Heroes: The Stig
Some say he’s the best thing new Topgear has, some say he is the fastest thing alive, all we know is this week's dedication goes to THE STIG!
This week's hero remains faceless, but some say he’s the best thing new Topgear has, some say he is the fastest thing alive all we know is we don’t really know much about him, like really, not much at all. The Stig's existence is a bit of an enigma because of his vague background story. No one really knows where this being of absolute driving ability comes from. All we really seem to know is he came into existence when the Top Gear show made its return to mainstream media on BBC 1 back in 2002.
Since then the Stig has been monumental to the success of the show and what most won’t acknowledge is how he was also a presenter in his own quiet introverted way. The Stig's role as most of us know, was to wring out all the performance that a car had to offer and by God did he deliver on that end. His driving skills are equal to none, unless you’re a formula one driver then you might just have a chance.
I remember before I properly knew the Stig and at the time he was having an ongoing battle with Nigel Mansell, who just so happens to be a former Formula One World Championship winner. So his skills are pretty much unbeatable and you have to admit that he is exactly the type of man you would need to be setting those inch perfect power laps. The Power lap was one of Andy Willman’s and Jeremy Clarkson’s greatest inclusions to the show and it also served as a constantly updated leaderboard for all the world’s latest performance cars.
The power laps were essentially the Stig’s playtime with the vehicles and they were so satisfying to watch and follow as the lap times slowly dwindled away by the split second. One of the first cars to cause such a stir over the time it set on the track was the McLaren Mercedes SLR and this was due to the noise that surrounded the thing as well. This was before the era of influencers so the Stig gave us the first proper tutorial into an early hyper car’s handling dynamics. The show had those short clips with the Stig moving the cars at a crushing pace and Clarkson commentating on the action, with the occasional Hammond and May feature every once in a while.
What always got me was the random off-shoot cousins that the Stig would have from time to time, the show’s presenters found a way to make his persona more varied because his life did need some flavor especially since he has a small brain and he can’t really talk, hey. My favorite one was “the Stig’s Lorry Driving Cousin” because of his broad proportions and probably the fact that he can fling a semi-truck ETRC style.
There have been iterations over the years, fat Stig,thin Stig, Stig’s Stig, none of them slow but I did always wonder what an African Stig would have been like though, I am African so yeah African Stig is something I’d like to see obviously. Aside from having formula one levels of finesse what was equally impressive is how the laps were done. Basically, the car would show up and he would have varied but limited amounts of time in each car. Now despite having little time to fully learn and appreciate his cars, the breadth of ability really came out and proved that he was no mere mortal.
Now rarely did he get given full days to toil around with the cars and yet some of them were unruly beasts. Think back to the Koenigsegg’s CCX and the Carrera GT reviews. What we should do is respect a man who took us in awe behind the wheel because by God can these men drive, “what! you said men?” Ahyes, I say men because the role has been passed around a little but not too much to upset or ruin the iconic character.
He had originally worn the black suit as his main uniform of choice but he got killed-off in an epic send-off, where he drove off a carrier ship. That was the first version, then in 2006 the look we have come to adore and recognize as the current Stig emerged. The Stig’s identity has been the object of much contention over the years, as there was much speculation as to who was the man behind the helmet. The crew did well in not revealing their choice and they went to enormous lengths to hide his secret identity.
For this time only I give you a Z-Car Hero who literally has a secret identity. Now this isn’t a Bruce Wayne type of scenario but I did fantasize about who would be behind that helmet and I sure wasn’t the only one which is why Clarkson was always throwing people on the loop, for the fun of it.
The fairly conclusive answer was given in 2010 when long time driver Ben Collins wrote his autobiography called “The Man in The White Suit”, now make no mistake he did get in trouble for it but he was a Stig. I think that moment would have rivaled Tony Stark’s “I am Ironman speech”, just because the mystique that had been created for the character was just too enthralling to us motorheads because we just had to know who that helmeted Icon was.
It was from this story that I started to realize how big the role had gotten, for the first time we had our own driving superstar and the world was watching. I do have to say that Michael Schumacher although he made the appearance, he was never a Stig, it was just a bit done by ol’ Jezza himself. Stig has become so synonymous with driving it’s not that uncommon to hear “stop trying to drive like you’re the Stig” amongst my peers, so there’s no doubting his cultural and social impact.
The Character was created to as just a component to a show but to our surprise he’s had amazing success and I am pleased by how the man in the white suit is now more than just a book title but rather the new yardstick for drivers.
Author: Kudzanai Manyau