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The Stig's ID 'finally revealed'

( 02/09/2010 )

He might have gone incognito while sporting the most famous helmet in television, but the Stig's real identity is finally no longer a topic for discussion.

The Top Gear stalwart - who is responsible for tutoring star guests and torturing star cars around the programme's Dunsfold test track - has been revealed as SAS driving instructor Ben Collins, after the BBC lost its bid to keep his identity under wraps.

According to the Daily Mail, the BBC had spent 100,000 trying to prevent the Bristolian action man - who has been a stunt double for James Bond - from publishing his autobiography, which details his seven-year stint as the man in the white overalls.

Collins took over in 2003 from the first incarnation of the anonymous race driver - known as black Stig on account of his uniform. It's thought to be unlikely that he'll continue in the role, particularly given that the previous incumbent Perry McCarthy was dropped by the BBC after publishing his own autobiography.

The corporation had been keen to protect the identity of the Stig in order to preserve what it saw as the essential mystique of the character, claiming that revealing the man behind the mask would spoil viewers' enjoyment.

Claiming that Collins was bound by a confidentiality agreement, the BBC had gone to the High Court in an attempt to get an injunction blocking HarperCollins from publishing the book, the unambiguously-titled The Man in the White Suit.

Writing on the Top Gear blog, producer Andy Wilman said: "The whole point of the Stig is the mystique - the bizarre characteristics he has, the wonderment created about what he might think, feel, do or look like.

"Kids adore the conceit, and I believe adults, although they know it's a man in a suit (or is it?), gladly buy into the whole conceit because they find it entertaining."

In reality, Stig's identity had been an open secret for some time - revealed by The Times as long ago as January 2009.

Later that year Jeremy Clarkson and pals toyed with fans' expectations by 'revealing' that the Stig was none other than Formula One legend Michael Schumacher.


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