Which One of These Men Is Top Gear’s Stig?

Who is hiding behind the white helmet? With Top Gear‘s Season 11 making its U.S. premiere tonight, speculation over the identity of the show’s professional racer/mascot been accelerating. The Daily Telegraph reported last Friday that, “According to the search engine Ask.com, ‘Who is The Stig?’ was among the 10 most frequently-posted questions by users of its service this year.”

Will anyone be bold enough to step out of the Stig closet? Not likely. No one is going to repeat Perry McCarthy‘s mistake: he was sacked after revealing in his autobiography that he was the Black Stig back in 2003. But it’s fun to speculate about the Stig’s identity. Is he a Formula 1 driver? Is he a “he” at all? Here are some of the usual suspects mentioned around the Web:

Ben Collins

The proof: He’s the most oft-cited suspect. He was listed as Top Gear‘s “high-performance driver” in the government’s report into Richard Hammond’s near-fatal crash two years ago. And supposedly this YouTube video outs him.

Tim Schrick

The proof: Jalopnik has photos of a helmet-less Tim Schrick wearing a very Stig-like uniform on the Top Gear race track. “According to autoblog.nl, the Top Gear crew was caught while on location by a video-camera-wielding fan-boy of the show outside the race track. It was there they caught a glimpse, Bigfoot-like, of a driver in white racing gear similar to that worn by our Stiggie. More importantly, he was carrying a matching white helmet. The Dutch fan-boys at the site all over this whole blogging about cars thing have identified the chap as none other than former Volkswagen Polo racer Tim Schrick.” But, seriously, would Jeremy Clarkson let the contemptible Hun on his race track?

Lewis Hamilton

The proof: He’s regularly among the usual suspects, given that he’s the most famous racer in the UK. I’ve seen the Stig’s butt, too, and it’s shaped a lot like Lewis Hamilton’s. However, the Stig is also said to be white, and Lewis Hamilton most certainly is not.

Russ Swift

The proof: Bookies said Swift was the 2/1 favorite to be the Stig after he gave a “no comment” response to an inquiry back in 2006.

Damon Hill:

The Proof: When he appeared as a guest on the show, Hill did not deny he was the Stig when pressed on it by Jeremy Clarkson.

Heikki Kovalainen:

The Proof: The Guardian said, just last week, that they had been “reliably informed by F1 sources that Heikki Kovalainen took up the role during a Top Gear testing at Renault’s base.” (Tangent: I usually don’t go for the Hitler Youth types, but Heikki is a major Hotti.)

Who do you think is the Stig?

In other news:

  • Bob Spiers, highly regarded director of British sitcoms like Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous, has died at age 63.(BBC)
  • Man vs. Wild host Bear Grylls may have to rely on real survival skills after he broke his shoulder while climbing a mountain in Antarctica. BBC NEWS reports, “The accident happened in a remote area of Antarctica, and Grylls is not expected to be airlifted out of the expedition’s base camp until Wednesday due to bad weather.”
  • The ink on her divorce settlement has barely dried, and Madonna is suing The Mail on Sunday for publishing photos of her wedding to Guy Ritchie.(BBC)
  • Noel Gallagher opens wide.(Guardian)
  • Yeah right, that was an accident: Lily Allen says she exposed her breasts to Damon Albarn when they attempted to record a song together.(Guardian)
  • Mike Skinner of The Streets and philosopher John Gray debate the financial crisis, the illusory nature of consciousness, and robots taking over the world.(Guardian)
  • The Sun has surveillance video of the bar brawl that left British footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones picking shards of glass out of his face in jail.
  • Helen Mirren dons a Baywatch-inspired bathing suit in the latest set of beach photos of the Oscar-winning actress. Dame Helen: proof that you can have your modesty stolen after 60.(Daily Mail)
  • Emma Watson says she would bare all like her Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe. That is, if she gets the “right role.”(Daily Mail)
  • Cheryl Cole is pondering motherhood.(Daily Mail)
  • David Beckham does some shirtless bungee jumping.(Daily Mail)
  • A rugby player gets half-naked on Strictly Come Dancing. All of the hot totty on Strictly only reminds me how lacking in eye candy this past season of Dancing With the Stars was.(Daily Mail)
  • In a profile of Imelda Staunton, The Daily Telegraph mistakenly refers to her as “the Oscar-winning Vera Drake actress.” Not that she didn’t deserve to win the Academy Award over Hilary Swank’s overrated performance in Million Dollar Baby.
  • Who will win this Saturday’s upcoming X Factor final? The odds seem to lean toward an Alexandra Burke victory. Burke is a smoky soul singer whose alto voice reminds me a little of Toni Braxton. (Check her out singing Beyonce’s “Listen.” The judges gave her a standing ovation. Simon Cowell raved, “This is a British competition and you’ve made me very proud to be British.”)
  • The Observer Music Monthly lists its top 20 songs of the year. Yes, there will be some overlap with my list.
  • Does indie music rival the fashion industry in the prevalence of eating disorders?(Guardian)
  • Where were all of the Brits on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Singers of All-Time list?(Telegraph)
  • Cliff Richard thinks he’s manipulating the press by not professing his sexuality. “I’m an enigma and I love it. I love that the press still don’t think they know everything about me.” (The Sun)
  • Graham Norton, who will soon start rehearsals for La Cage aux Folles, is quite content to be not the least bit “straight-acting”: “So funny, some of the men who apply it to themselves. You hear them say, ‘No one at work knows’ Oh really? And who is your employer? The Helen Keller Institute? No, I’d say I’m very happy in my own skin these days. Again, I think it’s an age thing. There are very few pros to getting older but that’s definitely one, the not longing to be someone else. You look at young people still trying to ‘find’ themselves and you think, ‘Sheesh, I’m so glad I’m not doing that any more.’ If I were to wish to be anything, it?d be younger and prettier, as would almost anyone else. I’d wish to be the sort of gay man I actually was 20 years ago but didn’t ever realize at the time.” (The Times)

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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