The recent shenanigans over Top Gear have led me to thinking about how that television programme managed to catch the attention of so many people and keep it for so long. There's Clarkson's loutish irreverence, Hammond's innocent face and the willingly lampoonable May but even they have to bow down the the undoubted star of the show.
Since 2002, Top Gear have employed a mysterious racing driver to do all the serious driving on the show and to coach the celebrities who try their hand in the reasonably priced car. I don't think that most viewers would be surprised to know that when they see an external shot of a car powersliding majestically and are cut to a picture of an unruffled Clarkson explaining the controls on the CD player, the two pieces of film have not necessarily been shot at the same time. Or with the same driver. It may even have been a different car. That's TV. And that's why they need the Stig.
The first Stig used to wear a black helmet and he was filmed flying off an aircraft carrier to his screen death. His name was Perry McCarthy.
I remember Perry from his F3 campaign in 1987 which turned out to be a bit of a classic. Johnny Herbert won five out of the first eight rounds but failed to win again against a very strong field that included Damon Hill and Mark Blundell.
The last time I saw Perry was at Brands Hatch in 2012 where he was still racing against his mates from the F3 class of '87 but this time in a VW Scirocco. I don't remember much about the race but the party afterwards was epic. Perry is very good company indeed. He tells me that he finished well ahead of Damon.
I know that the BBC have announced that the cast of Top Gear is changing and that Chris Evans will be taking over but I firmly believe that Perry McCarthy would make a brilliant member of the team. He's funny and he can drive. Two things he does better than Mr Evans, then.
So I don't suppose it'll happen.
If you want to find out what it's like to drive the fastest cars and compete against the best drivers in the world, I recommend Perry's autobiography, Flat Out Flat Broke. It's also very funny.
You can get it here:
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