After the ‘fracas’ between Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon, Clarkson’s contract with the BBC and Top Gear failed to be renewed. Soon after, Richard Hammond and James May also rejected a new contract and left the BBC as well.
Andy wilman, a co-founder of Top Gear alongside Clarkson, followed in tow, as well as script writer Richard Porter and the majority of the film crew.
Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman decided to start another show focussing on not just cars, but the touring of different countries and locations.
In 2016, Season 1 of The Grand Tour was aired on the American streaming service, Amazon Prime Video. It ran for 13 episodes and came under much positive acclaim on an international scale, and it quickly became the most watched Amazon series yet, although exact viewing numbers are still unknown.
Choosing the right studio and why Amazon?
One of the hardest decisions for Clarkson, Hammond, May and Wilman to make was finding the right studio to air the new program on.
Not only did everyone want to get their hands on the brand such as ITV, Channel 4 and Netflix, but they needed the right level of support, funding, and freedom to produce a show of equal or higher quality.
Amazon was able to give the team the freedom of letting them produce what they wanted with only minor tweaks. Such as, they had to produce it in 4k. But the freedom and push of Amazon Prime Video was attractive to them, and I bet the big pay cheque also helped.
W. Chump and Sons
In order to produce a series of shows for Amazon Prime Video, Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman had to produce their own production company to match Amazon’s needs as explained above. They took on the majority of the team behind the filming of Top Gear such as Richard Porter (script writer), the camera crew, editors etc.
W. Chump and Sons Production was created, alongside W. Chump and Sons Ltd for merchandise and live shows. each under the holdings company, Chump Holdings Ltd. The name was made from the letters from its owners’ names.
When the company began in 2015, each owner bought a Reliant Robin as a company car for £15,000 in total. They have reportedly done few miles in these as each car has broken down.
Also under the W. Chump and Sons company resides DRIVETRIBE, a social media site for petrol heads. Each user has the ability to start a tribe which will cover a subject or theme of their choosing, and can create their own content while inviting other people do join their tribe to either consume or produce more content.
He was the first racing driver ever used by The Grand Tour to perform power laps around the Eboladrome. Unfortunately, the American came under negative review due to his (scripted) comments about the cars and track.
It soon became evident that the public didn’t like him, resulting in him not returning for Season 2.
British racing driver, Abbie Eaton, replaced the American on The Grand Tour Season 2. She, like The Stig, mostly stays quiet apart from a pre-recorded phrase before each lap like, “let’s do this”.
Strangely, her name has never been spoken on the show and is only shown in the credits.
She came under much positive review compared to the American and is rumoured to be returning for Season 3.
Upon leaving the BBC, the trio had to extremely careful about what they could do and say in a new program so as to not get sued by the BBC.
This became clear in an interview with Andy Wilman who said this:
“They got funnier and funnier. We went to Namibia to make a big film. The lawyers got out a film we had done [for Top Gear] in Botswana. The lawyers go through everything and they said, ‘There’s a scene in [Top Gear] where you’re in the middle of the Okavango and you go, “This scenery is beautiful”, so watch that you don’t do that.’”
“So we were in the desert in Namibia and we had to go, “for legal reasons, this scenery is shit’.”
These limitations have also meant that The Stig didn’t follow the trio to The Grand Tour. Instead he stayed on to the next Top Gear, although it has been rumoured that Ben Collins resigned after the leaving of Clarkson, Hammond and May.
No more Studio, Top Gear Test Track, or Timed Laps
Logically, moving away from the BBC meant the trio had to leave the studio and test track behind. As a knock on effect, this also meant that they could no longer do celebrity timed laps or even power laps. However, as you read above, the team has got past this issue.
Richard Porter from Top Gear is still a driving force behind the script of The Grand Tour. He had been with Top Gear since its reboot in 2002 and followed Clarkson, Hammond and May across to The Grand Tour.
It must be said however, that Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman still have a major influence over the scrip, too.
This is the track that is now used by The Grand Tour for its timed laps by the racing drivers. It can be found at a WWII airfield in Wiltshire known as RAF Wroughton. It’s narrow, uneven, bumpy, and will put any car through its paces.
The track layout is also in the shape of the Ebola Virus, hence the name.