Hampshire-born Tiff Needell stars at Thruxton

Triumphant Tiff Needell with his 1971 Formula Ford and Thruxton team

Triumphant Tiff Needell with his 1971 Formula Ford and Thruxton team

First published in Sport by

SUNSHINE and race-stopping torrential rain kept racers and spectators alike on their toes for the weekend’s Thruxton Easter Revival race meeting staged by the Historic Sports Car Club.

And a revival treat it was as familiar names of cars and drivers alike from past decades proved real crowd pleasers, none less so than local hero Tiff Needell from Salisbury.

The Hampshire-born top-flight racer and TV presenter from Top Gear’s early years and more recently Fifth Gear was in the right gear to notch up a win on Saturday and come a close second to rival Benn Simms on Sunday in the Historic Formula Ford 1600 races.

What made Tiff’s podiums so special was that his machine was the very car with which he scored his maiden race win so long ago, after winning the car and start-racing package in an Autosport magazine competition back in 1971.

Despite selling the car as he graduated to the heights of Formula One and world sports car racing, Tiff, 62, kept tabs on the Lotus 69, bought it back just over a year ago and had it fully restored by Barwell Motorsport to its original livery with decals.

“It’s great fun and still very competitive,” he grinned.

Some other Hampshire racers also made their marks against competition not just from across the country but even Monaco and Australia.

In Historic Formula Junior, former British Champion Christopher Drake from Petersfield, in an Elva 300, pipped Steve Jones in a Cooper T67 for the runner-up laurels.

Peter Adams (Stockbridge) was another runner-up, second in the Historic Road Sports race of two halves, after a torrential downpour brought out the red flags. Upon its resumption, Adams’ Turner Mkll set fastest lap on the final tour.

Also impressive was the Derek Bell Trophy battle in which Mark Charteris, in the diminutive 185 horsepower front-engined Mallock, finished 40 seconds clear of Neil Fowler’s March 782.

The duo lapped the entire field, including the 5-litre F5000 entries with awesome engine note and huge tyres.

The Super Touring Car Championship races were like stepping straight back into the 1990s, as Saturday winner John Cleland (Vectra) and runner-up Patrick Watts (Peugeot 406) fended off Simon Garrad’s 1999 Williams-Renault Laguna in hot pursuit with Watts taking the silverware on Sunday.

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