Top Gear’s The Stig has appeared on TV – this time without his trademark white helmet.

Ben Collins, the one-time mystery racing driver whose identity was confirmed a fortnight ago when the BBC lost a court battle to block publication of his autobiography, gave his first TV interview to This Morning.

Explaining his decision to out himself in the book, The Man In The White Suit, he told the ITV1 show: “It was a very stressful time personally, and thinking, was it the right thing to do? But I knew in my heart that it was, it was time to move on and freedom of speech was something I believed in.”

Collins, whose identity had been under wraps since 2003, spoke fondly of his time on the show, describing playing The Stig as ‘the best job in the world’ and ‘great fun’.

He also offered praise for the show’s three presenters – Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May – who he described as ‘very talented’.

While his career as The Stig is almost certainly over, the BBC has not said whether he will be replaced. Sources say that the merchandising linked to the character is such a money-spinner it is unlikely it will be scrapped altogether.

Mr Collins, who was the second driver to play The Stig, fuelled speculation that his potential replacement could be female, telling the programme: “I hope there’ll be a Stig 3. It could be a him or a her.”

Although his wife has recently given birth, he showed no sign of giving up on the racing dream, saying: “My next goal is to go racing and win the Le Mans race in France next year.”

He is less likely to meet his other goal however, as he told the programme: “I would like to take the Popemobile around the Top Gear race track, if they’ll let me back.”

The only other time Mr Collins has been caught on camera without his trademark jumpsuit and helmet was in footage shot outside court.

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