MIDDLESBROUGH'S art gallery mima is playing host to a major event featuring automotive art produced by BBC2's flagship Top Gear show.

Thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the town's Centre Square when the unique event - compiled by the show's presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May - opens on Saturday morning.

The ground-breaking collaboration between the Top Gear team and Middlesbrough Council followed an initial approach by the production team earlier this year.

The project took shape amid tight secrecy as the presenters began the task of selecting more than 70 pieces to go on display in mima's galleries.

The works range from drawings, designs and water colours, to car parts, helmets and whole cars.

A Top Gear spokeswoman said: "We are aiming to prove there is some beautiful and inspiring art in the motoring world."

The three presenters will be filming in the town over the weekend of Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22 and admission to the public will be on a first-come first-served basis on Saturday from 9am to noon.

From then on, until 7pm on Sunday, admission will be by ticket with full details, opening hours and booking information available on the Middlesbrough Council website. A £1 administration fee will be charged for tickets which are being allocated via Ticketmaster UK, with a maximum of four available per application.

The free event will then be open to the public until Sunday, November 29 - visitors are advised that while tickets will not be required for the rest of the week, a queuing system may be introduced if demand remains high.

Top Gear - which has an estimated audience of 350 million worldwide - is expected to show the resulting film as part of the current series which began at the weekend.

Speaking today before heading to Middlesbrough to begin filming, Richard Hammond said: "is an exhibition with fantastic examples of paintings and sculpture of automotive art, covering a huge range of works.

"We have selected some of the best automotive paintings."

Jeremy, Richard and James have also produced their own artworks for display.

"I hope the exhibition will generate a wide interest across all age ranges - we want to see as many people as possible coming to see it," he added.

Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon said: "It's no secret that cars have been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember and I never miss an episode of Top Gear.

"I'm delighted that the Top Gear team has chosen mima for this unique display of automotive art and I have no doubt that many thousands will come from far and wide to enjoy it.

"The programme deservedly has an audience of many millions, and they too will have a chance to see what our town is all about.

"mima is symbolic of Middlesbrough's relentless drive forward and upward, and an event of this size and stature is yet more proof that that ambition is being realised."

To apply for Saturday and Sunday tickets to the Top Gear automotive art exhibition at mima, visit www.middlesbrough.gov.uk Please note tickets are very limited and will be issued on a strictly first come first served basis.