Saturday (7th) saw my long awaited trip to Donington arrive. People arrived from far and wide to be there for the day, from as far north as Bolton and from as far south as Kent!
My car, comprising of myself, my dad and uncle made good time down the M1 from Sheffield and was happy to see a few familiar face waiting to greet me upon arrival at the Collection. Fellow Williams fans Andres and Paul were among the first to arrive as we waited in the cold for the cafe to open at half nine. By the time the cafe opened, there was already a good crowd of F1 fans amassed outside and when the Collection opened at 10am we were 35/40 strong.
After paying our very reasonably priced £6 to enter, my assembled band of F1 fanatics streamed through to take in the largest collection of F1 machinery anywhere in the world. The first room came as a little bit of a surprise to some, as we were greeted by the sight of The Wheatcroft Collection. This was the late, Tom Wheatcroft’s personal collection of WW2 vehicles, including a very big and impressive half track troop carrier.
F1 heaven was only a few feet away as the first sight in the following room was a display of Mantras and Tyrrells driven by Jackie Stewart. As you turn to face the rest of the room, you are immediately hit by a pair of Wolfs in the centre of the room from the mid seventies, complete with some of the widest rear tyres ever fitted to a F1 car. Other highlight’s of this area was the Gold Leaf liveried, Jim Clark Lotus and a March that was run by Williams in 1977.
Talking of Williams, the next room held the most interest for me as half of it was taken up with cars from Sir Frank’s team. All the way down the left hand side of the room were some of the most successful cars from the teams glory years including the FW07, Mansell’s FW14B that took him to the title and the following year’s FW15. For most however, the star of this area was the stunning Jordan 191. The inconic first car produced by Eddie Jordan’s fledgling team.
If you thought that I, and Donington have forgot about the McLaren fans, don’t worry as the next room was dedicated to the MP4 generation. Some of the highlights in this area include a very rare orange test liveried Mika Hakkinen MP4-26 and an even rarer, Nigel Mansell 1995 MP4-10 that he raced for only two races that year.
There was some notable omissions for the McLaren room, due to us arriving the week before the Autosport show. This included senna’s MP4-4 and MP4-8 that had beed recalled to McLaren HQ to be prepared for the show.
Finishing off the collection was a sea of British Racing Green in the shape of Vanwalls. For me seeing these pioneering cars of the early days of the world championship really brings home how far the cars, sport and technology has come.
With the first part of the day over it was time for a quick pitstop, refuel and to challenge the old grey matter with a quiz and caption competition. At the end of the lunch break, Quiz master, Paul Havell put the contestants out of their misery with the all important answers. After all the scores were in, Dan Gough was crowned quiz champion, winning a fantastic prize from Retro F1. While the quiz answers were being read out, Craig and Leanne from Octane Photograpic (our photographers for the day and who kindly donate the prize) were trawling through the caption competition entries. After much deliberation, Nigel, Keren and Rachael were awarded the A3 print of Sebastian Vettel for first prize. (See the end of this post for the quiz questions and caption competition).
It was a short hop in the cars round to the pits where we re-assembled to begin the track walk. Accompanied by circuit administrator, Jennifer Darby, we set off down the pit lane, making sure we didn’t pick up any penalties for speeding! For the more adventurous members of the group, the start/finish line, lights gantry attracted them like flies to light in the night, giving them a great view down to Redgate. After negotiating Redgate and standing at Hollywood looking down through the Craner Curves towards the old hair pin, I decided to walk the outside line taken by Senna on his epic first lap there during the 1993 European GP. That is one of the most special laps in F1 history, made even better given the on-track vantage point we had. Looking down the hill, you get a real sense of how much the track tightens into the old hairpin and how easy it is to go flying across the in-field through Craner.
After exiting the Old Haipin, the next point of interest wasn’t on the track itself, but an old bridge pillar made famous by Nigel Mansell in 1993 after knocking himself out after going off in a 1993 touring car race. As we started to climb again, we get to the back of the circuit and after a couple of right handers we were on the Dunlop Bridgeless back straight where we were met by a very strong head wind!
Undeterred, we battled our way down the back straight, through the Chicane to make our way down to the Melbourne Hairpin. This was another special part of the track for me as it was the point where Senna took the lead from Prost, fighting back from 6th off the line to lead at the end of the first lap. All that was left was to negotiate Goddards and our ‘flying lap’ of Donington was done in the very pedestrian time of around 50 minutes.
That brought an end to the day’s proceedings, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who attended, I was blown away by the great response I had. Looking back at the day, I realise that I spent that much time talking about F1 that I didn’t really spend that much time looking at the cars! Special thank yous must go to Craig and Leanne from Octane Photographic and Retro F1 for supplying the prizes for the day and to Paul Havell for being the quiz master.
Spurred on by the success of this first trip, I’ll be looking into further excursions in the further so keep an eye on here and on twitter for details of my next outing.
1- Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica and Michael Schumacher were all the same age when they won their first GP, How old were they?
2- In what position did Jenson Button qualify in his 1st race in 2000?
3- What was Fernando Alonso’s best result for Minardi?
4- How many times did Graham Hill win Monaco?
5- Who won the inaugural Bahrain GP in 2004?
6- Rubens Barricello made his F1 debut in which race?
7- Which F1 driver holds the record for the biggest gap between 1st win and 2nd win, 5years 7 months and 18 days?
8- Who won the last GP on the Nordscheilfe circuit
9- Who was the last driver to race a V12 engined car in a GP?
10- Prior to Nico Hulkenberg’s 2010 pole in Brazil who took the last Williams-Cosworth pole position?
11- Who was the last driver to win a race on Goodyear tyres?
12- How many wins did Michael Schumacher score in his 1st season with Ferrari?
13- Who won the last U.S. GP?
14- On which circuit would you find the “Degnar curve”?
15- Which team failed to qualify either of their cars for the 1983 Monaco GP?
The Caption Competition