Donington Park

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Donington Park
Donington circuit.svg
Location North West Leicestershire, England
Time zone UTC+0
Owner The Wheatcroft Family
Operator Donington Park Racing Ltd
Opened 1931, re-opened 1977
Construction cost £12,000
Major events WTCC, BTCC, British F3, British Superbikes, WSBK, MotoGP, Superleague Formula, Pickup Truck Racing, Download Festival
Grand Prix Circuit
Length 4.020 km (2.498 mi)
Turns 12
Lap record 1:18.029 (Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4/8, 1993, F1)
National Circuit
Length 3.149 km (1.957 mi)
Turns 10
Lap record 57.221 (Marijn van Kalmthout, Benetton B197, 2011, BOSS GP)
The Donington Circuit layout in 1937

Donington Park is a motorsport circuit located near Castle Donington in Leicestershire, England.

Originally part of the Donington Hall estate, it was created as a racing circuit during the pre-war period when the German Silver Arrows were battling for the European Championship. Used as a military vehicle storage depot during World War II, it fell into disrepair until bought by local construction entrepreneur Tom Wheatcroft. Revived under his ownership in the 1970s, it hosted a single Formula One race, but became the favoured home of the British round of the MotoGP motorcycling championship.

Leased by Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd in 2007 the hope that Formula One racing could return to the track, the incomplete venture failed to raise sufficient financial backing during the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. DVLL consequently lost the rights to the British rounds of both Formula1 and MotoGP, and in its bankruptcy returned the track to the Wheatcroft family in December 2009. The only proposed race meeting that was announced prior to recent developments was the BTCC meeting. However, in October 2010, it was confirmed that the UK round of the WTCC would move from Brands Hatch to Donington for the 2011 season.[1]

Also at the end of 2010, it was announced that Donington would become home to an annual historic motorsport event, the Donington Historic Festival (April 30-May 1, 2011). However, in 2010, the Fogarty Esses were modified for faster exit speeds.[2] World Superbikes held the European Round in 2011 and 2012 at Donington but as from 2013 there will be no European round and the British round will move from Silverstone to Donington.


Creation, Pre-War racing

Donington Park motor racing circuit was the first permanent park circuit in England, which also ended the race circuit monopoly that Brooklands had held since 1907.

Fred Craner was a former motorcycle rider who had taken part in seven Isle of Man TT races,[3] and was by 1931 a Derby garage owner and secretary of the Derby & District Motor Club.[4] Craner approached the then owner of the Donington Hall estate, Alderman John Gillies Shields JP, to use the extensive roads on his land for racing.[3]

The original track was 2 mile 327 yd (3,518 m) in length, and based on normal width unsealed estate roads.[3] The first motor cycle race took place on Whit Monday, 1931.[3] For 1933 Craner obtained permission to build a permanent track, with the original layout widened and sealed at a cost of £12,000.[3] The first car race was held on 25 March, followed by three car meetings further that year. The first Donington Park Trophy race was held on 7 October 1933, and the 20-lap invitation event was won by the Earl Howe in a Bugatti Type 51.[3]

Donington Park showing Spitfire sculpture and track (2005)

In 1935 the first 300-mile (480 km) Donington Grand Prix was won by Richard "Mad Jack" Shuttleworth in an Alfa Romeo P3.[5] In the 1937 Donington Grand Prix and 1938 Donington Grand Prix, the race winners were respectively Bernd Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari, both in Auto Union 'Silver Arrows.'

The circuit at Donington Park was closed in 1939 due to World War II, when it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and was converted into a military vehicle depot.[6]

Wheatcroft revival (1971–2006)

In 1971 the circuit was bought by business man and car collector Tom Wheatcroft, who funded the rebuilding of the track. Wheatcroft moved his collection to the circuit, in a museum now known as the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition which opened in 1973, and has the largest collection of Grand Prix cars in the world.

The motor racing circuit re-opened for cars on 28 May 1977, as per the original pre-war opening, the first post-war meeting was for motorcycles. The first postwar car race meeting was organised by the Nottingham Sports Car Club, sponsored by local Lotus dealers, J A Else of Codnor. That first car meeting nearly didn't happen, as the local ramblers tried to assert their rights to retain access to footpaths at the eleventh hour. The meeting went ahead as a "Motor Trial", a legal loophole that curtailed the use of single seater racing cars for that opening meeting. The NSCC continued to run race meetings at Donington until the Donington Racing Club was formed and a licence to run race meetings obtained.

The Melbourne Loop was built in 1985 to increase the lap distance to 2.5 miles (4.02 km) and allow the track to host Grand Prix motorcycle races – at 1.957 miles (3.149 km) without the loop, the circuit was deemed too short. This shorter layout remains as the National circuit, which is used for most non-Grand Prix events.

In recent times Donington has held meetings of MotoGP, the British Touring Car Championship and British Superbike Championship, as well as the 1993 European Grand Prix.

Other events taking place at the track include a 1000 km endurance race for the Le Mans Series in 2006, the World Series by Renault and the Great and British Motorsport Festival. On 26 August 2007, the circuit hosted the British Motocross Grand Prix, with a purpose-built motocross circuit constructed on the infield of the road circuit.[7]

World Series by Renault at Donington Park's Melbourne Hairpin in 2005

Donington Ventures Leisure (2007–2009)

In 2007, Wheatcroft via the holding company Wheatcroft & Son Ltd, sold a 150-year lease on the land on which the track and museum are located to Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL).[8]

In July 2008, it was announced that DVLL had won the rights to the British Grand Prix for 17 years from July 2010, with North West Leicestershire council approving plans for the required track and facility rebuilt design by Hermann Tilke to be constructed from January 2009.

On 27 and 28 September 2008, the Motocross des Nations, the biggest and longest running event in World Championship Motocross, was at Donington Park.[9]

In April 2009, Wheatcroft & Son Ltd took legal action against DVLL in Derby County Court, seeking £2.47m in rent arrears, as well as forfeiture of the lease. The legal action put the future of the British Grand Prix in doubt, with Bernie Ecclestone restating that if Donington did not meet required standards to host the event, there will be no British Grand Prix from 2010.[10]

On 5 June 2009, it was announced that an out of court settlement had been reached between Wheatcroft & Son Ltd and DVLL.[11]

On 24 October 2009, media sources reported that Donington had failed to raise the £135 million needed to stage a British Grand Prix. The BBC commented in its coverage that: "Donington's bid looks over, and that Ecclestone has offered the race to Silverstone."[12] Although DVLL gave further public relations assurance that it would be able to raise the required finance and host the Grand Prix, on 29 October 2009, Ecclestone confirmed that the British Grand Prix would not be held at Donington.

On 18 November 2009, the company went into administration.[13][14] Acting chairman Mr Price said: "This need not be the end of Formula One racing at Donington. It still remains a fantastic location. It needs people of vision to get the dream to the starting grid. We are certainly hopeful that a 2011 Grand Prix could take place at the site."[15]

On 7 December 2009, Formula One Management announced that Silverstone had been awarded a 17-year contract to hold the British Grand Prix from 2010 until 2026.[16]

On 11 December 2009, it was announced that DVLL had lost the rights to hold the British Superbike Championship race due to be held on 10–12 September 2010. These dates will now be used for a race at Croft.[17]

Return to Wheatcroft family (2009–present)

Donington's Dunlop Bridge

On 24 December 2009 it was announced that a buyer for Donington Ventures Leisure had not been found, which thus meant that the 150-year lease given by Wheatcroft & Son Ltd to Donington Ventures Leisure was terminated.[18] The ownership immediately reverted to Wheatcroft & Son Ltd, now led by Kevin Wheatcroft in light of the death of his father in 2009. Wheatcroft vowed to re-open Donington Park as soon as possible.[19] There were hopes to re-open the circuit in August 2010.[20]

On 26 May 2010 Wheatcroft announced that the lease for Donington Park had been sold (Subject To Contract) to Worcestershire-based Adroit Group. Adroit proceeded to resurrect the circuit, not only rebuilding the removed track sections, but also renewing infrastructure. This included the re-alignment of Foggy's bend, but not the old Dunlop Bridge due to new built MSA/FIA regulations. As a result of a series of inspections, the circuit successfully regained its ACU, MSA and FIA Grade 2 licences. However, Wheatcrofts and Adroit failed to agree terms of a final lease contract, and hence terminated their outline agreement.

The Wheatcroft-owned company Donington Park Racing took control of the circuit in late 2010, gaining events from both World Touring Cars and the World Superbikes, plus the inaugural Donington Historic Festival.

Motorsport at Donington

Superleague Formula cars down the main straight at Donington Park in 2008

At Donington Park several motorsport events including BTCC, British F3, British Superbike Championship, SBK, Superleague Formula, Pickup Truck Racing have all been held at the circuit.

Formula One

1993 European Grand Prix

Donington Park was the host of the 1993 European Grand Prix on 11 April 1993, which was affected by rain. The race was notable for the dominance of Ayrton Senna where he won the race by over 1 minute from Damon Hill, having advanced from fifth to first in the opening lap.

This race was described by AtlasF1 as the 'Drive of the Decade'.[21] There is a memorial to Senna in the grounds of the racetrack, outside a shop selling motorsports memorabilia.

Failed 2010 British Grand Prix bid

Proposed 2010 circuit

On 4 July 2008, Bernie Ecclestone announced that Donington Park would hold the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards in a 17-year deal, having been hosted exclusively by Silverstone since 1987.[22] On 10 July 2008, the proposal was that the track would have a major upgrade designed by Hermann Tilke, to include an entirely new pit complex along Starkey's Straight and increasing the circuit length to 2.944 miles (4.738 km), by the addition of a new infield loop, to get it up to the standards required for modern day Formula One racing.[23] [24][25][26]

The proposal was that race would be the first to be accessed only by public transportation, as cars will not be allowed to enter the facility. This was in part was an answer to the lack of road access, which even when 30,000 bikers exit major motorcycle events resulted in long tailbacks. The proposal was that a shuttle-bus service would run from the close by East Midlands Parkway station, on the Midland Main Line from London to Sheffield.[27]

In light of the financial crisis and Donington's potential inability to raise finance, on 20 June 2009, Bernie Ecclestone stated that there would be a British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2010 if Donington was not ready to host it. This was a change from his previous "Donington or nothing" standpoint and he cited changes in the structure of the BRDC meaning there was a better way of negotiating with them over future commercial rights. Furthermore, during an interview with the BBC about the Formula One Teams Association threatening to break away and form their own series, FIA president Max Mosley said it was "highly likely" the 2010 British Grand Prix would return to Silverstone.[28]

Donington was given an extended two-week deadline to prove it had the funds to host the 2010 British Grand Prix, however, on 22 October 2009, fundraising attempts fell through.[29] Ecclestone later confirmed that Donington would not be hosting the British Grand Prix.[30]

On 18 November 2009, less than one month after it was confirmed that the Donington had lost the right to host the British Grand Prix, circuit owner Donington Ventures Leisure Limited was placed into administration.[31] Although Ecclestone gave the option of reviving the deal for new owners, in December 2009 Silverstone won the contract for the next 17 years.[32]

FIA World Touring Car Championship (2011–)

After five years at Brands Hatch, the WTCC moved to Donington Park in 2011. The event attracted thousands of people on race day, where the two races were both won by Yvan Muller for Chevrolet. The weekend also had two races for the Auto GP series as well as the Maserati Trofeo.

MotoGP (1987–2009)

Donington Park has also been the home of MotoGP. After the Isle of Man TT Races lost World Championship status,[33] from the 1977 UK inaugural race, MotoGP was held at Silverstone until 1986. For the next 23 years, Donington held the race up until 2009, but in light of the proposed Donington Formula1 deal, MotoGP organisers Dorna Sports agreed a five-year deal with Silverstone from 2010.[34] Following the failed 2010 Formula1 bid, Donington has lost both competitions for the foreseeable future in less than a year.

Donington Park was proposed to host the MotoGP British Grand Prix as an alternative venue chosen for 2015, since the Circuit of Wales, having won the Dorna contract from 2015, will be unfinished.[35] However, in February 2015, it was announced that Donington had called off the deal, and that 2015 MotoGP would likely remain at Silverstone.[36]

Lap records

Category Time Driver Car Date
F1 1:10.458 Alain Prost Williams FW15C 1993 European Grand Prix[37]
Group C 1:15.281 Derek Warwick/Mauro Baldi Peugeot 905 Evo 1 Bis 1992 FIA Sports Car World Championship Round 4[38]
Auto GP 1:17.707 Kimiya Sato Lola 2013 Auto GP season[39]
LMP1 1:20.756 Jean-Marc Gounon/Gregor Fisken/Alexander Frei Courage LC70 2006 1000 km of Donington[40]
LMP2 1:20.921 Matthieu Lahaye OAK-Morgan 2012 6 Hours of Donington[41]
F2 1:23.116 Tobias Hegewald Interwetten Racing 2009 Donington Formula Two round[42]
FIA GT 1:23.854 Bernd Schneider Mercedes CLK GTR 1997 FIA GT Championship season[43]
MotoGP 1:27.676 Dani Pedrosa Honda RC211V 2006 British motorcycle Grand Prix[44]
WSB 1:27.071 Tom Sykes Kawasaki ZX-10R 2015 Donington Superbike World Championship round[45]
FIA GT1 1:27.693 (cold weather) Michael Bartels/Yelmer Buurman BMW E89 Z4 GT3 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship season[46]
F3 1:27.930 Alex Craven Dallara F307 2013[39]
DTM 1:28.206 Bernd Schneider Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class 2003 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters season
LMGTE 1:29.328 Jonny Cocker JMW Ferrari 458 Italia 2012 6 Hours of Donington
GT3 1:29.679 Zak Brown McLaren MP4-12C 2012 British GT season[39]
Formula E 1:29.920 Lucas di Grassi ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 2015 Formula E pre-season testing[47]
BPR GT 1:31.600 (cold, cloudy weather slowing laptime) John Nielsen Mclaren F1 GTR 1995 BPR Global GT Series season[48][49]
F4 1:31.603 Charlie Robertson HHC Motorsport 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Championship season[39]
Formula Ford 1:31.730 Antti Buri JTR 2012 British Formula Ford season[39]
GT4 1:37.355 Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Ginetta 2012 British GT season[39]
WTCC 1:37.380 Robert Huff Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 2011 FIA WTCC Race of UK[50]
Mini Challenge 1:45.549 Chris Smith Mini John Cooper Works 2013[39]
Formula Vee 1:46.320 Paul Smith Formula Vee 2013[39]
Fun Cup 1:54.757 Volkswagen Beetle 2010[39]

Other events

Beside motorsports many other events are held at Donington including Music Festivals like the Download Festival, the Donington Park Sunday Market and the Donington Grand Prix Museum exhibition.

The Senna Memorial at Donington Park.

Music festivals

Donington Park has a long history of holding rock festivals having played host to the Monsters of Rock festival from 1980 to the mid 90s, when groups such as AC/DC, Metallica and Iron Maiden performed there. With a few years off the park then played host to Stereophonics' A Day At The Races event and the Rock and Blues Festival in 2001, and the Ozzfest in 2002.

In 2003, the Download Festival (owned and operated by Live Nation) began annually at the venue and continues to an increased three-day event with five stages, though as of 2008 the event is now held outside of the track boundary.

Donington Grand Prix Exhibition

The Donington Grand Prix Exhibition first opened to the public in March 1973. Five halls, with over 130 exhibits, illustrate the history of motor sport from the turn of the 20th Century. Cars include examples driven by such famous names as Nuvolari, Mansell, Prost, Moss, Senna, Fangio, Clark and Stewart. The Donington Grand Prix Exhibition houses a collection of McLaren and Vanwalls racing cars. Notable exhibits include the 1936 twin engined 500 bhp (373 kW) Alfa Romeo Bimotore which has a top speed of 200 mph (320 km/h), Jim Clark's World Championship winning Lotus 25, the 'howling' flat 12 Ferrari 312B, and Stirling Moss's Lotus, in which he defeated the Ferrari works team in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix. The Collection also features the World's largest collection of Driver's Helmets.[citation needed] There are several different type of simulators that allow users to experience the thrills of racing at speed.

The exhibition has currently re-opened as of 6 January 2010 along with the cafe and race control offices.[19]


Donington Park lies south west of Nottingham, south east of Derby and is situated in Leicestershire. It is a matter of a few yards/metres east of the border with Derbyshire and indeed has a Derby postcode and telephone code. The western end of the runway at East Midlands Airport is just 400 yards from the eastern end of the racing track. It is also fairly close to the M1.

East Midlands Parkway railway station and Derby Midland Station are close by and the owners have expressed their desire for spectators to use these stations and coaches to the circuit.[51] The owners are also in support of any future light rail transport to East Midlands Airport itself.


Donington Park has been simulated and can be driven in several racing simulations, such as Spirit of Speed 1937 (the 1937 version of the track is featured, as the name suggests). Another 1937 layout features in the popular rFactor simulation. This version is far more accurate than that of the Spirit of Speed version. The track also feratures in Sports Car GT, Le Mans 24 Hours, ToCA Touring Car Championship, ToCA 2 Touring Cars, ToCA Race Driver, ToCA Race Driver 2, TOCA Race Driver 3, Alfa Romeo Racing Italiano, GTR, GTR2, GT Legends, F1 Challenge '99-'02 (with a mod), Grand Prix 4 (1993 configuration, unofficial add-on track), MotoGP 3, Redline, rFactor, SBK-07, Race Driver: GRID, Need for Speed: Shift, iRacing and Project Cars. Donington Park also appears as a venue in the game Guitar Hero: Metallica.

See also


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External links

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