Jeremy Clarkson has admitted to feeling slightly nervous about his new car-based TV show The Grand Tour, after the global success of fronting Top Gear with Richard Hammond and James May.
But he said he was confident the first episode of their Amazon Prime Video series would be popular and that being forced to rethink the way they created a motoring show meant The Grand Tour was “a breath of fresh air”.
The trio, who stuck together after Jeremy’s contract on the BBC programme was not renewed in 2015, have spent the past year working on their new programme.
But Jeremy said there was more pressure for their new endeavour than for any past series of Top Gear, which he referred to fondly as his “baby”.
Jeremy said: “Top Gear was always the same. James fell over, Richard caught fire, I said something stupid. You just don’t know.”
Using a new format in The Grand Tour, one that would not clash with Top Gear’s favourite segments such as Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, was a challenge for the presenters and production team.
He said: “We’ve had to change a number of aspects, a number of elements to the show. You don’t know how they’re going to play.”
Rather than being based in a studio, the team now travels the world and hosts an audience in a large tent.
Referring to the first episode of the series, for which they managed to secure the holy trinity of hybrid hypercars – the McLaren P1, the Porsche 918 Spyder and the Ferrari LaFerrari – Jeremy said he was confident it would be well-received.
He said: “I think programme one will be all right. I’d be extremely surprised if that was poorly reviewed. I think programme one is extremely strong.”
Moving on from Top Gear and seeing it taken over by Matt LeBlanc and the now-departed Chris Evans was somewhat difficult for Jeremy.
After watching the first two episodes of the new series earlier this year, he said he felt sad because “I did used to think that show was my baby”.
He added: “I worked and chivvied away at it for 12 years. But we’ve got a better show now. So that’s good.
“Our baby’s gone through puberty and it’s now an adolescent. That’s what it is.”
Being forced to rethink a motoring show for Amazon has been a largely positive experience and Jeremy said that being made to leave the BBC and Top Gear was creatively valuable.
Top Gear’s incredible growth over the years, he said, “would have been its ultimate demise”.
He added: “We were absolutely convinced for certain every year that Top Gear would start to plateau and every single year it just got bigger and bigger viewing figures, in more and more territories.
“Which actually would have been its ultimate demise because we were so terrified to change anything, we never did. It was all, ‘just let us do the same thing, the same thing, the same thing’.
“And the good thing is now we’ve been forced to reinvent it so it’s a breath of fresh air.”
The “stakes are lower” now, though, because of his age, and he said he cared less about the reaction from critics.
He said: “The only reason the stakes are lower is because I’m now 56, it doesn’t really matter any more because I’ll be dead soon.
“You can all say, ‘This is a terrible programme and Amazon’s wasted its money’, and I’ll go, ‘Yeah but I’ll be dead before anybody notices’. Whereas when I was 40, it mattered because you think, ‘I’ve got a whole life to earn some money’. But now I’m falling to pieces. I can’t even get up a flight of stairs.”
The Grand Tour arrives on Amazon Prime Video on Friday November 18, with a new episode released every Friday.