For almost 14 years The Stig (both in black and white forms) performed a vital role on Top Gear. Seeing as neither Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May had the skills required in order to lap cars quickly and consistently, Lord Stig’s ability to take care of that while remaining anonymous and unbiased was an essential part of the show. But soon his livelihood might be on the line…
Two of Top Gear’s new presenters, Chris Harris and Sabine Schmitz, are highly skilled drivers and will be more than a match for old Stiggy on the Top Gear test track. In the new series we’ll see Harris drive the new Aston Martin Vulcan hypercar at the Yas Marina F1 track in Abu Dhabi, and a source close to the show said that after getting behind the wheel of the 611kW (820hp) beast, Harris immediately got within four seconds of Aston Martin test driver Darren Turner’s best lap. Apparently lap after lap, he chipped away at the time until he reduced the margin to just two seconds. That’s on a circuit he didn’t know, driving a car he’d just gotten into.
Harris also has prior history of driving well in unfamiliar race cars, after he came second at the Goodwood Revival RAC TT driving a 1963 Lister Jaguar Coupe. He also won his race in the 2014 Le Mans Classic driving a Jaguar 1955 D-Type, which was pretty heroic given older machinery like the Jag often requires a much more delicate touch than modern racers. In an interview with Top Gear magazine he lists coming 11th in the Nurburgring 24 hours as one the best drives of his life.
But Sabine Schmitz can top that. Having grown up living just a few yards from the legendary Nurburgring circuit, she started racing there as soon as she was old enough, and eventually went on to win the Nurburgring 24 hours twice in a row, in 1996 and 1997. In 1998, she was crowned champion of the VLN, a 10-race series held exclusively at the Nurburgring, in which she competed against some of Germany’s best drivers. And between races, she worked as the driver of the Ring Taxi, giving passenger rides to paying guests in a BMW M5.
So where does this leave the Stig? Well his strengths are that he’s both famous and anonymous at once, plus Jeremy Clarkson once said it was a bonus that he couldn’t speak – “as racing drivers are often pretty dull talking about driving fast.”
We’re sure The Stig will always remain a part of Top Gear in one form or another, but more out of tradition rather than necessity. But with Harris and Schmitz in the presenter line-up he’s going to be sweating in that white race suit just a little more than before.