BBC lawyers fight to keep Top Gear's The Stig secret
The BBC is locked in a legal dispute with Top Gear's mystery driver, The Stig, over an autobiography that could reveal his true identity.
The corporation is determine to prevent the faceless stunt driver, who always wears a blackened visor – publishing an autobiography.
BBC lawyers claim he is subject to a confidentiality agreement and unmasking himself would spoil viewers' enjoyment of the BBC Two programme, which is one of the channel's most popular.
The Stig famously takes to the track in an assortment of cars, as well as training celebrities to set lap times in Top Gear's popular 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car' segment.
According to the BBC, his autobiography breaches ''agreed contractual and confidentiality obligations'' relating to the programme''.
Clad in race overalls and a helmet, the driver's identity has long been a closely-guarded show secret, spawning T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like ''My Dad is The Stig''.
Only a handful of executives and Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are said to know who he is.
A report in the Daily Mail said the dispute had "deeply upset" Mr Clarkson. It said lawyers acting for The Stig's publishers have written back to the BBC, raising the prospect of a court battle.
The Stig is thought to be unhappy that other presenters are able to earn considerable sums from book deals and promotional products.
Mr Clarkson made £800,000 (€975,000) in the 12 months to March last year from the BBC arm set up to cash in on Top Gear's global brand value.
Reports last year said that The Stig is Ben Collins, a 33-year-old former Formula Three, Le Mans, GT and Nascar racer from Bristol.
His name was put forward after builder Jason Goody, 21, did some work at his house and found The Stig's trademark suit and gloves on display in a cabinet.
It was also claimed that The Stig is in fact played by four different actors.
Several racing drivers have been linked to the role, including former Formula One world champion Damon Hill.
More than seven million viewers saw Michael Schumacher 'unveiled' as The Stig after taking part in an episode last year but it turned out to be a gimmick and the BBC later said the identity of the driver at other times would remain "a mystery".
Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz attempted to unmask The Stig after she appeared on the show, driving a Kia.
The programme was revamped in 2002 from a factual motoring magazine into its more humorous, audience-driven format.
The current Stig is the show's second. The original, stunt driver Perry McCarthy, known as The Black Stig for his black helmet and overalls, was dropped during the third series in 2003 after his identity was discovered.
The Stig's name derives from Clarkson's days at Repton School where, he said, new students were always called "Stig".