Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May try to find pirate treasure in their new special, The Grand Tour Presents: A Massive Hunt.
The trio travel to Madagascar for their latest Amazon movie, with just over a car each and a historical treasure map.
The challenge begins with the story of an 18th century pirate known as La Buse (The Buzzard).
Legend has it that before he died he buried his treasure – worth £ 100million today – somewhere in the Seychelles.
When he was finally captured and executed in 1730, he threw a piece of parchment into the crowd, shouting: “My treasure for one who can understand!”
The parchment contained a 17-line cryptogram that apparently revealed where his treasure was buried. But only if someone was able to decipher it.
Many have tried and failed over the centuries to locate the loot. We spoke to Clarkson, Hammond, and May about their own hunt (and a few other things in between).
1. Some had more hope of finding the treasure than others
During the 90-minute special, May makes a decent and serious attempt to crack the codes. Which begs the question, did the team ever think they could
Actually discover the treasure?
“Yes! I did it all the time,” said the very enthusiastic Hammond. “I’m a huge fan of all of this. It’s a historical fact that a lot of these people existed, and so did their treasure. So you never know, there was a chance.”
Executive producer Andy Wilman has a slightly different reaction when we ask him the same question.
“Are you mentally disturbed? he asks us, what we will take for a no.
“I’ll tell you what he did, it made you a kid again. I’m paid to hunt for buried treasure, like I’m seven. It’s one of those situations where your tongue has to. come through Your cheek. So that the viewer can see [we know] that it makes no sense. But you go there because of the trip, it’s a great adventure to experience. “
2. The title (surprisingly) was not their idea
You might have thought the team would struggle to dominate the name of last year’s special, The Grand Tour Presents: Seamen, who saw the trio swap cars for boats. But they have outdone themselves here.
So, whose idea was The Grand Tour Presents: A Massive Hunt?
“You won’t believe me when I tell you, but these are the people we work for,” Wilman reveals. “Former large Amazon company.
“We were beating the headlines back and forth and it was like ‘the best wins’. And then I got a text from their marketing manager and I was like’ oh yeah, game over, our job is over now. “.”
3. Madagascar: worse than Swindon
Perhaps the most extraordinary section of the new special comes when the trio have to find their way along a road in Madagascar – although the word “road” is rather generous.
“It’s amazing that it’s marked on a map as something you can drive a vehicle over,” says a puzzled Clarkson. “I’m not surprised that the Malagasy kicked out the French if it was their idea of a road, because it just isn’t one.”
May admits, “As far as trying to get your car to fruition, we honestly thought at the start of filming that we just weren’t going to be able to do it.
“I have never driven on a difficult road to negotiate. It’s worse than the center of Swindon, with all those little roundabouts. You could spend the rest of your life there if you’re not careful.
4. Clarkson is still not convinced by electric cars
You may recall that Clarkson publicly acknowledged climate change for the first time on last year’s special, after the terrible conditions the team witnessed in Cambodia. But that doesn’t mean he’s about to change his behavior.
“I just ordered a new Bentley, with a V8 engine, so that’s where I am,” he says. “[Hammond and May] both have electric cars now but i offset them with carbon. “
He refers to recent reports of the “appalling” slavery of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after the huge surge in demand for cobalt – a metal essential for electric car batteries.
“They are also very expensive and totally impractical and have the personality of a vacuum cleaner, but if that’s what you like, use an electric car.”
5. And it’s probably best that you don’t tell him about the bike lanes either.
… because it seems like he had a pretty traumatic experience going to the press launch.
“It took me three hours to get to where I am this morning because the mayor of London is a fool,” he said with his usual tact. “He just turned the whole city into a cycle path.
“I don’t mind having a bike path or two where it’s convenient, but he put one in the Euston Underpass. I mean, the man is a maniac and needs to be stopped.
Clarkson has always liked to be provocative with the things he says, but we thought we had better pass these comments on to the Mayor of London.
A spokesperson for Mayor Sadiq Khan told us: “London is facing an air quality crisis that kills thousands of people a year and exacerbates the physical effects of Covid-19. Half of the city’s toxic emissions are caused by road transport.
“These policies are aimed at saving lives and Sadiq makes no apologies for the temporary emergency measures he has put in place to encourage the huge increase in cycling that we have seen since the start of the pandemic, which allows also social distancing in public transport. t go through one public health crisis only to tackle another caused by congestion and toxic air pollution. “
6. The team hopes viewers will crave a crack
Following the release of the special next month, James May is hoping it will spark renewed public interest in finding the treasure.
“The coded message is available in various books and online, and there are many ways to read and interpret it, as I hope I’ve shown, but if other people want to try it, I think that would be very interesting, “he says.
“Even if you could manage to translate it, it would be in an ancient language that we don’t know very well, so understanding what it really means will require massive research knowledge and interpretation skills. But even if it’s just for a bit of fun hopefully people still struggle with it, it’s pretty absorbing actually. “
7. The next special will be in Scotland
Wilman describes having to edit the Madagascar film on Zoom as “living hell”.
Lockdown also meant the team had to get creative when they started filming their next stage and find something to do in the UK.
“We were trying to think of different options, and where we ended up, we just recently pulled one in Scotland, sort of a mini-coronavirus special, which will last 60 minutes instead of 90,” says Wilman.
But how long will the trio continue to do the Grand Tour? They have been with Amazon since 2015 and had been on Top Gear for 13 years prior to that.
“I’m aware of aging, and maybe the need to grow taller, now I’m in the second half of my 50s,” May says. “But I think we’re going to do it a bit more because, to be honest, people want us to do it, and it would be wrong of us to disappoint them.
“But eventually one of us is going to crack, yeah. Probably me. I’m pretty fragile, really.”
Wilman explains that he and the trio all got individual solo deals when they signed with Amazon, meaning each got their own series in addition to working on The Grand Tour.
As a result, Clarkson has made a farming series, Hammond has an upcoming survival show, while James May recently started his own cooking program. “I still have one to do,” Wilman says, adding that he will stay behind the scenes rather than on screen.
“We would like to make two [Grand Tour specials] one year was the plan. We have two more to do, on our current contract. And that’s about right, two allow us to do something else and move the Grand Tour forward. “
The Grand Tour Presents: A Massive Hunt launches Friday, December 18 on Amazon Prime Video.