With the World Superbikes landing on home turf this weekend, we thought it would only be right to take a look at some interesting facts about Donington Park, host of the championship and widely considered to be the home of British motorsport.
1. The Donington Park circuit was England’s first-ever permanent park circuit. Its creation in 1931 ended Brooklands’ race circuit domination in the country, which had been England’s only motorsport venue since 1907.
2. The Gillies Shields family were the owners of the Donington Park estate up until the start of WW1, when it was requisitioned by the government and transformed into a prisoner of war camp. In 1915 German pilot Gunther Pluschow made one of very few successful escapes from Donington.
3. The original track was 3,518 metres long and was the same width as normal estate roads at the time. In 1933, however, former motorcycle racer Fred Craner was granted permission to build a permanent racing track. The new track was significantly widened and paved with tarmac, with the revamp costing a total £12,000.
4. The first motorcycle race was held on Whit Monday in 1931, two years prior to the track’s overhaul. The first car race took place in March 1933, with three consecutive car meetings taking place that same year. 7 October 1933 marked the venue’s first trophy event, which was won by Earle Howe in a Bugatti Type 51.
5. In 1939, the Donington Park race circuit was closed in light of World War II. The area was taken over by the MoD, who used it as a military vehicle depot.
6. In the early 1970s, Donington Park was bought by businessman and car enthusiast Tom Wheatcroft, who paid for the rebuilding of the track. The park’s museum, called the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition, is home to Wheatcroft’s personal car collection among many other vehicles. In fact, it boasts the largest Grand Prix car collection in the world.
7. In 1985, the hairpin ‘Melbourne Loop’ was created, which increased the lap distance to 2.5 miles. The expansion allowed the venue to host Grand Prix motorcycle races, as before the loop was built, the track was considered to be too short.
8. The Royal Automobile Club promised that Donington could host the British GP in 1988. However, the deal was called off at the last minute, resulting in a case that was settled in court.
9. It was during a significantly wet 1993 European Grand Prix when Ayrton Senna won what is considered to be one of the best races of his motorsport career at Donington. Senna progressed from fifth to first place during the opening lap, and finished over one minute ahead of runner up Damon Hill.
10. Although Donington is a renowned motorsport venue, it also plays host to numerous other events. Many rock festivals have taken place in the grounds of Donington, with headliners such as Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC.