By on August 30, 2010

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.

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30 Comments on “Oh, To Be A Stig...”

  • avatar

    Our tame racing driver, some say he knows two facts about ducks… and they’re both wrong.

    Yes, the Stig needs to be an anonymous. Along with the chemistry between the three blokes it’s part of what makes Top Gear so entertaining.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The NEW Stig is actually… Jack Baruth! You heard it here first folks! :P ;)

  • avatar

    I’ve always imagined a praying mantis head in the Stig’s helmet. Never thought of it as human, just some mystical obscure insectoid f1 driver.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Seems like you’re taking this a bit seriously. I would guess that the idea is to provide a constant against which these cars could be measured against each other. So . . . you use the same track and you use the same driver. The driver needs to be someone who is reasonably capable of driving these cars to their limit . . . without endangering them or him/herself. The need to keep the driver anonymous probably results from a desire on the part of the show’s producers that viewers who are partisans of one car or another aren’t kvetching that [driver name] is a well-known incompetent when it comes to driving [rear-engined] cars. So it’s no wonder that the [Porsche] acquitted itself poorly in his hands.

    I’m sure there are all kinds of arguments why these sorts of comparisons are misleading/impossible/”fatally flawed” etc., but really, this isn’t [rocket] science, it’s TV.

    Enjoy it for what it is.

  • avatar

    It’s a gimmick, and a clever one at that. Turning an anonymous, masked persona into a tv star.

  • avatar

    Clever, but not quite original.
    “Who was that masked man?”
    “The Lone Ranger.”

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Some say…

    The new Stig has a gentle swell in the breast and hips, under that white racing suit.

    And that it breathes with a distinctly German accent.

    All we know is…it’s Sabine Schmitz!

    (Don’t laugh — everyone knows the entire TG team has a collective semi for her, having destroyed Jezza’s Jaguar ‘ring track time by almost a full minute. And also bested the boys’ ‘ring time in a delivery van.)

  • avatar

    Was it Collins who jumped from a sky-jump trampoline on a snowmobile? Take that, Todd Palin.

  • avatar

    Its a comedy classic that doubles as an inarguable evaluation of something very subjective; is this car any good or not? Anyone can put numbers on a board and compare them, it takes a showman to give the impression their laptime was the epitome, discussion over. Perhaps one of the Stig’s cousins will fill in for him; though I think “Big Stig” would have a tough time fitting into a Murcielago.

  • avatar

    It will be a touring car driver or rally driver. F1 drivers are way too busy doing their jobs all year to give this much time to travel around doing a show.

  • avatar

    to me it doesn’t really matter who the stig is as long as he is a competent racing driver because some say he digests his food on the outside of his body, and that his helmet is his actual head.

  • avatar

    You know what. I don’t give a shit. Nada, un coño.

    This thing has became a soup opera. And a bad one at that.

  • avatar

    I am always ready to get worked up when people talk about “The Stig” being the greatest driver ever.

    Who makes that claim?

    Youtube commenters? Writers from Edmunds?

  • avatar

    Having the driver be anonymous, allows them to switch the drivers out if they need to.

    When MS was on the show and supposedly outed as the Stig, is it any coincidence that he drove the Uber-Ferrari?

    The Snowmobile jump was done by a professional snowmobile racer.

    The Lorry driver was a professional Lorry racer.

    German Stig could probably be Tim Schrick (since he co-hosts the German Top Gear-esque show and is a quick driver)

    Of course there are the stand-ins that are more obvious, but again they were either experts in their area and/or it was more funny to show one of Stig’s many cousins.

    Bottom line? They are just drivers and the whole point is that they wanted a way to show off the cars with a good driver without generating backlash because of claims that one driver is better than they other. As it happens, having a “Stig” allows them to write funny bits into the show involving Stig without much acting needed on the driver’s part.

    Put it this way, Ben did most of the day to day work and when he wasn’t available or because a vendor or situation called for a different driver, they swapped him out and if the replacement didn’t quite match Ben’s stature, then they made him one of Stig’s cousins.

  • avatar

    The Stig is Chuck Norris.

    To the internets, there really is no difference. Top Gear have succeeded in turning him into a mem. Thus, it doesn’t really matter who the Stig is. Top Gear should be making such a big fuss over Collins’ autobiography… it’ll only add to the Stig’s mystique.

  • avatar

    Who ever thought the Stig was Schuey? It was a hilarious joke to have him come on the show and pretend.

    Of course like any “secret” the legend of the Stig is more exciting than the reality, and looks like they got you caught up in it Jack ;-)

  • avatar

    I’ve decided that I’m not going to go out of my way to watch Top Gear. Some things are just too popular for me.

    I’ve never read Catcher In The Rye either.

  • avatar
    Richard B

    The mystique makes his driving accomplishments seem that much more impressive. Seeing him rip that epic lap in the Caterham R500 (Stig is so excited he’s flick on the indicator) and then the gasp from the crowd as Hammond keeps reaching upward to place the label on the power lap board is great TV, whatever you think about Top Gear’s scientific rigor. I also love when the Stig is listening to language tapes.

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