“Top Gear” is a staple when it comes to car-centered TV shows, for many reasons. Unlike many shows of its genre, “Top Gear” stood out for its uncomplicated but enthralling take on the automotive industry, doing everything from tests, experiments, and races, to prove a point or simply having fun behind the wheel.
While “Top Gear” was never safe from criticism, due to its hosts’ controversial comments and jokes, there was always a character in the show who stood out for its stunts and accomplishments instead of what it had to say. That unforgettable character is The Sig, whose anonymous and mysterious identity made his amazing TV stunts even more incredible and memorable.
Now that a long time has passed and The Stig’s identity is already acknowledged as Ben Collins, many questions about the character remain unanswered even for the most loyal “Top Gear”s fans. So how did Ben Collins become The Stig? What happened to the character, and why is he no longer in the show? Stay here to discover all!
How Did Ben Collins Become The Stig?
Between performing incredible stunts on screen, masterfully racing, and showing off how things needed to be done in the show, it’s really not surprising that The Stig became a staple in “Top Gear” for the longest time.
While The Stig was eventually outed as Ben Collins in 2010, it wasn’t until an interview with VINwiki in 2023 that he revealed how he got the role as the white-suited character. It all goes back to around 2003, when Ben was taking his already accomplished racing driver career to the next level by getting some TV roles, even despite his shyness and skepticism about fame.
For a long time, Ben wasn’t very successful at being cast in anything, but an audition with “Top Gear” changed his life forever. As Ben recalled in the interview, he was tasked by producer Andy Wilman to perform numerous timed laps at a track, and was pretty content with his job, but once he got out of the car he noticed that Wilman didn’t seem impressed at all by his speed.
Despite thinking he had lost that chance, one month later Ben was called back by the show to take the role of The Stig, starting from the third season of “Top Gear”. The rest was history.
Why Was He Fired?
Even though The Stig’s behind-the-wheel skills were a big reason for people to love him, keeping his secret identity behind the white suit and helmet was key to making the character so iconic. It was also the perfect job for the shy Ben Collins, who despite appearing in “Top Gear” as himself from time to time, was more comfortable under The Stig persona.
It all worked smoothly for years, with Ben keeping his secret identity well-guarded, until in January 2009, The Telegraph ran a story which revealed the truth to the world. While the article based its proofs merely on the claims of people who had allegedly discovered that Ben was The Stig, it was enough to get the word around. Following that one incident, other British newspapers such as The Sunday Times ran similar stories which supported The Telegraph’s claims.
The situation hit rock bottom when in August 2010, the BBC failed to file a secret injunction to prevent the release of “The Man in The White Suit”, a book written by Ben in his effort to reveal his identity as The Stig. At that point, Ben and “Top Gear”s relationship had already been broken, due to the media uproar caused by the case even before the book’s release.
Was The Stig Taken Out Of The Show?
Some of the arguments expressed by BBC during their failed injunction case against Ben Collins’ book included that it went against his confidentiality contract, which was thought that way to supposedly prevent viewers from losing interest in the character, once it was no longer anonymous.
After the word about his book got around, the BBC and “Top Gear” not only had good reasons to fire Ben from “Top Gear”, but also to doubt whether it was wise to keep The Stig persona as a recurring character in the show. As host Jeremy Clarkson affirmed during a 2010 interview with The Guardian, he felt ‘hurt’ about Ben’s choice to out himself as The Stig, but was also convinced that the show would find a way out of the controversy: ‘Trust me, we have many, many thousands of people queueing up to be whatever it is we create’, he said.
The Stig sliding into day one… Top Gear: The Ultimate Collection (Seasons 2-25) drops Aug 30th on MotorTrend! ➡️ https://t.co/INTDV7oBfI
**Top Gear content Available on MotorTrend in US and Canada** pic.twitter.com/aEYZNmLsjZ
— motortrend (@MotorTrend) August 20, 2019
In the following months, Clarkson and his fellow “Top Gear” hosts talked about the situation, both in the show and in interviews, at times referring to The Stig’s leave as treason. Nevertheless, by the time a new season premiered in early 2011, “Top Gear” had a new Stig whose identity has never been revealed to this day, ensuring the continuity of the character in the show.
What Did Ben Collins Do After The Show?
Even though he was fired from “Top Gear” in 2010, Ben Collins surprisingly made a couple of appearances as himself in the show afterwards, all of them for specials such as “50 Years of Bond Cars” and “USA Road Trip”.
As well, Ben Collins used his fame as the former Stig to appear in several TV shows, such as “Fifth Gear” in 2010, “The Classic Car Show” in 2015, and “Jay Leno’s Garage” in more recent times.
Nonetheless, Ben found even more massive success working in Hollywood, getting roles as a stunt driver in the movies “No Time to Die” and “Skyfall” in the James Bond franchise, along with others such as “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, and “Wonder Woman 1984”.
Ben has also done very well as an author, hitting his first jackpot with the release of his book “The Man In The White Suit”. As he proudly admitted in an interview with “This Is Money” in 2023, that first book earned him years’ worth of “Top Gear”s salary in just a couple of weeks, though that wasn’t enough to compete with his salary when he was a James Bond double in several movies.
What Is He Doing Now?
Ben Collins’ outing as The Stig might not have been the easiest experience, but it was enough to set his path in the entertainment industry as a stunt driver. There’s also his career as a race driver, which took him to the top spots of several important competitions such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Complete British Touring Car Championship.
These days, Ben is focused both on racing and creating content for his YouTube channel Ben Collins Drives, which he describes as a ‘follow-on’ from his time in “Top Gear”. The channel is more than just him driving though, as it showcases his adventures and interactions with lots of automotive and race experts, effectively turning his content into everything that true gearheads want to see.
Going back to his time as an unsure and shy Stig, to becoming worldwide famous in motorsports and other entertainment industry stints, there’s no doubt that Ben Collins has built a formidable career.