Ben Collins (racing driver)
Signing autographs in 2009
13 February 1975|
|24 Hours of Le Mans career|
|Years||2001, 2002, 2011, 2014|
|Teams||Team Ascari, RML|
Ben Lievesley Collins (born 13 February 1975) is a racing car driver from Bristol, England. He has competed in motor racing since 1994 in many categories, from Formula Three and Indy Lights to sportscars, GT racing and stock cars.
Collins was placed second in the Marlboro Masters Formula 3 championship event in 2000. He set the pace at the 2001 Le Mans 24 hours race in his first season for approximately four hours during the rain at night. After winning the European Stock Car Championship in 2003 ASCAR stock car racing he was signed by PDM Racing to do selected rounds of the 2004 Indy Racing League, but the car never appeared. In 2005, he competed in the British GT Championship in a Porsche 996 GT3, winning races on the way before moving up to the FIA GT Series with Ascari where he led races and scored several pole positions.
In addition to racing, Collins' company Collins Autosport Limited provides precision and stunt driving services, particularly for BBC Television, including Top Gear and Top Gear Live, as well as for the film industry, such as driving James Bond's car in Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale, and Eve Moneypenny's car in Skyfall.
In August 2010, several British national newspapers reported on an allegation made by The Sunday Times that Collins may be one of the identities of The Stig—an otherwise unidentified presenter on the Top Gear show—on the basis of financial filing made by the Collins Autosport company. On 1 September 2010 the BBC was refused a court injunction preventing Collins from publishing an autobiography revealing himself to be The Stig. On 1 October 2010, it was announced that Collins would join Fifth Gear as a presenter. In 2012 Collins joined as co-presenter of Polish TVN's Automaniak. In February 2014, he was added to the 'Drivers Club' of the newly formed Formula E series, but did not compete in the inaugural 2014–15 season.
Collins was born in Bristol, but spent the first ten years of his life in California in the USA, where his father worked for a distribution company. Collins was educated at Blundell's School and after studying law at the University of Exeter, he spent around four years serving in the British Army, serving some of his time as a Special Forces driving instructor. His racing career started in 1994. He worked for Hornby as brand manager of the Scalextric model slot car division. As of 2010[update] Collins continued to live in Bristol.
Collins has competed in motorsport since 1994. In 1995 he competed in Formula Vauxhall Junior, finishing third overall with two wins and eight podiums. He also competed in the Formula Opel Winter Series, placing second overall driving for Sir Jackie Stewart who commented in Autosport Magazine, "When you see the likes of Ben Collins in Formula One, remember you saw them here first".
Collins moved onto the British Formula 3 Championship in 1996. In 1997, he finished eighth in the standings driving for Fortec Motorsport, and also finished eighth in the Macau Grand Prix. After another year in Formula Three in 1998, Collins raced in the American Indy Lights series in 1999, finishing thirteen in the standings. For 2000, he returned to British F3 to drive for Carlin Motorsport, once again finishing eighth. He also finished second in the 2000 Masters of Formula 3 race at Zandvoort. Collins has been a test driver for racing manufacturer Ascari during Ascari A10 development, and undertaken testing of Formula One cars.
In 2001, Collins raced in the FIA Sportscar Championship for Team Ascari, with Werner Lupberger, the pair winning at Donington Park and finishing joint sixth in the standings. The team also raced at the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans. Collins also finished sixth at the 2002 12 Hours of Sebring for Ascari.
In 2006 he rejoined Ascari, racing in the FIA GT3 European Championship.
In the 2010 Le Mans Series season, he was racing for RML AD Group. His first race for the team was the 2010 1000 km of Algarve, finishing fourth overall and winning the LMP2 class. He remained with the team for the next round, the 2010 1000 km of Hungaroring, where they finished fourth in both class and overall.
Collins competed in the final meeting of the 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, driving a BMW for the Motorbase Performance team. He finished his first race in 14th and bettered that with a 12th in his second. However he retired in the third and he never returned the following season.
Collins is a regular writer for Autosport Magazine testing the latest racing cars, has written for The Sunday Times, fronted Sky Sports' televised NASCAR coverage, along with appearances on the British car-focused television programmes Top Gear (BBC Two), Pulling Power (ITV1) and driven (Channel 4).
He worked as a precision-driver in the film National Treasure: Book of Secrets where he doubled for the actor Nicolas Cage and drove in some of the high-speed sequences in London. As a precision-driver in the 2008-film Quantum of Solace, Collins drove James Bond's Aston Martin DBS as a stunt double for Daniel Craig in the lead role. He has also worked as a stunt driver on Skyfall and Spectre.
Collins presented television programme Xtreme Teen Drivers, shown on BBC Three on 15 December 2007; as an advanced driving instructor within the programme, he was trying to teach a young boy racer to drive more safely.
Collins has appeared on the popular BBC television programme Top Gear as himself, with his company providing drivers and driving services since December 2003. In Series 2 Episode 10, Collins appeared as one member of BBC Top Gear-team in the 24-hour Citroën 2CV racing event. The team finished thirteenth, out of thirty four cars, 24 laps behind the leaders, with Collins setting fastest lap.
In 2004, Collins made an appearance during the fourth season of Top Gear, alongside parachutist Tim Carter. The stunt involved Carter and an aerial cameraman jumping out of a Cessna light aircraft then landing in the open-topped Mercedes car being driven at a speed by Collins. The open-top car was introduced as belonging to Collins and had earlier been used, driven by The Stig, during a wig test in Series 3 Episode 5.
At the start of series six, Collins appeared with other British Touring Car Championship racing and stunt drivers for a Five-a-side football game using a fleet of Toyota Aygo cars. Collins played in a team captained by Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond. The other drivers were Paul Swift, Tim Harvey and Tom Chilton (blue team); playing against James May, Russ Swift, Matt Neal, Dan Eaves and Rob Huff (red team).
On a separate occasion, following an accident involving Richard Hammond in September 2006, the Health & Safety Executive report into the event recorded that Collins had "worked closely with Top Gear as a high-performance driver and consultant" and had prepared a briefing for Richard Hammond preceding the event.
On 19 January 2009, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph ran a story claiming that they had "outed" Collins as being one of the people behind the white-suit incarnation of The Stig, at the same time noting that "Collins, from Bristol, has always denied being the Stig".
The Times, in a follow-up article, stated that the "identity of the white-suited Stig ... has been an open secret within the motoring world for some years, with newspapers refraining from publishing his name, to uphold the spirit of the programme" which concluded that "a newspaper broke with the convention to out Mr Collins, 33, after following up a story in a Bristol newspaper". Similar allegations were repeated by The Sunday Times during August 2010.
Two Bristol-based local newspapers had published articles a week before The Times in January 2009, on the basis of information leaked from a local art gallery. Collins had previously commissioned a Clifton-based business in September 2008, to produce a limited-edition run of 450 poster prints to be sold for £318 each. Collins had initially portrayed himself as a BBC marketing executive and only confirmed a more detailed connection to the Top Gear show after the signing of confidentiality agreements by the business owners. The signed poster image showed a salt flat scene, with The Stig positioned standing on it.
During August to September 2010 the BBC and HarperCollins started legal proceedings against each other, with the BBC attempting to obtain a High Court injunction to prevent the publishing of a book entitled The Man in The White Suit, apparently authored by Collins. The injunction was quashed by the High Court, allowing the possibility of the book being published on its intended release date of 16 September 2010 in the United Kingdom and 1 October 2010 in Australia.
In an exclusive interview with WitneyTV recorded on 3 September 2010 and broadcast on 7 September 2010, Top Gear-presenter Jeremy Clarkson confirmed that Collins had worked as The Stig, and that Collins was "history as far as we're concerned, he's sacked". On 7/8 September 2010, The Guardian, The Sun and other papers re-reported Clarkson's assertions in the interview that Collins had been fired from his role on the television show. Collins stated that he had started writing an autobiography during Christmas 2009 as he feared that he might lose his contract on the show. Collins stated that he had gone to great lengths in order to conceal his work on the television show, including parking in separate locations and wearing a balaclava while travelling to the filming sites.
In the fifteenth series Christmas special, Top Gear presenters referred to the Stig as "The Splitter" and publicly ridiculed the Stig, using the picture of the Stig for drive-by shooting targets.
During Collins' appearance with the military amputees broadcast in July 2011, Collins was introduced and acknowledged by Top Gear-presenter Richard Hammond as "ex-Stig ... Ben Collins". Though Hammond still referred to Collins as a "romantic novelist", he said that "to be honest, [he was] quite glad to see 'the old Splitter' back, and [he does] know how much giving these guys a hand means to him. So this is all right."
In his appearance in the Top Gear Special, '50 Years of Bond Cars', Collins was wearing a T-shirt on which was printed the words, "I AM THE STIG." Richard Hammond, (who interviewed Collins) reacted, saying to him, "Nice T-shirt by the way." Collins admitted that he needs to "update that a bit", pointing to the word "AM", to which Hammond exclaimed, "Was." After hearing about some of what Collins had been doing for the film, Hammond remarked, "You should write a book."
Despite his removal from Top Gear, Collins has subsequently appeared on the "Top Gear Live" touring show. He appeared onstage in a show in Poland and also served as a racing driver for at least one pre-recorded clip. Introducing him, Clarkson joked Collins' was "living rough", in a racing track paddock, as Collins was shown to be sleeping on cardboard with a shopping trolley with books and Daniel Craig face cuttouts for his possessions. Collins' role was identical to his previous one as the Stig, except wearing an open face helmet and he was referred to as "The Ben Collins" by Clarkson. He has written a second book, How To Drive: The Ultimate Guide, from the Man Who Was The Stig, published in 2014.
24 Hours of Le Mans results
|2001||Team Ascari|| Werner Lupberger
|2002||Team Ascari|| Werner Lupberger
T. J. Bell
|2011||RML|| Mike Newton
|2014||Krohn Racing|| Tracy Krohn
|Ferrari 458 Italia GT2||GTE
Complete V8 Supercar results
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In December 2003, .. based partly on "driving services provided for the BBC, mainly in the Top Gear programme".
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Top Gear test driver the Stig has been unmasked as professional stuntman and Le Mans racer Ben Collins.
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He will limber up for this year's racing season by doubling as James Bond...
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a contraption actually mounted on the roof of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class vehicle which allowed famed British driver Ben Collins the ability to do the actual driving, while Turteltaub and cinematographer John Schwartzman shot Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger and Justin Bartha inside of the vehicle
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21. Ben Collins Auto-sport has third party and public liability insurance cover for all of its operation
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appeared numerous times on the programme and he often supplied other drivers for both the programme and Top Gear Live.
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he's history as far as we're concerned, he's sacked
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He's history as far as we are concerned. He's sacked.
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