Grand Tour hosts quit TV show
Tearful Top Gear legend Jeremy Clarkson has waved the chequered flag on 17 years of studio car shows with pals James May and Richard Hammond.
He choked up while filming the latest series of The Grand Tour as he told an audience: "It's the end of an era."
Instead, the trio will hit the road as they focus on big-budget specials to be shown over the next two years.
Clarkson has pulled the plug on studio car shows, saying: "There are only so many times you can watch a BMW go round the track."
The presenter announced the move at an emotional ending to filming of the third series of The Grand Tour with May and Hammond.
He later told The Sun: "It's a really sad day. I will miss the banter with each other and with the audience.
"But we've been doing that show for effectively 17 years - sitting around in studios, watching cars race around the track.
"There are only so many times you can watch a BMW go round the track - what more can you say? It's got four wheels and a seat.
"We all agreed that we've been doing it a long time and everything eventually runs its course.
"Besides, I'm 58 and I'm too fat to be climbing on to the stage."
Clarkson fronted 22 series of Top Gear before being dumped by the BBC in 2015. He then switched to Amazon with sidekicks Hammond, 48, and May, 55, for their big-budget The Grand Tour.
But as filming wrapped on the third series, Clarkson told the audience it would be their last studio show.
Insiders say the hosts' families wept in the audience as Clarkson declared: "It's the end of an era."
One audience member said the mood was emotionally charged in the tent studio.
"They ran through the show as normal, but I noticed that Clarkson and Hammond had their families in the audience," they said.
"Clarkson's girlfriend and two daughters were there, plus Hammond's wife and daughters.
"When they got to the end of the show, I noticed that most of the family members were in tears.
Everyone wondered what was going on. Then Clarkson stood up and a sort of hush fell over the audience.
"He announced that this would be their last studio show after years together. There was a bit of banter, but they all seemed quite emotional.
"As he was speaking, Jeremy started to well up and then they showed a montage of their best bits, going right back to their Top Gear days.
"When that was done, the show ended silently and then Jeremy said, 'It's a sad day' and they all left.
"Everyone in there was a diehard fan, and everyone was shocked by Jeremy's announcement."
The third series of the show - due to be screened on Amazon Prime next month - will be the last in its current format. But it will not mean the end of one of the most successful line-ups on TV.
The three hosts have signed a new two-year deal with Amazon for at least four specials a year. The programs, reminiscent of their Top Gear jaunts to places such as Vietnam and Botswana, will be filmed around the world.
Clarkson said the three petrolheads would like to take in places they had yet to visit including North Korea and Zimbabwe.
"They will be big exciting shows - proper event TV," he said.
"We're not doing the big studios shows anymore. But we all love travelling and still enjoy each other's company after all these years.
"You get to the point where it's the specials, when we're out on the road in far-flung places, that we like doing the most.
"We did five in season three across the world in places like Mongolia and the US where we didn't have the studio tent.
"Amazon like them and they've done research that shows the audience like them, too."
Asked if they would have the same financial backing as the up to $7 million an episode spent on The Grand Tour series, he replied: "Put it this way, Marvel will be jealous of our budgets."
Long-time producer and Clarkson's old school pal Andy Willman has also signed for the new shows.
It will also allow the three stars to develop solo projects but Clarkson said he had not decided what he would be doing.
"I'm having a break so I'll let you know when I have an idea," he said.
"We are all still Amazon boys - that's the key thing about all this. We love working with them."
The third series of The Grand Tour, which is prerecorded, will start on January 18. Clarkson and Hammond revived Top Gear in 2002 with May joining them a year later.
Over more than 20 series, they turned the show into the BBC's biggest global brand, worth more than $87 million a year and watched in 214 territories.
Its army of fans revelled in its regular features such as Star In a Reasonably Priced Car. But a low-point came in 2006 when Richard suffered brain injuries in a crash in a 482km/h dragster.
After Clarkson was dumped by the BBC following an "unprovoked physical and verbal attack" on a colleague, the three presenters signed their deal to move to Amazon Prime in 2015 - and The Grand Tour's opening scene, costing $4.39 million, was the most expensive seen on TV.
Shot in the Californian desert and screened in November 2016, it featured 150 cars, 2000 petrolheads, acrobats, stilt-walkers and six jet planes.
The three presenters sped across the Lucerne Valley in customised red, white and blue Ford Mustangs.
They were followed by $35 million worth of cars, including a Bugatti Veyron and Rolls-Royce.
Meanwhile, Top Gear floundered after the trio left. Viewing figures plunged under new host Chris Evans but recovered slightly after he departed, leaving former Friends actor Matt LeBlanc in charge.
This story first appeared in The Sun and has been republished here with permission.