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Collins: BBC outed me as The Stig – then tried to bully me

With the acrimonious fall-out from Ben Collins' departure from cult BBC motoring show Top Gear having now calmed a little, the former Stig - labelled a 'greedy tw*t' by Jeremy Clarkson last week - has revealed his side of the story...
Ben Collins has responded to the criticism he has received since 'outing' himself as The Stig with the forthcoming publication of his memoirs 'The Man in the White Suit' – explaining that the BBC in actual fact made it common knowledge a couple of years ago, paid him a pittance for his enforced anonymity whilst Top Gear made millions out of him and tried to 'bully' him into cancelling the book.

The Stig has achieved fame – although palpably not fortune – through teaching celebrities how to attack Top Gear's test track for the 'Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car' section of the programme. Collins took up the role of the mysterious white helmet and overalls-clad character back in 2003, after the original Black Stig – ex-grand prix ace Perry McCarthy – left the position. McCarthy then went on to detail his time as the mysterious figure in his own popular autobiography 'Flat-Out, Flat Broke'.

One of the key features of The Stig's unique aura has always been that nobody truly knew who was behind the visor – except of course, many in the automotive world had more than a solid hunch even before former British F3 and current sportscar star Collins blew the whistle last month.

In an interview with British tabloid The Sun, the 35-year-old – who performed as a stunt double for Daniel Craig in the most recent James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace – has reflected on his time spent alongside Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May on Top Gear, and the acrimonious High Court battle that followed and which he won after the BBC was refused the injunction it had sought.

The ex-soldier also recalls the moment when he began writing his book out of fear that he was about to be ditched due to too many people having discovered his secret, and the resistance and 'hostile' front he met within the Beeb when he informed the corporation of his project – with the cult motoring show's executive producer Andy Wilman warning him he 'stood to lose everything'. He goes on to accuse his erstwhile employer of hypocrisy, and counters Clarkson's angry portrayal of him as a 'greedy tw*t' [see separate story – click here].

“It was November, 2008 when a builder slapped a copy of the Radio Times on the breakfast table in front of me,” he recollected. “'Sign this for me, will you?' he said. I looked at the cover. The headline was, 'Who Is The Stig?' On the front there was a big picture of The Stig, the character I had played for five years. The man posing in the suit wasn't me – I hadn't even known it was coming out. 'But I'm not the Stig,' I said. 'Sure you are – you're inside,' the builder said.

“I turned the page and there, alongside one unlikely candidate, was a picture of me. I was astonished. I was being outed by the very people I worked for – yet I knew nothing about it. Across the motoring world, many people already knew who I was – but coming without warning, this was a snowball that couldn't stop rolling. Now, because the BBC had done it, suddenly newspapers thought it was okay to write about me too. It was the same on the internet. On one search engine, 'Who is the Stig' was asked more frequently than 'What is the meaning of life?'

“News spread rapidly – and it was increasingly impossible to keep it secret. Pals sworn to secrecy until then, now thought it was okay to speak. It seemed like the beginning of the end. From the start of my time on Top Gear, I'd gone to every possible effort to ensure I wasn't discovered. I'd wear a balaclava to work and had learned to hide my car. I was even kept away from the crew who filmed the show. It was pretty intense. Between filming, I'd stay in the suit, walking around the set dressed like a storm-trooper! When it came to food, I ate in a hut by myself.

“Slowly but surely, people in the crew picked up on who I was. They began to play little tricks, saying, 'Ben, can you do this?' when my helmet was on and calling out 'Stig!' when I appeared on the show as myself. I gave it my all – even changing post offices after some bloke busted me by shouting, 'You're The Stig' in front of 25 people – but the Radio Times issue really made the difference. It caused a huge question over whether I was viable any more. Within the Top Gear team at the BBC, there seemed a change in attitude over how I'd be used.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
The Stig
Lewis Hamilton `faces up` to BBC Top Gear`s Stig, but can`t look the mystery man in the eye...... [pic copyright: BBC Top Gear]
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Ben Collins
Ben Collins
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September 15, 2010 7:41 PM

Clarkson calling him a greedy t**t and Wilman saying his job on the show was the same in status as a darlek operator on doctor who is pretty low gratitude bearing in mind he was the sales asset of the show for 7 years of which the royalties probably contributes toward some of Clarksons 458 finance repayments to Ferrari UK Personally I only ever tuned in to see Collins spank a smart car round the track, however the veyron and Ferrari 612 trip was great tv We all get paid for doing a job - fair enough and some get paid more than others- again fair enough but if your not in F1 or a paid professional driver then every penny counts You can't blame the guy with 3 kids looking to secure some security for his family Jeremy - your comments only make you look a bit sad and full of sour grapes Personally they should swallow their ego's and let the guy carry on - personally I think Collins is a great stig

Dangerous Dave - Unregistered

September 15, 2010 7:29 PM

You have to cash in your assets at some point. Fictional characters have usually only got a short shelf life, - most of these people commenting probably spend most of their lives watching soaps and *****ic programmes like Big Brother so have probably got the attention span and intelligence of a house brick anyway! Its a cut throat business and like a game of poker you have to know when to bail out. I say good luck to him!

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