One Sunday afternoon in 1975 a friend and I drove to Donington Park to see just how close we were to having a racing circuit a few junctions down the M1. We had read all we could in the press but curiosity got the better of us.
We pulled into the car park and were amazed to find that we could drive through onto the part-surfaced track. We drove in and the place was deserted but for a lone figure some hundred yards away. We stopped and got out of the car as the figure drew closer, waiting to be told to clear off, but we soon realised it was actually Tom Wheatcroft – we could be in big trouble here.
“What’s the problem, lads?” he said.
“Just having a look,” we said.
“Well, be careful. You should be able to do a full lap if you take it steady.” He was clearly proud of his creation and thrilled in our interest. We got in the car and he waved us off.
Donington has given thousands if not millions of motor sport fans immense pleasure over the past 35 years so. It was deeply saddening to read of Tom’s death, but there was some relief in that he didn’t have to see the press of recent weeks.
This circuit is a gem, with what must be the best motor sport museum in the country. Surely it is the natural home for vintage and classic racing in the UK. Is there no one out there who can see the potential and put a serious business plan together to save Tom’s legacy? He gave us the hard part; let us not be the generation to witness its demise.
Steve Naylor, Alfreton, Derbyshire