Expect plenty of top class drama as stars from the UK’s three premier soap operas line up on the grid for a Celebrity Challenge motor race at this month’s Silverstone Classic powered by the AA (20-22 July).

    Nicola Stapleton

    Nicola Stapleton who plays the wayward Mandy Slater in BBC’s EastEnders is the latest famous face to confirm her participation after passing her ARDS test at Silverstone and thus obtaining a full MSA racing driver licence. She lines up alongside a host of personalities from showbiz, sport, TV and music including Kelvin Fletcher and Tony Hirst from ITV’s Emmerdale and Coronation Street respectively,

    “It’s an amazing experience but I’ve got to have a lot of respect for what we’re all doing,” said Stapleton who has also appeared in a host of other TV shows such as Bad Girls, The Bill and Casualty. “It all feels so unnatural. Your instinct is not to cross your arms, not to drive too close to other cars – this is pretty much the complete opposite to what you’re taught do on the road!”

    Having not driven a manual car for many years, Stapleton isn’t setting her sights too high. “My ego is firmly in place,” remarked the former Albert Square resident. She added: “I’m slightly nervous, so I’m going to take it nice and slowly – hopefully it’s going to be like the hare and the tortoise. Some of the boys are taking it very seriously but I’m out to have a nice day and raise some money for charity.”

    Stapleton will line-up on a star-studded Silverstone grid on Saturday 21 Julyfeaturing a host of famous faces such as award-winning chef Heston Blumenthal, Hollywood actor Sir Patrick Stewart, BBC Sport presenter Andrew Castle fresh from Wimbledon, legendary rocker Brian Johnson from AC/DC and Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan Cole. All will be racing in lightweight, competition prepared Morgan sportscars capable of topping 130mph and raising funds for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK and the RPJ Crohn’s Foundation.

    Adding an extra drama to Stapleton’s involvement, the grid also includes actors from two rival TV soaps.

    “I’m certainly going to try my best to fly the flag for Emmerdale against the other soap stars competing – it’s going to be a bit of a sub-plot,” admitted Kelvin Fletcher who plays farmer Andy Sugden in the fictional rural village on television. “This is very different to Emmerdale and very different to driving tractors! These Morgans are great cars, pretty powerful and have a solid feel to them. They look like something from the Thirties but are actually quite modern. They look great and have a real niche.”

    Meanwhile Tony Hirst – known to millions of TV viewers as ‘Fireman Paul’ – is travelling from the speed restricted cobbles of Coronation Street to the flat out asphalt of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.

    “I can’t tell you how exhilarated and excited I am – I’m buzzing like a silly little kid right now!” enthused Hirst. “I can’t wait to get out there and get racing. I know this might sound silly but this is really quite a significant moment in my life! I know I’m a grown up responsible parent and all that, but this is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

    Adult tickets for 2012’s Silverstone Classic powered by the AA (20-22 July) cost from as little as £35 (plus booking fee) and special two- and three-day weekend tickets are also available with savings of up to 20 per cent if purchased in advance. Full details are available via the event’s official website.