It’s no big secret that I love motor racing. My Dad inspired a love that both my brother and I have tried to pass on to our children. Sadly I don’t have Dad’s encyclopedic knowledge and instant recall of every car that’s ever raced since the year dot, where they raced, when they won and who drove them. But all the same, I do love watching motor racing of all genres. I’ve realised that I don’t actually share that love on the blog as often as I should. I’ll try to rectify that from now on and I’m starting with an event we were invited to recently. We spent a day enjoying the Donington Historic Festival and memories of my childhood came flooding back.
I spent much of my childhood either wandering along the Basingstoke canal looking for butterflies or watching the racing at Brands Hatch. It’s where I got to meet my Formula One hero, James Hunt and somewhere where you could wander around the paddock and meet all the drivers quite easily. Since moving to Oxfordshire my motor racing viewing has been based at Silverstone. My brother and I spend every British Grand Prix weekend lamenting on how times have changed and how it’s impossible for young fans to get close to their heroes these days.
However enjoying the Donington Historic Festival showed me that it is still possible for children to get into the paddock and get up close to the cars of yesteryear. Monkey got to meet Sir Stirling Moss at Flywheel last year and he loves Ferrari as much as I do. This was a chance for him to really see some beautiful cars and feel more involved in the sport. The day was a real success.
I reckoned it was 40 years since I’d been to Donington Park, a fact Dad confirmed later that evening. I have to be honest, I didn’t remember it at all. Why I’ve not been back since is a bit of a mystery to me now, as it’s really not that far from home, easily reached by motorway and is more informal that Silverstone. The circuit is also very close to East Midlands Airport, so not only can you enjoy the motor racing, but you get to do a bit of plane spotting too!
The Donington Historic Festival is a 3 day event, sadly we could only make the last day, so I missed seeing some of my favourite cars from the pre-war days. I absolutely love the Bentley from the 1920-30 era, just the most beautiful racing cars ever in my opinion.
On the Sunday there was a full day of racing starting at 9.10am right through to the last race at 6.05pm.
The circuit is very walkable and we could follow the action from both the outside of the circuit as well as the infield, which also has a grandstand facing the pits and start/finish line.
Through the day we walked round the inside of the track, great for taking photos without any interference from the catch fencing. It also gave my son the opportunity to run around on the grass banks between the action. We could see a range of Club and Classic cars as they joined their meet ups.
With food and drinks facilities and picnic benches you could really make a family day out there quite easily. There were games available to play and a bouncy castle to enjoy.
Access is via a tunnel under the track in the paddock area.
For my son, I think the paddock and pits area was almost his favourite part. Being able to get so close to the cars, see the engines and inside the cockpits.
It really made the day for him. He was invited into a garage, which just brought so many memories of my own childhood flooding back.
He was also offered the opportunity of sitting in a race winning car by the driver, but he had one of his shy moments, and just couldn’t be persuaded.
Daddy P was rather tempted to try his hand with the Caterham Experience, but settled for watching from the sidelines instead on this occasion.
We spent so much of our time exploring the paddock, pits and watching the various races that we barely touched on the Tarmac Lake and the various displays and activities that were available there. We did however, catch The Italian Job shown with the classic Minis, which was great fun.
Enjoying the Donington Historic Festival we got to watch a variety of racing, from the GT and Sports Car Cup featuring pre 1966 GT’s and pre 1963 sports cars. Monkey had never seen a race where the drivers changed, and we were lucky enough to be able to watch part of the race from the media centre, looking down at the pits.
We got to enjoy watching various AC Cobra, Austin Healey, Lotus, Jaguar E types, MG B, TVR and Aston Martin race, saw an Austin Healey retire and just generally enjoy the action.
The pre 1966 Jaguars always catch my eye. I am a total sucker for D and E type Jag’s and there were some stunning cars racing that day. We sat back and enjoyed.
The pre 1966 under 2 litre Touring Cars featured the likes of the Ford Lotus Cortina, Austin Mini Cooper 5, BMW 1800 Ti and Morris Mini Cooper 5.
There were also Touring Cars from 1970-2000, which brought back memories for Daddy P and myself as we’d both seen those racing first time around.
The Pre 1956 Sports cars featured more Jaguar D types, Aston Martin, Austin Healey, Lister Bristol and the Cooper Jaguar to name a few. More beautiful cars from a bygone age.
It’s probably fair to say that our favourite race of the day was the Historic Formula 2 race, the difference in speed was noticeable even for my 7 year old son. We’d wanted to see the Ferrari Dino racing but sadly it had retired during the Saturday race, so we made do with a close up look at it in the paddock.
Without the Ferrari racing, my son went for the very scientific approach, pick a number, any number and that’s who he was cheering on. He loved it, and that’s what counts.
The whole vibe of the event was very family friendly, and relaxed. Children were welcomed and we all really enjoyed the day. There are plenty of facilities around the track too and prices were in line with other events we’ve been to. Race circuits by their nature are open to the elements, most being old airfields. The sun was out but the wind was often blowing, so I always carry suncream with us. Waterproofs are often an essential too, especially if you’re planning to visit a circuit like Donington Park, as the grandstand is also uncovered. It’s also worth considering ear defenders for children, most are adjustable so they’ll last kids for ages and just helps to protect their ears, especially when engines are being fired up in the pits.
It’s also worth noting that for these kind of events children under the age of 16 go free, with a ticket paying adult. A one day Sunday ticket was £27 each, but for that you really were entertained all day long. It’s a great way to encourage a love of motor sports with children too. We will definitely be back again in the future. We spent a great day enjoying the Donington Historic Festival, and Donington Park hold events throughout the racing year.
disclosure: we were given complimentary tickets to this event in exchange for an honest review.