It was one of the closest guarded secrets in television.
For years fans of Top Gear have been kept in the dark about the identity of The Stig – the show's always-anonymous test driver.
But he has now been revealed to be racing driver Ben Collins following the High Court's decision to refuse to grant the BBC an injunction blocking the publication of his autobiography.
The broadcasters had hoped to prevent Ben unmasking himself in the book, which will be published on September 16.
They claimed that he had signed a confidentiality agreement and argued that blowing his cover would ruin the viewers' enjoyment of the show.
Shortly after the High Court's decision, publishers Harper Collins said in a statement that Ben "has a great story to tell about his seven years as The Stig which will appeal to a wide audience beyond just motoring enthusiasts."
In character on the show, Ben races a number of cars masked in white overalls and a blacked-out visor.
A spokeswoman for Top Gear said no decision has been made on whether he will continue on the programme.
Speculation that Ben was the mystery man intensified earlier this month when the accounts of his company were found to list "driving services provided for the BBC, mainly in the Top Gear programme."
The 33-year-old from Bristol – who has performed as a James Bond stunt double for Daniel Craig – was first 'outed' in 2009 when a builder claimed to have seen The Stig's famous white suit and driving gloves in a cabinet while working at Ben's house.
Photo: ę Rex