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Some say he's Top Gear's true star. We only know he's The Stig

WITH his menacing black visor and skin-tight white racing suit, The Stig is the most heroic driver in the land. He's a real-life James Bond able to tame the most powerful cars, while possessing all the mystique of Zorro.

From what started as a minor bit player in the cast list of BBC's Top Gear – albeit appearing in the programme credits – his reputation now far outstrips that of star presenter Jeremy (Clarkson) and colleagues Richard Hammond (Hamster) and James May (Captain Slow).

Today, we talk to some of Scotland's most ardent Top Gear fans – from schoolboys to racing drivers – and to the organiser of The Stig's last official visit north of the Border, and attempt to piece together all the latest known intelligence.

The Stig, who never speaks or removes his helmet on camera, has the official role of Top Gear's "tame racing driver", posting lap times in a variety of cars around the Top Gear racing circuit. He also trains up each week's celebrity guest in setting a lap time for the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment of the show.

But surf the internet, read the blogs, or just eavesdrop on casual conversations – someone somewhere will be speculating on The Stig's identity, his musical tastes or even his shoe size (racing boot, size ten).

Let's start with the facts – there has definitely been more than one Stig.

The first, wearing black attire, appeared in series one and two before being "killed off" at the start of the third series when he was shown driving a modified Jaguar XJ-S off the flight deck of HMS Invincible during a stunt and landing in the sea. This Stig then "outed" himself – it was racing driver Perry McCarthy.

But then the new white-clad Stig was created and the speculation began all over again. Many believe there is currently more than one Stig – possible contenders include Damon Hill, Allan McNish, Ben Collins and Tiff Needell.

Those interested in The Stig's identity fall into three distinct groups – the coy, the uncertain and the certain.

Top of the coy list is racing driver Andrew Kirkaldy who said he found the speculation hilarious: "I've got a fair idea who it is, but I can't say. It's someone I know quite well. He's reasonably quiet and modest and doesn't ever talk about it. I only found out by chance and he's certainly never admitted it."

Also in the coy camp, Stewart Roden, former racing driver and team principal of Scuderia Ecosse, racing team, said: "I know who he is, but I don't think it would be good to say or I'd get into trouble.

"But I would say there have been a few different Stigs and there might still be a few different ones, but again I can't say.

"In the racing world, a lot of the team managers do know who is under the helmet, but it's top secret.

"Personally, I find it quite funny when I'm watching Top Gear and know who it is."

Mr Roden remained tight-lipped under interrogation but cracked slightly and added: "OK, The Stig's got a day job. Yes, it's in racing. It's not Damon Hill and it's not Allan McNish."

Typical of those in the second camp and part of the younger generation of Stig fans is Danny Melville, 12, a first-year pupil at James Gillepie's High School in Edinburgh, who said: "I don't have a clue who The Stig is but he's great.

"He's mysterious and a good driver and a bit like Evel Knievel but without the stunts. The only bit of him I've seen was a bit of his neck when he was bending down to get into a low car and he had white skin."

Ian McKinlay, owner of Select First School of Motoring in Edinburgh, said: "Well, it's not me, but I'd like to do it – I'm quite fit, I'm a veteran speedway cyclists with the Edinburgh Falcons, so they know who to call."

"But if I had to choose I would say it was Damon Hill – he's an ex-Formula 1 driver, but I'm not sure."

But Susie Stoddart, from Oban, the world's best-known female racing driver, doesn't believe in shilly-shallying around. "OK, there are two Stigs. One is Ben Collins and the other is Darren Turner. How do I know? I'm a racing driver, nothing stays a secret for long in motorsport," Ms Stoddart said.

Ray Smith, PR manager at Knockhill Racing Circuit near Dunfermline in Fife is one of the few "civilians" to have met The Stig.

Two years ago, The Stig drove a Caterham 7 kit car from the Caterham factory in Surrey in a race against the clock as Clarkson, Hammond and May built the same car from a kit at Knockhill. The Stig was thwarted by police after crossing the Forth Road Bridge when he refused to lift his visor and give his name.

"The particular night the Stig arrived here coincided with a night young drivers were here for training. When he arrived they mobbed him like he was David Beckham," said Mr Smith.

"He was happy to pose for photographs but when one lad tried to flick the black visor he didn't like it and said, 'don't do that'.

"It was an English accent, not regional like Yorkshire, more southern.

"Everything was done in the utmost secrecy and – it was like he was a special agent for the government. I didn't see him put the visor up to eat or drink anything."

Let's leave the last word to The Stig himself. His voice was heard for the first time when he was pursued by the Dutch television channel, Veronica.

You can watch it on YouTube. Here's what was said:

Interviewer: "How did you get the job?"

The Stig: "I'm the best."

Interviewer: "Who are you, what's you're name?"

The Stig: "I don't remember, my memory was erased when I got the job."

 
 
 

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