The man behind the white mask and suit

2011-07-16 13:38

As we stood around waiting in anticipation for Ben Collins to arrive, Audi South Africa’s product manager Rudi Venter gave a short introduction, and with a slight nod of his head signalled for Ben Collins to enter.

And in true flamboyant style, the man once known as “The Stig” drove into the building in Audi’s new A6 – which has just been launched on the local market.

Collins was visiting our shores to discuss the Audi A6 at customer events and gala dinners.

He had driven the car extensively and was impressed with what it has to offer.

“It is dynamic in every sense of the word and offers suburb quality and comfort within the segment,” he said.

When I asked Collins what his daily drive was, he answered: “Audi.” Not bad considering that he has driven different cars in his life and settled for a sporty coupé sedan.

As to be expected, Collins was asked a million questions and seeing that he was The Stig for nearly seven years most of them where related to Top Gear.

Here is what he had to say:

Jacobs: Ben, how did you manage to get the job as The Stig on Top Gear?

Collins: Well, they held auditions. I drove up to the gate wearing a balaclava to hide my identity and told the security guard that I was there to audition to become the new Stig.

The show’s producers shoved me into a basic spec Ford Focus and told me to set a lap time. I set the fastest lap and got the job.

Who knew your secret identity as The Stig?
Jeremy (Clarkson) and the other two presenters, the show’s producers and my wife. Well, she had to know because she took my white suit to the dry cleaners.

For obvious reasons I couldn’t take it (myself).

Why did you decide to leave the show?
It just got out of hand really.

Trying to keep something that big a secret was tough.

“Who is The Stig” was in the top 10 searches on Google, above The Meaning of Life and Am I Pregnant?.

The heat really turned up when people started suspecting me. I needed to get out.

Are the Top Gear presenters still angry with you for leaving?
In the beginning they were, but things have calmed down.

The show’s producers actually called me up the other day and asked me to help out with something.

(Richard) Hammond (co-host on Top Gear) was there and he didn’t shoot me so I guess we’re good.

» Collins is a stunt driver and presenter on 5th Gear

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