Skip to Photo Next
1/1 and 1/1
1/1 and 1/1
“Boulders as big as washing machines and ruts so deep you could fall in.”
According to Grand Tour host Jeremy Clarkson, that’s a fitting description of the dangers the island of Madagascar has to offer.
“The settings for the upcoming Amazon Prime special “The Grand Tour Presents: A Big Quest” are remote in the Indian Ocean, both Madagascar and Reunion Island, 435 miles to the east.
The intrepid explorers return, but this time with the familiar comforts of four wheels and dry land, following the trio’s new adventure, in which they traded a car for a boat to explore the South China Sea as part of ‘The Grand Tour Presents: Seamen’ to explore the South China Sea.
Their mission remains, as always, a little unorthodox.
Presenters Jeremy Clarkson (60), James May (57) and Richard Hammond (50) embark on a treasure quest that has puzzled some of the biggest and most creative minds in the world, including producer Ian Fleming of James Bond, in search of fame (and fortune).
“I’ve never been there, so I had this idea that we should go to Madagascar,” says Clarkson.
“Hammond is obsessed with pirates, so he jumped up and down and squealed a lot when I said that, and then we decided against our better judgment that it should be a pirate-based story.”
It is a trend that Hammond’s co-host is swift to accept.
He explains, “I love the romance, the idea of the pirate era, because I’m a kid,”
“Supposedly a very famous pirate scattered his treasure there and then threw clues into the crowd just before he was hanged.”
It’s bigger than Germany, and people don’t know that. It’s a big country and it’s totally spectacular,’ remarks Clarkson of the place in Madagascar.
“Half the time it’s steep down to the sea, which is very inviting though, a warm Indian Ocean, azure sea with a beautiful white beach along it.
“I think the most beautiful place I’ve ever been is the Seychelles and actually, geologically, Madagascar is probably from the same rock formation.”
As for local highlights, Clarkson notes that the nation has a “fascinating ability to put extra syllables into every single word” and that there are “unnecessarily long, long, long names.”
The president’s name must have 300 letters the last time I checked,”The president’s name, last time I checked, must have 300 letters,”
“And then the capital [Antananarivo] is called Ant-ana-ant-ananan-ant-ananarivo – really long names. It makes the street signs hilarious because they’re all ten feet wide when you drive into a village.”
The trio, fitted with a sports car of their choosing, first set off for a drag race along the coastal road of Reunion, the most expensive route ever built, costing EUR 1.7 billion (£ 1.5 billion).
Clarkson says, “We were the first people to ever race on it,”
“You can fly for 13 hours and then land – still in France, that’s amazing in itself – and then it’s amazing to see the EU at work.”
“I’ve been a Remainer and an ardent supporter of the EU and what it stands for, but when you see something like this, you just think, ‘Oh for goodness sake, no wonder the Brexit won when we’re spending so much money on a completely unnecessary vanity project on the other side of the world’.”
This is where things get dramatic, as “Mr. Wilman” series producer advises the presenters to move on to the next assignment: hunting down the lost treasure.
The three sports cars are extensively modified on one of the world’s most treacherous routes, Route Nationale 5 in Madagascar, to navigate the treacherous landscape.
The automobiles are
May choose a Caterham, a Bentley Continental for Clarkson and a Ford Focus RS for Hammond. The newly modified cars set out to conquer the rough terrain of the island.
May says of the challenge, “It was a real car adventure where we pushed beyond natural limits, and that’s the kind of thing I enjoy,”
With one of these Caterhams, I always wanted to do this, and I always had a hunch it would work and it did – better than I could have expected in my wildest dreams
“You thought it was just something for car nerds who bore you at gas stations and go to track days, but it turned out to be something for explorers – and even [Caterham] didn’t know that.”
As with most previous car modifications made by Hammond, the Modera