British court rejects BBC bid to block Top Gear book

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Britain's High Court on Wednesday refused a bid by the BBC to ban a book which claims to unmask The Stig, the white-suited racing driver who stars in its hugely successful motoring show Top Gear.

The broadcaster had called for a temporary injunction blocking publication of an autobiography by 35-year-old Ben Collins, a racing driver and James Bond stunt double, which claims he was The Stig for seven years.

Top Gear, which has just completed its 15th series, has a reported worldwide audience of about 350 million people, drawn in by its mix of fast cars, crazy stunts and boyish banter between the three male presenters.

The Stig, with his trademark white jumpsuit, white helmet and dark visor, tests all the cars on the show but his identity is a closely guarded secret.

The BBC had argued that Collins' book, which will be published on September 16, would breach confidentiality obligations -- and a spokesman insisted that despite Wednesday's setback, it would continue to try to block it.

"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," a spokesman said.

He added: "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."

Siobhan Kenny, communications director of HarperCollins which is publishing the book, said the high court decision was "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," she said.

© 2010 AFP

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