Donington nostalgia

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Sir,

D.S.J. has unleashed a spate of happy memories in his article on Donington Park and its history from birth (Motor Sport, Jan. 1977).

The original racing events were for motor cycles and three-wheelers as the track was only the width of a farm vehicle and in most places the surface was definitely of a sandy nature, and, as my scars bear witness, was a great help when vacating the saddle at the Hairpin, or Redgate Corners.

To the great credit of Mr. Shields who loaned the park and track, the untiring efforts of the ebullient Fred Craner, the Chairman, and members of the Derby & District Motor Club, we had cars performing there within three years, under the auspices of the RAC and its rules, for the good of all concerned.

Gone were the sports coat and flannels, polo-neck jersey and peaked cap worn back to front, a la Percy McClure, and others with their berets, we had to invest in crash helmets and expensive attire.

Then came the aristocracy headed by Lord Howe, Royalty, by our three Princes, often men in the Paddock talking to friends, and Prince ‘Bira’ who became a successful competitor and favourite of the crowds. Donington was firmly established.

Der Tag (The Day) 2nd October 1937 was the epitome of success for us all. The Donington Grand Prix, where the might of German motoring in the marques of Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union had been invited to do battle as a spectacle for the British. The “outsider” won the race, young Bernd Rosemeyer No. 5 Auto-Union by patience and skill beat the impetuous Manfred Von Brauchitsch in his Mercedes who would have been supreme had he not persistently burst his tyres, accelerating.

I was present when the great Neubauer, Mercedes Racing Manager, gave Manfred a lesson in race tactics after the event but we all cleared out of the pits when the huge neck of the Maestro took on the colour of deep red. He certainly pushed his luck as Manfred’s uncle was none other than F. M. Von Brauchitsch, C-in-C of the German Army; that horrible little Corporal had not yet taken the mint and through his infamous conduct written FINIS to our days at Donington.

Chester W. R. CHAPMAN