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People don't remember Top Gear's Stig used to be black before identity was revealed

Jess Hardiman

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People don't remember Top Gear's Stig used to be black before identity was revealed

The Stig – Top Gear’s mysterious race car driver – has been one of British TV’s most closely-guarded secrets ever since the show was relaunched in 2002. 

We now know the mute figure as a racer with professional-level driving abilities, clad head-to-toe in a white race suit and matching helmet – previously revealed to be racing star Ben Collins before he was replaced by another anonymous Stig. 

But before that, there was also a third, who served as the very first iteration of the character when the programme hit screens in the early 2000s. 

At that point, however, the Stig looked vastly different to his modern equivalents, as he was dressed not in white – as has become the signature look – but black. 

At that point, the man behind the mask was none other than ex-Formula 1 star Perry McCarthy, whose Stig was ‘killed off’ in the first episode of season three after his identity was reportedly uncovered – after which he was replaced by the new white Stig.

 It has been reported that McCarthy was fired from the show after violating non-disclosure agreements with his autobiography Flat Out, Flat Broke: Formula 1 the Hard Way, but he claims he left Top Gear of his own accord – saying the passages in his book about his experience on Top Gear were only added in at a later date.

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

In a 2018 interview with New Zealand outlet Driven, he said: “I was completely happy about pulling away when I did, because we got the thing on the road and we got it going, but commercially there was no more angle for me with it. 

“I was true to my word about not talking about it, saying ‘I was the Stig’. It was quite restrictive, you couldn’t use the fact that you’re one of the most famous racing drivers in the world now for anything. 

“We all want and rely upon income, and BBC wages weren’t exactly what I was used to because I was driving for Audi at the time and they were very generous to me in the world championship at Le Mans. 

Perry McCarthy in 2014. Credit: Keith Larby/Alamy Stock Photo
Perry McCarthy in 2014. Credit: Keith Larby/Alamy Stock Photo

“It was just like ‘OK guys, Top Gear’s incredibly successful, the Stig is incredibly successful, and this needs to be reflected in what I’m getting paid … and they didn’t agree. No problem to me, zero problem. I just said 'OK, see you later'.” 

Three years beforehand, he also told Guardian-Series: “It gets on my nerves when people say I was fired because I told everyone it was me in my autobiography. But it was only three months after I left the show that we upgraded the book with some pages about being Stig.” 

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: TV and Film, Top Gear, Cars

Jess Hardiman
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