Top Gear presenter in new high-speed stunt

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The Independent Online

Less than a year after surviving a high-speed crash in a jet-powered car, the Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond has been "racing" a Typhoon fighter plane in the world's fastest street-legal car.

Hammond, 37, hurtled up and down the airstrip at RAF Coningsbury, Lincolnshire, behind the wheel of a Bugatti Veyron – part of a stunt for the BBC show's new series.

The BBC said it had followed "stringent" safety procedures for the race.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation into Hammond's accident in September last year found there had been "failings in BBC management systems", including too little preparation and not double-checking whether Hammond was properly trained for the stunt, but it concluded that no one should be prosecuted.

Hammond was injured when the car he was driving blew a tyre at 288mph, swerved off the runway near York where filming was taking place, and flipped over. He came to rest upside down in the wreckage with his body rammed into the grass verge, and was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary where he was treated for swelling to the brain.

He made a full recovery and the film of the accident was later broadcast on the television show.

Bugatti Veyrons cost £800,000, can reach speeds of more than 250mph and go from 0 to 60mph in 2.5 seconds. But Typhoon jets travel at twice the speed of sound, and the one featured in the stunt won easily.

The car and the plane each travelled two miles – Hammond driving one mile each way along the runway, and the jet flying over the tarmac for a mile before ascending vertically for a mile.The stunt was described by one witness as "awesome".

The new series of Top Gear starts next month.

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