James May said: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.
From here and hereJeremy Clarkson said:According to the Sunday Mirror?s ?motoring correspondent?, television is always done in a rush and Hammond wouldn?t have had much time to familiarise himself with the ferocious power of the Rimac before starting his ill-fated run on Saturday?s hill climb in Switzerland.
Which is completely accurate apart from the fact that Hammond had been driving the car solidly, on motorways, airfields and closed mountain roads for four days.
He?d also done several runs on the hill climb that day. He knew the car well, he knew how fast it was, and he knew how to handle it in the bends. Doubtless, you?ll be hearing all about his views on it in the next series of the Grand Tour.
I don?t know what went wrong. Hopefully, when he comes out of surgery and is feeling up to it, he will be able to tell us.
What I do know is that I genuinely thought he was dead?.
The end of the day
I?d finished my runs in the Lamborghini Aventador S, and was back at the film unit base, sitting in a deck chair with a chilled glass of wine when I heard on the radio that James and Richard were going up the hill one more time.
I decided to hitch a ride in a van, so we could all join up at the finish line and head for the airport and the flight home. It was a beautiful day, the filming had gone well and I was on the phone to our executive producer saying that it would be good enough for programme one of the next series when I heard on the walky talky that the Lamborghini test driver had had an ?off? in the Aventador.
I was cross. We needed that car for pick up shots the next day and I couldn?t understand why he?d been on the hill in the first place, or why he was going fast enough to crash. Then I saw a plume of smoke.
The driver had had an "off"
Fearful that the ?off? may be quite serious, I urged the driver to get to the top of the hill as quickly as possible.
I arrived maybe 30 seconds later and leaped out to see an inferno raging, maybe a quarter of a mile away, at the bottom of a hill.
It was obvious from the skid marks what had happened. He?d lost it somehow on the final bend after the finishing line and had plummeted down one bank onto a road lower down the hill, which had caused his car to flip.
The big question was: had he managed to get out. No-one knew.
I can feel it now; the coldness
And as I stood there, waiting for news, it dawned on me that the burning car was not yellow, as the Aventador was. It was white. Hammond?s Rimac had been white. And I can feel it now; the coldness. My knees turning to jelly. It was Hammond who?d crashed.
I was joined at this point by James who?d arrived on the scene just before me in his Honda NSX. He was in a right old state, his arms waving frantically, his eyes wide.
Then came news that he'd got out
Then came news from a nearby marshal that he wasn?t. That he?d got out before the fire started. And that ?his body? ? that what they said ? was behind a screen at the bottom of the hill.
I could see the screen. I could see the paramedics behind it. I couldn?t see Hammond. I didn?t want to see him. Not after a crash that big.
At a guess, I?d say he was doing 120 mph when he left the road and that he?d have been going even faster than that when he?d smashed into the road below. He wasn?t going to be a pretty sight, that?s for sure.
Our security man is made of sterner stuff and set off down the hill like a racing goat. I watched him arrive at the scene. I watched him intently. I saw him lift his walky talky and I heard him say ?It?s all right fellas. He winked at me?.
For all the rest, all the details, and who knows, another book; well I?ll leave that up to Hammond when the lucky sod feels up to it.