash. Actors, musicians, and sports stars would compete against each other by answering motoring questions. However, the crew quickly realized that would be super boring. So, they turned the segment into a comedy sketch instead. Jeremy Renner and Armie Hammer did appear in the Season 1 pilot episode. Unfortunately, Renner died when his parachute didn’t open while skydiving into the tent, and a deadly poisonous snake killed Hammer. Of course, they didn’t really die—it was just a dark joke.
16 They had legal problems with the BBC.
The BBC made things quite difficult for the trio in the move to Amazon Prime Video. Top Gear still continues to this day with new hosts like Matt LeBlanc, but Clarkson and his team weren't allowed to take a number of things to their new show because it would infringe on Top Gear intellectual property. The Stig was not allowed to move to Amazon Prime, and the news segment on the Grand Tour could not be called “The News.” Instead, the news segment on the Grand Tour is called "Conversation Street." They even had to change the celebrity leaderboard on the Grand Tour so it was different enough from the Top Gear version.
15 Richard Hammond almost died when he crashed a supercar.
Despite years of experience driving supercars, Richard Hammond still managed to crash a Rimac electric supercar in Switzerland. Luckily, he escaped death by jumping out of the supercar before it went up in flames following the crash. It sounds like something straight out of a Mission Impossible movie, but this was real life. The supercar rolled down a hill and then burst into flames. Amazingly, Hammond was left relativity unscathed. He merely suffered a fairly minor knee injury. Don’t think this brush with death will deter Hammond. He simply loves supercars and electrics too much. It’s also not the first time he's been involved in a serious wreck. He trashed a few motorbikes, too.
14 Rimac trolled Hammond after his crash.
When Croatian electric supercar manufacturer Rimac unveiled the Rimac C_Two at the Geneva Motor Show, they announced a surprising new feature. They revealed a sleek miniature fire extinguisher that fits snugly into the rear-engine bay. It’s held in place by a leather strap that reads: “in case of hill climb, extinguish fire.” Rimac then dubbed the new supercar "Richard Hammond-proof." Hammon, of course, took the good-natured ribbing in stride and found the “trolling” quite amusing. You could consider this trolling as a genius marketing technique by Rimac. Wouldn’t you like to own a Hammond-proof EV supercar? That sounds a lot more appealing than any other boring old supercar.
13 The opening intro to the series cost a staggering amount.
The Grand Tour is certainly not a cheap show to produce. Traveling to far-off locations and blowing up machinery is definitely not the most budget-friendly thing you can do. Of course, the hosts also get paid boatloads of cash, too. Amazon views the Grand Tour as one of its flagships shows, so the company spared no expense. The intro cost nearly $3.5 million USD to produce and featured Hammond, May and, Clarkson driving through the California desert in red, white, and blue Ford Mustangs. They're followed Mad Max style by 150 vehicles as dust flies into the air. The huge caravan of autos featured pick-ups, dirt bikes, hotrods, dune buggies, semis, Bugatti Veyrons, and even jet planes.
12 There'll be at least three seasons.
Only two seasons of the Grand Tour have aired so far, and we know there'll at least be a third season. Even though Jeremy Clarkson has just been announced as the new host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, we know all three auto presenters will be back for the third season of the show later this year. It's expected to have 12 episodes. The trio signed a three-season deal, but based on the show's success, we might see the show last even longer. Clarkson says he hopes to travel to Iran for season 3, which Clarkson said would never be allowed on Top Gear.
11 Richard Hammond drove a tank through Dubai.
One of the best things about Top Gear was when the trio got behind the wheel of something other than a typical automobile. Even more interesting than driving a Bugatti or a Ferrari is when Hammond, May, or Clarkson get behind something that could simply be described as a behemoth. In season two, Hammond took a leisurely spin in a $420,000 USD Ripsaw off-road vehicle in a place it wasn’t meant to go. It was quite at home in the UAE deserts, but driving this monster through the streets of Dubai, and in and out of luxury shopping malls did a lot more than just turn heads.
10 They stopped moving headquarters in season 2.
You may have noticed something very different between season 1 and season 2 of the Grand Tour. In season 1, they set up a studio in a different location each week. The first episode was in the USA, and then, they moved on to locations like South Africa, England, Germany, Netherlands, Scotland, Finland, and the UAE. In season 2, they decided to keep things in one place and put the studio tent in Cotswolds, England. The trio, of course, still does remote segments and travels the world testing cars and doing challenges, but now, the studio audience is pretty much comprised of mostly British people, which is what Top Gear was like.
9 The gang has traveled the world from Canada to Africa.
The Grand Tour is as much a travel show as it is a motoring show. Clarkson, May, and Hammond have traveled to some amazing places during their long careers as auto journalists. They tested SUVs in British Columbia and Canada; had a drag race in Pag, Croatia; raced from Central Park to Niagara Falls; and tested supercars in Switzerland. In the latest episode of the Grand Tour, the gang headed to Mozambique, Africa with a bit of charity in mind. The goal was to transport fish from Maputo to Bingo. Unfortunately, neither Clarkson, Hammond, nor May ended up successful in their mission. The fish they were moving were either missing, ruined, or dead by the time they arrived at the village.
8 There used to be an American cast member.
Since there's no Stig in the grand tour, they needed to have some sort of test driver to push the vehicles to the limit on the track. For season one, they hired NASCAR driver Mike Skinner. He played an exaggerated version of himself. His character hated all import carts, wasn’t a fan of any auto unless it had a v8, and deemed basically anything other than Detroit steel as communist. Skinner was let go shortly before season 2. His redneck American cliché shtick wasn’t particularly appealing to many fans, so his absence in season two wasn’t a big issue for many gearheads.
7 Kevin Pietersen was the fastest in the Celebrity Face Off.
Season 2 of the Grand Tour introduced the brand new Celebrity Face Off segment. Each week, two vastly different celebrities would face off in a time race around the track. This segment is similar to the Top Gear segment where celebs battled it out for the fastest time on the leaderboard. Cricket player Kevin Pietersen had the best time at 1:17.2. Meanwhile, magician Dynamo was the slowest at 1:39.3. However, he had to deal with snowy conditions. The second-fastest time was baseball player Brian Wilson's at 1:17.5. Wilson went head to head with Kevin Pietersen on the same episode to determine who was the “fastest person who makes a living throwing and hitting and catching small balls.”
6 Clarkson finally reviewed a Tesla again.
Clarkson only reviewed a Tesla car once on Top Gear, and it certainly didn’t go well. Clarkson wasn't particularly impressed with the Tesla Roadster he had tried out on Top Gear, and therefore, he gave it an honest and perhaps very critical review. However, that’s his job as an auto reviewer. Tesla felt he was being biased and even went so far as to sue him. Twice. Tesla lost both times, and since then, Clarkson took a stand and refused to review another Tesla. That is, until now. Clarkson reviewed a Tesla once again, but this time, he tried out the Tesla Model X. In a bit of clever satire, Clarkson test-drove the car while it was filled with lawyers. In the end, he liked the Model X quite a bit, until the staggering base price of $135,000 USD was revealed.
5 You can’t binge-watch the show.
Well, you could binge-watch it if you wait for all the episodes to air, but who would be able to be that patient? Unlike most of the other shows on Amazon Prime and rival Netflix, the Grand Tour uploads just one episode a week. Since this isn't a typical drama show, that might actually be a better idea. It might be easy to binge-watch 12 hours of something like House of Cards, but an auto show might become a bit tedious if you watch it all at once. After all, it doesn’t have an overarching narrative. As charming as May, Hammond, and Clarkson are, 12 hours in a row might be too much. The weekly upload schedule has become the standard for most talk shows that air on streaming networks.
4 Hammond and May blew up Clarkson’s house.
In the pilot episode, Clarkson was so certain his McLaren was faster than May’s Ferrari and Hammond’s Porsche that he made an outrageous bet. If his car was the fastest around the track, Hammond and May could destroy his house. That bet blew up in Clarkson’s face because the McLaren was actually the slowest of the three. It was way faster on the straights, but it was simply too wild around the corners. So, in episode three, Hammond and May blew up Clarkson’s house. However, this was all staged as Clarkson was planning to build a new house anyway. It may have been staged, but it was still a good joke.
3 Amazon used crashed Toyota Priuses to promote the show.
Amazon went all out when it came to promoting the Grand Tour. It had to have some clever marketing because the company put a lot of money into the show, and the pressure was on. Amazon really wanted this to be its top show, and so far, that bet seems to have paid off. Amazon used two crashed Toyota Priuses (yes, that's plural for "Prius" no matter how badly Toyota wants you to use Prii) as an advertisement for the show. They put one in Berlin that looked like it was coming out of the ground, and the second went in London where it looked like it had been driven straight into a post. At first, passersby might be fooled into thinking these were real car accidents. Using Priuses for this ad campaign was brilliant because Clarkson famously hates the eco-friendly, hybrid hatchback.
2 The test track was designed to look like the Ebola virus.
The Grand Tour test track really does look like the Ebola virus. If you see an aerial view of the track, the circuit is almost identical to what the Ebola virus looks like under a microscope. This was obviously intentional because the Grand Tour test track is supposedly the most dangerous in the world. At least that's the way Clarkson described it on the show. There are many hazards along the way, including a turn that goes right by an old lady's house, a turn that if missed will send you straight into an electric transformer box, and plenty of cute and cuddly wildlife to dart out in front of you as you make your lap.
1 There was a Christmas special.
At first, it was believed that there would be no Christmas episodes of the Grand Tour, but that turned out to be untrue. In season one, the trio was on location in Finland for a very special Xmas episode. The gang talked about car-themed Christmas gifts and discovered that simply slapping a car name on any gift makes it more expensive. For example, they showed off a very expensive Ferrari chess set. The trio tested out bizarre and dangerous gadgets like a robot scooter and rocket boots. Clarkson managed to crash right into the audience while trying on the rocket boots.