Surprisingly, no one died when The Grand Tour attempted a water-speed record


The Grand Tour Season 2 streams on Amazon Video

The Grand Tour Season 2 Episode 9:  Breaking, Badly

Episode Rating: Four of Five

(Spoilers, obviously)

The episode starts with Jeremy Clarkson asking what seems like an obvious question: have humans really improved over time?


But he offers an interesting reasoning: 25 years ago, the super cars were just as fast as they are now.

The Jaguar XJ220, with a top speed of 217, was the fastest car in the world briefly until the Bugatti EB110 beat it's record with a top speed of 218 mph. These two cars were designed in the 80's but came out in the early 90's when the financial climate was not as good for supercars.

25 years later, only 3 cars currently in production are faster. However, the turbo lag is very old fashioned. Once they spool up, as Jeremy says, "all hell breaks loose." Even though the Bugatti has a faster top speed, a bigger engine, and all-wheel drive, Clarkson still prefers the Jag, primarily because it is just gorgeous.

In a drag race, the "slower" Jag beats the Bugatti by about a car length. And that's with Jeremy having to guess when to shift since the tach was broken.


From here, Clarkson's argument that we haven't advanced starts to fall apart, because tech-wise, the 90's was practically the dark ages. The Jag has no AC, no power steering, no ABS and no traction control, making it a challenge to keep it on the road.

Modern supercars make speed fun and easy instead of terrifying, and when the two 90's supercars get on the track, the progress of 25 years of technology is evident.

The 4wd EB110 on a wet test track still only managed a lap time of 1:32.8 and the Jag a 1:35.1. Those times put the 200 mph+ machines lap times on par as the modern Fiat Abarth 124 Spider and a VW UP GTI, which also drove in the wet.

Conversation Street

Clarkson is joined by Richard Hammond and James May to chat about the new BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra cousins, and share our love of the new Supra's looks especially. They mention a VW executive that took a vacation in Florida when there was a warrant for his arrest so he was taken in as soon as he landed for his role in Dieselgate.


They also discuss a new Rimac Concept Two to remind Hammond what happened to the first one, and the Mclaren Senna, noting that it is the only F1 driver name that works well for a car.

A familiar theme

The feature of this episode will be familiar to anyone who has watched season one or any of the three's previous show's seasons. They are building an amphibious vehicle in order to attempt to break the British Water speed record. They claim that 85% of people attempting water speed records have been killed attempting. They say they like their odds.

The current record is 39.1 mph in a road legal amphibious vehicle. Clarkson is in charge of the build, so of course he immediately goes to an airport to procure a jet engine. He shows off the jet engine's power by blowing planes over before suggesting they slap one on the back of a Suzuki Jimny, known in America as the Samurai.

After mating the Samurai, a jet engine and a small boat, the creation drives, but it started as a car so that isn't much of a surprise. When they get to the lake, Hammond refuses to join the two on the water.


The first surprise is that it floats. The second surprise is that the jet engine works and it fires up right behind their heads with just a plexiglass window keeping from them getting sucked in. The final surprise is that, even at full power, the jet engine can barely move the craft because of the insane amount of drag the car's undercarriage produces.

They go back to the drawing board, and smartly put Jeremy in charge of tea while the other two make a new design. They get a jet ski and a "Bond Bug," a three wheeled car that looks like Jeremy's old nemesis, the Reliant Robin.

Celebrity F Off

This time, Clarkson wants to figure out who is the fastest magician, so they bring on guests Dynamo and Penn and Teller. The two acts actually perform a few basic magic tricks for what makes for a very entertaining celebrity segment. But they still have to go for a drive, and the track is covered in snow and slush.

Penn and Teller complete the slushy lap in 1:33.8, which Dynamo can't match with his time of 1:39.3.


The Pond Bug

Now that their Bond Bug conversion is complete, the "Pond Bug" is brought to a 5 mile stretch of water where official speed record attempts take place. Clarkson showed up with a regular boat that has tracks that come out, but it isn't road legal so he is disqualified.

May and Hammond show Clarkson their finished creation and he notes how little they know about boats and that they have built an over-complicated death-trap. Unfortunately for Jeremy, he is the only one with the required license to make the attempt.

Just like land records, water speed records require a run both directions to get an average speed. Clarkson couldn't get it to steer properly, and once he gets it going, he can't tell his speed because the GPS speedo won't pick up a satellite.

On his return trip, the engine started to lose power, but surprisingly produced the higher speeds of the two runs. The official results were 47 mph one way and 48 mph on the return, which averaged to 47.81 which is good for a new record.



Clarkson hit the nail on the head when he chose the "slower" Jaguar XJ220 over the Bugatti EB110 based solely on looks. Both cars have a uniquely 90's exotic style but the Jaguar has always been revered as the prettier car.

Magic tricks don't have quite the same effect on TV where it is even harder to tell what is actually going on, but the guest magicians actually made a pretty enjoyable segment that had us wondering just how they did it.

Building an amphibious vehicle is old hat for these three presenters but they upped the ante by using all of their past experience to not just make a working craft this time, but a record setting one. The episode had the fewest cars of all the previous ones, but the speed boats were more than enough to make up for it.

Quote of the Episode

"So, we're now actively trying to kill each other?"


"Yes, and we can't even do that properly."

Clarkson and Hammond about the improbable lack of fatalities during their death-trap speed record attempt.


The Grand Tour - Season 2

Season 2 Preview


Season 2 Episode 1 - Past, Present or Future

Season 2 Episode 2 - The Falls Guys

Season 2 Episode 3 - Bah Humbug-atti

Season 2 Episode 4 - Unscripted


Season 2 Episode 5 - Up, Down and 'Round the Farm

Season 2 Episode 6 - Jaaaaaaaags

Season 2 Episode 7 - It's a Gas, Gas, Gas

Season 2 Episode 8 - Blasts from the Past