The Stig - the enigmatic hero of popular BBC motoring programme Top Gear - has received high words of praise indeed, from none other than double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso.

The Stig - clad in his famous white racing overalls and helmet - was present at Silverstone last weekend, behind the wheel of a two-seater Santander grand prix car as he lapped the circuit before the F1 cars took to the starting grid on Sunday ahead of the British Grand Prix.

A watching Alonso was clearly impressed.

"Whoever's in that car is a seriously good driver," the 26-year-old Spaniard - a 19-time grand prix winner - is quoted as having said by Top Gear's website. "I've no idea who he is, but he's definitely ex-F1."

The identity of The Stig remains a closely-guarded mystery, and his presence at Silverstone came about when a man who had won ?5million on the lottery bought three passenger laps with him in the two-seater machine around the self-styled 'Home of British Motor Racing', after bidding ?35,000 for the experience in a Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital charity auction.

And living up to his fearless reputation, The Stig certainly made sure his passenger got value for money, excelling on a wet surface and even letting the back step out at almost 180mph with no traction control or driver aids for comfort.

As Alonso noted, a true pro.

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