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on 4 March 2012
Having no interest in cars whatsoever (especially since I have no license!), I was rather surprised when a car/bike fanatic friend of mine recommended this book to me. I was vaguely aware of The Stig, having seen one or two episodes before, but didn't really care about all the unpleasantness surrounding the BBC and Ben Collin's autobiography. Honestly, I don't see why the BBC wanted to prevent this from being published, there's nothing unpleasant within it that could have damaged Top Gear's reputation.

I have to admire Ben Collins. He wrote this whole book himself without the use of a ghost writer, and while I did spot a typo or two (Eurpope, and it should be 'while' instead of 'whilst'), the writing was rather slick and smooth and pleasant to read. Yes, seeing as Collins is a racing driver, there is a lot of talk about cars and driving, but it's not too technical and even I found it simple to read. I daresay aspiring racing drivers could actually pick or a few handy methods from Collins writing. Collins also highlighted how difficult the racing world can be - difficult to break into, difficult to stay within and very easy to forgotten. I can wholly understand his frustration at certain opportunities falling through due to lack of sponsorship or other letdowns.

In addition, I found his army training to be a big eye opener. As someone who runs 10 miles four days a week, just reading what he had to go through made my legs feel weak and my stomach to cramp - there's no way I'd be able to survive that, and from what I read in the book, Collins just about managed it. Collins doesn't just highlight how difficult life can be as a racing driver, the book also contains it share of witty and funny moments, especially those that happened on Top Gear, which did bring a smile on my face at times.

One thing that really shone through towards the end of the book was Collin's frustration that, as The Stig, he could get any racing job he wanted, but as himself the opportunities were not as vast. He really writes honestly as how he felt he was off track by prancing around as The Stig rather than doing what he loved - racing. It seems that he had no choice but to hang up the helmet and move on, and the only way to do so was to out himself as Stiggy. Having his identity known would certainly help him get more racing jobs than if he just went quietly.

Yes, as other reviewers have mentioned, it does tail off a little towards the end, but overall it was a good read - even for someone who couldn't care less about cars. Collins has nothing negative to say about his colleagues, but quite the opposite, and he describes events honestly and bears him emotions for the reader to see. The accompanying pictures were a nice touch, too - I'd rather have liked more.

I would recommend this book to anyone, it really is a good read, both frustrating and uplifting. I'm actually really glad my friend nagged me to buy a copy of this book, and I'll probably end up rereading it sometime in the future. I hope Ben Collins has a lot more luck in the future, he really has worked hard to deserve it.
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on 21 October 2010
At first I was apprehensive whether this Kindle version would have the photo's that are found in the hardback book, but fortunately they are there, and as I have Kindle for iPad they are in colour!
Onto the book, at first I was given the impression that Mr Collins had quite a high opinion of himself, taking great pleasure in saying that he was quicker round the Top Gear track than the old Stig. Maybe his alter ego had gone to his head! But as you read further into the book you start to wonder if the bravado is all tongue in cheek, particularly when he recounts a story of teaching a blind driver to drive the Top Gear track and beat some of the able bodied celebs. The emotion he portayed over his joy for the guys achievement speaks volumes. Also when he talks of his family you again get a glimpse into the softer side of a not so tame racing driver.
The other interesting aspect of this autobiography are the not so well known parts of Ben Collins life, such as his time in the army and stunt driving on the odd film. Also interesting is hearing about various Top Gear episodes from behind the scenes and how Ben was having to be more and more careful as speculation of Stigs identity increased. Towards the end of the book he speaks of his struggles over wishing to be a bona fide racing driver and yet having to hide behind this persona, he even likens it to how a superheroes alter ego must feel!
Its this secrecy that ultimately leads to him taking off the suit, plus the ever increasing speculation since he was named in a report on Hammonds jet car accident. And while the book finishes at the last Top Gear series he had done, there was no mention of Rubens Barrichello beating his laptime. I wonder why!
Overall a good read, particularly if you are a fan of Top Gear or motor racing in general, as long as you dont mind the author re-using phrases throughout the book, particularly one about lactic acid in muscles! And the odd swear word here and there.
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on 3 April 2012
(spoilers possibly contained)

I found this a fairly entertaining book. For a good deal of the book he kept his eyes on top gear - which is what made his name. He gave some army stuff, but he linked the army-gained mindset in quite well with how that affected his driving -- whether this is true or not I'm not sure, but thats the impression i got from the book, and it seems fairly good.

The thing that stuck out about this book, I'd compare to star wars novels. The star wars books didn't work for me. Seeing space battles on screen works, but the SW authors never managed to describe them and they just became a drag and boring (x wing flies around, blows up tie fighter, ad infinitum). In this book BC did manage to describe driving well. When he describes skidding, tyres locking, hitting kerbs and apexes, I really got into it and enjoyed them as real situations with driving happening.

Toward the end it goes a bit fast, it has the feeling that he just tries to fit as many stories in as possible. The last 3 or 4 chapters could have been a bit more extensive and relaxed. Personally the single thing that comes across as disappointing to me personally, is that as BC is describing making his decisions about what to do as the book ends, i get the impression it was heavily based around what he heard from a fortune teller. Which just seems like a disappointing side shunt into something else (but since when does life obey the rules i guess lol)
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on 24 August 2013
Very good book that goes into great detail about Bens life, not just as the stig. Some say being the stig is the best job in the world ... this books tells a story there's more to life than being the stig
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on 11 June 2013
Entertaining and hard to put down. A frank and honest version of events from Ben Cohen. Put paid to few myths about Top Gear Filming too. Well worth a read.
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on 4 November 2011
I wasn't sure whether this would be another boring 'expose' of the lives of more famous folk (in this case the Top Gear team), but I was pleasantly surprised. Ben has maintained a refreshing integrity about his former colleagues, and has written about the things he knows most about - his interesting life, motivations, and driving. These proved much more rewarding than 'kiss and tell' type encounters that many people deliver. Of course there are lots of anecdotes about the life and experiences of the Stig, and about some of the people he met, but it never stoops to the tabloid level. Some of the descriptions of his driving exploits were pretty exciting, although many of the technicalities of driving at this level were lost on me. Sadly, his writing inexperience eventually showed through, and the book seemed to tail off in the last couple of chapters - it seemed to run out of steam and lose its structure. Nevertheless, a pleasant surprise, worth a read, and a pat on the back for maintaining the integrity of the Stig and Top Gear (it makes their negative inferences about his leaving seem very hollow and unnecessary).
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on 25 February 2012
I was very prepared to be disappointed by this book. It could have been just another tabloid kiss and tell focused on the foibles and antics of the Top Gear television program's main presenters. Instead I found something deeply interesting and factual. Not only that, after reading the book in one sitting and then rereading parts of it, I am firmly of the opinion that this autobiographical essay reveals much that is deeply personal about the eponymous Man in the White Suit. Unlike his televisual character, The Stig, Ben Collins seems to be a complex character with a deep seated set of personal beliefs. I found the descriptions of the driving stunts almost Chandleresque in their brevity. I also saw much humour in the way that putting on his suit of lights gave the man instant celebrity status wherever he went. It must have been a great wrench to give all that up, but the difficulty does not come across so much in the last chapter. For me, the book tails away in the final few passages. In the end I wasn't certain I knew the answer to the question, 'Did The Stig jump, or was Ben Collins pushed?'
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on 1 October 2010
Unlike other reviewers I am disappointed on several counts:

Firstly, accepting that Ben isn't a writer by profession, I find his style to be less than captivating and full of such detail about past events I feel that much of it must be embellished or even imagined. That isn't to doubt the actual events themselves, but I feel that he must either have recorded the events he recalls so vividly starting from childhood, on film, video, tape or in a detailed diary, or more likely that he simply imagined the details for the sake of a good read.

Secondly, his reputation is that of a "nice chap", easy to get along with, patient and kind. I accept that because I've never met him to enable me to think otherwise. However, what he writes is distinctly at odds with that at times. Certainly there's many examples of his impatience, some of his extreme competitiveness at a cost to others, and a few of rudeness and inconsideration to others. I don't know what to make of these anomolies. He is a driven man, and it's clear he WILL do what he needs to, to get what he wants.

He seems to be either dismissive or "unimpressed" by the BBC people he worked with for so long, and even unappreciative of what they have done for him. He may feel agrieved at more recent treatment over this book, but as he makes clear himself very early on in the book, he was very well aware of the need for his anonymity and adhered to it until it was to his benefit to turn his back on that obligation. The fact that the BBC resorted to expensive law instead of finding an amicable solution is not to their credit but it doesn't make them the original villains in the case. It did make great publicity though for both parties and I'm sure many copies of the book sold on the strength of the BBCs attempt at an injunction.

His relationship with his father is very obvious partly because Ben deliberately refers to it on many occasions in his writing. It could also be one of the reasons for his writing the book, and adopting the paradoxical styles of apparent modesty and arrogance simultaneously. I think he wants to show his father that he can be proud of him, because clearly he was pushed hard when he was young- note the story about learning to swim! Perhaps he is actually a little insecure because of it and his writing has been used to bolster his own confidence.

In summary, I found it easy to put this book down (even in a hospital queue!), and maybe it's partly because my expectations were based on the quality of the TV programme that made him famous. I'm glad I read it and now it's time to move on, wish Ben luck, and look forward to what the TG team come up with for the next series, because I am certain it will be good!
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on 17 May 2011
I think I expected more about the tv programme. Fairly interesting, but quite superficial. After reading the book it is difficult to understand why there was so much fuss over it, as it would appear that the secret was already out? Would have liked more talk about different vehicles, and about the skills or lack of, of the celebrities - not because they are celebrities, but just to get some idea of what the average driver is like when given an opportunity to race, albeit only against the clock. It may be that this was a fairly unique opportunity to read about a set of people whom you vaguely know, who are tested against each other doing something that we are all vaguely familiar with (driving that is, not racing); not sure how many times that happens in any field of life? Seems like an opportunity missed.
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on 29 May 2014
I did enjoy this book, in particular the background behind filming
Top Gear. It did seem to jump around a bit and I also got a bit irritated with the Stig's high opinion of himself. But I suppose that's why he's a racing driver!
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