Review: Dubai shines during final stop on The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour wraps up its debut series. It’s been 13 exciting weeks of drag races, cars blowing up and many unflattering shots of three ageing men behaving like fools, writes Christine Iyer.

The Grand Tour in Dubai. Courtesy Amazon Studios.
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The Grand Tour boys are back – and for the 13th and final episode of their new. globetrotting show, the former Top Gear stars pitched their studio tent under the glittering Burj Khalifa.

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May end the first season of their new Amazon Prime motoring show in Downtown Dubai, with Clarkson’s opening monologue timed to exactly coincide with the famous fountains going off. It makes for a dazzling opening.

To loud applause from the large crowd, Clarkson, being Clarkson, jokes about how rich people are in Dubai, and how the fountains are filled with Perrier water, accompanied by images on TV of gold-vending machines, the supercars in the Dubai Police fleet and the planned Hyperloop, which will reportedly offer a short, hair-raising 12-minute commute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Oddly, there was no sign during the show of Hammond driving over a roundabout in a tank, a stunt spotted by The National when the cast and crew of The Grand Tour filmed in Dubai in December. Why was it dropped from the final episode? We may never know.

It was fun though, to watch a traffic-free Sheikh Zayed Road serve as a race track for a contest between a Bugatti Veyron and a Porsche 918. Later, Hammond raced the 918 against a bulky Nissan Patrol – only for the (highly modified) Nissan to outstrip the supercar within seconds.

And in true The Grand Tour tradition, celebrity guest Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian F1 driver, met a pretend gruesome end after losing control of a hovercraft, leaving May to wipe his blood off the tent window.

And that was it for Dubai, really. The rest of the 61-minute episode was devoted to other stuff, including Clarkson and May setting off from London for Dartmoor and arguing like a crotchety old couple about which is the better hatchback – the Volkswagen Golf GTI (Clarkson) or the hybrid BMW i3 REx (May). It doesn’t help that May has to stop a couple of times, fumbling around exasperatingly while trying to charge the battery.

Clarkson pushes on, telling "Captain Slow" as often as possible that he's a blithering idiot, then completing his journey in time for a pub gig by musician Wilko Johnson (whose other claim to fame is his role as an executioner in Game of Thrones).

There was also an exciting segment in which Hammond attempted to become a Zen master of drifting by spending a day in the Centre de Technologie de Ladoux, France, which happens to be Michelin’s test track. He gets the hang of it in the end, but not before causing his hapless instructor to throw up his breakfast.

Hammond then takes on two drifters, one physically disabled and the other a child of 13, and loses spectacularly.

May, meanwhile, in an anorak and wellington boots, stands thigh-deep in squelchy mud, is on a miserable adventure of his own. He is in Hampshire to learn all he can about the competitive sport of winching, from Seamus, an Irishman who is part of a group of men who deliberately propel their 4WDs into thick mud, valleys or woods, make sure they are well and truly stuck, then attempt to winch themselves out.

“I can think of many other things I could be doing today, such as self-harm,” says May, as he repeatedly falls – come on, it has to be staged – into the thick, black slime.

And so The Grand Tour wraps up its debut series. It's been 13 exciting weeks of drag races, cars blowing up and many unflattering shots of three ageing men behaving like fools.

Season 2, which will begin later this year, is sure to be more of the same – but I would not miss it for the world.

Series 1 of The Grand Tour is available to watch on Amazon Prime. To sign up, visit primevideo.com

artslife@thenational.ae