Lifting Stig's helmet and revealing the Teutonic features of former F1 champ Michael Schumacher certainly made for some great TV. However, the German race car driver is not Top Gear's Stig. Or, we should say, he's not the only Stig.
Despite being the first to tell you that Stig would lift his helmet during last night's episode and it would be none other than Michael Schumacher underneath, we're now going to provide three reminders to everyone that no, the blonde-haired track-meister's not the only Stig.
First, one look at Shumacher's record-setting time around the Top Gear test track in a Ferrari FXX, and you realize he's not the same Stiggie we've seen on the show the last two seasons. Schumi was more balls-to-the-wall around the corners than the previous incarnation of our beloved Stiggie.
Secondly, Ferrari's only going to let an owner drive the Ferrari FXX. Make sense to us then that since they were testing Schumi's FXX, they'd have Schumi be the Stig.
That makes sense given the truth is, as most know, there have been many drivers who've played the Stig. From the original black-nomex racing suit-encased Stig played by Perry McCarthy, former Formula One racer and test driver for the Benetton, Arrows and Williams teams — to "Big Stig" who we're pretty sure was played by Tony Stewart after ingesting a small cow, there is a different Stig for different needs. And we're pretty sure African Stig was not at all Lewis Hamilton. Basically, we've been told by the BBC there's been no less than eight drivers donning the white nomex.
The most high-profile is Heikki Kovalainen, the 27-year-old Finnish Formula One McLaren driver who is Lewis Hamilton's partner. Forty-one-year-old former GT world championship racing driver Chris Goodwin, from London, has also starred as the Stig. As has fellow Londoner Julian Bailey, a 47-year-old former Formula One racing driver who raced for the Tyrell and Lotus teams.
Stunt driver Terry Grant from Bushey in Hertfordshire has also slipped into the white racing leathers to become the Stig. Stunt driver Russ Swift is another who has become the Stig. Then of course there were those Ben Collins rumors.
Finally, Dan Lang, a Swedish snow mobile racing champion played the Stig in a Top Gear stunt where he jumped a snow mobile off a ski jump. So to every Stig there is a purpose and yesterday's Ferrari FXX season belonged to Schumacher. Who will be the next to turn, turn, turn in the white racing duds? We guess we'll have to tune in to find out. Which is really what the BBC wants.
And that brings us to the third reminder. See, this was totally a tongue-in-cheek PR play. And it worked. We went all ga-ga over the Schumi as Stig story and you know what, so did all of you. And that's cool, because frankly, it was entertaining as hell. And when it comes down to it, we don't watch Top Gear to be informed, we watch Top Gear to be entertained.
Incidentally, on an almost entirely unrelated note — there's some serious props that need to go out to the Beeb for figuring out the importance of not only having a clip up on YouTube of last night's unmasking (we've included it again here), but for having it up within moments of the show's completion. Good work by Her Royal Majesty's TV service for understanding there's people outside of the BBC's broadcast network interested in seeing this momentous occasion — and beating out the thousands who'd be dropping pirated clips up and online. Already the clip's got thousands of comments and tens of thousands of views. Bravo, BBC.