After an eight-month wait since the release of the last episode, Eurocrash, the penultimate special of The Grand Tour has finally premiered on Amazon Prime.
Subtitled Sand Job (nice), the feature-length special sees Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May cross the Sahara desert, retracing the original route of the Dakar Rally. Their journey starts in in the heart of the West African nation of Mauritania, and roughly retraces the famous race’s route to its iconic beachfront finish.
That’s an infamously tough journey even in specialised desert racing machinery, but it wouldn’t be The Grand Tour without some extra peril, so the team is undertaking the journey in some of the most inappropriate vehicles possible: big, front-engined, open-top sports cars, more suited to cruising the south of France than tackling the biggest sand desert in the world.
Jeremy has chosen a V6 Jaguar F-Type, Richard an Aston Martin DB9 Volante, and James a Maserati GranCabrio, all of which have undergone some serious modification in order to take on the challenging terrain. Clearly, we’re a long way from the days of the three-figure budgets seen in early Top Gear cheap car challenges.
As we saw in the trailer, the journey isn’t an easy one, with the trio having to deal with sand storms, massive dunes, ravines and actual minefields, as well as a pretty perilous-looking river crossing. There’s also an appearance from the world’s longest train, a 1.2-mile-long beast that transports iron ore and also delivers the cars to the starting point. All the while, the team must protect their vital fuel bowser, required to keep the cars going in this remote part of the world.
It’s more of what we’ve come to know and love from The Grand Tour’s big-budget specials: there’s incredible cinematography showing off the Sahara’s stark beauty mixed in with driving sequences that push the trio’s sports cars far beyond anything they were designed for. Oh, and some explosions, of course.
It was the filming of this special that Clarkson said made him realise how “unfit and fat and old” he was, leading in part to his decision to step back from the show.
We know there’s still one more special to come after this, filmed in Zimbabwe, which Amazon says is coming “later this year.” Interestingly, Amazon refers to that as the “final special of the Grand Tour with the trio,” reinforcing the suggestion that the show could continue in one form or another after the departure of Clarkson, Hammond and May.