LIKE JAMES MAY'S CARBOLICS?
I did the world a favour and pulled the plug out, but he was still working.
What I saw, as I passed the finish line, was a car, on its roof, way down the steep slope on the grass below. It was burning ever more furiously.
What was it? It was impossible to equate that blazing and charred heap with the exquisite, pearl-white electrical delicacy that had sat in front of my Honda, at the start line, less than two minutes earlier.
But I knew, in the blossoming, white-hot ball of pure, sickening horror forming in my heart, that it must be Hammond's Rimac.
It gets worse
The next thing that registered, as I stopped and scrambled from the car, was a pair of marshals dragging a limp body by the wrists, away from the wreck and down to the gravel path at the bottom of the hill. And I knew that must be Richard Hammond.
I cannot remember experiencing such a debilitating sense of shock and pure incomprehension as this.
There we were, at the start-line of this good-humoured family motorsport event, swapping insults with each other and our director on our radios, awaiting our turns for a run up the hill.
Hammond was first, and disappeared like some weird antimatter powered javelin, almost silently. Twenty seconds later I was waved away, to be met, three turns before the end, with a flurry of yellow flags and then a world unutterably changed. Hammond was dead.
Maybe it's not as bad as i thought
However; the window of opportunity for believing that Hammond was dead was quite brief. I just happened to have driven through the middle of it.
Maybe fifteen seconds earlier, and I would have seen a dazed but intact Hammond extracting himself from his lunched but not yet burning car.
About a minute after I went into a blue funk, one of our sound men ran over to tell me that he still had 'ears' on Hammond's microphone, and that he was talking perfect sense to the paramedics.
I happened to arrive as the marshals pulled him hurriedly away from the newly burning car because they thought it might explode. But what I saw was the remains of Hammond being hauled from the burning wreckage, like some hideous vintage film clip from Formula One.
It's important to see the whole scenario, and not just rely on a snapshot. I thought he'd bought the farm, he's actually broken a bone in his knee and needs a small pin putting in it; in Switzerland, the world centre of skiing injuries and doing things properly.
Far from being dead, he'll actually come home slightly improved over the Brummie original.