Donington Park

[track map]
Two-Four Sports Ltd
Donington Park
Castle Donington

Tel: 01332 810048     Fax: 01332 850422
Eight miles SE of Derby

Circuit length: 2.50 miles (Grand Prix), 1.9573 miles (National)

Track History

Donington Park in 1931 was owned by a Mr.Shields who used to open the park to the public for the price of 6d. Fred Craner, a local garage owner and motorcycle racer, was looking for somewhere local to compete, and he came to an agreement with the landowner to hold a race on a dirt track in the grounds. The first meeting was held on Whit Monday, May 1931, on a 2 mile 327yd circuit.

For 1932 the track was improved, and a combined motorcycle and sidecar meeting was held. For 1933, the track was widened and tarmacked at a cost of 12,000, and the first car meeting was held on the 25th March, followed by a further three car meetings that year. The track was extended for 1934, and by 1935 the circuit was 2 miles 971 yds long, and was established enough to hold the first Donington Grand Prix. The race was 4hrs47m12s long, and was won by Richard Shuttleworth in an Alfa Romeo.

For 1937 the circuit was extended again to 3 miles 220 yds, with the circuit being extended down the Melbourne Hill to the Melbourne Corner, which was situated just over the county border in Derbyshire! This version was used to hold the famous Third Donington Grand Prix, won by Bernd Rosemeyer in 3h1m22s in an Auto Union C Type. However, the war soon intervened, and the circuit was requisitioned by the military to store vehicles.

Although attempts were made to reopen the circuit, none were successful until the grounds were purchased by the self-made millionaire Tom Wheatcroft. It wasn't easy reopening the circuit due to the protrusion of the circuit into the neighbouring county, so racing was restricted to the 1.957 mile national circuit which missed out the Melbourne loop and was modified from the 1937 circuit (some of the corners were reprofiled and moved, and the some of the corners were renamed - see picture below).

Wheatcroft harboured the desire of holding another Grand Prix at the circuit, so in 1985 he extended the circuit length to 2.5 miles by extending the circuit with the Shields Straight and the Melbourne Hairpin. On the 22nd September 1985 the circuit hosted the F3000 championship, and in 1989 the World Sports-Prototype Championship. Wheatcroft's dream finally came true on the 11th April 1993 when the circuit hosted the European Grand Prix, famously won by Ayrton Senna. However, the race was only hosted once.

In 2008 the circuit lease was sold and gained the rights to the British Grand Prix from 2010. In order to do this the circuit had to be extended, and plans were submitted to the North West Leicestershire Council in September 2008. The plans are shown below, with the changes and new pieces of track shown in red.

The underpass was built under the circuit between McLeans and Coppice, and various trenches were built across the circuit when the money ran out early in 2010, leaving the circuit unusable. The lease reverted back to the Wheatcroft's, who then sold the lease to another company who started putting the circuit back together. The holes were filled in, and as part of the MSA relicensing requirements, the national circuit link was modified, to increase the distance between the opposing Starkey's straight and the straight from the Melbourne Hairpin to Goddards. This modification is shown below.

A hot lap with Ellen Lohr (pre-2008)

in a Class 1 Mercedes C Class Touring Car

From the start/finish line, you go into the right-hander at Redgate. It's a very quick and spectacular corner, and there's always the chance of a big crash at the start. the car becomes very light at the back around here, so if somebody gives you even a s mall tap, you'll go off into the gravel.

The next part of the track, the Craner Curves, can probably be taken flat out - but you have to take big breaths and be very careful. If you lose it here, you're in the shit.

At the end of that section you get the Old Hairpin. It's only medium quick, but coming at the end of the Craners, it feels more difficult. The car is still turning when you start to brake, but ABS brakes help a lot.

The next two corners, Starkeys and McLeans, aren't really very special. The most difficult bit here is keeping your speed up the hill.

After that, it's Coppice. I think it's possible to lose a lot of time here, but I don't know if the other drivers agree. The corner is blind, so because we only visit Donington once a year, it has to be relearnt every time we go back.

You then have the run down Starkeys Straight to the Esses. The Esses are hard on braking, but good for overtaking. I don't like this part very much - I like my chicanes to be a little more fluid. This is just a stop-the-car-and-go-over-the-kerbs chicane. It's spectacular, but it's not so nice to drive.

Then we get to the first of the two first-gear hairpins. I like this section because it's so different to the rest of the circuit. The rest of Donington Park is green and sweeping, this is just Mickey Mouse.

The first hairpin - Melbourne - is fairly normal, but the second at Goddards is quite difficult. There's a camber on the track and you always have trouble with oversteer. And then it's across the line to start another lap.