MOTORMOUTH telly host Jeremy Clarkson has told for the first time of his emotion over pulling the plug on nearly two decades of studio car shows.
We revealed in December how the presenter and side-kicks James May and Richard Hammond decided to make the current series of The Grand Tour their last inside a studio.
Today, the day their farewell is streamed on Amazon Prime Video, Jeremy tells The Sun just how hard the decision hit him, leaving him in tears at the end of filming and, for the first time in 17 years, unable to get his words out.
While the hit show will roll on away from the Grand Tour tent, with several specials planned, Jeremy — who turned 59 yesterday — admitted age was a factor.
He said: “Yeah I’m an emotional old sausage. I like having a studio audience but I’m getting old now. So life will be a bit easier just doing the specials.
“But on the upside, it does mean I get to spend less of my life with James May. There is always a silver lining.”
Having fronted a motoring show with James, 56, and Richard, 49, since 2002 — when they revived Top Gear — you can forgive Jeremy for his rare show of emotion.
The final studio-based episode is dedicated to the outgoing Ford Mondeo before Jeremy breaks the news to the Grand Tour audience that the popular car is not the only one heading for the exit.
While viewers will see only Jeremy in tears during the last scenes of the series — the show’s third since 2016 — he insists he was not alone.
He said: “James is made of wood. You’ll very rarely get James to get unmanly, he’d call it unmanly.
“But behind the scenes were quite a few quivery lips. People who I’ve worked with for 20 years or so.”
We are more used to Sun columnist Jeremy’s tough exterior and no-nonsense opinions, but he admits the tears were partly due to not getting a proper send-off from Top Gear in 2015.
I never got the chance to say goodbye to Top Gear. That’s why this was so emotional
The veteran host, who left the BBC after a fracas with a Top Gear producer, admitted: “That show was my baby.
“In 2002 I came up with the Stig, then an audience with a track and all that stuff. So, you know, you do something for 17 years and then it goes.
“It’s a wrench. Even though The Grand Tour goes on, it’s a wrench to say goodbye to the studio element of it for sure.
“The truth of it is, I think, I never got the chance to say goodbye to Top Gear. One minute I was there and one minute I wasn’t. It was like, did the show and then never did another one.
“Never said goodbye. Never got a gold watch. Never got a retirement speech. Nothing. So this was almost as though we were saying goodbye to Top Gear as well. That’s why it was so emotional for me.”
He says he is more of a softie than we are led to believe, telling how the death of his donkey, who was named after the actress Kristin Scott Thomas, also hit him hard.
He said: “There are certain things that get the juices going.”
The end of studio filming means the trio will now focus on the specials that originally put them on the map.
During their Top Gear years they were run out of town in Alabama and risked their lives by inadvertently riling Falklands veterans in Argentina — but they have still got the appetite for more adventure.
Richard vows at the end of today’s episode that they plan to go on for so long that “we are going to need walking sticks and nappies”.
And they are not afraid to keep upsetting people, not least entire nations and prime ministers.
Richard says: “There is still so much of the world we haven’t been to.”
To which Jeremy quips: “So many people I haven’t insulted!”
Pointing to Richard, who in 2006 and 2017 almost died in spectacular crashes during filming, James jokes: “So many cars he hasn’t crashed!”
It is the best job in the world. And one where you need no skill. In fact, having a skill would spoil the show
It is the sort of banter that has made them such an enduring hit with viewers.
Jeremy says their relationship could not be better — even if he can’t wait to see the back of them once the slog of filming ends.
He said: “Everybody assumes we spend all of our lives together. We absolutely don’t.
“I on average I spend… I think it’s 300 days a year with them at work. So once I get my 60 days of not being… I mean, I’ve got friends.
“We never, ever, ever see each other socially. But why would you when you literally live cheek by jowl with them for 300 days a year and have done for 17 years?
“But the relationship is bloody brilliant. It’s staggering that we do get on so well. We all joke about how we hate each other, and I’m sure that at one point or another over the years considered actually strangling someone.
“I know that I drive James and Richard mad and they drive me mad, and you know we all drive one another mad from time to time, much like brothers do.
“But the truth is we spend an enormous amount of time laughing. I mean probably 40 per cent of the time we’re together we’re laughing. We do properly crap ourselves all the time giggling about this, that and the other.”
Pre-production of the new specials has already begun, and Jeremy revealed he knows what the next three episodes will be.
The first will take in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, with filming beginning in June.
It is a region Jeremy knows well, having just spent two months in the Far East, mainly in Vietnam and Cambodia, working and holidaying with girlfriend Lisa Hogan.
He reckons it is doing him some good, too, saying: “There’s an answer for anyone who goes on a diet — don’t, just eat Vietnamese food.
“It is the nicest food in the world and you don’t put any weight on. I’ve got quite into that. I feel great.”
But he also suffered another health scare, after already battling pneumonia in 2017 which postponed filming of the Grand Tour’s second series.
He said: “I had a small operation, I was in the bar after half an hour. It was nothing, but I am leaking.
“It’s nothing to keep me off work.”
That’s just as well, as Amazon is keen to have its star presenters back to what they do best.
The show’s philosophy is like The Sun’s actually: Give people what they want
Jeremy said: “It is the best job in the world, make no mistake, it is easily the best job in the world. It’s the only job where you have to have no skill at all. In fact, having a skill would spoil the show. If one of us was any good at anything it wouldn’t work.
“It’s only because we are, all three of us, completely useless. I mean, James tries to pretend he isn’t useless but trust me he is.
“That’s the core of the show, so we’re very lucky to have hit upon a format that allowed three entirely talentless people to make a show that people enjoyed watching.
“It means I can spend a bit more time in England, which is good because England is so peaceable at the moment and so sensible, nobody’s being stabbed and Brexit’s going smoothly, it’s great.”
The presenter, who also fronts the relaunched Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? says the success of the special Grand Tour episodes is down to a mindset coined by the newspaper he writes for.
Explaining how they get made, he said: “You just think, ‘What would people like to see?’ That’s all you do. You’re making it for an audience so you think what does the audience want and then go and give them that.
“That’s our philosophy. It’s very much like The Sun actually — give people what they want.
“I think most people go, ‘I don’t know anything about Mongolia’ and then they watch it and go, ‘F*** me look at that’.”
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Almost all of the final studio episode is a poignant tribute to the Mondeo, which sees the trio go back to their childhood homes — Jeremy in Doncaster, James near Newport, South Wales, and Richard in Birmingham.
Jeremy says he has “never ever, ever in 30 years worked as hard on a film”.
The Mondeo film sets up for the emotional goodbye.
Signing off, Jeremy leaves the door open, telling viewers that this was not farewell.
He vowed: “So while it’s not goodbye from us, it is goodbye from this… anyone want to buy a tent?”
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