We know the story of how Richard Hammond got the job presenting Top Gear. He was already in the motoring industry, reviewing cars for a number of places, and when he heard about the Top Gear audition alongside Jeremy Clarkson, he jumped to it. Hammond didn’t hear anything for a long time after his audition, but eventually, he got a call confirming his place on the BBC show leaving him in tears with his wife Mandy.
We thought this was the first time Hammond and Clarkson had met, but it turns our that The Grand Tour presenter met Clarkson and James May much earlier in his career when he was working in PR for Renault. Hammond joked that he was often the “last man standing” as a publicist at events.
Talking about his fellow presenters before their meeting on Top Gear, he said the following about James to BBC Radio 5 Live host, Nihal Arthanayake:
“I’ll be honest I used to make a beeline for him. We had a great time.”
Nihal asked if May was a “geeky” journalist, in which Hammond responded, “absolutely not.”
Nihal added, “no need to ask what Jeremy Clarkson was…”
“Yeah exactly, not brilliant,” Richard replied while laughing. “There’s different approaches. It’s a very demanding job.”
He was then asked whether they’d recognise each other at launches:
“James did, but I didn’t host Jeremy that much. We sort of crossed over because he wasn’t doing Top Gear in the period when I was at Renault, so I didn’t really have a cause to meet him, whereas James was doing Driven and shows like that.
“It’s a small world you see.”
May didn’t join the Top Gear trio until the second series of the car show, replacing Jason Dawe. It was only then that the trio started growing their chemistry and brand, eventually becoming the largest car show on TV.