One of life’s greatest mysteries (and worst kept secrets) is the identity of the Stig from Top Gear. Depending on how closely you follow the show you may already know the answer to the question – who is the Stig? Well, the BBC are so desperate to keep the answer a secret that they’re actually suing the man beneath the helmet.
So who is the Stig? There have been various rumours, and there seems to be some suggestion that there is more than one Stig, but the hot favourite was ex-racing driver Ben Collins. He’s been outed before as the likeliest suspect, once when a builder working on his house told newspapers that he’d seen the Stig’s white costume in Collins’ wardrobe. Collins has also worked on the show undisguised on a number of occasions, including the stunt where a parachutist tried to drop into the back of a moving Mercedes cabriolet – Collins was behind the wheel.
Now it seems to be official as the BBC have set their legal Rottweilers on Collins in an attempt to stop the publication of his memoirs. Collins has been busy writing his book, including details of time spent working on Top Gear as well as other roles such as a stunt driver in the Bond film Quantum Of Solace. He was all set to release the book when the BBC caught wind of his plan and slapped a court order on it, claiming that Collins was breaching the confidentiality terms in his contract.
The BBC are worried that identifying the Stig will remove the mystique surrounding his character, ruin the show for Top Gear viewers and have a big hit on merchandise sales. Kind of a stupid move – by taking Collins to court the BBC confirm that there is something to hide, and so have managed to give away the secret they were so desperately trying to keep.
According to financial papers from Collins’ own company, Collins Autosport, the driver received a huge pay increase in 2003, coincidentally the same time that White Stig took over from Black Stig. The income (between £5k and £10k per show) was described as “driving services provided for the BBC, mainly in the Top Gear programme” and that there was “good long-term prospects for continuing income”.
So what’s going to happen to the Stig? With another series of Top Gear due to start next year it seems unlikely that Collins will be happy to continue his role as the man in white. So can we expect to see a fatal ‘accident’ on the show?