Richard Hammond Profile

He's the first (and probably only) sex symbol in the world of motoring journalism. Find out more about the death-defying Richard Hammond.

Richard Hammond

Jeremy Clarkson may have the cutting wit, but Richard Hammond's got the looks. After all, he once came top in a gossip mag's poll of 'weird celebrity crushes', which is probably the best dubious complement anyone's ever been paid.

Born in 1970, Richard grew up in the Yorkshire town of Ripon, where he attended the incredibly old and prestigious Ripon Grammar School - a place so bloated with history that it was actually founded twice (once in Saxon times, and all over again in 1555). Which probably explains why Hammond speaks so well and stuff.

Determined to somehow work in motoring, Hammond decided to learn the dark arts of public relations, and helped organise car-related corporate events for clients like the Ferrari Owners' Club. It was during this period that he met his beloved wife ("She loves cars more than I do, she's bonkers") and, in 1998, Hammond was finally picked up to present his first car show on TV. It was on the Men And Motors cable channel, so the only people who saw it were the cameramen. And maybe their mums. But it was the first important step on the road to Top Gear – Rome wasn't built in a day and all that.

To be picked to front Top Gear was Hammond's greatest dream and along with Clarkson and James May, Hammond has re-vamped what had turned into the type of show only flat cap wearing granddads would watch, just. With Hammond's somewhat explosive dislike of caravans, the ongoing banter from Clarkson about the fact that he whitens his teeth (something needs to distract us from his ever growing barnet) and the now expected bullying of poor defenceless May, the show has turned into a real lad's show, with cheeky Hammond just about keeping the female viewers happy.

But, Hammond's Top Gear gig almost ended tragically when, in September 2006, he was involved in a terrible crash while piloting the jet-powered Vampire dragster. The cause was a tire blowout, and he was travelling at almost 300mph when the car flipped over. As he later put it, "There was a sense of - oh bugger."

Still, he has his Hamster-like qualities to thank for his survival - if he'd been any taller, his head would have connected with the ground and the crash would have been fatal. Instead, Hammond recovered with startling swiftness, and credits a certain children's toy with his quick comeback. "Lego saved my life," he said. "I was a Lego fiend when I was eight and suddenly it was all I wanted to do again. It's really good therapy." Hammond also says that he has noticed that he now likes celery and he didn't before. Well, urm, that's a result...

Away from Top Gear and much to the disgust of Clarkson (not that he is bitter or anything) Hammond has gone on to present a montage of other programmes. If we're honest, some of them have been about as entertaining as watching your nan knit a jumper, but Hammond seems to have hit the jackpot with Total Wipeout. Not only does he get to watch all manner of people with questionable sanity hurt themselves on big red balls, but the lucky devil gets to sun himself in Argentina (wait, it's a London studio, oh...). Hammond's also presented Crufts (we told you some of them were boring), taken part in Comic Relief and even interviewed Evil Knievel. Let's hope this necklace wearing champ sticks around.

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