Top Gear's 'The Stig' outed as James Bond stunt driver
Speculation about his identity has ranged from former Formula one champion Michael Schumacher to Mr Bean creator Rowan Atkinson.
But the seven-year mystery surrounding top Gear's masked test driver the Stig appears finally to be over.
Financial documents have been unearthed which link 35-year-old racing driver and James Bond stuntman Ben Collins to the secret role, reports the Daily Mail
The Stig's unmasking comes after the Daily Mail last week revealed how he was locked in a legal battle with the BBC over plans to reveal his identity in his autobiography.
Lawyers warned that secrecy was essential to his role in the BBC2 programme.
The clue to his identity emerges in the accounts of his company, Collins Autosport.
It recorded a 'cornerstone year' in December 2003, a month after the white-clad Stig's first appearance on TV.
This was partly down to 'driving services provided for the BBC, mainly in the Top Gear programme', the accounts said.
Directors noted the work offered 'good long-term prospects for continuing income,' the Sunday Times reported.
Collins, who has doubled for Daniel Craig for stunts in a James Bond film, was named as a possible Stig after a builder claimed to have seen the distinctive white outfit at the driver's Bristol home.
But he has always refused to answer questions on the subject. Asked about it at the weekend, he said he was on his way to Hungary before adding: 'I can't speak to you. I'm going into a tunnel.'
Until now only a handful of BBC executives and the programme's presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May knew the identity of the Stig.
In June last year the seven-times Formula 1 champion driver Michael Schumacher dressed as the Stig and removed his helmet on the programme.
The BBC refused to confirm or deny if Schumacher really was the mystery driver, but the scene was widely regarded as a hoax.
A BBC spokesman said: 'It's no surprise that Ben Collins's company accounts show that he was driving for Top Gear as he has appeared on the programme as himself, for example in the Mitsubishi evo challenge.
'Ben supplies his services as a driver himself and his company also supplies other drivers.
'There is nothing to be read into these company documents.'
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