Rumblings, December 1973

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Donington Park

Work on the redevelopment of the Donington Park road-racing circuit continues steadily and plans have been made to hold the first race meeting in August 1974. This will be no more ambitious than a mixed short-race Club meeting and will be followed by a national motorcycle meeting. Further Club meetings, a Vintage Sports Car Club meeting and a second motorcycle meeting complete the plans for 1974, which should see the circuit operating smoothly and preparing for a much more ambitious programme of events in 1975. The present situation as regards work on the circuit is that all the services and drainage, etc., are completed, the base of the circuit is finished, widened to thirty-three feet, and the flat corrugated kerbs round both edges of the track are virtually finished. A spectator tarmac walkway has been laid round seventy-five per cent of the 2.5 mile circuit and the start and pits area is being levelled. The top surface of the track will not be laid until the springtime, when all the other work has been completed.

Before the first race meeting it is hoped to hold an inaugural “garden-party” opening day, with parades and demonstration laps by cars that raced at Donington Park in the past, those that would have raced there since the war, had the Army released the circuit in 1946, and those that will he racing there in the immediate future. This first Donington Day will be open to the public at a nominal charge, with access to all parts. Motor and motorcycling activities in the form of Club gatherings, driving tests, demonstrations and so on are happening already, in conjunction with group visits to the Donington Park Collection of single-seater racing cars, which is located on the outside of Coppice Corner, adjacent to the A453 road. The old loop of the pre-war circuit where it ran downhill to Melbourne Corner from Starkey’s Hairpin and round a 180-degree hairpin and back up the hill to the pits and starting area, breasting the famous Melbourne Rise where the Grand Prix cars aviated so spectacularly in 1937, is being preserved and used for Club gatherings and driving tests. This loop is not incorporated in the 1974 circuit for various reasons. The 2.5 mile circuit that will be used next year will be fast and interesting both for competitors and spectators alike, open grass runoff areas all round the course providing a great amount of uninterrupted viewing, even though the character of the Park is retained. With Donington Park being only three miles off the M1 Motorway it could become the most popular motor sporting centre in the country and already activities are increasing week by week.

Visitors to the Racing Car Museum are welcome to inspect the progress of the work on the circuit and the residents of Castle Donington village are so keen on the reopening of the Park and the return of racing that they have formed the Donington Park Racing Association 1973, membership at 50p being open to anyone who wishes to support the return of racing to Donington Park. Secretary of the Association is Mr. Martin Hexter, 8 Park Lane, Castle Donington, nr. Derby, and the Association plans to hold various activities, the proceeds from which will go to village charities.

Ferrari service

With the growing number of Ferraris in Great Britain, especially the little Dino 246GT and Daytona, it is interesting that a new service centre and spare parts store has been opened in the Midlands under the name of Graypaul Motors Ltd. In consequence Ferrari owners in the North will not have to make the long trek down to Egham in Surrey before they find anywhere that knows all about Ferrari cars. Maranello Concessionaires, the importers of Ferrari cars, have been situated at the western end of the Egham By-Pass for some years now, and any time you pass the establishment there is a mouthwatering collection of Ferraris outside. Now, if you turn off the M1 at Junction 23 and drive the mile or two to Shepshed with your Ferrari you will be greeted by a staff of knowledgeable and enthusiastic people to whom a Ferrari is a living thing, and not just “one of them foreign cars”. In the middle of the small town of Shepshed there is a large factory manufacturing rigid cardboard boxes for a variety of purposes, in particular for the shoe industry of nearby Leicester. This factory is owned by the Clarke family, and David Clarke has long been a Ferrari enthusiast owning six very desirable Ferraris. In the early fifties David Clarke was an active competitor in motor racing and used to share a Le Mans Replica Frazer Nash with Bob Gerard. His enthusiasm for the marque Ferrari has snowballed over the years and he has now opened a comprehensive service and spares centre in a spacious building behind the box factory, access being through the main gates of the parent factory. He is specialising in servicing and rebuilding as well as the supply of spares both new and obsolete, and whereas the Italian firm can no longer supply some things for Ferraris that are ten years old and more, Clarke is having parts made and building up a large mail order clientele. The large Ferrari sign in the main street of Shepshed looks a little incongruous against a rather dowdy background of Midlands houses and-factories, but will be a welcome sight to Ferrari owners needing spares or assistance.

At the time of our visit there was a P3 sports/racer of 1966 belonging to Anthony Bamford and a 250 GTO belonging to Bob Roberts undergoing rebuilding. Alongside was Clarke’s own pristine P4 sports/racer, showing how the cars would look when then were finished. More mundane 250GT coupes and 2+2 coupes were also in for service, that is if any Ferrari can be described as mundane. Clarke’s own Ferrari collection include the P4 already mentioned, this being the 1967 Daytona winner driven by Amon/ Bandini, as well as being the actual car that Vaccarella crashed on the opening lap of the Targa Florio on that classic occasion in Collesano, also an early Vignale bodied 212 Export, a 1962 GTO and a 1965 P2 works car uprated to P3 specification with 4.4-litre engine. Ferrari owners visiting Shepshed will he sure of one thing, and that is that Clarke and his staff know about Ferraris.

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