There’s always been a problem with historic racing at some of the more modern circuits. Some are so vast that you feel a small step away from ever feeling truly involved. Not so at Donington Park, whose inaugural retro racing event last weekend was nothing short of a nostalgic treat.
With twelve races featuring more than 300 historic vehicles from the past six decades, Donington Historic Festival was a sweet reminder of the days when racing cars all looked and sounded different. Close your eyes and you still knew there was a Ferrari coming or a Jaguar E-type thundering by – and to see them hurtling down the infamous Craner Curves was a joy to behold.
“The advantage of Donington, of course, is that it’s such a spectacular circuit for watching the action,” boasts a proud Duncan Wiltshire, organiser of this year’s event. “There are few places in Europe which offer such a superb ‘amphitheatre’ from which to watch a race.”
Never a truer word spoken.
Particular highlights from the weekend for me included the hour long Pre-63 GT race which attracted a great variety of machinery, and rarity. When was the last time you saw a Porsche Carrera Abarth, for example? And, of course, there were the Group C sportscars to drool over – even if the race was decisively average, with Bob Berridge winning with a lap in hand in the iconic Mercedes C11.
But the results and how they came about are mostly inconsequential. Just to be able to see a great selection of vehicles racing around a circuit that’s clearly on the up is to be applauded.
“This was the first time we’d run the Festival, so we couldn’t be absolutely certain how it would turn out,” said Wiltshire, “but it exceeded our most optimistic expectations in every way: the spectators, the weather, the revitalised circuit, but above all the racing.
“We’re already discussing possible dates for the 2012 Festival, and hope to announce these as soon as possible.”
Donington Historic Festival deserves to succeed, and after this excellent first try-out for the meeting, there’s every sign of greater things to come.
(I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Frank Sytner a speedy recovery following his incident on Saturday. Frank is currently receiving treatment in the Royal Derby Hospital – thanks to the fantastic efforts of the trackside marshals).
Donington Historic Festival 2011 Gallery – LS Photos.co.uk