It is generally a sign of a good weekend when Monday morning arrives and you find yourself struggling to summon up the enthusiasm to get out of bed. The daunting prospect of having to trundle your way through the foothills of averageness once again, counting down the days until the next exciting occasion comes along and temporarily lifts you out of humdrum.
I experienced a similar thought process earlier this week, having spent a thoroughly enjoyable weekend at this year’s Donington Historic Festival. Two days of gorging on an impressive roster of great marques and machinery from yesteryear, all racing around one of the most prestigious racing circuits in the world.
This year’s event featured more than 300 legendary vehicles spanning seven decades of motor racing heritage and provided some evocative entertainment for the respectable-sized crowd who braved below-average temperatures and dodged the occasional rain shower.
Being a fan of historic racing, I concentrated mainly on the on-track action and, without any hint of exaggeration, rarely have I seen such fantastic racing across an entire weekend as I did at this year’s Festival.
Each of the 12 races was scintillating to watch and most were captivating right until the very end. And there was none of this ‘touch-feely’ business you often see at other historic events; this was proper ‘have a go’ racing. Cars being driven in anger, and not out of fear of incurring a large repair bill.
Selecting a highlight from this year’s event is no easy task; such was the quality on offer. Seeing the Alfa Romeo 8C in the ‘Mad Jack’ Pre-War race was a joy to behold, as was the appearance of the rarely seen Porsche Carrera Abarth in the hour-long Pre-’63 GT race which, with its great diversity of machinery on display, was a mouth-watering spectacle.
Equally evocative were the Ferrari 512 and Matra 650 that competed in Saturday evening’s rather eventful Pre-’72 sportscar race – ‘eventful’ in the fact that someone on the infield had to make an urgent departure as his wife was giving birth and his getaway vehicle was too tall for the tunnel, resulting in an unexpected safety car period as he crossed near Redgate!
Other favourites included the BMW 3.0 CSL and ear-deafeningly loud Jaguar TWR XJS in the JD Classics race and, of course, the European debut of the unique Veskanda Group C racer which played a part in one of the best races I have seen – in any category – in many a year.
Andy Meyrick and Mike Donovan – in the Aston Martin AMR1 and Spice SE89 respectively – put on a fabulous display of wheel-to-wheel combat that lasted the entire duration of Sunday’s Group C race. The pair took turns in taking the lead, with the order often changing several times with each tour of the 1.9-mile circuit. It was motor racing at its very best. No argy-bargy, no gesticulating, just good, honest, clean driving.
There were of course other activities going on at this year’s Festival, and I did feel a sense of guilt in not making more of an effort in wandering around the vast number of classic cars that packed Donington’s infield. More than 50 car clubs descended on the circuit with many hundreds of cherished road cars – old and new – being proudly displayed by their enthusiastic owners.
And that leads me on to the only real quibble I have with the Donington Historic Festival: it finds itself in the enviable position that there is perhaps a bit too much going on.
Nobody can complain that the Festival does not offer fantastic value for money, but they do have reason to bemoan about the fact they may have to decide on what – out of the racing, car clubs, trade stalls or paddock wandering – they will have to miss out on. Perhaps there is a case for it becoming a three-day event in the future?
But like I say, that is only the merest of gripes which, over time, will likely be ironed out as the circuit evolves and the race schedule is finely tuned. What’s important is that the Donington Historic Festival has something that cannot be replicated anywhere else, and that is its unique atmosphere – one that looks set to rival Silverstone Classic and the Goodwood Revival in the historic motor racing event stakes.
Donington Historic Festival 2012 Gallery – LS Photos
All images featured in this article are © LS Photos.co.uk