30 October 2006
Richard Hammond’s exploit is not a licence to be reckless
Mark Holland

Despite their protestations to the contrary, I have a sneaking suspicion that certain nannying types are somewhat disappointed that Richard Hammond not only survived his 288mph jet-car crash but ultimately escaped with nothing more than a bout of depression. No brain injury, no lost limbs, no scars, no nothing really. Amazing.

Take this opinion piece in today’s Times.

Firstly, the author’s use of the phrase “penis extension” says more about her than it does about Hammond, his Top Gear colleagues or indeed anyone who’s ever had the temerity to enjoy accelerating or a well taken corner.

Secondly, apparently the fact that Hammond came away from his ordeal moderately unscathed is going to act as a green light to “impressionable” “boy racers” who are going to be mowing down innocent children outside primary school gates the length of the land any day now. (Apart from anything else, aren’t the majority of school children ferried the short walk to school in 4x4s with more armour than our servicemen in Afghanistan and Iraq get to dodge roadside bombs in.)

Watch out, there’s straw man lying in the road:

“Do you realise how annoyed I am that I’ve got no marks on me?” he [Hammond] jokes. “Absolutely nothing at all, nothing for the pub. There are people who fall off their trikes at the age of 4 who have better injuries than me.” Ho, ho.

I wonder how Elizabeth Davidson felt when she read that remark. Mrs Davidson’s daughter Margaret, a 26-year-old doctor, was killed instantly when Nolan Haworth, 19, slammed into her car at 70mph after driving like a joyrider and overtaking on the brow of a hill.

Wheras I wonder what one earth the connection is between Haworth’s actions and Richard Hammond. Yes, peer pressure and the influence of others can be powerful forces but ultimately the choice to act on them is the individual’s to make. “Only following orders” doesn’t cut it as an excuse. Haworth and only Haworth is responsible for his actions. As are we all for ours. I will choose free will.

But, of course, you become the po-faced party pooper if you suggest that, actually, Hammond should be hanging his head in shame for driving a car at nearly 300mph in the first place.

You are a po-faced party pooper.

Hammond wasn’t driving a jet car along the local by-pass for heaven’s sake. It was on a closed track on private land with safety checks having been done and with medical personnel on stand by. The crash was caused by a mechanical failure. One of the tyres burst. These things happen. An identical mishap felled a Concorde. Did that not have all possible safety proceedures carried out or do Air France like to kill its passengers, employees and unlucky people on the ground? Should Ayrton Senna, Donald Campbell, Andrei Kivilev and countless others be hanging their heads in shame for not staying in bed that day?

Imagine how much he has supercharged the fantasies of hundreds of teenage twockers by bragging that he walked away from the crash with little more than a chipped tooth and is now looking forward to regaling his mates with the story over a few pints. This is the ballsy stuff of Hotspur comic legend — but it is also irresponsible.

And that Douglas Bader was a terrible influence too.

What’s wrong with a bit of inspiring derring do? Not everybody is as content to cower neath the duvet as this article’s writer. Some need to push themselves to go faster, higher and further and good luck to them. To link their exploits to some reckless idiot who chose to put his foot down in the wrong place is a) unfair and b) disregards free will.

Finally, I have no idea what on earth a “twocker” is supposed to be.


  1. Twocker = car thief or joyrider, and is derived from “taking without owner’s consent”.

    Posted by Andrew Zalotocky on  31 October 2006 at 02:36 am

  2. Excellent article. I was going to fisk it over at Samizdata but you saved me the trouble and wrote it far better than I could.

    This writer is one of a large number of people who imagine that the spineless chavs of Britain will, as soon as they see a fast car, start mowing down pedestrians at will, or, if they see a violent film, start shooting randomly at bystanders. These writers, who of course never apply the same argument to themselves, complete ignore that we have free-will.

    I really hope Hammond returns to Top Gear and continues, along with Clarkson, to give the killjoys out there cause for heartburn. Go Hamster!

    Posted by Johnathan Pearce on  31 October 2006 at 04:59 pm

  3. A good fisking, Mark, but then the whole Times article is so badly written and misconceived that it’s possible to find something idiotic in every sentence, including right at the start where she appears to be using part of an old Ben Elton ‘comedy’ routine for moral instruction. As you rightly point out she’s the sort of idiot who uses the old ‘penis extension’ jibe. Also, in the same sentence, she invokes NHS costs as another reason why This Sort of Thing Is Wrong - always a sign of the sanctimonious prig.

    The reference to ‘teenage twockers’ simply illustrates how out of date she is - that sort of thing went out with the MG Maestro.

    Posted by David H on  01 November 2006 at 10:58 pm

  4. just a thought about the bursting tyre.
    was this filled with air or did they actually use nitrogen as racers should.
    from what i have seen of the drag ‘car’ it looks a bit of a lash up job myself.
    just didn’t look like a very professional set up myself, having spent many happy weekends going bike racing in the nineties!!

    Posted by quettz on  30 January 2007 at 01:37 pm

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