Nail in Tyre Blamed for Hammond Crash
A nail caused the tyre failure that lead to the accident that nearly killed Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond. According to a BBC report the “catastrophic disintegration” could have been prevented was it not for the “the inability to spot the damage to the tyre.” As a result the 88-page report criticised the Top Gear team for not having anyone present “with sufficient knowledge to assess the adequacy” of the safety checks.
Much of the BBC’s report into Richard Hammond’s crash focused on the role tyres played in the crash. New Hoosier P225/50 ZR15 (front) and P275/50 ZR15 (rear) tyres had reportedly been bought for the Vampire jet car involved, shortly before the crash. There was no suggestion that there were any manufacturing problems with the tyres, but rather that an object such as a nail caused a “catastrophic failure” that resulted in the front off-side tyre being “comprehensively destroyed.”
Safety checks on the day were made by PrimeTime Land Speed Engineering (PLE), the company that provided the Vampire jet car Hammond was driving, the BBC said. But the evidence was “inconclusive whether the safety checks, especially tyre checks, were being conducted to an appropriate standard”, the report decided. The report concluded that, where experts were given “prime responsibility” over safety, the BBC must ensure it selected “competent persons”.
Crucially, part of the report submitted by the BBC’s insurer’s (Chubb Insurance Company of Europe) observed: “…it is a distinct possibility that examination of the tyres between earlier runs should/could have identified the presence of the penetrating object which I believe led to the failure of the tyre.
“Whilst one can understand that the weakened area of the tread may not have been visible at the time of an examination, the presence of a penetrating object, such as a nail, would not only be clearly visible and identifiable, but would be the sort of object that the tyre examiner would/should be looking for.”
However, in simple terms a detailed examination of each tyre immediately following each run is likely to have revealed the area of weakness on the front offside tyre. It is not possible to be pedantic about such a matter because it seems clear from the video recording that the bulge, clearly visible during the penultimate run, was not clearly visible on the recording at the start of the final run.
A separate report conducted by the Health and Safety Executive found failures in risk assessment, but highlighted precautions that “almost certainly saved Mr Hammond’s life”.
Richard Hammond crashed on 20 September 2006 while driving at speeds of up to 288mph, enduring forces of up to 5G, at Elvington airfield near York. Miraculously he made a complete recovery after being airlifted to hospital and treated for swelling to the brain and bruising.