Alex Soler-Roig Tiff Needell

Former F1 drivers Alex Soler-Roig (above left) and Tiff Needell are celebrating their birthdays today!
[Original images via Diario Motor and The Cahier Archive]

Former F1 drivers Alex Soler-Roig and Tiff Needell are celebrating their respective birthdays today!

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Turning 78 today, Barcelona-born Soler-Roig was the son of a wealthy and respected surgeon, and in turn blessed with the finances to invest in his great passion of motor racing.

One of the many amateur drivers to grace the grid before Formula 1 turned truly professional, Soler-Roig contested 10 Formula 1 championship races, scoring no championship points.

He made his debut in 1970 in privately-entered Lotuses, and failed to qualify in each of his first three appearances, at Spain, Belgium and France.

The attraction of his finances proved too tempting for the March team, who signed him up for the start of the 1971 season to pilot one of their bizarre tea-tray-winged 711s. He made the grid at his first attempt, but retired with an engine failure after just five laps. Indeed, he would never finish any of the races he contested, with engine and fuel system failures accounting for his retirements until he was dropped mid-season.

He returned for two more outings with BRM in 1972 with backing from Marlboro Spain, but crashed out at both Argentina and Spain.

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Turning 59 today, Hampshire-born Timothy ‘Tiff’ Needell is perhaps better known for his exploits as the host of the Fifth Gear motoring programme on TV than his actual motorsport exploits, although he has proven to be highly successful behind the wheel, particularly in touring and sports cars.

A frontrunner in British Formula 3, Tiff contested the 1979 Aurora British Formula 1 championship, picking up one podium, before graduating to Formula 1 with Ensign in 1980, where his career consisted of just two championship appearances.

Qualifying 23rd for his first race at Zolder, he would retire with an engine failure after just 12 laps. At the next round in Monaco, he was second-slowest in qualifying and failed to make the reduced 20-car grid. But at least he could take some comfort in sharing the company of the likes of Keke Rosberg, Eddie Cheever and even John Watson, who had also failed to make the grid that day. Needell was not seen in Formula 1 again.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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