Okay, so we all know by now that Ben Collins is actually The Stig. Even though I still maintain the belief that Collins was the main man, but there were other drivers that filled in from time to time to be The Stig, for various reasons. I won’t go into them now, because I have an agenda here.
Wait, where was I? Oh, that’s right… Ben Collins.
Who is this mythical creature? I mean, supposedly as The Stig he knew 2 facts about ducks, and they both were wrong. Is his left nipple really an outline of the Nürburgring? Unfortunately for us Stiggie faithful, I don’t think it’s at all true. His time as The Stig proved to us that he is the greatest racing driver in the world. At least, behind the wheel of any car, he was lethal. Deadly. Down right amazing. He could throw out top-tier lap times in anything. He had the focus of, well, a racing driver. But who is he? What did he do before Top Gear? Why did he out himself with his new book? Calm down, kiddies. All of these questions will be answered within this one article for you.
Ben Collins was born February 13, 1975 in Bristol, England. However, because of his father’s job, he lived in California for the first 10 years of his life. He served in the British Special Air Service (SAS) for roughly 4 years. The SAS are some of the most highly trained military special forces groups in the world. Bear Grylls, who is one year older than Collins, was also in the SAS. They continue to train and operate with the US Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Australian SAS, and many other special ops and special forces groups all over the world.
Anyway, Collins started his racing career in 1994, quickly proving to be very fast and consistent in pretty much any car he piloted. In 1995 he drove for Sir Jackie Stewart in the Formula Vauxhall Junior series, finishing third in championship points, carrying two wins and eight podiums. In an interview soon after with Autosport Magazine, Stewart said:
“When you see the likes of Ben Collins in Formula One, remember you saw them here first”
In 1996 it was time to move up, to the British Formula Three Championship, one of the premier racing series’ to help advance people into Formula One. In fact, many current F1 stars have achieved greatness and championships in British F3, as well as being the series that helped launch Ayrton Senna. Unfortunately, he never really finished very high, with his best finish being 8th, and 8th in the championship points between ’96 and 1998. He raced Indy cars in 1999, and in 2000, he was back in British F3.
The bigger opportunities started to come calling around the time of his F3 time when he became a test driver for Ascari and helping to develop their Ascari A10 supercar (video below).
Around this same time Collins started testing for F1, but soon after in 2001 secured a ride in the FIA Sportscar Championship for Team Ascari, and even appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2001 and 2002, respectively, both for Ascari. He rejoined the team in 2006 for the FIA GT3 European Championship.
In 2003 Ben Collins raced in ASCAR, a European form of NASCAR. He completely dominated the series in 2003 and won the championship easy-peasy. But in 2005, he returned to GT cars in the form for British GT and FIA GT Championships. In 2007, Collins tested for Red Bull Racing in NASCAR. But there seems to be a gap between his racing from 2007-2009, where he started racing Australian V8 Supercars with Kelly Racing/Jack Daniel’s Racing.
Collins started racing in LMP2 class for RML Group racing and their Lola B08/80 racer with a naturally-aspirated Honda Performance Development V8 motor in the 2010 Le Mans Series. RML won their class in this year’s championship, and Collins came in 12th place in the driver’s standings, even though he only drove in 2 of the 4 races. In the two races that he did drive in, his team took 4th overall and 1st in class, and the second taking 4th in both criteria.
So now that you know Ben Collins can drive, what does this mean? Well, it simply means he’s a damn good driver, and that his time as The Stig proved he could beat F1 drivers in a reasonably priced car, drive the wheels off of anything, and be considered a hero by many car enthusiasts in this world. All this and the only championship he’s ever won was at the wheel of a stock car… It also goes to show that drivers in sports car series’ are some of the best and most competitive there are.
But it doesn’t stop there: Ben Collins was also the driving double for Nicolas Cage in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and for Daniel Craig, as James Bond, in Quantum of Solace. He is a world record holder for the longest “skiing” distance in a car, or driving a car on two wheels. But according to his current talent agency, James Grant Media Management, this isn’t true.
There are so many amazing things that Collins has done either behind the white suit and mask on Top Gear, or as an unmasked stunt driver for the show, it would be hard to mention them all.
However, with all of his attributes, Sir Stigfeld felt as though he was under pressure from the BBC. Due to the BBC and some of their publications speculating on who The Stig was, Ben Collins was afraid, because his name kept coming up… And this scared him to think that he would be outed. Even though it was already public knowledge by most publications, professional journalists and racing drivers, it was a hot topic and territory for anyone who wanted the notoriety of proving Stiggie’s existence as a real human being, and not just some cyborg RoboStig.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNsJ7ET1vN0
Okay, so here’s what I don’t understand. Jeremy Clarkson appears to be “hurt” in the video above, because of Ben Collins coming out as The Stig. All I have to say is, Jeremy, grow up. You’re not hurt. You may say that Collins is “greedy” or whatever else, but seriously?! You own part of Top Gear… You get paid the most money out of anyone on the show. Yet, this is a gentleman who helped to define what your show means to 350-400 million viewers each week, and you say he’s a bad guy? Okay, so what if he wanted more money? What if he wanted to do more privatized racing? What if he wanted to spend more time as a father to his two young daughters? Well, who cares what he wanted… If you do the job, you deserve to get paid. His contract was up in August, and there were reports going ’round that you he either wasn’t going to be coming back as The Stig, or you guys weren’t going to re-up with him.
You know what I think? I think it’s a massive PR stunt. I honestly believe that while no one expected Ben Collins to come out as The Stig, I don’t really think it’s going to hurt anything. Anyone who truly knows and respects Top Gear knows that there are multiple people that sit behind that helmet at different times to help out, or maybe because they’re better at driving a certain car. Believe it or not, Michael Schumacher was named as The Stig for two reasons: One, because Ferrari wouldn’t let anyone drive their precious FXX on the Top Gear test track, unless it was a licensed Ferrari driver, and Schumi is that guy. Also, it took the heat off the show because a couple of jackasses decided they wanted to try and out Ben Collins as The Stig, because he had some limited production pictures done of The Stig standing on a giant salt flat. So, because you want to make a name for yourself and your small, probably terrible local paper, you have to try and ruin the rest of the fun for us auto-lovers? Thanks. Oh, and get a real job.
So Collins writes a book, the BBC tries to block him from saying that he’s The Stig. The court rules that Ben can do what he wants, because after all, he is the man behind the suit and has the freedom to do as he pleases. Then, in accordance with the court’s ruling, Ben Collins and the BBC both have to divulge who The Stig really is…
The book is called, The Man in the White Suit: The Stig, Le Mans, the Fast Lane and Me. It’s on sale now on Amazon.com, and I’ve already ordered my copy. I hear it’s a pretty good read.
I say, Ben Collins will, at some point, be driving back as The Stig. Most likely not full time, but I don’t doubt for some sort of stunt, or even as a helpful unmasked stunt driver for the show. It doesn’t get much better than Collins.
[Photos taken from: Collins Auto Sport & RML]
[Videos taken from YouTube]