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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 20 March 2016
Before I bought this, I didn't fully understand what lay behind many of the comments of other reviewers about needing to be a real 'racing fanatic' to fully enjoy it. Now I do.

As one of the army of Top Gear fans (and also a closet admirer of Jeremy Clarkson's written work), I've read a couple of the books about the series and Richard Porter's 'And On That Bombshell' is quite good, although still a bit reserved. Reviewers said that The Man In The White Suit was better. Well, in my humble opinion, it's neither better nor worse, it's just tame in a different way. The book follows the life, quite loosely, of Ben Collins, through his racing career to date, an attempt at a military career (I remain unconvinced on this) and his weird life as The Stig. Oddly, I found the detailed story of his army recruitment training the most interesting although, of course, his tales of the stars that he met in 'a reasonably priced car' are also entertaining.

I struggled to form an opinion of the real nature of Ben Collins, switching from thinking him a narcissistic egomaniac to a thoughtful yet driven (no pun intended) man, and back again, The problem is that, although the odd self-deprecating remark or anecdote is thrown in, they aren't convincing and all of them seem carefully intended to fabricate an image of humility. At no point does Ben Collins consider himself to be anything less than an action 'He Man' and hero. With very few exceptions, whenever Mr Collins doesn't win a race or appears to fail in his aims in any way, there is always an extenuating reason that means that it isn't his fault.

I'm lead to believe that every word here was written by Ben Collins and not by a ghost writer. I can believe that, but that's not a criticism as, in general, the writing style is quite good and in a vernacular that I would expect from Mr Collins. There's certainly nothing screaming "amateur" about this style. That's hardly surprising given that, although barely given a mention in this book, Ben Collins has been writing for magazines and journals for years.

My biggest gripe, and why I now understand the warning of "for race nuts only" is that the whole book is laced with every race that BC has ever undertaken, in excruciating detail. That's every gear change, every touch on a pedal, every slide, every emotion. And for every race. If Ben Collins really can remember how he took the third corner, for the fourth time (what gear, what racing line, what the track surface was like, what the tyres were like, the pressure required on pedals and lots more), in a race that he entered ten years ago, then either the intensity of racing burns all of this onto the memory forever or BC kept an unbelievably detailed diary. Or he's making it up now. I just didn't care how he remembered all of this stuff, it simply isn't interesting. And there's lots and lots of this.

Like Richard Porter's book,Mr Collins never mentions anyone in any negative way at all. All of the TG crew are phenomenal, the three presenters are awesome and every star met is simply wonderful. Absolutely no shocks then. Then there's the ending of the book. I was hoping for an honest account of how the unmasking and revelation occurred and the immediate aftermath of that, but I was disappointed. The book falls mute at the point at which BC 'moves on to a new and better life'.

I did enjoy many of the anecdotes about the making of TG and I did learn a little bit that corrected some of my earlier assumptions. My main enjoyment came from the descriptions of working with the stars in the 'reasonably priced car', especially those sections that contrasted one of my all-time heroes, Ranulph Feinnes, with the full showbiz entourage following Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz and the Formula 1 team machine that make an appearance by Shumaker into a state visit.

It seems strange that some parts of Ben Collins' life are simply skimmed over or not mentioned at all. His childhood in America and his studying for a law degree, for example. This book has lots of sections about his army training but almost nothing about his four years service in the AArmy Reserve, and I would have liked much more on his job, in the Army, training driving techniques to Special Forces. The link between Collis' own company and his unveiling as The Stig isn't mentioned at all (it began with a journalist examining the annual accounts of Collins' company and seeing where the income came from).

I very nearly gave this book four stars as, in general, I did enjoy it. In the end, it lost a star because of the endless drudgery of the mind-numbingly identical racing detail. And, if I'm honest, perhaps a little because I just didn't warm to Ben Collins. I'm sure that being a successful racing driver demands a self confidence that breeds a special ego and the sections describing army selection illustrate how powerful that ego can be as a driving factor in a personality. It shows in this book. By the way, has anybody heard of Ben Collins recently? If TG has gone to Amazon in America, can we expect to see Ben Collins again?
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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 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 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 21 September 2010
When Ben Collins was 5 he kicked his Dad's boss in the balls because his Daddy hadn't been given a Jaguar XJS like the one his boss had just ordered for himself. This provided enormous entertainment for the guests at the party. This book seems to be the adult Ben's attempt to do much the same thing to his own Top Gear bosses now but the result is sadly less funny.

Most of the book is quite harmless but very dull for those who are not petrolheads. There is way too much description of his early racing career and army days. There are some interesting snippets about Top Gear behind the scenes but no secrets (one wonders why the BBC bothered going to court over this). His major grievance seems to be that he wasn't allowed to drive in the Le Mans 24 race as the Stig. There also seems to be a curious blurring of identity as he seems to feel that he really is a superhero like the Stig.

It is obviously very annoying as a racing driver to work for 7 years on the world's biggest car show on TV and not to be able to cash in on this or even put it on your CV. A little more sharing of the goodies at Top Gear would have been happier for all concerned. This is not a good book but it is probably at least as good as all the other trashy official BBC Stig merchandise already filling the shelves before Christmas.
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on 4 August 2015
Really enjoyed reading this for the most part. At times it can get a little to descriptive of exactly how he took corner after corner but it's a great insight into Ben's life before, during and after the Stig as well as the world of motor sports.
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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 26 September 2011
Ben Collins has and continues to lead an interesting life, I enjoyed the story of his life so far although his writing style is a little dry to say the least. The behind the scenes top gear stuff was interesting but I was expecting a little more. All in all a good read for the hardened TG fan but a little lacking for anyone else
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on 18 November 2015
What a fascinating life! I bought the book as a Top Gear fan after watching the Stig for years on TV and all the fuss when he finally removed his helmet.
I expected the usual racer/TV star autobiography but without giving any spoilers away, thanks to the amazing life he has led it's so much more than that.
On the downside, the writing is a bit on the dry side. Tolkien he isn't but thanks to the life he's led he doesn't need to be.
All in all an engrosing read.
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