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– Fifth Gear’s Tiff Needell races down memory lane
– World record capacity grid for classic Formula Fords
– Stunning action on full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit

Former F1 driver and now renowned TV personality, Tiff Needell, is gearing up to make history later this month at the 2013 Silverstone Classic (26-28 July).

The 61-year-old will be turning back the clock and joining a capacity 54-car grid in what’s a record breaking field of Formula Ford single-seaters. Never before in the junior formula’s illustrious 46-year history have more than 50 cars lined up on the same grid.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said the man who once co-presented BBC Top Gear and today fronts the Fifth Gear motoring programme. “Naturally I’m hoping to be out in front at the start and, more importantly, out in front at the finish but with so many cars it’s going to be busier than the M25 at rush hour. Whatever the result, though, it will be a fantastic experience for all involved whether they’re racing or spectating.”

The two record-breaking races will be all the more special for Needell as he will be back behind the wheel of the very Formula Ford car that launched his racing career. It’s a profession that took him all the way to the heights of F1 and the podium at Le Mans en route to becoming a familiar face on our TV screens as detailed in his excellent autobiography Tiff Gear.

“I’m racing the same Lotus 69F that I won in a competition in Autosport magazine in 1971 – without that I’d probably never even been a racing driver,” he admitted. “As a special Christmas present to myself, I bought the car back six months ago; I’m thrilled to be reunited with the car and racing it again at Silverstone. It’s been almost exactly 40 years since the two of us last raced together at Silverstone in 1973. So much has happened since then and not least to the circuit layout, which is almost unrecognisable now. That said it’s still going to be pretty flat-out with lots of great slipstreaming battles, just as it was back then. The big difference now, of course, is that there will be more than 50 cars out there and it’s going to be a major challenge just to find a clear lap in qualifying. It’s going to be incredible!”

The two races featuring Needell take place on Saturday and Sunday on the full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit as part of a packed 24-race programme featuring the world’s biggest gathering of historic racing machinery ranging from priceless Bugattis from the Thirties to 200mph Group C Le Mans prototypes from the Eighties.

Originally introduced in 1967 as an affordable entry-level route into single-seater racing, Formula Ford quickly established around the world as the launch pad for future champions.

Thousands of drivers cut their teeth in series’ staged right around the globe and the Formula Ford hall of fame includes the likes of James Hunt, Jody Scheckter, Nigel Mansell, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher. Now, as emphasised by the capacity grids at the Classic, the HSCC’s Historic Formula Ford Championship maintains that popularity offering a very good value for money route into the wonderful world of historic motor racing.

Organised by the Historic Sports Car Club Grand Prix, the championship is for cars from the first five years of Formula Ford; those raced before 31 December 1971.

Among the 54-car entry is Silverstone Classic event director Nick Wigley who will be campaigning a Merlyn Mk20 for the weekend in a field spanning no less than 16 different marques. Former category champion Westie Mitchell will return in the Merlyn Mk20 normally raced this season by his teenage son Sam and, as well as Needell, he will take on drivers like Benn Simms, Callum MacLeod, Callum Grant and Michael Mallock in a field of outstanding quality.

“We have had a fantastic response from competitors,” said Grahame White, CEO of the Historic Sports Car Club. “They will all be making a piece of history. I’d like to thank Nick Wigley and his team for the chance to bring Historic Formula Fords to the Silverstone Classic. I’m delighted that Nick couldn’t resist joining the grid.”

Those wanting to witness Tiff’s high-speed trip down memory lane at the Silverstone Classic must buy tickets in advance. In keeping with the popular event’s widely acclaimed ‘access all areas’ policy, tickets include free entrance to all the special classic car displays, both National and Wing racing paddocks and pit complexes, trackside grandstands, live music concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings plus a host of other entertainment for all ages and interests. Adult admittance is from just £35 (plus fees) and considerable savings are on offer for those festival goers spending the full weekend at Silverstone. Full details can be found on the official website.

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