Richard Hammond Faces His Top Gear Demons and Drives the Car That Almost Killed Him

Automotive icon Richard Hammond loves cars. So much so that he is willing to put himself in harm’s way to feed his passions. That willingness to push the envelope has caused him issues, one of the most impactful being the Vampire dragster crash. The crash sent Hammond to the hospital and caused him longer-term complications. Recently, though, Richard Hammond announced that he intends to drive the car that almost killed him, or at least sit in it. 

The Vampire jet-powered dragster is no joke

The bright yellow Vampire dragster speeds down a strip
Vampire dragster | Getty Images

Drag cars are intended to scream down a strip at breakneck speeds. DriveTribe secured access to the rebuilt Vampire dragster, which is no standard drag car. The Vampire is jet-propelled, meaning it is more a missile than a car. According to MotorTrend, the Vampire is pushed by a Bristol Siddeley Orpheus turbojet engine, like those in jet trainer aircraft. 

As you might expect, jet-powered cars are as dangerous as powerful. For example, in 1971, a jet-propelled dragster killed several spectators at a drag strip. So the Vampire came with safety precautions, including instructions to kill the engine during a crash. Even with precautions, driving a jet-powered car is risky.

Why is it such a big deal for Richard Hammond to get back in the Vampire dragster?

An emergency helicopter delivers Richard Hammond to a hospital in Leeds
Richard Hammond after 2006 crash | Getty Images

Aside from the daunting task of driving a jet-powered dragster, Hammond has reason to be hesitant with the Vampire. He and the Vampire dragster have history. In 2006, while shooting an episode of the BBC’s Top Gear with the race car, Hammond was involved in a severe crash. MotorTrend states that the Vampire dragster was traveling at 288.4 mph when the front tire failed. Hammond was extricated from the crash and flown to a hospital in Leeds.

Will Richard Hammond really drive the car that nearly killed him?

Richard Hammond may drive the car that nearly killed him, pictured here
The Vampire dragster | Getty Images

Richard Hammond has enjoyed quite a tenure alongside co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May with Top Gear, Amazon’s Grand Tour, and now DriveTribe, to name a few. During his career, he has crashed road cars, drag cars, and even an electric supercar, sometimes on purpose! These events take a toll on the body, as they would on anyone.

As part of a new year’s DriveTribe announcement, Richard Hammond claimed that he intends to drive the jet-powered car once more. The statement serves as another indication that Hammond is as much the cowboy as he used to be. The announcement video showed Hammond walking around the bright livery machine before sliding into the seat. “I’ll do what I said I’d never do and get back into the car that very nearly killed me,” Hammond said in the DriveTribe video.

Richard Hammond, pictured here with is GT390, may drive the car that nearly killed him once more
Richard Hammond and his Mustang GT390 | Jeff Spicer/WireImage

After sitting in the Vampire dragster and soaking in the experience, he hinted that he would rather graciously allow his co-host to drive the imposing vehicle. That is probably for the best, considering we all need Richard Hammond to keep making the content we love.

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