EXCLUSIVE: HAMMOND: I FEEL LIKE ME AGAIN
HAMSTER BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL
By Clare Raymond
ECSTATIC Richard Hammond got back behind the wheel of a car yesterday for the first time since his horror crash and said: "I will remember this day for the rest of my life".
He took his wife Mindy for a spin in his Morgan sports car after being given the go-ahead by doctors to drive again.
It was less than two months since the Mirror columnist and Top Gear presenter suffered a serious brain injury in the 288mph jet car smash as he filmed a stunt for the show.
After yesterday's drive Richard said: "Now I feel more like me.
"As I got into the driving seat it felt like I was back where I belonged.
"It was wonderful to be away from everything, being able to tootle around the lanes in the foothills of the Malverns in Gloucestershire on a sunny Sunday afternoon."
Richard, 36, nicknamed the Hamster by Top Gear sidekicks Jeremy Clarkson and James May, added: "During the last two months there have a number of moments I will never forget and this is one of them.
"I have really missed driving and the freedom that comes with it. I didn't realise how much until today. Mindy was a bit damp-eyed. She has been my driver for the last few weeks and I have been dependent on her. Now I'm looking forward to taking her out for a drive and a nice lunch this week."
Richard had to pass two hours of complicated mental reasoning, memory and problem-solving tests before he won back his driving licence.
He said: "It felt like passing my test again. Mindy was delighted.
"Of course, it means I can get back to work but it means so much personally as well."
For his first trip back behind the wheel, Richard chose his Morgan ahead the other motors in his garage, which include a Porsche, a vintage Mustang and a Range Rover.
In contrast to his last high-speed outing, Richard didn't go over 50mph yesterday and said he felt as confident as ever.
"I didn't have any fears or nagging doubts about driving again," he added.
"I have been a passenger in a car many times since the accident and I haven't suffered any flashbacks or anything traumatic. The crash didn't affect my confidence on the road.
"The specialists have advised me to ease back into it and to just drive locally at first. I'm not going to leap in the car and drive to John O'Groats just yet.
"I was never worried that I wouldn't get back my driving licence. It was just a case of when. Having just stepped out of the car I am aware of how staggeringly lucky I have been. I could have died.
"I am very lucky that there were no complications, everything works and that I am feeling better every day."
Even simple journeys, like collecting his daughters Izzy, six, from school and three-year-old Willow from nursery will give him a sense of achievement.
Richard is bracing himself for the inevitable ribbing from Top Gear colleagues Clarkson and May.
He joked: "I am expecting to receive a set of L-plates in the post any day."
He is looking forward to returning to Top Gear for a new series in January but admitted it was unlikely viewers would see him up to his usual high-speed antics straight away. He said: "I think it will be while yet before I am back on the test track.
"I feel ready to do that but the doctors say I must take my time and I am doing what they say."