This is it: Ben Collins spills the beans on his time as Top Gear’s ‘tame racing driver’, the Stig.
This very personal memoir, written by Collins himself, tells of his life story in a particularly candid fashion. Growing up and moving to California as a child, he proved an adept swimmer until the racing bug took over and he gained attention from Paul Stewart Racing. Success saw him offered an F1 test role with Arrows, but he was unable to raise the funds and turned to Britain’s ASCAR series.
It was around this point that his career took a turn: a job offer as Top Gear’s masked test driver set his career in motion along an entirely different trajectory. From testing exotic cars to training famous actors, models, former Spice Girls and the like how to steer an everyday car around the test track, it’s all in here.
While very interesting, there’s little in here that’s particularly earth-shattering in terms of Top Gear secrets, and his relationship with the entire team is certainly much more favourably described than the media have made it out to be.
Granted, there seems to be a certain degree of embellishment in some of the stories that he recounts, no doubt drive to make these sections – particularly those from his childhood – a better read.
One story Ben recounts is of him as a five-year-old kicking his Dad’s boss in the balls on account of his father not being given the latest company car acquired by said manager. While the incident proved enormously entertaining for other guests at the party, do we interpret this as a metaphor for his departure from the BBC?
While it would be fair to say that the entire Top Gear vs. Ben Collins court battle has done nothing to enhance the reputation of either party, ultimately its Collins’ book that will have to do the talking.
For all of the malice and ill-will that the media whirlwind alleges exists, it seems surprisingly rather absent in Collins’ memoir. Similarly, he does not allude at all to any discontent over his comparative earnings relative to the show’s principal hosts (cited by many as the reason he quit the show), but rather states that it was a desire to go back into racing that drove his departure from the show.
This is an easy enough read, and his descriptions of his driving experiences are particularly well-written. The momentum tends to sag a little when dealing with his military chapters, but they’re an important inclusion for the reader to have insight into the foundation of his personality and his motivations.
Some of his writing seems to come across as rather forced, and there’s a near excessive use of the simile to describe a particular sensation. While the likes of Jeremy Clarkson can operate with this nearly at will and with great effect, it seems a little contrived coming from Collins.
Certainly Collins will become quite a rich man from the sales of this book, released extremely quickly after his publisher won the London High Court injunction against the BBC for his identity to be unveiled.
Despite my personal objections to how the whole book publication situation unfolded, as a fan of the show, I’m certainly glad to have read this memoir.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award The Man In The White Suit…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.
The Man In The White Suit is available via major book resellers and Amazon.co.uk.