Grand Prix dream comes true for circuit's saviour and thousands of region's race fans
THE dream of former Donington Park owner Tom Wheatcroft to
see the British Grand Prix brought to his beloved track has
SPECIAL FAN: Tom Wheatcroft bought the circuit in 1971.
dream come true: Above, the start of the first Grand Prix at Donington in 1937. The race was won by Bernard Rosemeyer. Right, cars like Lewis Hamilton's McLaren could be racing at the circuit in 2010. Top right, Tom Wheatcroft on the winner's rostrum with Ayrton Senna after the 1993 Grand Prix of Europe.
become a reality.
And Mr Wheatcroft, who was yesterday enjoying the thrills
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and spills of this year's Grand Prix meeting at Silverstone,
will be “delighted” by the news, said daughter Joy.
“It's his dream come true,” she said.
Mr Wheatcroft told October's edition of The Derbyshire
Magazine of his passion for motor racing.
He got the bug more than 70 years ago, when he would cycle
30 miles from his home in Leicester to Donington Park, crawl
through a hole in the hedge and watch the races.
He said: “You had to be there to know what it was like. The
W125 Mercs and the V16 Auto Unions were doing 170mph by halfway
down the straight.
“The noise and the smell and the speed – we hadn't seen
anything like it before.”
After driving tanks during the Second World War, Mr
Wheatcroft set up a successful building business but was sad to
see that racing had died out at Donington Park.
The entrepreneur, who had only ever attended 18 months of
school education, funded the purchase of the then derelict
circuit in 1971.
He created a museum on site to house his personal collection
of racing cars and memorabilia, which now comprises five halls
and more than 150 exhibits and is the largest collection of
single-seater Grand Prix racing cars in the world.
Graham Mulholland runs composites firm EPM Technology, in
Victoria Road, Draycott, seemingly a million miles from the
glitz and glamour of the F1 pit lane.
However, the firm, which employs 120 staff, makes various
components for six Formula One teams – Force India, Renault,
Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Toyota and Honda.
Mr Mulholland said the move to Donington would be great for
his company if a new business park is created near the
He said: “We are hoping to expand anyway. If they are going
to put that amount of money into Donington Park, hopefully
there will a business park nearby. We would certainly put our
name to it.”
One of the nephews of Fred Craner, who set up the circuit at
Donington Park in the 1930s, said he was delighted that it
would be hosting the F1 event for 10 years from 2010.
Stanley Craner, 78, of Calais Road, Burton, said: “I think
it's marvellous news, absolutely wonderful.
“My uncle died in his 50s and racing and driving was his
“He had two garages, one in Derby and one in Burton.
“I remember on one of the rare occasions we used to see him
he asked me what I wanted to do when I left school.
“I can't remember what I told him, but to follow in the
family tradition I should have said a mechanic.
“I think he would be thrilled with the news.”
Motorsport fans visiting Donington yesterday said it would
be a great venue for the Grand Prix.
Paul Martin, 19, of Coventry, said: “Castle Donington has
history running through it and is rich in tradition – it is an
ideal place to hold the Grand Prix.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done but I really
hope they don't change the course too much, it's so iconic.
“I will definitely be coming here to watch it in 2010 – I
Jack Middleton, 19, of Coventry, said: “I would definitely
come here to watch it. It's only 45 minutes down the road from
“It's going to be brilliant for the area because of the
amount of money it will bring in.”
Edward Baker, 33, of Bristol, said: “I ride motorbikes and
have ridden both here at Castle Donington and at
“I definitely prefer the track here though. There are more
reference points on the track and it's less slippery. I find it
a much more enjoyable track to ride on.
“It's great news that F1 is coming here.”
Andy Froggatt, 40, of Newark, said: “It's fantastic news. I
come here quite a lot for the Moto GP and would definitely come
and watch F1 if it was held here.
“My only concern is the problem with the traffic. When I was
last here for the Moto GP, it took about four hours to get out
and I would imagine the Grand Prix would attract even more
“But it's really good news for the area and motorsport fans
in the East Midlands.”
Darren Swift, 46, of Newark, said: “I know they've had the
Grand Prix here before, so it's got a history there, and it's
good that it's coming back.
“I'm a bit worried about the traffic, though. If they can
get that sorted out I think everything else will be fine.”
Andrew Knowles, 45, of Kendal, Cumbria, said: “This is my
first time at Castle Donington. It seems like a good track and
it's got to be a good thing having F1 here, with all the
investment it will bring.”
Sandie Kniarzyk, 39, of Kettering, Northamptonshire, said:
“Being from near Northampton I'm probably a bit biased, but I
think it's a shame it's moving from Silverstone.
“Saying that though, I have marshalled at both venues and
access at Castle Donington is a lot easier, in my opinion.
“I'm not sure if this was the best time to announce the