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The Man in the White Suit: The Stig, Le Mans, the Fast Lane and Me Hardcover – October 26, 2010
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I have been an avid fan of Top Gear since I first saw an episode a few years ago. Fifth Gear, albeit a similar program, was never quite as entertaining as Top Gear mainly because of the chemistry between the presenters and because Top Gear is more focused on entertainment. Ben Collins' book is not just an autobiography, but also a behind the scenes look at Top Gear. As I suspected, Top Gear is more about entertaining the audience than a factual car review show. Ben Collins revealed that a lot of the driving sequences, such as the Corvette and Fiesta duel in the mall, was mainly action sequences taken in piece meal with the presenter driving sequences cut/pasted into the whole affair to make them look good. I understand that there are a lot of people there heavily criticizing Ben for leaving Top Gear and the "best job in the world", but I read this book and reviewed it objectively as possible even though I am a Top Gear fan and gearhead/petrol head. As an example of how Top Gear's final production sequences are aimed at entertainment, Ben Collins said in a South African interview after the release of his book that out of the 3 presenters, the best driver was James May. The reason is that May has an engineering background and is more sorted out. In the book, Collins described May as always pretending to be a poor driver to provide some hint of comic relief. In stark contrast, Fifth Gear is too heavy on professional drivers. I've seen episodes where Jason Plato, Tiff Needell, Ben Collins, and Victoria Butler-Henderson bored me to sleep because there wasn't any "cocking about" or entertainment - it was too factual and precise.
So let's start from the beginning.
Ben is a well-articulated speaker and writer.Read more ›
-- SPOILER ALERT --
You will read about Ben's beginnings, his ambition to race at any conditions and any price. After joining TG team the story becomes familiar and you get a sense how massive was the amount of work put into each episode. I was expecting to find out some backstage opinions on the presenter trio (Clarkson being an arrogant type for example) but nope - seems they're the same as on the telly. You will get very detailed information about how the celebrities were taught and what was their approach to driving on the TG track. You will also find out how the driving and pass-by sequences were made and how hectic the job of Stig could be. Most of the chapters copy the epizode flow so you'll read about Veyron race from Italy to London, the charity race in Mallorca, 24 hrs endurance race in diesel BMW and so on, including all the details possible.
The Stig job must have been (and probably still is) very demanding as Andy Willman (exec producer) seems like crazily tough guy, who's been pushing the show forward together with Clarkson. There's an urgent sense of split personality when Ben Collins acted as a Stig and as well as himself during several episodes. Not to mention the fact how crazy was the TG team to keep Stig's identity secret.
The book covers the era from beginnings of white Stig until the episode with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.Read more ›
- While more-or-less an autobiography, we don't actually learn that much about what makes Mr. Collins tick. Quite a few chapters are devoted to him pursuing an Army career as a backup plan in case race driving doesn't work out, and he states several times how much of an effect this had on his psyche and how much he values it. However, when he decides to abandon the Army direction, he does so almost in passing, which seems odd for something he claims so much connection to.
- The amount of detail in some instances is remarkably high for events that took place years ago, such as his audition laps in a Ford around the Top Gear test track. I suppose it's possible the author keeps a meticulous diary, but it felt a bit artificial.
- The book needed more help from an editor (a common problem these days, alas.) Some judicious direction on focusing the narrative, and some wordsmithing on awkward passages, would have gone a long way here.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was awesome. I didn't know much about Ben's life before Top Gear so this was cool.Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
If you love Top Gear, cars and auto racing this is a great book. I loved it!Published 27 days ago by Catherine
I enjoyed this book. I think any fan of the British Top Gear TV show will find this book interesting.Published 29 days ago by BookManRon
It's a good solid 3, maybe a 4 if you are a big fan of TopGear. Fun to see the inner workings of the show plus other elements of Collins' life. Well worth the price.Published 2 months ago by The Guy Who Reads