The Stig, a mystery driver who tests high-performance cars on Top Gear, has been “revealed” as Michael Schumacher.
The seven-times Formula 1 champion dressed as the show’s famous driver and removed his helmet during an interview with presenter Jeremy Clarkson.
However, an appalling driving performance by Schumacher at the end of the show cast doubt on the “revelation”.
Clarkson told viewers: “I don’t think Michael Schumacher is the Stig”.
The presenter had earlier revealed in his column in the Sun that Stig’s identity would be a “staggering surprise” to viewers.
“As a television moment, it’s up there with Neil Armstrong walking on the… corpse of JR Ewing,” he added.
Earlier, a BBC spokesman said: “As Jeremy said, in tonight’s Top Gear Stig will remove his helmet for the first time.”
I don’t think it was for real – it was good fun and nice to see Schumacher playing along
Peter Lawton, What Car? magazine
After the show, a BBC spokeswoman would not confirm whether or not Schumacher was the genuine Stig, or a stunt to mark the first episode of a new series of Top Gear.
“You have to bear in mind that Top Gear is an entertainment programme. We never reveal who or what The Stig is,” she said.
But fans of the show remain unconvinced as to his identity. One fan, James2001, wrote on a Digital Spy forum: “You’re very gullible if you believe it really is him.”
Another fan, Mijath, said: “People’s fascination with the identity of The Stig mystifies me. Tonight’s unveiling was always going to be a joke, and a brilliant one it was.”
Peter Lawton, consumer editor of What Car? magazine told the BBC he thought it was “a nice publicity stunt”.
“I don’t think it was for real – it was good fun and nice to see Schumacher playing along,” he said.
He also said he knew who the real Stig was, but added: “My lips are sealed.”
Perry McCarthy, a former Formula 1 driver, was the original Stig, wearing black overalls for his appearances.
He left the show in 2003 – when a “new” Stig, dressed in white, took over – and later disclosed his identity in an autobiography.