EXCLUSIVE: The eight drivers behind Top Gear stunt driver The Stig's famous racing whites
To viewers of Top Gear, he harbours almost mythical capabilities - part man, part machine forever clad head to toe in pristine white racing leathers.
But it has emerged that the BBC has been rather economical with the truth with regard to their superhuman Stig character who test-drives cars around the Top Gear track and hides his identity behind a black visor.
The Mail has learned that the corporation has in fact employed no fewer than eight different drivers to don the Stig's famous racing whites.
Man behind the helmet: The Stig with Griff Rhys Jones at the National Television Awards last year
The truth emerged this week after a report claimed to have unearthed the identity of the Stig as Ben Collins, a Bristol-based former American speedway driver and stuntman who doubled for Daniel Craig in the latest James Bond film.
However, suspicions were raised that he might not be the only Stig when the man the BBC claimed to be the Stig attended the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London on October 29 last year.
This Stig - dressed of course head to toe in racing whites and hiding behind a black visor - drove after the awards to the BBC HQ of Top Gear. He was spotted entering the studio late at night and pictured emerging from the building in jeans and teeshirt with a distinctive tight-fitting 'Arai' motor-racing woolly hat pulled over the top of his head.
With perhaps a hint of irony, the tee-shirt, now available on high streets carried the slogan 'I Am The Stig'. The man in question is only known as 'Will'.
High-profile: Heikki Kovalainen, a McLaren teammate of Lewis Hamilton, is one of The Stigs
But this second Stig is, as it turns out, one of many. The Mail this week tracked down another former Stig - who did not wish to be named - who spilled the beans on the identity of all of the other drivers who he claims have recently stood in as the test-driving mystery man.
And the names are bound to make surprising reading for fans of the BBC2 show.
First and perhaps the most high-profile is Heikki Kovalainen, the 27-year-old Finnish Formula One McLaren driver who is Lewis Hamilton's partner. Mr Kovalainen starred as the Stig to race a Renault Formula One racing car round the Top Gear track in 2004.
Forty-one-year-old former GT world championship racing driver Chris Goodwin, from London, has also starred as the Stig. As has fellow Londoner Julian Bailey, a 47-year-old former Formula One racing driver who raced for the Tyrell and Lotus teams.
Behind the helmet: Russ Swift (l) and former Le Mans driver Julian Bailey (centre in picture on right)
Stunt driver Terry Grant from Bushey in Hertfordshire has also slipped into the white racing leathers to become the Stig. Mr Grant's website claims he is 'one of Europe's leading stunt drivers' and as such is 'the guy who really can drive circles around you'.
Stunt driver Russ Swift is another who has become the Stig. Mr Swift's website makes no mention of his alter-ego however it does tell how he has 'performed over 8000 displays in over 50 countries including America, South Africa, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.
Former stuntman Ben Collins was revealed as The Stig last week
Mr Swift also holds 3 Guinness world records:- Parallel parking in the tightest space, J Turn in the tightest space and the fastest 'do-nuts' where a car continuously wheel-spins around in a circle.
Finally, Dan Lang, a Swedish snow mobile racing champion played the Stig in a Top Gear stunt where he jumped a snow mobile off a ski jump.
A source on the show added: 'Look at the pictures of the Stigs from show to show. If you look at the height of Stig in different pictures, that tells its own story.
'In some he looks a lot taller than others. People have become obsessed with finding who the Stig is but they have not considered that it is possible that it is more than one person. The simple fact of the matter is that there are currently a number of Stigs who drive on the test track. Since the Stig first drove on the show, it has never been practical to have one single driver taking care of all the Stig's many commitments.'
The source added there was frustration at the repeated attempts to identify the mystery driver.
He said: 'We love to have the mystery around who he is. I just wish people would give it a rest, it's like telling people there is no Father Christmas. All the kids that come to meet the Stig they want to believe he is a robot with magnetic knees.'
A BBC spokesman said: 'We never comment on speculation as to whom or what the Stig is.'
Most watched News videos
- Angela Rye shares video of her invasive ordeal with TSA agent
- Girl shouts at her poor Grandpa over her iPhone appointment
- BMW driver tries to ram car off the road after slip lane mishap
- Group of killer whales prowl seas and attack shark
- Prisoner batters officer who finds him recording show on laptop
- Koala covered in burrs gets his fur groomed in adorable video
- Kung Fu truck driver gets revenge on man who stole his phone
- Male guests in a Chinese wedding flock to harass a bridesmaid
- Notre Dame player surprised by brother's military homecoming
- Large explosion at fireworks market in Tultepec, Mexico.
- Couple surprise family members with new SECRET baby
- CCTV shows Rebels bikie gunman moments before shooting