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‘The Grand Tour’ auditions a car thief as its new driver, with expected results

The Grand Tour is making some major changes for its second season, including a new professional driver. The Amazon series is waving goodbye to ex-NASCAR driver Mike Skinner, also know as “The American.” His stereotypical redneck persona was getting a little tiresome anyway.

The latest in a string of teasers has the trio of hosts continuing the search for a replacement. After Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond’s choices of ex-Formula One driver Mark Webber and a stunt driver, respectively, didn’t pan out, James May decided to apply what he calls “lateral thinking” by bringing in a supposedly reformed car thief.

Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “drive it like you stole it,” the latest candidate is ushered into a BMW M4 CS for a lap of The Grand Tour’s test track. But, perhaps not surprisingly, things don’t go as planned.

Having a professional driver onboard to set lap times is a holdover from the trio’s time on Top Gear. It’s a useful element for a car show, since lap times are a good way of comparing the performance of different cars, and having the same driver do them all removes a major variable. But Clarkson, Hammond, and May weren’t allowed to bring the silent Stig over from Top Gear, and finding a personality that works may continue to prove challenging.

A new driver isn’t the only change in store for season two. The studio tent that traveled around to different locations last season will stay put in England, something the accountants at Amazon will likely appreciate. The show is also replacing “Celebrity Brain Crash,” a segment where celebrities were “killed” trying to reach the tent, will be replaced by a segment where guests attempt to drive half of a car.

Even before the first trailer for the new season was released, The Grand Tour was making headlines, albeit not for the right reasons. Hammond was injured twice during filming, both during a motorcycle crash and while driving the Rimac Concept One electric supercar. Hammond rolled the car, which burst into flames after coming to rest, escaping with a fractured knee. Clarkson called it the most frightening crash he’d ever seen.

It’s unclear if that fiery crash will make it into the show, or if Clarkson, Hammond, and May will find a replacement driver. But either way, expect plenty of automotive hijinks when season two of The Grand Tour premieres on Amazon Prime December 8.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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