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The Grand Tour’s Richard Hammond is no stranger to epic cars and equally epic drives. Here he talks to The Club about tackling Botswanan salt flats, Icelandic glaciers, his favourite place on Earth – all with an epic playlist
This doesn’t sound good and it’s not the most thrilling, but the most important drive to me in my whole life is the 12-mile run from the petrol station where I worked on the outskirts of Ripon to the Harrogate roundabout. It’s where I started driving, first on my motorcycle then in my Toyota Corolla. The record was held by Al Plunkett, older brother of my mate Ian, who did it in seven and a half minutes on a bike.
Car of choice: Subaru Impreza P1
Song: Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
Botswana is beautiful. When you’re driving across the flats they make a crackling sound. There’s a thin salt crust and if you break through it you’re into primeval goo, so ideally better not to do that. There’s this tremendous sense of freedom that you can drive anywhere but you don’t want to leave too many tyre marks. Eventually, shimmering in the distance, is Kubu Island, which is breathtaking. It’s populated by exotic baobab trees – that was the first time I’d seen one in the wild.
Car of choice: 1962 Opel Kadett
Song: Chocolate Jesus, Tom Waits
This is not a long drive but it is beautiful. You pass by the side of the lake and there’s an incredibly rocky corner under the trees. It becomes wilder as you go along the route to Rosthwaite, Borrowdale and Seatoller, lovely little Tolkienesque hamlets. At the end you have the green jewel of Buttermere, my favourite place in the world, bar none.
Car of choice: 1934 Supercharged Lagonda Tourer
Song: Low Rider, JJ Cale
The joy of driving in Iceland is you encounter incredibly different places and landscapes in a short journey. You can drive past sponge-like rock, which is cooled volcanic lava, but then you can be looking at a glacier. It’s full of the most unexpected contradictions. The roads are not the most challenging, but you can go off-road in a glacier truck.
Car of choice: Bowler Nemesis
Song: Old Fashioned Morphine, Jolie Holland
I would start in Montpellier then go inland up to the ridge at Barberaz on a nice, meandering trip. You can find proper French villages, and if you stop at a restaurant the food will be good. The locals don’t eat rubbish, so go off the tourist trail. You can pick any route in that part of France, follow your nose and find challenging roads, good food, good places to stay and it will be authentic and real.
Car of choice: 1962 Jaguar E-Type Roadster
Song: A lot of rat pack, some Dean Martin