Tiff Needell

Full Name:
Timothy Richard Needell
Born:
29th October 1951 (Age 68)
Havant, Hampshire
Nationality:
British
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Although Tiff Needell is best known as a broadcaster, most particularly with BBC Television’s Top Gear from 1987 to 2001, his original ambitions were to be a Grand Prix driver.

Competition launches racing career

His career began and seems likely to end in the media. Needell’s original break came ahead of the 1971 season when he won a Formula Ford 1600 Lotus 69 in a competition run by British magazine Autosport. He raced in the category for a number of years and was 1975 Champion of Brands with a Crosslé 25F.

He graduated to Formula Ford 2000 in 1976 and finished as runner-up behind Ian Taylor. A fine season was capped with the premier Grovewood Award that recognised potential stars from the Commonwealth.

A couple of seasons in Unipart’s Formula 3 team followed but were hampered by running Triumph Dolomite engines. Needell was chosen to drive the unique Chevron B41-Ford in the 1979 Aurora British Formula 1 Championship. That the Graham Eden-run team was sponsored by condom manufacturer Durex ensured national press coverage. Second at Zolder on his debut (when just 0.2s behind the winner) proved to be the highlight.

Formula 1 with Ensign

He joined Ensign for the 1979 French GP but was refused the necessary super licence by the FIA. However he was deemed worthy of that paperwork a year later and made a belated world championship debut for the team in the 1980 Belgian GP when replacing the badly injured Clay Regazzoni. He qualified on the penultimate row but his engine failed in the race after 12 laps. However, he did not qualify for the subsequent Monaco GP and Needell was replaced by Jan Lammers.

Life after Formula 1

Those were his only GP opportunities but he continued to race in Japan and in sports cars. His Kremer Brothers Porsche 962 finished third in the 1986 Kouros 1000Kms at Silverstone and he repeated that result in the 1990 Le Mans 24 Hours when driving a similar chassis for the Japanese Trust Engineering team.

He switched to the British Touring Car Championship and was involved in the high-speed accident that eliminated Nigel Mansell from the 1993 TOCA Shoot Out at Donington Park. Although his career in the media and as an after-dinner speaker now takes precedence, Needell still competes at historic festivals.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1992 World Sportscar Championship
ADA Engineering
1 0 0 0 0
1991 World Sportscar Championship
Porsche Kremer Racing
Konrad Motorsport
2 0 0 0 0
1990 World Sports-Prototype Championship
Joest Racing
Alpha Racing Team
3 0 0 0 0
1989 World Sports-Prototype Championship
Richard Lloyd Racing
7 0 0 0 22nd 18
1988 World Sports-Prototype Championship
Richard Lloyd Racing
Gebhardt Motorsport
Toyota Team TOM's
3 0 0 0 0
1987 World Sports-Prototype Championship
Toyota Team TOM's
2 0 0 0 0
1987 World Touring Car Championship
TOM's Racing
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1986 World Sports-Prototype Championship
Porsche Kremer Racing
5 0 1 0 29th 16
1985 World Endurance Championship
Michael Cane Racing
6 0 0 0 99th 0.5
1984 World Endurance Championship
Porsche Kremer Racing
2 0 0 0 85th 2
1983 World Endurance Championship
Emka Productions
GTi Engineering
4 0 0 0 46th 6
1983 British Open Trophy
Abdex Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1982 World Endurance Championship
Nimrod Racing Automobiles
3 0 0 0 0
1981 European F2 Championship
Ecurie Motul Nogaro
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1981 World Endurance Championship
Ian Bracey
2 0 0 0 0
1980 F1 World Championship
Unipart Racing Team
1 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1980 World Championship of Makes
Ian Bracey
0 (2) 0 0 0 0
1979 European F2 Championship
Toleman Group Motorsport
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1979 Aurora AFX British F1 Championship
Graham Eden Racing
Cooper Industries
8 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 7
1979 BMW M1 Procar
BMW Motorsport
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
27th 2
1978 European F2 Championship
Toleman Group Motorsport
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1978 European F3 Championship
Unipart Dave Price Racing
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1977 European F2 Championship
Fred Opert Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1977 European F3 Championship
Unipart Dave Price Racing
1 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0