Richard Hammond is a better Driver than May or Clarkson!
Hear me out - this may take some explaining...
We all know him, we all love him. He's the cheeky rogue who won the job on Top Gear by doing a full car review while dressed as batman. He's the young face of Old Top Gear and new Grand Tour, without the cynicism and the 'Old, Public Boys School' edge of Clarkson and May. He's the presenter who most people can probably relate to. He loves old classics, Land Rover Defenders, his fascinating collection of cars and motorcycles, and Labradoodles. He not only adopted the Top Gear dog when it turned out to be terrified of cars, but he also adopted an ancient, Opel Kadett in Botswana, named it Oliver, then shipped it back to England.
He resides in a mock castle called Bollitree and has an extensive collection of cars and motorcycles.
He qualified as a helicopter pilot in 2012 and has been buzzing around in a Robinson ever since. (This last fact is actually rather terrifying, given Richard's history of crashing. The thought of a raging fireball crashing through your roof with Richard Hammond at the yoke screaming in terror... Urgh! Still, at least there's nothing for him to hit up there is there?)
Now I recall in an interview, some time ago, Richard describing some of his many interesting car and motorcycle crashes. Your first reaction might be, 'Hang on a minute, if he bins it every time he jumps behind the wheel, he must be a bit rubbish?'
(Richard, HAS a terrible of habit of crashing into things. In the first season of GT alone; he smashed his Mazda MX-5 into a “priceless” statue in Morocco and ran a Jaguar F-Pace into a quarry wall. Back on Top Gear, in series 20, he crashed a Ferrari 458 Spider into a bollard, filming in Spain. Not to mention the recent Rimac, the bike crash while filming for GT2 and the infamous Vampire Dragster incident.)
I can appreciate why you might think I'm talking rubbish, but I disagree. I've watched Richard driving (and occasionally binning it) for well over a decade now and I'm convinced he's a better driver than Clarkson or May. I feel sorry for his wife and kids who must be a nervous wreck by now, but it's the fact that he crashes that makes me think he's better.
I remember watching Sir Chris Hoy do the Star in a Reasonably Fast Car (Toyota GT86) on Top Gear recently. He had quite a spectacular off. If you watch Top Gear, you'll probably have noticed that the celebrities with the most spectacular offs are often the ones near the top of the leader board.
I don't think this is purely down to bravery and willingness to take risks either. It certainly isn't a coincidence.
When you're attempting to drive a vehicle as fast as you can around a corner, there is an invisible line. There's a measure, of how hard you can push a driver or rider and vehicle into a corner and expect them to get around safely. Any driver who's never come off, has never crossed that line. They can't really know how hard they can push, without crossing that line, if they've never crossed it.
It's for this reason I think the Manx TT is such an interesting race. At the moment the lap record is held by Michael Dunlop:-
Category | Outright
Rider | Michael Dunlop
Machine | BMW S 1000 RR
Year | 2016
Time | 16:53.929
Average Speed | 133.962mph / 215.591km/h
To clock an average speed of around 134 mph around this course is mind boggling.
The TT Course Map
The thing about the TT, that makes it so much more scary AND impressive than Moto GP is that there is no room for error. Death is only ever a 10th of a second away. If you're riding around most race circuits there's bags of gravel and run off. If you come off, you'll probably get hurt, but there's usually plenty of room to slide to a halt. This simply isn't the case with the TT. Between June 27th 1911 and June 7th 2017 the course has claimed the lives of 255 competitors. It claimed the lives of 9 riders in 2005 alone (across the TT and the GP).
Some people argue the race should be banned and closed down. However many riders are totally against this.
Riding the TT takes incredible skill and bravery. It also takes a completely different approach to a normal course. In a normal course, to find that point, that invisible line where you can push no harder, you can search harder. Knowing that pain, injury and a wrecked bike are the price for crossing it. In the TT, there's more at stake. Riders still want to get as close to that line as they can, but the price for crossing it is often death.
Richard Hammond, searches for that line when he's driving fast. He pushes hard, and tests cars to their limits. He's also skillful. Sterling Moss said so in old Top Gear. Even after sending the Rimac into a firey grave, I'd still bet money on Richard Hammond being the next Grand Tour presenter to crash a car. (Sorry Mindy, Izzy and Willow - I wish it wasn't the case, but I'm sure he'll survive it.)
He pushes hard, he searches for the limit, and he occasionally pays the price. However I think he also reaps the rewards. I just feel sorry for his family and wonder how grateful they must feel every time he returns home, driving through the portcullis of Bollitree Castle!
It almost reminds of the old Monty Python And the Holy Grail skits. It conjures up images of Richard, climbing 'Sir Lancelot' style out of burning wreckage, while proclaiming. 'I'm not quite dead!'
You DO have to wonder, at what point to pull the plug. When do you turn around and tell Richard Hammond he's banned from driving any car with over 1000cc or over 60 bhp. It may come, or it may not. But in the meantime, Richard, please try not to crash any more.
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