Richard Hammond thinks the new Grand Tour special — Carnage A Trois — might be just the ticket for repairing the strained diplomatic relationship between Britain and France.
“The timing of it is funny," Hammond, who appears alongside Jeremy Clarkson and James May in the new Amazon special which is dedicated to the weird and wonderful world of French cars. "We realised ‘wait a minute, we’ve just came out with this show about France just as it turns out we’re at loggerheads with France over fishing rights’. But we had no idea this would be the timing of it when we set out to make the film."
He continued: “We did set out to take the mick and have a laugh at the French and their silly cars and their silly attitude to cars but as we went on, we started to think, 'Hang on, I think they’re on to something. I think they could be right.’
“It’s a very affectionate look at French cars and French motoring, which means for once, I think we could be a diplomatic force for good. That’s never happened before, that’s a first.
“We’ve inadvertently done something to foster warmer relations between the French and the English but it just happened by accident.
“It genuinely did unfold that way, as we thought about the story more and more and we realised they could be right.”
Launching Friday 17 December on Amazon Prime Video, it’s the trio’s second Covid-era film, following their Scottish adventure Lochdown release this summer.
But before anyone thinks the Grand Tour boys have grown up taking jobs in the diplomatic corps, there’s more than enough racing, comical stunts, and crashing to keep audiences happy.
The film examines the cultural oddities of French motoring, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and as Hammond said, is full of admiration from the singular approach to driving and creating cars.
They then test some of these vehicles in races, challenges and a whole new way to reverse park.
Hammond said: "I drove the Citroen SM, an exceptionally beautiful looking thing.
“I stuck a Renault Scenic on its side, that happens, doesn’t it? At least I didn’t sink a boat like I did on the Scottish one.
"I did cause some alarm in a little town when I was demonstrating the French approach to parking by repeatedly ramming my way into a parking space.
“We should have warned the people sitting it the pub opposite what we were doing, and you can see them thinking ‘That little man has gone mad in that Renault.’”
Hammond’s colleague James May is a long admirer of French motoring — he currently drives one of the most glamorous Gallic sports cars ever made — and in the film he passionately defends oddly shaped workhorse icon: the 2CV.
He said: “My mum had one and it was considered quite quirky. I loved it, we thought it was terrific.
“I have an Alpine A110, which is my favourite French car of all time."
He added: “We’re not setting out to bash the French. We came to the inevitable conclusion that the French have contributed a great deal to cars as they have done many other things and we’re very grateful because that’s given us a lot of things to look and talk about and enriched our jobs.”
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