Between 2003 and 2010, professional driver Ben Collins had a starring, but secret, role on the BBC’s “Top Gear.”
Collins played “The Stig,” clad in a white suit and helmet at all times, and responsible for testing supercars on the track and instructing guest stars on how to improve their times.
On Monday, Collins did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit, fielding questions on his favourite cars, why he was so impressed by Tom Cruise, and how he kept his identity a secret for so long.
Here are the best answers he gave:
How long did you get to drive each supercar?
“The tyres can’t take more than 5 / 6 laps on the supercars and we rarely had spares so it was a 25 minute blind date.”
Best Top Gear experience?
“The best thing i did was coach Billy Baxter – the blind driver – he managed to beat 5 sighted drivers and drive the lap 100% himself with me shouting expletives and directions as fast as i could. I could have kissed him, had he not been sweating quite as much from the effort. Billy was epic”
Why did you quit?
“Great job but i decided to leave because after 8 years the game was up in terms of keeping it secret. The BBC had leaked my name to the Radio Times and the tabloids ran various stories, so i handed in my notice. I wanted to go full time racing again anyway so it was a new lease of life, but it didn’t work out well for the cardboard cut-outs of STIG..!”
What was your favourite Top Gear car?
How did you become the Stig?
“I got the job by writing to the boss, meeting him and then driving a car – quickly. Quite traditional. I beat the Old Stig’s lap times and got hired – SWEET! “
Who was your favourite guest for the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” segment?
“Tom Cruise was amazing, he pushed himself to get a fast time and he was incredibly down to earth.”
How did you keep your identity secret for so many years?
“i got myself a BBC ID card with a fake name “Richard Jameson” cleverly made of the 3 presenters names – so that i could book hotels and get up to mischief without getting caught. Used to wear a balaclava everywhere to hide my face anywhere near a Top Gear shoot and generally be as sneaky as possible”
Are there any cars you haven’t driven you hope to try out?
“The new McLaren – and the Ferrari P4!”
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