Sunday 3rd March 1963
Born on this day, Perry McCarthy, British racing driver who portrayed The Stig in the first two series of BBC motoring show Top Gear.
Unlike most Formula One drivers, McCarthy did not start racing in karts. He worked his way through the junior categories of motor sport in Europe, such as Formula Ford, Formula 3, eventually F3000 and various touring and sports car races in the US, including drives for Spice Engineering. In 1991, McCarthy was chosen to test for the Footwork Formula One team. Although he impressed the team, his break did not come until the eve of the 1992 Formula One season, when he was signed by the independent Andrea Moda team run by Andrea Sassetti who thought that entering Formula One would be a good way to advertise his shoe business. The team was uncompetitive, disorganized and poorly managed, and after a lengthy battle to gain an FIA Super Licence the season soon descended into farce. McCarthy, frequently denied more than a handful of laps in which to prepare, failed to qualify for any Grand Prix. His Grand Prix debut at Spain lasted eighteen metres down the pit lane in pre-qualifying. The team folded before the end of the season in controversial circumstances and McCarthy was left without a drive. In a July 2004 interview with The Times, McCarthy discussed how this period in his career had contributed to him being dubbed the world’s unluckiest racing driver, saying “Dick Dastardly had more luck than me”.
McCarthy did not race in Formula One after 1992, but tested for both Williams and Benetton teams during the 1990s. He was denied a permanent role as test driver at Benetton because he was covering for their normal test driver, Alessandro Zanardi, who was unwell. He had little success at Williams because he did not see eye to eye[clarification needed] with the engineers and the position was then given to David Coulthard.
After a brief retirement, McCarthy returned to sports car racing, appearing at Le Mans in 2002 and numerous other events. In 2002, he released his autobiography entitled Flat Out, Flat Broke, in which he spoke candidly about his time in Formula One and, in the second edition, his work for the BBC’s Top Gear motoring show as The Stig, a masked, anonymous, racing driver who evaluated the latest high performance cars. McCarthy was the original, black-suited Stig, who left after the first two series. He provided commentary on F1 races for the BBC in 2009. McCarthy now works as a corporate ambassador and after-dinner speaker for corporations around the world.