Sunday 19 November 2017

Ex-Stig proves he's no spare wheel as work rolls in

Ben Collins and Nicola Hudson from AA Roadwatch during a Topaz driving event at Mondello Park, Naas, Co Kildare yesterday
Ben Collins and Nicola Hudson from AA Roadwatch during a Topaz driving event at Mondello Park, Naas, Co Kildare yesterday
Ben Collins in his 'Top Gear' guise
Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

SOME say he has made a major mistake in revealing his identity in his autobiography, and he is greedier than the iconic 'Wall Street' character Gordon Gekko.

All we know is that he was, until very recently, called 'The Stig'.

Ben Collins, the man for so long inside the white helmet on 'Top Gear', was in Ireland yesterday to learn a little about driving efficiently.

But there was no holding him back when the subject of his former BBC employers and high-profile colleagues came up.

"Very disappointing as I was there a long time," he said of the reaction to his acrimonious parting last month.

The 35-year-old angered 'Top Gear' bosses, including presenter Jeremy Clarkson, over his decision to write the autobiography confirming he was the previously-anonymous Stig for seven years.

Their attempt to bring an injunction against the publication of his book failed in court.

"My predecessor lasted less than a year, and apparently he was forever taking his helmet off and getting carried away and excited and trying to meet the celebrities, which you naturally want to do," Collins said. "I never did that and was pretty fastidious and went to extreme lengths to always stay out of the limelight, much to the detriment of my racing career.

"So I made a lot of sacrifices to do what was a great job and had hoped for more respect when I left it.

"That hasn't happened, but maybe they'll wake up and apologise. Unlikely."

Instead, the BBC has fired him for breach of contract, and Clarkson has compared him to Gekko.

But Collins, who through the years showed celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Ronnie O'Sullivan the best way to approach a lap of a track in the "Star in a reasonably-priced car" section, is adamant the Stig's identity was already known by anyone who cared to find out.

"It was all very well me going to work in a balaclava and parking in the middle of a field (but) someone from Ford ran my number plate and got my identity," he said. "The car trade got it and then immediately that spread into motor racing and that's the loosest lips in the planet. All the teams got to know and then my friends found out.

"So as much fun as it was, there was a practical side and it was practically impossible to stop it from getting out," he added.

Clarkson has said Collins is "history" but he has already found a new presenting gig on rival show 'Fifth Gear', and doing promotional work -- such as the event at Mondello yesterday for Topaz and Mazda extolling the virtues of driving efficiently.

And the softly-spoken father-of-three is not beyond the odd jibe himself.

Clarkson, he said, is "ham-fisted".

But does he get on well with Richard Hammond and James May? "You would have to ask them that," he replies.

This story still has wheels.

Irish Independent

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