1. Where did the name, the Stig, come from?
Well, they originally wanted to call me ‘The Gimp’! I had very strong objections to that because as your readers may know, that term refers to, let’s say, some rather imaginative sexual role playing! So, we settled on ‘The Stig’ - a name given to new boys at Jeremy Clarkson’s Repton School. I think it was another way of saying they were useless, and as JC always thought that race drivers were stupid he thought it was apt! I liked the gag ... so I agreed
2. Did the celebrities that you instructed back then know your true identity?
After the very first show a lot of people in racing thought it was me because of the way I walk and stand ... and my habit of crossing my arms – generally signalling my lack of patience. I knew several of the celebrities already who guessed it was me behind the helmet and I’d chat to them as myself (having made them promise to keep it quiet). However, when instructing the celebs I didn’t know, I put on a fake French accent and threw in to the conversations the occasional ‘qui’ ‘merci’ ‘bon chance’ and ‘Charles de Gaulle’. I often had a huge grin from behind my dark visor as many of them tried communicating back in broken English – generally the UK’s favoured method of speaking a foreign language
3. What life lesson did you learn from your experience with F1?
Nothing new! My philosophy was always and has always been the same: give whatever it takes, expect nothing from anyone, stay flat out and whatever happens, enjoy the ride!
4. What would you do differently if you could have your time over again, especially in the F1 sphere?
Normally I would say I’d do nothing differently because I don’t tend to look back in that way. Mistakes and successes were made by the bloke I was then. However, maybe keeping my big mouth shut a few times may have helped!
5. How did you become the Stig?
Jeremy Clarkson and I had been on friendly terms since meeting in 1997 when I was racing in the Le Mans 24 hours race. In July of 2002 he told me that the Top Gear motoring show, after an absence of several years, would be returning to our TV screens and that he had an idea for me where I would become this moody mysterious racing driver who would drive the daylights out of anything with four wheels on. I liked the sound of that and once we resolved our ‘Gimp’ issues I zipped up and let loose!
6. Does writing a book and driving a racing car have anything in common? Which is easiest?
Hmmm ... interesting question. Yeah, there may be a few similarities actually. Both require a lot of concentration and both will reveal your character. Also, it’s about judgement and feel: there are moments where even though the story and the race continue with the same intent, the pace changes. The results one looks for from each is to complete a great lap and have your reader eagerly turn a new page. Which is hardest? Not sure ... but I can tell you that there’s a lot more pain making a big mistake in a racing car!
7. How did you approach writing the book? Did you write it from scratch or do a detailed plan?
I began writing from scratch but soon after I organised my stories and experiences in to a time-line to provide a journey that the reader would have an involvement in and feel they were actually on it with me
8. Would you write another book? If so, on what topic?
I’ve started writing one! It’s a novel and it’s about a racing driver that has a few problems. I’m really happy and excited with the story – certain parts are quite dark but it’s fast paced and hopefully funny. However, it’s going to take a while to finish because I am engaged with several projects that have priority just at the moment
9. Has being the Stig been a curse or a benefit?
That’s easy! It has been a huge benefit and although my race career suffered from some bizarre misfortune I have been a very lucky boy to have been the first Stig – a character that has gone on to global fame and one that has given a lot of people a lot of fun and entertainment
10. What’s next for Perry?
I’m in a great mood! I am so pleased we’ve launched the book on Amazon Kindle and I really hope readers who didn’t get the chance to obtain the book first time around will now have a chance to buckle up and join me working on oil rigs – knocking on doors for sponsorship – racing my heart out – smashing up and recovering – and fighting year after year to claw my way in to the big time of Formula One before becoming The Stig! Apart from that, I have recently become part of F1 again with a project I am working on and I continue to give after dinner and motivational/business speeches all over the world to various organisations. A lot of my time though goes in to helping each of my daughters fulfil their own dreams and just occasionally, they listen to their old man!
11. What was the best piece of advice you've been given about life? Who have you/will you pass it on to?
Back in the early 80’s a racing driver by the name of Guy Edwards was renowned for securing large sponsorship deals. I was always struggling for money so I pestered him for months to see me and pass on his pearls of wisdom. One day he agreed. I arrived at his office and sat in front of him eager to hear from the master. He said ‘Perry ... the secret to sponsorship is ... ‘ and he paused. My eyes were eagerly fixed upon him ... this was it, I was going straight to the top with this insight. He continued, ‘ ... four letters’. I waited again, what could they be? Tell me! And so he did ‘ ... W.O.R and K. I smiled. I got the message fully, right there and then. There is no secret. There are no short cuts – unless you work to create them. There was and is no magic wand to grant ones dreams come true but, with the right imagination, determination and those special four letters, no one can stop you trying. My three daughters have had that message from me for a long time now and just as I did with Mr. Edwards ... they've taken it fully onboard
12. To what do attribute your obvious sense of humour?
I honestly think it’s a state of mind. Although there are a whole bunch of people I admire from different walks of life, I have never been jealous of anyone about anything. I am also not bitter about any negatives from my past. So, I’m not hung up on ugly stuff. I believe it leaves your mind more open for fun and to recognise opportunities for that. I’m proud to say that’s something I’m pretty well known for. Seeing the funny side of things keeps me happy. The happier I am, the more I see the funny side of things! I’ve been told that comes across loud and clear in my book. I hope your readers feel exactly the same. Many thanks to you all.