Courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk
Bookmakers William Hill have slashed the odds that a female Stig will take over from Ben Collins on Top Gear, with odds of 4/1 putting a woman driver ahead of former Formula One stars like David Coulthard and Damon Hill.
Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter, has also placed an advert for a new driver to replace The Stig in his column, insisting that “he or she” must understand that “no one, under any circumstances, should ever rat on their friends”.
It comes after Mr Collins was revealed as The Stig after the High Court refused to grant the BBC an injunction blocking the publication of his autobiography.
Only six people, including Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, were said to have known his identify for certain before Mr Collins, 35, was outed as the mysterious driver.
The BBC is thought to have spent up to £100,000 of taxpayers’ money in a failed bid to prevent the identity from being revealed.
The racing driver’s contract at the BBC expired last month and will not be renewed, corporation sources said.
But reports claim that he has been signed up by James Grant management, one of TV’s most powerful talent management agencies.
This could pave the way for him to be the face of a new show that would pit him against Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond on a Top Gear-style car programme.
Writing in his column in the Sun, Mr Clarkson placed an advert under the heading “Driver Wanted”.
Referring to the regular jokes the Top Gear team use to introduce The Stig on the show, he said: “Top Gear, the motoring show on BBC2, is looking for a driver with a high level of racing experience to be The Stig.
“The successful applicant need not speak English, or indeed any language at all, but he or she must hate Boy Scouts, be able to punch a horse to the ground, have eyes that blink sideways and, most important of all, understand that no one, under any circumstances, should ever rat on their friends.”
The BBC took legal action to block publication by HarperCollins, claiming that the faceless driver was bound by a confidentiality agreement.
The corporation also claimed that revealing his identity would spoil viewers’ enjoyment of the BBC Two programme, but Mr Justice Morgan rejected the injunction request.
The current “white” Stig took on the role in 2003 after the original “black” Stig, the racing driver Perry McCarthy, outed himself in an autobiography called Flat Out, Flat Broke and was dropped by the BBC.
Several racing drivers had been linked to the role, including former Formula One world champions Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher
In 2008 Mr Collins, who lives in a £600,000 period property in the Bristol suburb of Redland, denied rumours he was The Stig as “absolute nonsense” but rumours persisted after his company’s financial reports listed Top Gear among its work.
A spokesman for the BBC, which claimed the Mr Collin’s book would breach confidentiality obligations, said: “The Top Gear audience has always made it clear they enjoyed the mystery around the identity of The Stig.
“The BBC felt it important to protect that anonymity.
“The BBC brought this action as we believe it is vital to protect the character of The Stig, which ultimately belongs to the licence-fee payer.
“(The) judgment does not prevent the BBC from pursuing this matter to trial and it will not be deterred from protecting such information from attack no matter when or by whom it should arise.”