When it comes to car shows, people don't look much further than either 'The Grand Tour' or Top Gear. And when you think of those two shows, it is hard to not think of its presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. All three have had rather interesting lives both on and off the show, and none more interesting than that of Hammond's.
He has become incredibly popular like his fellow presenters the world over and has been through some incredible moments. He drove a Renault F1 car back on Top Gear, and was involved in two accidents. One was in a Vampire jet dragster back in 2006, and the other in a hill climbing tumble in the Rimac Concept One in 2017. Both could have claimed his life.
Away from that, Hammond has lived a fairly sheltered and quiet life back at his home and has enjoyed doing so. Given how many people flaunt their lifestyle to the masses, Hammond has done the exact opposite. Given this, is there a lot that we could possibly know about the TV presenter? Well yes actually, there is.
Here are several facts about the Grand Tour and former Top Gear presenter that you may, or may not, know and that you will hopefully find interesting whether you know them or not. Hammond has had an amazing life, and with The Grand Tour renewed for another season and no doubt more to come after that, the interesting life looks set to continue.
No one should really find this surprising. Not many of us have been lucky enough to pass our driving tests the first time around, and Hammond is no stranger to this. Hammond botched his first driving test by failing to adhere to an emergency stop test, but hey, no one is perfect the first time, right? Not one of the three presenters were able to pass there driving test first time around, which perhaps isn’t too surprising given how much they all love driving tests. Apart from May, who we all know as ‘Captain Slow’ or ‘Mr Slowly.’ They all, of course, passed it soon after.
Perhaps a slightly confusing one, as you always assume that they are friends given their TV careers, but they don’t technically call each other friends. Having worked together for over 20 years, they refer to each other as ‘mates’ which perhaps describes their relationship much better than simply ‘friends’ which may be a bit too formal. Both have very different personalities. In fact, the trio are all very different to each other, but they have all stuck together throughout the Top Gear days and have followed Jeremy out of the show when his contract wasn’t renewed following the ‘fracas’ with a producer and launched The Grand Tour on Amazon.
We have all probably had some form of troubles at school in various stages of our lives and Richard is no exception. He was suspended from Ripon Grammar School at the young age of 15 years old, and whilst details are scarce he was probably just a cheeky young chap. Everyone is cheeky at some point in their lives. He was actually enrolled in the school because his father had established a Probate business in Ripon’s market square, so it made sense for Hammond to go to school nearby. Despite being expelled, Hammond certainly made good of himself and his career in the journalism world.
Richard Hammond is a vastly experienced driver, has taken part in racing, and driven a huge range of cars ranging from sports cars to supercars and 4x4s. But he has suffered two accidents whilst filming for both the Grand Tour and Top Gear respectively. The first one involved him attempting to break the British Land Speed record in a jet engine powered dragster, but that went massively wrong as a tire blowout left him in hospital. The second was the Rimac crash in Switzerland, where after completing a hill climb run for the Grand Tour he spun over the edge of the hill, and again ended up in hospital. This time the injuries were less severe, but he had to crawl out of the car fast as it burst into flames.
This may well have simply been a jokey reference following the accident, but it is nonetheless something people may not know or remember from the time. The dragster crash left Hammond with severe head injuries and, as such, it was a long time before he fully recovered. The accident did change the man that was Hammond, but in interesting ways. During his first appearance back on Top Gear after the crash, his co-presenters asked him if he had any side effects from it and he simply replied with ‘I like celery now, but I didn’t before the crash.’
Okay, so it didn’t influence the Rimac company in a drastic way, but in the accident Hammond was driving the Rimac Concept One and this allowed the designers to have a better look at the design for Concept Two. The accident saw the car catch fire and burn for days on end before finally being put out, and that was something the company thought about in its next edition of the car. The Rimac Two now features a fire extinguisher between the driver and passenger seat, with a slight tongue in cheek message on it. The message along the leather strap holding the extinguisher in place reads ‘in case of hill climb, extinguish fire.’ Hammond himself actually loved this little influence he had on the car.
Perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Hammond has published the odd book or two. All three of the Grand Tour presenters have published various books throughout their lifetime, and Hammond has been no exception. Some of these are directly related to Top Gear, and some are not. Hammond has published over ten books, and one of his most popular is “Car Science” which was published in 2008, around the height of Top Gear. Predominantly a children’s book, adults have also found it to be quite interesting. Another couple of books that he has published are “Can You Feel the Force?” and “A Short History of Motorcycles,” the latter released in 2016.
Not strictly a castle in the sense of ‘King Arthur and the Knights of The Round Table’ but still very much a castle. A man of Hammond’s fame and wealth is probably not going to live in a small and discrete condo tucked away in town, and who could blame him? He apparently bought the castle for £2,000,000 and it is one of the most protected and safest houses in the UK. A 10-foot iron gate at the entrance to the house is clearly not going to be easy to climb anytime soon. Expensive to maintain yes, but also fun to live in and something that is incredibly unique as well.
It might seem mad now given how well Top Gear has done, how well the Grand Tour is doing, and how popular Hammond is, but it's true. Richard did really think he had not got the Top Gear job way back when the show was relaunched in the early 2000s. He interviewed for the job back in 2002, but quickly forgot about it and carried on with his radio work, thinking he had no chance at all of being cast. As it turned out, he was cast and became a fixture of the show for as long as the rest of the cast were on it, and it would be hard to imagine either TG or TGT without Hammond.
Hammond has hosted Top Gear for many years, and is now hosting the Amazon reincarnation of their car show The Grand Tour with Clarkson and May. But these are not the only two shows Hammond has hosted, and he has indeed hosted multiple shows throughout his life. Hammond has hosted various science documentaries on the BBC, as well as his popular ‘Total Wipeout’ show plus ‘Richard Hammond’s blast lab.’ All very popular and enjoyed by a wide range of people, but nothing can compare to the popularity of Top Gear and The Grand Tour, although the latter’s viewing figures are lower purely due to being online based.
It would be easy to assume the celebrity lifestyle might have gone to Richard Hammond’s head. He does, of course, make a huge living, own a grand house, and has become very popular across the whole world. But that would do a disservice to the man behind the fame. Hammond has to his huge credit remained very humble throughout his life, and has never particularly taken to the lifestyle that such fame and popularity may have lead to. He keeps his private life, well, private, and very much separate from the work he does in public.
Perhaps not the most unknown fact about Hammond, but something that maybe newer viewers to both Top Gear and the Grand Tour may now know. Hammond’s journalism career began in radio many, many years ago and has worked on many BBC radio stations in his lifetime. He started with BBC Tees, and has worked for Radio York, Radio Cumbria, Radio Leeds, Radio Newcastle, and Radio Yorkshire. That is a significant amount of radio stations! His voice was perfect for radio, and indeed he enjoyed some good success before making the move to TV and Top Gear. His radio career is what lead him to his role on Top Gear.
The first accident Hammond was in was certainly the most severe of his two famous and well-documented accidents, and it did indeed leave him with more than just the celery side effects. Clarkson has fairly recently joked that Hammond “can’t remember things for more than five minutes” and whilst it is a joke Hammond joins in with, it isn’t that far fetched. His memory has been affected since the accident with the dragster and he has admitted that he probably came back to presenting Top Gear too soon, but just wanted to get back to the show and ‘the boys’ as soon as possible.
Everyone knows this nickname. And everyone really should know this nickname, because Hammond has been called it for many, many years. Hammond himself is not the biggest fan of the name and would rather be called “Hawk” but the Hamster name has stuck. The nickname has come about for two reasons. First off, it is effectively a shorter version of his surname. Secondly, and more well known, it is referring to his diminutive size compared to may and Clarkson. Zog Ziegler was apparently the one who first gave him the Hamster nickname. Wherever it came from, the name will likely be with Hammond for all time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given his love of cars, Hammond’s family does indeed have close links to the motoring industry. His grandfather, George Hammond taught Polish airmen to drive in the Second World War, as many volunteered to fly with the RAF after Poland fell to Germany. His other grandfather worked in the car industry, and his maternal grandmother was employed from the famous Morris Motor Company, which produced such well known cars like the Morris Minor. His great-great-grandfather also was in the motoring industry and came from a long line of Dudley glassblowers. It should therefore be no surprise that Hammond was very interested in cars from a young age.
Fans of both Top Gear and The Grand Tour have probably always known the show for the three presenters that they see today, but the reboot of Top Gear in 2002 didn’t actually start out with James May, and so Hammond has had one year longer on the show over his fellow presenters. The show originally aired with Clarkson, Hammond and Jason Dawe but Dawe left the show after just one season. May had initially declined the role for the first series, but as the show seemed to do well in season one May joined and replaced Dawe, which was perhaps the best move the show made as it allowed the show to really take off.
We have already touched on this briefly, but here we can talk about it a bit more. Hammond has always been humble, and that is largely down to not being a huge fan of the celebrity lifestyle. He has never seen himself as a celebrity, more just a bloke who happens to like cars and have a very good job. So many people who achieve global fame and status seem to let it go to their head, but to Hammond’s credit, that has not happened. And to an extent, it is the same with all three. Clarkson, of course, has attracted controversy but has never flashed around in his private life, and May has very much had a nice and quiet private life.
Top Gear Dog was a fixture of Top Gear in the late 2000s, and was commonly referred to as ‘TG.’ Whilst not being on the show for a long period of time, and of course not being as well-known as the presenters, TG, who was Hammond’s dog, gained fans in her own right and was a very good doggo. Many wondered what happened to the dog after the show but she continued to live in the care of the Hammond household. The dog was with Hammond all through his recovery from the 2006 dragster crash, and the gorgeous labradooble, who wasn’t on the show much due to being ‘terrified of cars’ sadly passed away in 2017. Rest easy TG.
Yes, this really did happen, and is perhaps one of the most unusual facts presented here. This is what Hammond did when his contract with the BBC ended, and he apparently paid himself and his wife £1.91 million and £527,000 respectively which was paid into Hamster Wheel Productions. Given that he makes over $15 million a year, this is a hardly a huge amount to Hammond but every little bit helps really. But can you blame him for being paid so much? Not really. With success comes money and Hammond, along with May and Clarkson, are merely reaping the rewards of their fame and success.
Hammond has always loved cars, but he is a big bike fan as well. Along with James May, the pair have often proclaimed their love for bikes on Top Gear, with Hammond picking a bike for a special on The Grand Tour as well. Their love for bikes was tested to the limit in the Vietnam special as they attempted to ride bikes across the whole country, having not had enough money to buy a used car. This was in stark contrast to how Clarkson felt about bikes, who proclaimed ‘I can’t do that’ before reluctantly joining his friends on the epic adventure.
Top Gear fans will, of course, know of the tale of Oliver. The 1963 Opel Kadet that Hammond used in the Botswana special, and then fell in love with and became incredibly attached too throughout the show. Clarkson and May mocked him for his ‘love affair’ but the car clearly meant a lot to Hammond. So much in fact that he had it shipped back to the UK and slowly restored it to its former glory. Far from selling it on when finished, Hammond has kept the car at his Cotswolds home and it is one of the most treasured cars in his collection, as well as being an incredibly unique vehicle all around.
Sources: Hello Magazine, Motoring Box, Sunday Times Driving, Belfast Telegraph, Pinterest