The Stig finally unmasked, for real

2010-09-01 14:52

London. – The identity of The Stig, the mystery test car driver on the popular BBC TV motoring show Top Gear was revealed after the broadcaster lost a legal battle to keep his name secret.

Ben Collins, who began his racing career in 1994 and drove at Formula 3 level, was named as The Stig after London’s High Court refused to grant a temporary injunction preventing the revelation of his identity in an upcoming book.

Each episode of the cult show, which has been sold to television channels around the world, sees The Stig whizzing around tracks in powerful cars wearing a white jumpsuit with his features hidden by a white crash helmet with a dark visor.

The BBC had taken legal action to block publication by publisher HarperCollins of an autobiography by Collins in which he said he was the test driver.

The broadcaster claimed the Stig was bound by a confidentiality agreement and that revealing who he is would spoil viewers’ enjoyment of the popular programme.

But after more than a day of legal submissions in private, lawyers for HarperCollins said the case had concluded in their favour, the Press Association reported.

Disappointment

HarperCollins said it was disappointed that the publicly funded BBC had decided to spend money taking the legal action.

However, on the show’s website last week, Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman attacked the book’s publishers for trying to “cash in” on the secret and so spoil viewers’ enjoyment.

“HarperCollins have decided none of that is as important as their profits, so if you get your Christmas ruined by one of the best and most harmless TV secrets being outed, you can rest easy in the knowledge that by contrast, HarperCollins’ executives will be enjoying a fantastic Christmas,” he wrote.

Collins, who also featured as a stuntman in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace, was first named as the Stig in media reports last year after he went to a photographic studio to commission prints of the masked driver in action.

The BBC refused to confirm those reports.

He is not the first driver to have been used in the role on the programme. The original Stig was axed from the show after British racing-car driver Perry McCarthy revealed his identity in an autobiography in 2002.

Michael Schumacher, Formula One’s most successful driver and seven times world champion, was also unveiled as the Stig in an episode last June, but the show’s fans believed it had been a one-off or a joke and that his true identity remained a secret.

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