I am a driving god.
- Richard Hammond on test-driving a Bowler Wildcat.
Richard Hammond has appeared on many radio stations for the BBC, written for various magazines, compiled two books and is one third of the team of presenters on Top Gear, which he describes as 'The show you aspire to present'. Lesley Douglass, Controller of BBC Radio 2 said: Richard Hammond is a great talent and a much in demand broadcaster. He is a warm, funny and clever broadcaster, who has never lost his radio roots.
Born 19 December, 1969, in Birmingham, England, Richard Hammond grew up alongside two brothers Andrew and Nicholas born to Eileen and Alan Hammond. Hammond (or Hamster as he is nicknamed, because he is only 5'7" (170cm), considered to be the only Top Gear presenter that is good-looking and thus worthy of a cuddle and rumoured to have whitened his teeth) attended Sharmans Cross School and Solihull Boys School, before moving to the Yorkshire market town of Ripon where he attended Ripon Grammar School and Harrogate College of Art and Technology, where he obtained a National Diploma in Visual Communication. In his spare time he sang in a band and hung out with schoolfriend Jonathan Baldwin, who later became a well-known author and academic.
Hammond in the Media
I like to think that I was a rather romantic figure, a kind of wandering radio nomad – a bit like Lassie without the breath and toilet habits.
- Richard Hammond
On graduating he worked for various radio stations owned by the BBC, such as BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Leeds and presented Lamb Bank on BBC Radio Cumbria. By 1995, Hammond had tired of being a radio broadcaster and considered pursuing a career in presenting programmes about motoring. Meanwhile, he took a job with a PR company involved in corporate events for clients such as the Ferrari Owners Club and Renault Sport. In 1998, Satellite TV asked Hammond to present Motor Week (1998 - 1999). Hammond was so successful as a presenter for the show that it wasn't long before he helped present a string of other programmes such as 4 Wheels, 2 Wheels, Kits n' Cruisin' and Used Bike Heaven. His desire to present televised shows did not stop at cars though, for he was soon appearing on Money Matters on The Money Channel and Livetime for Granada Breeze (2000/1) among others.
By far the programme that really brought Richard fame though, was the BBC television series Top Gear, which he started co-presenting in 2002 with Jeremy Clarkson1. Hammond had wanted to do the show since the age of ten and states:
People like the fact that there's an absolute honesty to the programme. If we weren't doing Top Gear we'd still be out there buying cars and arguing about them. When the cameras stop rolling we carry on arguing - it's what we do! Ultimately, we're three ordinary blokes who love cars.
Over the years, Hammond and co-presenters have held a game of conkers using caravans, taken part in dog-sledging across the Arctic Circle, played a game of football with cars, been in a bobsleigh and played football in an empty plane.
Living Life to the Full
Hammond's Curriculum Vitae is brimful of presenting jobs that don't include motoring. For example, he has presented programmes with scientific and historical content such as Brainiac: Science Abuse and The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding the Legend. He has also presented Crufts and Sport Relief and had his own show Richard Hammond's Five O'Clock Show.
Hammond in Heat
It's a bit bizarre, all that stuff. It's flattering and very funny, but usually lasts until the next time you catch sight of yourself in the mirror!
- Richard Hammond
In July, 2005 he was voted number one of the top 'weird celebrity crushes' in Heat magazine and in March, 2004 and 2005 he presented the British Parking Awards at the Dorchester in London, presenting awards in a variety of categories including 'Parking Team of the Year' and 'Best New Car Park'.
Hammond writes a weekly column for The Daily Mirror each Friday on motoring and has written a book on Physics called Can You Feel the Force published by Dorling Kindersley. As well as taking hold of the corporate market with the likes of the Ferrari Owners Club, Cisco Systems and Renault Sport, Hammond also acts as a host and charming after-dinner speaker.
I turn it into a family occasion. My eldest daughter is five, and she loves cleaning the car with me. We share it.
- Richard Hammond
I'm very fortunate that I have a wife who loves cars as much as I do - she never complains.
- Richard Hammond
They have two daughters Izzy and Willow and own three horses, three dogs (a bull mastiff crossed with a Great Dane, a border collie and a poodle called Pablo), two cats, a rabbit, chickens and sheep.
Hammond also owns several cars including his dream car a Morgan +8 Roadster as well as a 1957 Land Rover 'Series 1', a Land Rover 110 V8, an elderly Range Rover 'Classic, a 1969 Dodge Charger 440 R/T (which he bought in November 2004) and a 1979 Porsche 928. He also owns two bikes, a Suzuki GSX-R 1000 and a BMW R1150 GS, and has built a couple of kit cars. As readers of his column in the Mirror will no doubt be aware, his most recent drunken eBay purchase was a Vauxhall Firenza, and not a good one either. In fact, it was a really bad one. Hammond's first car was a 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback 1600 that he decorated with a rebel flag on the roof and some un-political words. Hammond is also fanatical about the Porsche 911.
He was just doing the final run of the day - I don't know quite what happened - but the parachute deployed. There was quite a lot of smoke and the car veered off to the right and on to the grass, and it overturned several times and it came to a halt a couple of hundred yards in front of us.
- Dave Ogden from Event Fire Services
On 20 September, 2006, Richard Hammond was helping put the final touches together for the filming of TV production Top Gear, when he was seriously injured in a jet-powered dragster travelling at 280mph at the former RAF Elvington airfield near York. The dragster was powered by a Rolls Royce Orpheus Turbo-Jet Engine, which holds the landspeed record of 300 mph. He was flown3 to specialist neurological hospital Leeds General Infirmary and at the time said to be in a serious, but stable condition.
It was 50/50 what was going to happen. I may have been dead, I may not have woken up.
- Richard Hammond
Nine days after the incident, Hammond was taken off emergency care and moved to the BUPA Hospital in Bristol. Hammond left hospital after just five weeks. In an interview with Jonathon Ross, he said he'd forgotten two weeks of his life, including the crash, and was keen to rejoin his co-presenters on Top Gear. He also remarked that he had forgotten who his wife was, she reflects:
He didn't believe we were married! He said you're lovely, but I've got to stop talking to you because I've got to go back to my wife, she's French.
- Amanda Hammond
In January, 2007, Hammond returned to the show and was asked why he had tried to break his record of 314mph in the car, to which he replied 'I suppose it's like when you were playing outside as a kid and then your mum called you in for dinner. You'd always stay out for a bit longer...''And that's when you'd fall out the tree' Clarkson remarked. Although, Health and Safety checks were undertook at the scene of investigation by the company which owned the dragster it was deemed necessary to have another check, which resulted in a report being published in June, 2007 which explained that the cause of the accident was a punctured tyre. Later, in September, 2007, Hammond had a further car accident. This time he was driving a BMW 330 DTi Sport in the 24-hour Le Mans-style race at Silverstone.
Meeting A Childhood Hero
In 2007, Hammond fulfilled his childhood dream of meeting Evel Knievel. Together the men reminisced about the dangerous stunts Knievel had partook in and the thin line between life and death.
And the more time you spent with him - he was just coming up to 70 and physically in a very bad way - he was still difficult and demanding and angry at times. That was great because he was fighting - that's what he did.
- Richard Hammond on Evel Knievel
Hammond also interviewed the people surrounding his hero, who gave him a bigger insight into the character of Knievel.
As ITV get set to axe the motor-racing, the BBC are gearing up to take it on with Hammond at pole position. He will be joined by fellow co-presenters of Top Gear May and Clarkson, but insiders feel that Hammond will understand the drivers better.