One of the things that most impressed about The Grand Tour’s first season was the way it dared to include documentary filmmaking among its mix of skits, stunts and occasionally sexist patter. Season 2, meanwhile, has increasingly impressed with its growing focus on cars and Episode 7 manages to fuse these two things together, with a break from usual proceedings to feature an informative piece on race history that is one of the best things the show has done to date.
The short doc, which makes up the final part of the episode, sees Jeremy Clarkson whisk us back to 1983, when Audi and Lancia were locked in a heated rivalry. From corners cut and dodgy tactics to finding a way to trick regulators, their battle for the World Rally Championship is a fascinating story – and it’s presented with an appreciation for the outlandish facts and historical details of the sport and the technology. In a rather nifty piece of editing, Clarkson also appears repeatedly, half-reenacting scenes from the story and half narrating them to camera – a self-aware style that suits his brash, all-about-me persona but never lets it cloud something more interesting than him.
So good is this segment that you once more wonder why The Grand Tour doesn’t do this on a regular basis: with Amazon’s creative freedom to do what they want, there’s huge potential here to bring a more mature, classy form of entertainment to sit alongside the immature hijinks.
Speaking of which, what about Richard Hammond and James May? They’re busy trying to device a way to fill up cars with petrol while on the go – a quest that’s as dangerous as it is daft. Needless to see, things burst into flames regularly, often to comic effect – without Clarkson on hand to turn the filmed segment into the usual head-to-head race, this sits closer to the car parking sequence from a few episodes ago, as it pits May and Hammond against the enemy of day-to-day boredom.
Racing is on offer too, though, as Hammond and May put the Lamborghini Huracan Performante through its paces – mostly by comparing it to the bog standard Huracán, which costs £53,000 less, then racing it against a Ferrari 458 Speciale. Celebrity Face Off, meanwhile, sees Anthony Joshua and WWE veteran Bill Goldberg skid around the show’s asphalt and gravel track. Clarkson, who admits he’s out of his depth in a chat with a boxer and a wrestler, takes more of a back seat, as the two men prove surprisingly good value, laughing at the contrast in the way they’ve customised their own rides in the past: Goldberg stuck a souped-up engine in his Pontiac. Joshua? He got a Vauxhall Astra and added a DVD player.
Things take a disappointing turn down a backward alley, as Clarkson drifts off into a tirade about how handbrake turns are the ultimate way to impress a female. It’s hard to tell how tongue-in-cheek he’s being, but you know what would impress all of us, Jeremy? More handbrake turns into Documentary Avenue. If this kind of episode is the result of Clarkson catching pneumonia, maybe he should get ill a bit more often.
The Grand Tour Season 2 is available on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Friday.