Perry McCarthy (born 3 March 1961) is a British racing driver, who drove in Formula One in 1992 before moving into sportscars, including driving in the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times between 1996 and 2003.
Born in London, McCarthy grew up to work for his father’s company servicing North Sea oil rigs. 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 America, 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 1 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. The team folded before the end of the season in controversial circumstances and McCarthy was left without a drive. McCarthy never raced 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, who was unwell. He had little success at Williams because he did not see eye to eye with the engineers and the position was then given to a young 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 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 BBC in 2009.
McCarthy now spends his time working as a corporate ambassador and after dinner speaker for large and small corporations all over the world.
McCarthy wrote an autobiography, titled Flat Out, Flat Broke: Formula 1 the Hard Way!, in (2002); it detailed his career, and the hardships he faced while trying to break the ranks of Formula One.