BBC’s new series, Crash Course, will follow Richard Hammond as he attempts to learn how to work the world’s biggest and toughest vehicles. In his own words, he’s driven “every high-power vehicle there is, but that was just for fun.” From driving Lamborghinis, he’s now aiming to become a lumberjack (among other things). Seems like Hammond is trying to fulfil the next set of his boyhood dreams.
Apart from driving the lumberjacks’ tree harvester, which he does in the second episode, Hammond also learns to ride a mighty Bulldozer in a landfill, a fire-fighting Striker, and a track hoe that helps demolish houses. While most people are trained for years before they’re allowed to drive these vehicles, Hammond has three days to master the machine.
In the first episode of the show, Hammond gets a taste of an army tank. And it isn’t just any tank — it is an Abrams M1 tank. Nicknamed the “death whisperer”, it was used by the American army during the capture of Baghdad. Its footprint is 32’ x 12’ — roughly the same as the area of three pool tables.
Even though the top speed of the tank is 45.1 mph, Hammond seems truly exhilarated by the experience. And why shouldn’t he be? Any GI Joe fan would be thrilled to bits just sitting in an army tank. Hammond learns how to be the driver, the gunner, and the tank commander of this 1,500 horsepower vehicle. A top tank crew at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas trains him over three days and tests him at the end of it. The crew is mostly amused at Hammond but at other times tries to maintain a sort of mock seriousness around him.
Before he is allowed to get his hands on the tank, he is made to learn the basics on a simulator. Honestly, it doesn’t look too difficult. Until he gets into the tank and you realise there’s no windshield — he has to drive the tank while staring at a tiny computer screen, following the directions of the tank commander.
After he passes the driving test, comes the moment he’s been waiting for — firing the giant gun. To pass his ‘final exam’ he has to ride with his tank team — playing the role of driver, gunner and tank commander one by one — and destroy a minimum of 11 out of 12 targets.
Although the constant drone of the tank ringing in your ears gets a tad annoying, the first episode manages to set the tone for the rest of the series. It is insightful and interesting with the sneak peek it gives us of the tank. It’s obvious that most car junkies are going to envy Hammond’s luck now just as much as they did while he hosted Top Gear.