JEREMY Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are reported to have called time on their 17-year run of studio-based car shows together.
In an emotional address to the audience while filming the final episode of the third series of The Grand Tour, which will air on Amazon Prime Video in the New Year, Clarkson, 58, said: “It’s the end of an era.”
He added: “There are only so many times you can watch a BMW go around a track.”
The three presenters will instead focus on big-budget specials to be shown over the next two years.
Clarkson is credited with reinvigorating the television motoring show when he relaunched Top Gear with producer Andy Wilman in 2002. Clarkson also presented alongside Richard Hammond, with fellow motoring journalist James May replacing Jason Dawe as the third host for series two.
The three presenters’ Top Gear career ended dramatically in 2015, after 22 series, following a “fracas” involving Clarkson and Oisin Tymon, one of the show’s producers. Clarkson Hammond and May, along with Wilman and script editor Richard Porter, were subsequently picked up by Amazon to create a new show, which they called The Grand Tour.
Clarkson told The Sun: “We’ve been doing that show for effectively 17 years — sitting around in studios, watching cars race around the track … We all agreed that we’ve been doing it a long time and everything eventually runs its course.
“Besides, I’m 58 and I’m too fat to be climbing on to the stage.”
After filming wrapped on the final show, one audience member said the mood was emotionally charged in the tent studio in Chipping Norton, Oxon.
They said: “They ran through the show as normal, but I noticed that Clarkson and Hammond had their families in the audience. Clarkson’s girlfriend and two daughters were there, plus Hammond’s wife and daughters.
“When they got to the end of the show, I noticed that most of the family members were in tears. Everyone wondered what was going on. Then Clarkson stood up and a sort of hush fell over the audience.
“He announced that this would be their last studio show after years together. There was a bit of banter, but they all seemed quite emotional. As he was speaking, Jeremy started to well up and then they showed a montage of their best bits, going right back to their Top Gear days.
“When that was done, the show ended silently and then Jeremy said, ‘It’s a sad day’, and they all left.
“Everyone in there was a diehard fan, and everyone was shocked by Jeremy’s announcement.”
In March, the Mail On Sunday reported that The Grand Tour would not be returning for a fourth series. It quoted a source who claimed the entire Grand Tour crew might be job hunting when series three filming is complete in the summer.
They said: “There is nothing to suggest they are going to do another one. No one has signed anything and employees are wondering where everyone will go once filming wraps.”
However, Clarkson robustly countered the claim, saying the reports of the show being “axed” were inaccurate and said it was “hilarious” that anyone would believe the Mail Online.
And indeed this isn’t the end of the road for Clarkson, Hammond (48) and May (55) on Amazon. The trio have signed a new two-year deal with Amazon for at least four specials a year, according to The Sun, which Amazon is referring to as “season four”.
— The Grand Tour (@thegrandtour) December 13, 2018
Clarkson said the specials would be likely to take in places they had yet to visit, including North Korea and Zimbabwe.
He added: “They will be big exciting shows — proper event TV … Put it this way, Marvel will be jealous of our budgets.”
In addition, a new Grand Tour video game is launching to coincide with the airing of season three.