Top Gear last night apparently unveiled former formula one world champion Michael Schumacher as the show's mysterious test driver, known as "the Stig" and forever hidden beneath a white helmet and overalls.
Many media reports today took the apparent revelation at face value, including the Guardian, without questioning whether the German multi-millionaire and seven times F1 world champion would give his their spare time to test-drive cars for the BBC2 show.
While the BBC's official line today is that it would never reveal "who or what the Stig is", MediaGuardian.co.uk is surely not alone in wondering if last night's "unveiling" was merely a publicity stunt to help get the 13th series of Top Gear off to a flying start.
"It was a tongue-in-cheek piece which wasn't meant to be taken seriously," one source said. "The Stig is merely a character."
According to sources, there is no one person who is the Stig, but up to six drivers who take it in turns. Reports in January named former racer Ben Collins as the Stig, while Perry McCarthy, a former F1 driver, was the original character.
The stunt certainly succeeded in raising the profile of Top Gear, which launched its new series last night. The show has been the subject of budget cuts like other areas of the BBC and the free publicity certainly did wonders for its ratings, with the episode pulling in an average of 7.1 million viewers and a 30% share between 8pm and 9.05pm, peaking at 7.8 million for the Stig's apparent unveiling. The bumper ratings helped BBC2 to a rare all-day ratings win over ITV1.
However, last night's revelation wasn't as much of a surprise as many had been led to believe. The episode was actually filmed on Wednesday and despite presenter Jeremy Clarkson asking the audience not to reveal that Schumacher appears from under the Stig's white helmet, one person emailed several fan websites in the US which published the name, although this was apparently not picked up in the UK.