The Stig goes
WHEN Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz took driving lessons from The Stig, it was Ben Collins inside the helmet.
When The Stig cut a quicker lap than F1 legend Nigel Mansell at the Top Gear test track in Britain, that was also Collins at work. Now the retired Stig, a 39-year-old family man with an honest interest in helping anyone drive better, has turned his top tips into a book.
Collins has written more than 70,000 words on everything from sitting correctly to preventing a loss of control on a slippery road. However, he says it mostly boils down to two simple things.
“It’s smoothness and looking ahead,” Collins tells Carsguide. “If you look ahead, you’re less likely to crash.
“If you drive smoothly you use less fuel and (the insurance company) is more likely to lower your premium.”
Collins admits that his time as The Stig was mostly about driving fast on a test track in some of the world’s most exotic cars but he says even that is not how it looks on Top Gear television.
“People think a lap time is about screeching the tyres and mashing the brake pedal, but it’s about being smooth and looking ahead,” he says.
His book, How to Drive — The ultimate guide, is his second outing in print. His first was about his unmasking as The Stig, about his career as a race car driver (including a start in a V8 Supercar in the Bathurst 1000) and his time with the military including commando training.
This time around it’s more about making a difference than making money or making an impact.
“I started to see a bigger picture,” Collins says. “The book, really, is focused on everything you don’t get taught to pass the driving test.
“Yes, I do have expertise. But I had to do a ton of research, because my expertise is in a narrow window at the extreme end of driving.”
The result is a book that is big and heavy, but logically arranged.
The first chapter, “How not to drive”, sets the tone before he moves through topics including changing gear, avoiding accidents, motorways, night driving and, ultimately, stunt driving.
If you’re expecting stories of craziness in character as The Stig, there are some. But this is not the heart of the book, just a means of getting youngsters interested and following his line.
Collins also has a lively writing style that’s peppered with good ideas and smart oneliners, as he says — “It’s time for big boy’s pants” — when