British racing driver and television presenter Timothy “Tiff” Needell was born 29 October 1951. He is best known as a former co-presenter of Top Gear and current co-presenter of Fifth Gear. Needell first raced at a driving school at Brands Hatch in 1970. He progressed to Formula Ford, his progress assisted by the use of a Lotus 69 FF he won in an Autosport magazine competition. He later sold his Lotus and used the money to buy and race an Elden Mk10. Needell’s Formula Ford period culminated in his acquiring a Crossle 25F with which he won the Kent Messenger FF Championship after competing for only half of the remaining season. This success landed him a partly paid drive in the Formula Ford 2000 Championship in a Hawke chassis provided by McKinstry Racing. Needell was completely dominant in that car and series which provided him with the springboard into Formula 3. The remainder of the 1970s saw Needell as a front runner in the British Formula 3 series and then in the Aurora British Formula One championship. In 1979 he was unable to graduate to the F1 World Championship due to the lack of the correct licence, but he was back in 1980, driving two Grands Prix for Ensign, qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. However, he had an engine problem and did not finish the race. He subsequently failed to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix.
In 1988 and 1989 he competed in the British Rallycross Grand Prix in a Metro 6R4 prepared by Will Gollop’s motorsport team. He achieved a good result in 1988 finishing 4th in the B-Final in what was his first rallycross event, however, the 1989 event was cancelled due to heavy fog after the practice sessions. Needell made his first appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1981 driving a Ibec-Hesketh 308LM alongside Tony Trimmer. They failed to finish and again in 1982 this time paired with Bob Evans and Geoff Lees in an Aston Martin Nimrod NRA/C2. However the following year Needell finished 17th driving a Porsche 956. In 1985 Needell briefly led the 24 hours driving the Aston Martin EMKA C84/1 and would eventually finish 11th. His best result at Le Mans was 3rd in 1990. He then had a couple of years in the British Touring Car Championship with Nissan, before returning to sports cars in 1995, driving a Porsche at Daytona and a Jaguar XJ220 at Le Mans. He then drove the Lister Storm for 3 years, reaching 3rd overall at Daytona in 1997 before gearbox problems dropped them to 19th. In 1998 he finished 2nd in the GT1 championship and won the Silverstone Golden Jubilee Trophy race. Since then, Needell’s racing career has mainly consisted of racing tin-tops (hard-topped cars), with varying levels of success in sports cars, historic racing and touring cars. He achieved particular notoriety after an accident with Nigel Mansell at the 1993 TOCA shoot out race at Donington Park.
Needell is also known in the United Kingdom as a television presenter and motoring journalist, in particular in association with the BBC TV series Top Gear which he started co-hosting in 1987. In 2001, when the BBC cancelled Top Gear (the show was brought back in 2002), Needell and the whole cast defected and signed with Five to produce and host a new motoring show named Fifth Gear. He does however, still contribute to Top Gear magazine. Needell has also co-presented ‘MPH’ at Earls Court in 2003, 2004, 2005 with Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond and in 2006 with Jeremy Clarkson and James May (because Richard Hammond was recovering from his accident). He also appeared very briefly in the 2005 Top Gear Comic Relief special, Stars in Fast Cars. In 2009 he appeared on James May’s Toy Stories featuring the building of a Scalextric around Brooklands, and also visited James’ LEGO house. In 2011, he appeared on Top Gear, driving the Ariel Atom V8 in a race against a BMW S1000RR around the Top Gear Test Track. The segment was done in humour, with James May supposedly driving the Atom V8, only for it to actually be Tiff. He was also one of several people suspected of portraying the elusive masked racing driver The Stig on Top Gear.
English Formula One business magnate, “Bernie” Ecclestone was also born 28 October 1930. He is currently president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration and through his part-ownership of Alpha Prema, the parent company of the Formula One Group of companies. As such, he is generally considered the primary authority in Formula One racing. He is most commonly addressed in tabloid journalism as “F1 Supremo”. His early involvement in the sport was as a competitor and then as a manager of drivers Stuart Lewis-Evans and Jochen Rindt.
In 1972, he bought the Brabham team, which he ran for fifteen years. As a team owner he became a member of the Formula One Constructors Association. His control of the sport, which grew from his pioneering the sale of television rights in the late 1970s, is chiefly financial, but under the terms of the Concorde Agreement he and his companies also manage the administration, setup and logistics of each Formula One Grand Prix. Ecclestone himself entered two Grand Prix races during the 1958 season, failing to qualify for either of them.Ecclestone is also the ex-majority owner of the British Queens Park Rangers F.C.