Donington Historic Festival 3-5 May 2019

Two intrepid members of the Derbyshire Region brave the weather to investigate the Donington Historic Festival along with other JEC regions.

Nigel Mitchell and I decided to go along to the Donington Historic Festival at the beginning of May. As well as a packed Historic programme, a lot has improved at Donington over the winter following Motorsport Vision taking over the operating lease at the beginning of 2018. This trip would allow an opportunity to see what has happened over the winter.

Tickets were booked through the JEC website, which meant a 50% reduction in the admission price (on the gate cost £25), and most importantly parking in the reserved display for JEC members. This was, as it turns out, both good news and bad! Initial information suggested that all vehicles in display parking must be in place by 10.00 on Saturday morning. Fair enough, its only an hour from home, plus say 15 minutes for the margin of error and/or traffic. The bad news was, we were on the ‘Grand Prix Loop’ and for this we were required to be in place by 9.00 am! Not wanting to be late and forced to park in ‘general parking’, we set off from Matlock at 7.30am. Of course we were parked up by 8.20am!

Nigel and I travelled to Donington in convoy in our XK’s. JEC parking was smartly marshalled, opposite the Mercedes Owners Club on the GP Loop part of the track. The competitors were not using the GP loop so our cars were safe for the day! Parking completed, and many layers of clothing swiftly donned, and photos of the cars taken, my first realisation of our location was the change in elevation as the track rises after the right at Goddards. When I did track days in my Lotus Elise, I used to wonder why the car seemed slow to accelerate down the GP loop - now I know why.

There were some 10 JEC cars parked up when we left to explore the day’s attractions. Not as many as I thought we would muster, but more then the Merc lads opposite, whose Gazebo remained unoccupied all day as far as we could see!

First stop was a decent breakfast, so we headed to the new ‘Garage 39’ in the paddock. This large building replaces the rather sad but homely old cafe in the paddock. Whilst impressive, the organisation needs some improvement, but the food was good and welcome.

We decided to start by inspecting the paddock and pit garages so far as access was available. Most garages were open and the occupants only too happy to fill-in our lack of knowledge of their particular cars. There were several Lister Jaguars (see pictures) and also Jaguars of all descriptions particularly E-Types in various stages of preparation / repair. Then we came across the famous Mk 1 Jaguar of Grant Williams (see photo). Just look at that roll call of past drivers as Hartley settles into the driving seat! Had a good chat with Grant and what a great bloke he turned out to be! The car is extremely original and even still features the wood trim (which has seen better days I think) and still requires the ignition key to start!

Then on to our reserved seats in the new Hollywood grandstand, the view from which stretches from the pit exit up to and slightly beyond Mcleans at the far side of the circuit (if your eye sight is that good!). I think you can see about two thirds of the circuit (excluding the loop section) if you are on the right hand side of the grandstand (as you sit facing the circuit). If they could fell a few more trees you would probably be able to see the start/finish line, which would be very welcome! A much needed and appreciated addition to the spectator facilities at Donington. The grandstand isn’t covered , and being located on a newly created bank is fairly exposed to the wind (and of course the aircraft noise from above!). No large TV screens which seem to populate larger meetings elsewhere, although I think this is probably a good thing as otherwise why not stay at home and watch on Youtube?

The actual racing was amongst the best I have seen at a circuit for some time, aided by being able to see the cars as they ascend the hill after the Old Hairpin up to Mcleans. There were some fantastic battles in the races we watched on the Saturday. Keeping track of the on-track action is aided by the circuit commentary (when you can hear it!) and also the Motorsport Vision website which gives live timing, race positions etc. Essential in the longer races I find.

At lunchtime we headed for the infield to look at the car club displays. The view of the track from the infield is good but more restricted than from our grandstand seats. The lunchtime ‘displays’ were just that, some F1 cars pedalled probably by those with much more money to spend on their ‘toys’, and from where we stood they weren’t trying all that hard. Still, the noise was better than modern F1 cars!

There were plenty of food vendors in the infield to satisfy us for lunch, and then it was back to the grandstand seats for the afternoon action.

In conclusion, the improvements to Donington are clearly visible to those who remember the circuit of only a few years ago. It still has charm, but the facilities are now being upgraded and whilst not the finished article, a definite improvement.

Hartley Jenkinson

Lsjt Xw91 Qnq Spi Zwtmd Jl Q
B Lofgf Ue Qgi7 Yeru35Nxe Q