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Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James return to BBC screens tonight for Top Gear: A Tribute To Sabine Schmitz. The former motoring show line-up will join current stars Andrew Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness to share their fondest memories of the star. Sabine, who regularly starred on Top Gear for five years, was known as the Queen of the Nurburgring during her racing career.
The presenters will likely set-aside their differences while appearing together for the commemorative special but the cast’s feuds are well known.
The former Top Gear gang left six years ago following the BBC’s decision not to renew Jeremy’s contract after an altercation with a producer.
Fans of the show were shocked by the decision, which ended the group’s reign and brought more than six million viewers a week at its peak.
When James and Richard also left Top Gear, many assumed it was in unity and support of their co-star Jeremy – however, that wasn’t the case.
Five years ago, when James was asked why they didn’t “stage a coup” or carry on presenting, he admitted it was because of the fans.
He told The Guardian that “there was noise all round” and they didn’t “know to what extent” the BBC “wanted us to stay”.
In that instance, James concluded: “I quickly realised the best outcome for us was to stay together because that’s what our fans want.”
He described the viewers as their “first loyalty and our first love”.
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While countless playful clashes unfolded on screen during their time on Top Gear, many would have thought James, Jeremy and Richard all got along in real life.
But that wasn’t actually the case either.
James revealed: “We work because we hate each other.”
He claimed that was the “magic formula” behind the success of their shows and admitted: “We get on each other’s t**s massively.”
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In a surprising confession, James said they did not “socialise off screen” and actively tried to avoid one another.
When asked outright whether they spent time together, he reiterated: “We try not to. That’s a no.”
James said their friendship was summed up best through a book he used to own called Amaze And Amuse Your Friends.
The 1973 guide featured “card tricks and jokes and things” and according to James that was “all we do” on screen.
In a further attempt to set the record straight and unmask the truth behind the Top Gear trio’s relationship he stated their reactions were not quite real.
James described their banterous exchanges as “camped-up pantomime” but believed viewers loved it.
He stated that the “differences” between them “are real” and maintained that they did not get on at all.
The star didn’t think the show would have worked if they were not “thrown together”.
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James continued: “We are not really meant to be together – but that is why it works.”
Despite his frustrations, the star signed-up for the Amazon Prime series The Grand Tour, which reunited the old Top Gear gang.
In 2016, James told The Telegraph he was “not mates” with his co-stars and delivered some blunt swipes against them.
He started by stating his “view of Jeremy”, who he has now worked with for 28 years, had “never really changed”.
James continued to believe: “He is a knob.”
He claimed the TV star was “a bit of a Stuckist” – a reference to a movement against conceptual art.
James added: “Part of his is actually locked in the Twenties.”
As for Richard, James didn’t hold back and said he was “just as much as a t*** as he always was”.
He felt the most annoying thing about Richard was “his face” before clarifying he especially disliked “his chirpiness and his silly little beard”.
While James has difficulties with his The Grand Tour companions, it’s likely tensions will be kept to a minimum in tonight’s show.
Each of the trio paid tribute to Sabine, who died last month after a “brave fight against” breast cancer aged 51.
On social media, she was described as the “most famous female racing driver” who would be missed for her “cheerful nature”.
Top Gear: A Tribute To Sabine Schmitz airs at 7.3pm tonight on BBC One.
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