STIG BACK FROM THE GRAVE FOR CRC SPEEDSHOW
Perry McCarthy was not only a very noteworthy and successful racing driver who famously made it as far as Formula 1, but he was far better known as his anonymous alter ego - The Stig - in the early series of the world's biggest motoring TV show, Top Gear.
McCarthy's Formula 1 experience is the stuff of legend. Or maybe nightmare. But he can see the funny side. It all started for him in 1991, when he was chosen to test for the Footwork (Arrows) Formula One team. Although he impressed the team, his break did not come until the next season, when he was signed by the new and independent Andrea Moda team run by Andrea Sassetti.
"Andrea thought an obvious way to advertise his shoe business would be to build an F1 car and enter Grand Prix" recounted Perry. The team and car, however, became the laughing stock of the paddock and F1 for its unprecedented lack of competitiveness, disorganization and poor management, and after a lengthy battle to gain an FIA Super Licence the season soon descended into something of a soap opera.
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 did, thankfully, get to exercise his considerable talent in better machinery than the Andrea Moda when he tested for both Williams and Benetton teams during the 1990s.
'Killed off' in a spectacular Jaguar crash off an aircraft carrier, his original Black Stig was not only a ground breaking character who drove the show's cars to their absolute limits, but was one of the characters who, alongside Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May propelled the show into a must watch for most of the world's petrolheads.
It will be McCarthy's first visit to the show and to New Zealand and he will be on hand all weekend to meet exhibitors, talk about his experiences as the Stig, as a racing driver and perhaps confirm or quash a few of the biggest questions Kiwis might have about the Top Gear phenomenon.
"Stig never said much as we all know," explained Perry. "But I will definitely be spending lots of time chatting with visitors to the show and sharing the good times and the bad times which will hopefully give them all a laugh and a bit of an understanding about how hard life can be as an aspiring racing driver. Meeting people and having fun is what it has always been about and CRC Speedshow will bring plenty of that."
CRC Speedshow gets underway on Saturday July 22 at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland for the weekend and as ever will be packed to the rooftops with road cars, race cars, hot rods, trade stands and live action. There's plenty of new initiatives at this year's event too.