Tiff Needell – Former Racing Driver, Fifth Gear Presenter and After-Dinner Speaker.
Tiff Needell is an established television personality who co-presents Fifth Gear.
He has also presented Top Gear and Top Gear Motorsport, as well as being a columnist and feature writer in Top Gear Magazine. He has also worked alongside Murray Walker and as sole commentator for motorsport presentations on BBC’s Grandstand and has been the presenter for Sky Sports American NASCAR and Indycar series.
Tiff Needell finished school in summer 1969 and attended the City University, London, where he achieved an Honours Degree in Civil Engineering. He worked as a structural design engineer with George Wimpey & Co Ltd until turning professional as a racing driver in January 1977.
Having attended the Brands Hatch Racing Drivers School during 1969 and 1970, when money permitted, Tiff’s career began in a dream story when he won his first racing car – a Formula Ford Lotus 69F in a competition run by the weekly racing magazine Autosport. From this beginning he worked his way up through the national racing scene to become a Formula Ford Champion in 1975. In 1976 he then became runner-up in the Formula Ford 2000 Championship the same year as he was to receive the Premier Grovewood Award – he was selected by the panel as the most promising young driver of that year.
During 1977, Tiff Needell was selected to drive for the Unipart Formula Three Team and was able to turn professional. Fourth in the 1978 British Formula Three Championship, behind Nelson Piquet, Derek Warwick and Chico Serra he moved to the British Formula One Championship for 1979 and finished second in his first ever Formula One race.
A year later, Tiff achieved the ultimate status of Grand Prix Driver with a couple of outings for Team Ensign.
Despite a great deal of interest, there were no Grand Prix seats free for 1981 so Tiff switched to Endurance Sportscar Racing to further his career and soon become established in the arena of motorship. His best results have been two thirds, a fourth, a fifth and a sixth in World Championship events while he has contested twelve Le Mans 24 hour races with a best result of 3rd place in 1990 from his six finishes.
Away from Sports cars there were wins in British Thundersports – racing a Chevron-DFV B26 and a CanAm March-Chevrolet 847, Tiff had victories in four out of ten races in the Saab Mobil 900 Turbo Championship in 1987 and four out of ten, again driving a Porsche 944 Turbo in the 1988 British Porsche Championship. One-off victories in the British Touring Car Championship in 1987 & ’89 and another win in the one make Rover 216 GTi series in 1991.
As a ‘journeyman’ driver Tiff Needell has raced all over the world with single seater outings not only in Europe, but also in Japan, Malaysia, Macau and India where he won the 1985 Bangalore Grand Prix. There have been sportscar events in the USA, including six starts in the Daytona 24 hours and drives in the British Rallycross Grand Prix in both Metro 6R4 and Ford Escort Cosworth.
In 1992, Tiff won his first ever rally in a one-off outing in the Ford RS2000 Rally Sport Series and then finished 30th in his second event – the slightly tougher RAC Rally, driving a Group N Sierra Cosworth in this British round of the World Rally Championship. Further rally outings were in a Mini-Cooper in the 1993 Charrington’s Historic Event, the Scottish Rally in a Formula Two Vauxhall Astra and then the RAC again in 1996 in a works Skoda.
With the collapse of the World Sportscar Championship at the end of 1992, Tiff turned to the increasingly high profile scene of Touring Car racing and landed a place with the works Nissan Team driving their Primera eGTs in ’93 and ’94 but the cars were not competitive and the team left Tiff without a drive when they withdrew from the British scene at the start of ’95.
With the growth of World GT Racing, Tiff was back to sportscars having returned to La Mans after a two year break for the 1995 race in a Jaguar XJ220 and then in ’96, ’97 and ’98 with the Newcastle United sponsored Lister Storm.
Oh yes, and he was the man who helped Nigel Mansell into the wall at Donnington Park in 1993…….
Speaking and Hosting:
Ever since Top Gear beamed Tiff’s face into over five million homes in the mid-nineties he has been a popular choice for corporate occasions. His engaging personality allows him to mix and mingle with guests from all walks of life.
Whether it’s speaking at an exclusive gathering at the Ritz or hosting hundreds of guests at the British Grand Prix Tiff Needell communicates with every audience.
As an After Dinner Speaker Tiff Needell draws on a racing career of over thirty years and a television career of more than twenty to entertain with stories of his own experiences behind the wheel, in front of the camera and alongside the likes of Murray Walker, Nigel Mansell and, of course Jeremy Clarkson.
His time spent in front of the camera has enabled Tiff to become a natural Conference Host, able to create a relaxed atmosphere and easily engage in debates with company delegates.