Richard Hammond defends Top Gear against ‘laddish’ perception: ‘We were just three nice blokes’

During its time on air, ‘Top Gear’ attracted criticisms of misogyny, homophobia, and racism

Annabel Nugent
Tuesday 24 October 2023 09:58 BST
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Richard Hammond has defended himself and his fellow Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May against allegations they were “laddish” on the show.

Between 2002 and 2015, Hammond, 53, Clarkson, 63, and May, 60 fronted the hugely popular automotive show on the BBC.

The once much-loved series, however, fell out of popularity with some of its viewers who criticised the nature of the trio’s jokes.

In 2008, Ofcom received 339 complaints about a quip Clarkson made about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes. Also that same year, the BBC issued an apology after Clarkson branded Mexican people “lazy”.

In 2014, Clarkson was again accused of racism after he used the word “slope” –  a derogatory term for Asian people – as an Asian man crossed a bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand where the presenters had been filming a special episode.

In 2016, Hammond – who has said he is a supporter of the LGBT+ community – made a strange remark when refusing to eat an ice cream on screen. “It’s something to do with being straight,” he said at the time. “Ice cream is a bit – you know.”

In a recent interview with The i newspaper, Hammond defended himself and his fellow presenters against the public perception of them as “laddish”.

“We were never laddish,” Hammond said as he “sighed”, according to the interviewer.

Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond (PA)

“As people? Not ONE of us is what you’d describe as ‘a lad’. We weren’t misogynistic. We were basically just three nice blokes…”

Hammond, however, admitted that motoring journalism can appear to be that way. “Our thing was to push against that,” he said. “We always said you don’t have to be a car nerd to watch the show because we do that for you.”

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Hammond – who was promoting his new series Richard Hammond’s Workshop – said that he knows how it feels to be excluded from “bloke culture” because he doesn’t follow football.

“I’m completely stuck and embarrassed when football comes up in conversation,” he said. “Even though I know that on a strategic, human level it’s fascinating and I wish I could join in. I’d like to overcome that.”

James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond during filming of The Grand Tour (Amazon Prime Vidoe/PA) (PA Media)

Hammond went on to say he is keen to “see more women get involved in the car industry at every level”. The interviewer, however, notes that all the mechanics at Hammond’s workshop are male but that the receptionist “who hands Hammond his bag” is a woman.

Hammond responded: “Our amazing apprentice, Isaac, who’s just 19, started with us this series. But I’d love to have a female mechanic too. I think we need to be more inclusive when we’re educating kids about engineering.”

After multiple controversies, Clarkson’s time on Top Gear came to an end in 2015 when he was suspended after punching a producer and reportedly called him a “lazy Irish c***”. The outburst had come after the producer was unable to procure his desired dinner during filming.


The producer was treated in hospital and the BBC announced that it would not be renewing Clarkson’s contract.

Clarkson, May, and Hammond decamped to Amazon Prime where they present The Grand Tour, which follows a similar format to Top Gear.

The future of Top Gear remains up in the air following a near-fatal on-set accident involving presenter Freddie Flintoff, who joined the series in 2016.

The former England cricketer, 45, was airlifted to hosptial in December 2022 after a vehicle he was driving crashed at the Dunsfold Park Aerodrome, home of the Top Gear test track.

The Independent understands that the BBC is yet to make a decision on the timing of the series’ prospective return.

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