In a candid and surprisingly emotional interview, Jeremy Clarkson has confessed that he felt 'hurt' at Ben Collins' betrayal in unmasking himself as The Stig earlier this week, lambasting him as a 'greedy tw*t', admitting that cult British motoring show Top Gear has been 'damaged' by the revelation and quipping that David Cameron would be 'perfect' to step into the breach.

Collins officially unveiled himself as the mysterious white-suited and helmeted racing driver last week, after the BBC failed in its efforts to gain an injunction from the High Court against his autobiography being published by HarperCollins on 16 September. The Beeb's argument had been that in joining the programme that is viewed by a staggering 350 million fans all around the world, the former British F3 ace had breached a strict confidentiality agreement he had signed upon accepting the role seven years ago.

However, Collins was understood to have been unhappy that Top Gear's other three stars - Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May - were all able to earn lucrative royalties from promotional appearances and book deals whilst he, due to The Stig's enforced anonymity, conversely was not able to cash in on so much as a single penny of the show's vast popularity and fame.

Collins took over from the original Black Stig, Perry McCarthy, in 2003 after the ex-grand prix driver left his role, which he then covered in-depth in his autobiography 'Flat-out, Flat Broke'. Now it appears that his successor has gone the same way.

Earlier, May had joked that a forthcoming stunt could be 'driving to The Stig's house and nailing his head to the table' - and at a charity event in his hometown of Chipping Norton, an angry Clarkson railed: "Everyone now knows his real name - it's 'The Tw*t'. Actually, to give him his full name it's 'The Greedy Tw*t'."

"You may remember a film called Wall Street, in which Gordon Gekko said that greed was good and greed works - it doesn't," the 50-year-old added in an exclusive interview with online television channel Witney TV at the end of a tumultuous week for the Top Gear team. "He's just decided he'd rather be... Put it this way, he's history as far as we're concerned. He's sacked.

"Trust me, we have many, many, many thousands of people queuing up to be whatever it is we create, and I've spent the last three weeks doing nothing but try to work out what on earth to do instead. It was a shock; it was horrible actually, because I liked him. He came round to my house and had drinks, and all the time he was writing a book. I feel a bit hurt really."

As to who will replace Collins, Clarkson kept his tongue as ever firmly inside his cheek, musing that British Prime Minister Cameron would be 'perfect', reasoning 'I bet he can drive as well', before confessing: "Richard can't drive, James is too slow, I'm too old, but we'll get somebody, don't you worry. Top Gear is damaged, but not out."

Following a career in the junior single-seater formulae, Collins turned to sportscar racing and stunt-driving and has acted as a stunt double for Daniel Craig in the most recent James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. He was initially rumoured to be The Stig when the famous white suit and gloves were spotted in a cabinet by a builder doing some work at his Bristol home last year. The 35-year-old also revealed his identity to a gallery owner upon requesting that an artist produce a limited-edition print of him in action.

According to bookmakers, former Super Aguri star and current Peugeot prototype pilot Anthony Davidson and grand prix-winner Heikki Kovalainen - presently competing for F1 2010 newcomer Lotus Racing - are the hot favourites to become Stig Mk III. Davidson already has a relationship with the BBC from his Radio Five Live work, whilst Kovalainen is alleged to have been the man behind the wheel of a Renault F1 car on Top Gear a few years ago.

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