It’s hard to believe how long it’s been since Richard Hammond nearly died in a crash while filming a segment for the BBC’s Top Gear. In September 2006, Hammond strapped into a dragster called Vampire, powered by a turbojet engine, and set out to demonstrate what it’s like to drive a land-speed vehicle at 300-plus mph. Toward the end of the day of filming, though, the car had a tire blowout at 310 mph and went into a violent roll. Hammond was cut out of the car and evacuated; he spent two weeks in a coma, and doctors gave him a slim chance of survival.
Now, in a newly-released video on YouTube, Hammond takes us through what he experienced while he was in that coma, and how his wife helped bring him back to consciousness.
For such a heavy topic, Hammond approaches it directly, with a pragmatic matter-of-factness that’s built on a strong foundation of optimism. This short but incredibly touching video could have easily become maudlin, overwrought in the name of being inspirational. Instead, we get the best of Richard Hammond: Serious without self-pity, straightforward but weighted with meaning.
Hammond beat incredible odds, not only surviving the horrific crash but rather swiftly returning to TV and the antics of the Top Gear crew. Sixteen years after the fact, it can be easy to forget just how grim things looked for awhile.
(It’s also worth mentioning that the 2006 crash barely seems to have slowed Hammond down — in 2017, he had another massive high-speed crash during filming, this time driving a Rimac electric supercar, which itself came right after a pretty bad motorcycle crash in Mozambique.)
Hammond talks through it better than I ever could. This is a short video; a car never appears. But for anyone whose car enthusiasm flourished as a result of watching Top Gear, and anyone who marvels at what the human body and mind can endure, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time. We’re glad Hammond is still around to inspire us.