Donington Park Circuit is a circuit in the East Midlands region of England, not far from Derby. Originally opened in 1931, it hosted two non-championship (but widely attended) races in 1938-39, and later was pressed into service for the 1993 European Grand Prix. In 2009-2010, the track was reported to be the new home of the British Grand Prix, pending significant improvements being made, but the money required was never raised, and the track fell into receivership. It has since been re-opened, but with no Formula One events on the horizon.
History and layouts
The track was the brainchild of Fred Craner, a former TT motorcyclist, and at the time a garage owner and was secretary of the Derby and District Motor Club. At the time, the only real venue for auto racing in the UK was Brooklands, and Craner started to look for a local site for racing. In his travels, he found that the Castle Donington estate was open to the public, and also that the current owner, John Gillies Shields, was a racing enthusiast. Craner got permission to set up a dirt track on the estate, and the first motorcycle races were held on Whit Monday, 1931. The track measured 3.518 km/2.186 miles, and more importantly, some 20,000 spectators paid to witness the event.
However, the track definitely needed improvements. Contrary to the current look, it was heavily wooded back then, with structures right next to the track. It also ran through a narrow gap under a bridge near Starkey's Hill, and near Coppice the riders had to pass through a gate and next to a house. But the track grew in popularity, and in the winter of 1932-33 the large sum of £12,000 was spent on widening, paving and sealing the circuit.
Before the 1934 season, the track was lengthened. At Starkey's Hill, the track now made a minor left kink, and a new straight carried the cars past the old Redgate Corner to a 180° hairpin, then doubling back to Redgate, which was now a 110° left. The stretch after the hairpin was now were the pits and start/finish were located, and the new track measured 4.107 km/2.552 miles. A shorter Club Circuit was created, with the straight to Redgate also continuing straight ahead, and paralleling the main straight back to Coppice House, where another right hairpin rejoined the main straight. No accurate measurements exist for the Club Circuit, but the estimate is just over a mile (1.6 km).
In 1937 the track was extended once again, adding a stub past the hairpin before the pits. Besides making the new hairpin tighter, and kinking it slightly to the north, the track now measured 5.029 km/3.125 miles. This was important, as the track was now long enough to attract the top European teams. The 1937 and 1938 Donington Grands Prix were proof of this, bringing the top stars of the era, and huge crowds coming out to watch. Unfortunately the war interrupted everything, and racing was not to return for almost 40 years.
Events at Donington Park
|1937||Bernd Rosemeyer||Auto Union||1937 Donington Grand Prix|
|1938||Tazio Nuvolari||Auto Union||1938 Donington Grand Prix|
|1993||Ayrton Senna||McLaren-Ford||1993 European Grand Prix|
Along with the abortive plan to move the British Grand Prix to Donington was a proposed major upgrade to the track. The main part of the plan started with the creation of a front straight that would directly connect a much tighter Coppice Corner with the Melbourne Hairpin. This straight (with a very gentle, flat out left bend about 2⁄3 along) was intended to have a relocated pits, paddock and start/finish line. The hairpin itself would be tightened slightly, and the return section would continue past the current Goddards corner, and would make a wide 120° left bend to a new, 150° left hairpin, near the current Old Hairpin. The track would then arc to the right, before making a sharp 90° right onto the current pit straight. This straight would be adjusted slightly to allow for proper runoffs for the new circuit, but would still be used as pits and start/finish for club racing.
This new Grand Prix Circuit would have measured 4.750 km/2.952 miles, and would still have as 'S' bend available to bypass the Melbourne Hairpin, and would have added a pair of connecting roads that would cut across from the new section to the straight between the Old Hairpin and Starkey's Bridge to create smaller tracks. There would have been a much longer and more spacious pit lane and paddock, and plenty of room for grandstands and amenities. But the projected cost was rumored to be in the neighborhood of 135 million pounds, and eventually the entire scheme collapsed.
|V T E||European Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Brands Hatch (1983, 1985), Nürburgring (1984, 1995–1996, 1999–2007), Donington (1993), Jerez (1994, 1997), Valencia (2008–2012), Baku (2016)|
|Races||1950 • 1951 • 1952 • 1953 • 1954 • 1955 • 1956 • 1957 • 1958 • 1959 • 1960 • 1961 • 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969–1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978–1982 • 1983 • 1984 • 1985 • 1986–1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009 • 2010 • 2011 • 2012 • 2013–2015 • 2016|
|Non-Championship Races||1923 • 1924 • 1925 • 1926 • 1927 • 1928 • 1929 • 1930 • 1931–1946 • 1947 • 1948 • 1949|
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