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The Stig unmasked as Bond stunt double Ben Collins

The High Court today refused to ban a book which reveals that Top Gear's The Stig is racing driver Ben Collins.

After more than a day of legal argument in private, Mr Justice Morgan said he would not grant the BBC a temporary injunction blocking publication of Mr Collins's autobiography.

Shortly before his ruling, Mr Collins left the courtroom to return home to Bristol where his wife has recently given birth.

Asked by the media if he was The Stig, the 33-year-old James Bond stunt double said he could not talk about it.

Quizzed over whether he had his trademark helmet with him, he replied: "You're trying to tempt me into saying something I shouldn't."

Simon Dowson-Collins, the publisher's director of legal services, said The Stig was in court today - but added that it would not confirm the mystery driver's identity until the book launch on September 16.

He added: 'We were very surprised the BBC took such action to prevent freedom of expression. We maintained all along that the information is already in the public domain."

It was widely reported that The Stig was Mr Collins after his company's financial reports listed Top Gear among its work.

The BBC responded this was "no surprise" as he had appeared numerous times on the programme and supplied drivers for it.

A spokesman for the BBC, which claims the book would breach confidentiality obligations, said today: "The Top Gear audience has always made it clear they enjoyed the mystery around the identity of The Stig. The BBC felt it important to protect that anonymity.

"The BBC brought this action as we believe it is vital to protect the character of The Stig, which ultimately belongs to the licence-fee payer.

"Today's judgment does not prevent the BBC from pursuing this matter to trial and it will not be deterred from protecting such information from attack no matter when or by whom it should arise."

HarperCollins communications director Siobhan Kenny said later: "This is a victory for freedom of speech. Ben Collins has a great story to tell about his seven years as The Stig which will appeal to a wide audience beyond the world of motoring enthusiasts. The book will be published on September 16."