- I did the world a favour and pulled the plug out, but he was still working.

Hammond bins it

Here's how it looked from where I was

4y ago

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.

the window of opportunity for believing Hammond was dead was quite brief. I just happened to have driven through the middle of it.

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.

Last year's Bergrennen Hemberg race


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Comments (303)

  • Reading James May’s take on the events as they occurred brought a tear to my eye. Not only can James machine a functional tool from a billet of solid steel with complete accuracy and amazing skill, the man can write!

      4 years ago
    • Agreed. Even knowing that Richard is okay, reading this with James' visceral descriptions was just gripping.

        4 years ago
    • I agree. James is a great writer and I love that I always hear his voice in my head when I read something he wrote.

        4 years ago
  • I was there!! Just at the finish line, and although we didn't see the crash because of the slope, we heard the noise, and it was heart stopping. And when the smoke (black, dense) started to raise, we also thought the pilot was dead or horribly injured. The air ambulance (locally called Rega) arrived within 7 or 8 minutes, but there was no information from the speakers. We were about to leave, and then the rumour started spreading in the crowd, that The Grand Tour crew were on those cars, and that Hammond was in the Concept_one. It was an ugly feeling. Only hours later, first in the local online press, they confirmed it was him, and incredibly, that he -only- had a broken knee.

    We wish you a speedy recovery, Richard, or -how we say in Switzerland- gueti Besserig!! :-)

      4 years ago
  • so, that means he's not coming then?!

      4 years ago
  • Does that mean he's not coming on?

      4 years ago
  • This Swiss Army knee, will it make him a more useful tool to have around?

      4 years ago