THE appeal to raise £200,000 towards saving Colchester’s Roman chariot-racing track is set for a grandstand finish.

With £143,000 pledged in donations and £30,000 promised by Colchester Council, only £27,000 is needed to hit the target of the Gazette backed campaign.

But there are just 12 days to go before developer Taylor Wimpey’s deadline.

More cash will come in from Friday’s talk at Colchester Arts Centre by children’s author Caroline Lawrence, and a collection is planned at Colchester United’s match on Saturday.

Proceeds of two lectures today by BBC presenter Dan Cruickshank will also boost the total.

Fundraiser Isobel Merry said: “We have done fantastically well to raise this much, and now it is time for the final push.”

As the campaign hits the home straight, two more famous broadcasters have signed up as celebrity patrons for the appeal.

TV chat show legend Richard Madeley said: “I am delighted to be a patron of this important campaign.”

BBC Radio Five Live breakfast show presenter Nicky Campbell said: “It’s a great cause. This is the kind of thing we need to do everything in our power to save. It’s remarkable, inspiring and unique.”

Actor Sir Ben Kingsley, Oscar-winning star of Ghandi and Sexy Beast, also spoke in favour of the campaign when he appeared as a guest on the BBC’s the One Show.

After watching a report on the Roman circus, filmed in Colchester by presenter Joe Crowley, he said: “I think it’s very moving. Very powerful. It’s an echo.”

The aim of the Gazette-backed Roman circus appeal is to help Colchester Archaeological Trust buy the Victorian former sergeants’ mess where the Roman circus’s starting gates are buried in the garden.

Once secured, part of the building would become a chariot-racing heritage centre and the starting gates would be exposed under a protective covering for visitors to see.

The campaigners fear that, if they fail and the building is sold for conversion into flats, there will be little to show that the chariot track – the only one discovered in Britain – existed.

l To pledge money, call Isobel Merry on 07891 234274, or see