NB: I stole the above photo from my own “The Truth About Stigs” article. Said article might be worth a brief glance if you’re really interested in this topic…
From Top Speed:
After a scandalous trip to the courtroom over a planned autobiography and a not-so-smooth release of official documents from the racer’s company, Collins Autosport, Ben Collins has been revealed and canned from playing the part of the world renowned Stig.
Who is Ben Collins? What does all this mean?
In the same way that our “Booth Babe” can be reliably provoked by unattractive men holding Canon Rebels in the low-angle position beneath her turntable, I am always ready to get worked up when people talk about “The Stig” being the greatest driver ever. I’ve continually maintained that he was a simply a touring-car veteran or similar junior-pro-level driver. Of course, the original Stig was the engaging, amusing Perry McCarthy, whose book “Flat Out – Flat Broke” is worth a read by anybody who has ever wondered how people get rides in major pro racing series.
Well, it turns out that the post-McCarthy Stig has been the same fellow for the past seven years, namely Ben Collins. Ben’s Wikipedia entry is here and it has reasonably complete details on his competition history. He was a standout open-wheel driver who transitioned into a modest career as a sports-car, touring-sedan, and stock-car guy. Think somewhere between Bill Auberlen and Boris Said in terms of career and results.
Collins had been “outed” as the Stig previously but the BBC had always denied his involvement. The recap of the legal action is worth reading; in it, the BBC clearly states that the mystery of the Stig’s identity is crucial to the show. They’re probably right; while your average club racer or autocrosser would have a lot of respect for time that were explicitly set by Mr. Collins, the average non-racer is under the impression that a Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton would be vastly quicker than somebody who had the same early career path but didn’t have the sponsorship, luck, or right results to make it all the way to the top.
There’s already a new Stig doing public Top Gear events, so the people who care will continue to have a chance to argue about his (or her) identity. Who knows? Maybe it really is Michael Schumacher this time… but more likely, it’s one of those guys whose name commands respect in a touring-car paddock.