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REVIEW: Happy Finnish Christmas. The Grand Tour Just Gave Top Gear The Biggest Burn Yet

The sixth episode of The Grand Tour comes from snowy Finland, which is appropriate given that it’s The Grand Tour’s very first Christmas special. Does this Christmas special with Clarkson, Hammond, and May live up to our expectations? Read on to find out our SPOILER injected review:

Let’s first start by saying that this may just be the best Grand Tour episode EVER. Not because of fancy tire smoke, exotic super cars, or overly stylized presentation of cars against a laser curtain backdrop, but because they shared with us the greatest story in all of motorsports: The feud between Ford and Ferrari leading up to the 1966 24 Hours Of Le Mans. They also just gave Top gear the biggest burn ever.

But before we are served with that gem of a film, we are first treated with a healthy dose of Ford Hors d’oeuvres with the Mustang and the Focus RS. Now if you’re a fan of Top Gear (the old one between 2002-2015, not the new garbage) then you’re familiar with Richard Hammond being the American of the bunch. He was always fond of Mustangs, stetsons, cowboy boots, and just all sorts of American things. So when the 5.0 liter naturally aspirated V8 Ford Mustang was first becoming available in right-hand drive in the UK, it only made sense that he was there to greet its arrival with proper fanfare.

Once the Mustang was in his hands he treated it like a proper American tourist and took it to see all the famous landmarks. If you’ve seen the trailer for this episode then you would have caught a quick glimpse of how the Mustang was slowly rolling by the Cenotaph, a British war memorial. Some publications have presumed that this short clip was a dig at the new Top Gear’s stunt, where Ken Block and Matt LeBlanc were caught doing burnouts and donuts in the Hoonicorn Mustang, near its vicinity earlier this year. The stunt royally pissed off a lot of people. We thought it was a bit ridiculous to jump to such conclusions but after seeing this episode we totally concur that this was The Grand Tour’s way of putting Top Gear in its place for their mishandling of the entire situation. Richard Hammond stated as he passed by:

“And that is the Cenotaph, where we remember those who died fighting for us. Slowing down a bit here. Show some respect.”

Continuing his Great Britain sight seeing tour, Richard Hammond brought his right-hand drive Mustang over to Stone Henge, where he was rudely interrupted by Jeremy Clarkson showing up in the all-wheel drive Ford Focus RS. Clarkson is quick to remind Hammond that the Mustang is a completely useless car for Great Britain, and that a fast Ford in the same price bracket is already available. The bantering between the two was the classic bickering we’ve come to love from old Top Gear, but here in The Grand Tour Hammond realized that he could simply walk away from the conversation instead of being further trolled by Jezza.

After the routine ‘Conversation Street’ discussion about Finnish problems with speeding tickets and not being able to eat sweet chocolaty treats while sitting inside a Volvo, we return to the real good stuff between the Mustang and the Focus RS. It wasn’t long before we are treated to a chase scene between the two American sports car. The cars’ features were presented in the typical Grand Tour fashion but has been turned up to 11, as Clarkson kept up in his Focus RS in an attempt to further irritate Hammond. As predicted the Mustang lives happily while sliding sideways in the corners, and the Focus RS offered massive amounts of grip thanks to its all-wheel drive system while its turbocharged engine loves to sound like a machine gun when put in Sport mode.

The rest of this Ford Battle bit is the same old recipe of mine-is-better-than-yours banter that the trio has perfected for well over a dozen years. Yet they continue to leave us speechless at times, whether because of their clever cinematography and exciting angles or just their over the top and extremely clever writing. When talking about his Focus RS, Clarkson recalled his past experience with an old Ford Escort:

“In many ways this reminds me of the old Escort Cosworth and that was a great car. I actually had one in the 90s, I called it ‘Gary’. It started every morning and it always went “DO YOU WANT SOME?!””

And when he was about to race Hammond in a good old drag race:

“This car is going to boing off the line like a spring lamb.”

Any show can have tire smoke and fancy cars. The Grand Tour goes beyond that because it has got brilliant writers and presenters. Take note, new Top Gear.

As for the drag race itself, the results were predictable as the Mustang had a healthy 60 horsepower over its little brother. The all-wheel drive torque monster Focus RS was much quicker off the line, but like most stock all-wheel drive with small turbocharged engines, there isn’t enough legs to keep up with a higher displacement naturally aspirated cars in the longer races. Shockingly the Focus RS was able to produce a faster lap time in the test track than the Mustang. We’re not certain if the Mustang was slower because The American did a lot of bickering and praising as he went around the track or not. But the slow lap times doesn’t lie, unlike their latest lap times in ‘Moroccan Roll’.

Moving on to the Christmas portion of the show we were treated with the aging bit of accidental penis spelling along with gag gifts involving condoms. We found this segment to be a bit awkward and a bit of a filler. Jeremy Clarkson pretending to be completely useless in Rocket Skates while Richard Hammond performs a lame rescue with his motorized scooter thing is just bad television. We suggest skipping this part entirely so you can resume watching the good stuff, The Grand Tour’s presentation of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.

If you haven’t read the book by A.J. Baime titled “Go Like Hell”, we suggest you pick it up and give it a read. It’s an excellent summary of the entire feud and rivalry between Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II, as well as the tumultuous development of the Ford GT 40 and the Le Mans races leading up to the one in 1966. But if you don’t have the time to read it, The Grand Tour has done a very good summary of the entire fiasco while including some very rare footage of Enzo Ferrari himself.

Perhaps the highlight of the entire film is seeing James May piloting the Ford GT40 Mk II and the Ferrari P3, cars that actually competed in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. He may be Captain Slow in old Top Gear, but after this episode he should possess the title of Captain Not So Slow as he has managed to pilot the most insane, and expensive, vehicles we’ve seen on The Grand Tour thus far.

We all know how the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans ended with the Ford GT40 1-2-3 photo finish. However, The Grand Tour combined some old pictures along with very old clips, glazed on May’s soothing documentary voice, and created an excellent presentation that warps you back in time. If we can just choose one film out of all of The Grand Tour films we have seen thus far, this one would be it.

Have you seen this episode? Let us know your thoughts about it and your favorite parts of the show down below!

 

Written by Hansen

The engineer amongst the crew, Hansen once built a mini baja car with his bare hands. Hansen had the opportunity to join Honda’s R&D team in Ohio but chose the life of the east coast and the defense industry instead. A die hard auto enthusiast he religiously follows the auto industry and loves long walks in the auto shows.

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