The true identity of the Stig, the masked test driver on Top Gear, has been revealed, with former racing driver Ben Collins reportedly the man behind the wheel.

A cult character, the Stig is responsible for testing new cars at breakneck speed on the popular BBC motor show, as well as tutoring celebrities for their own high-speed efforts.

The Stig's real identity has always been closely guarded by Top Gear bosses, with the previous driver - Perry McCarthy - sacked from the role after confirming he wore the infamous white helmet in a 2002 autobiography.

And now his successor has allegedly been revealed, with the Daily Star newspaper claiming on Sunday that Collins, a 33-year-old ex-stuntman from Bristol, is the current Stig.

Numerous other news outlets have since reported that Collins plays the Stig, and with both the BBC and Collins himself refusing to comment, the identity of one of the most secretive characters in television may have been unveiled.

Though none of the Top Gear presenting team - Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May - have commented, a show insider reacted furiously to the apparent confirmation that Collins is the Stig.

"You wouldn't write a piece saying that Santa didn't exist," the source was quoted by the Times as saying.

According to the Daily Mail, Collins is married and leaves in a £300,000 home in the West Country.

He competed in the formula first and formula Vauxhall junior racing classes before a stint in formula three and also reportedly served four years in the Army.

Top Gear fans had previously claimed that Formula One stars Damon Hill and Mark Webber may be the current Stig.

20/01/2009 12:36:25