Tiff Needell is a British racing driver and television presenter. Well known as a TV presenter after 15 years on Top Gear and 15 years on Fifth Gear, he has also presented Tiff Needell’s Ad Brakes, for the Men and Motors channel and appeared on James May’s Toy Stories as well together with presenting for Sky Sports American NASCAR and Indycar series.
Tiff Needell never really intended to be a Commentator, a Writer or even a Television Presenter – and with an Honours Degree in Civil Engineering he hadn’t exactly been trained for the jobs either! Somehow, however, that’s what he would turn out to be.
When the dream of a full-time Grand Prix seat failed to materialise, Tiff began a move to the World Sportscar Championship in search of a paid drive – while still seeking to further his single-seater career in Europe. Chasing drives meant hanging around race tracks and, when Tiff was spotted doing nothing at a Mallory Park meeting that was being televised live by ATV Midlands he was invited into the commentary box to be the expert analyst. It was the beginning of a whole new career.
Tiff’s next appearance behind the microphone would be the beginning of a twenty-one-year association with the BBC as he joined Murray Walker for the live Grandstand coverage of Silverstone’s Formula Two meeting in 1981. At this time the BBC had only been covering the full Grand Prix season for a few years and James Hunt had become established as Murray’s sidekick. However, as the BBC’s coverage of motorsport expanded so did Tiff’s involvement. For most of the eighties, until live coverage was wound down, Tiff was Murray’s regular partner for everything but the Grand Prix. Together they covered Formula Two, Formula 3000, Rallycross, the Formula Ford Festival and many other assorted meetings.
With Grandstand no longer doing live outside broadcasts of British motor racing, at the start of 1991 Tiff briefly found himself as a live Grand Prix Commentator for BSkyB but, after the first three races they lost their transmission rights.
However, come 1992 and 1993 Tiff was back in the Sky studios hosting live transmissions of both NASCAR and Indycar. By now the Top Gear brand was beginning to expand and when Top Gear Magazine was launched Tiff became a regular columnist – a position he would later hold in publications that included Autocar, Auto Express, Sunday Times in Gear section and now evo magazine.
From 1995 to 98 Tiff headed the Top Gear Motorsport spin-off programme, presenting and competing in a wide variety of events, and also appeared in Top Gear Waterworld while, from 1997 to 2001, he co-presented BBC’s coverage of The World Rally Championship.
Sadly all good things have to come to an end and, with Top Gear taken off the air with an uncertain future, 2002 saw Tiff Needell switching over to Channel Five and their brand new motoring programme, Fifth Gear which ran through until 2015 before moving to the Discovery Channel, History Channel and now ITV4.
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