The 3-day spectacular Donnington Classic Motorcycle Festival is one of UK’s biggest and much-anticipated historic motorcycling celebration. Visitors would be able to enjoy races, displays, and parades. The venue has a lot of history attached to it.
First English permanent park circuit
The first race took place in 1931. It was a Whit Monday. Motorcycles raced through the narrow lanes located inside Donnington Hall Estate. The track was subsequently widened in 1933 and made permanent. From then on, it became a regular venue for Grand Prix racing. Competitions were halted briefly in 1939 due to the advent of the Second World War. The ground was used by the Ministry of Defence as a military vehicle depot.
Return to motor racing
Tom Wheatcroft purchased Donington Park in 1971. He was a local man who built his fortune during the post war years. He bought the place solely due to his passion for motorsport. In his younger days, before the Second World War, he enjoyed watching the bikes racing each other at the circuit. He spent the war driving tanks. Wheatcroft built a lucrative building business after he went back to civilian life. After going back to his first love, he sponsored a number of drivers at multiple levels. He had the biggest collection of motor racing vehicles in the world at one point in his life. The collection of cars is now displayed at Donnington Grand Prix Exhibition museum.
Donnington became popular in 1987 when the FIM World Championship British Motorcycle Grand Prix was staged there. The place helped to up the game’s spectator appeal. This brought in record visitor numbers, making the event profitable. The venue soon became the racing circuit of choice among participants of Moto GP motorcycling and the British Superbike Championships. The turns and twists featured on the circuit offer the crowd a thrilling racing spectacle. The skills of the riders are put to extreme tests.
For many spectators, Donnington remains their favourite. This is due to its history being associated with Barry Sheene. The latter was a world champion in the 500cc category. He took up racing again at this venue after suffering a terrible crash in the Silverstone circuit riding a Yamaha.
Festivals, markets and other leisure activities
The next 30 years witnessed a phenomenal growth in motorcycle racing in the United Kingdom. Under Wheatcroft’s direction, Donnington became known as one of the world’s best circuits. It became home to a large Sunday market. In 1993, the European Grand Prix was held here.
Good and bad
In 2007, the Wheatcroft Family entered into a 150-year duration lease with a new company, the Donnington Ventures Leisure Limited. The first few years were good, with the venue hosting the longest and the biggest event in the world of World Championship Motocross- the Motocross des Nations. In 2009, the company went bankrupt and Silverstone acquired Grand Prix contract. It was opened in 2010 after the track passed a critical safety examination. Its future is bright now.