Top Gear test driver The Stig has been unmasked as professional stuntman and Le Mans racer Ben Collins.
Last Updated: 3:25PM GMT 19 Jan 2009
For years the identity of The Stig has been a closely guarded secret, but Collins – who has previously competed in Formula Three, Le Mans, GT and NASCAR – has apparently outed himself to staff at a Bristol gallery.
The 33-year-old let his secret slip when he asked them to help him produce a limited-edition print of The Stig in action.
Gallery owner Simon Whitehead, 27, said: "I was absolutely amazed when he said he was The Stig, it was quite a big thing in a weird way."
Builder Jason Goody, 21, also discovered The Stig's identity when he did some work at Collins' home and found the famous white suit and gloves on display in a cabinet.
Other fans of Top Gear, presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, have been closing in on Collins in recent months. One YouTube clip shows The Stig, in full disguise, talking with a Bristol accent to a foreign TV crew – and then cuts to Collins sounding very similar.
Collins, from Bristol, has always denied being The Stig and could face the sack if he admitted it. The first Stig, stunt driver Perry McCarthy, lost the job after outing himself in his book Flat Out, Flat Broke, published in 2002.
He was known as The Black Stig and always wore a black suit and helmet before he was "killed off" during the third series in 2003. Collins has since become The White Stig, and wears an all white helmet and suit.
Collins started his motorsport career in 1994, competing in Formula First and Formula Vauxhall Junior on his way to International Formula 3.
He has appeared on BBC's Top Gear as himself on various occasions to perform some dramatic stunts.
The Health & Safety Executive report into Hammond's accident in September 2006 recorded that Collins had "worked closely with Top Gear as a high performance driver and consultant" and had prepared a briefing for the presenter.
Collins also recently spent three months working as a precision driver on the latest James Bond movie The Quantum of Solace.
He was the double for Daniel Craig and drove the Aston Martin DBS in some of the most challenging driving sequences.
Collins said of the experience: "It was a bit like a dream come true to work on a Bond film. On the first day filming I had to pinch myself as I was sitting there in Bond's pin stripe suit with an Omega Watch. I felt totally at home in the Aston Martin DBS, which is just an awesome car and it was a lot of fun hammering it around the Alps.
"There were sheer drops of a thousand feet on some of the roads we using. I think a highlight was sliding the DBS up the mountain road between two giant rocks, then onto the pass with nothing but a hand rail to stop the car falling off a cliff."
The Stig's name derives from Clarkson's days at Repton School where, he said, new students were always called "Stig".
The identity of White Stig has not been officially revealed and is regarded as a carefully guarded secret by the BBC.
However, it has not stopped people from trying to identify him and names such as Julian Bailey, Damon Hill, Tim Schrick, and Russ Swift have all been suggested.
A Top Gear spokesman said: "We never comment on speculation as to who or what The Stig is."