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BBC and publisher lock horns over Top Gear Stig book

The publisher embroiled in a legal battle with the BBC over a memoir by Top Gear's The Stig has attacked the corporation for using licence fee cash on legal moves to block the book.

Publishing giant HarperCollins said it would “vigorously defend” its right to publish the book.

It comes as The Stig’s identity was apparently revealed at the weekend.

The BBC has been trying to stop the publication of the book and claims that confidentiality agreements stop the driver from revealing his identity.

HarperCollins said in a statement yesterday: “We can confirm that the BBC is suing HarperCollins over the impending publication of the autobiography of the driver known as The Stig.

“We are disappointed that the BBC has chosen to spend licence fee payers' money to suppress this book and will vigorously defend the perfectly legitimate right of this individual to tell his story.”

Racing driver Ben Collins — who was a stunt double for James Bond — has been linked to the role of The Stig in financial documents.

He is one of several drivers whose names have been put forward as being the white-clad figure who regularly takes to the track on the BBC2 show.

The case reached the High Court yesterday but is understood to have been adjourned “by consent” until next week. No details of the application were given.

The BBC said: “This situation has come about as a result of an attempt by an external party to profit from unauthorised use of the Top Gear brand, one of the BBC's biggest and most watched shows in the UK around the world.

“As a result, it is important that the BBC does all it can to uphold confidentiality clauses that have been agreed to in relation to the show.

“It is also worth stating that the overwhelming majority of Top Gear's viewers tell us they want The Stig's identity to remain under wraps as it is a key part of their enjoyment of the show.”

The current Stig is the second in the role. The first Stig, Perry McCarthy, was dropped in 2003 after his identity was uncovered.

Accounts for Collins Autosport Ltd from 2003 — the year the present Stig first got behind the wheel — describe it as “a cornerstone year”.

They state: “In addition, driving services were also provided for the BBC mainly in the Top Gear programme...”.

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