A Visit to the Donington Grand Prix Collection

I was fortunate enough to visit the Donington Grand Prix collection about a year before the owner (Tom Wheatcroft) passed away, and his heir decided that the collection was “unviable” to maintain.  Tom must be tossing in his grave.  This was probably the most significant Grand Prix collection in the world, what a shame to see it lost.  Join me as we walk through the halls, which are now silent, I guess.


To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have overly high expectations of this excursion. I expected a nice little collection of F1 cars and paraphernalia, maybe a couple of videos. Boy, was I wrong!! Come join me as my personal horizons are expanded.

Located in beautiful Derbyshire, the Museum sits within the confines of the Grand Prix complex. As I was driving in and out there were numerous Astons, Jags, Ferraris and Porsches moving around – it would be an interesting place to do some serious car-spotting I think. Anyway, let’s go in!

This is the man behind the collections, one Tom Wheatcroft – Thanks Tom! I know that because it says so, right there – look!

Walking past the entrance (which I forgot to photograph, for some reason) was this 2012 Mclaren MP4/27A-2! This is the actual car that Jenson Button drove to victory in Australia and Belgium. Cool! I say to myself. Then I look around.

What’s this then? Definitely not F1 cars! So after a little bit of reading and exploring, it turns out that there are actually several collections here at Donington, including a big display of Military vehicles. I can live with this! On we go.

Here’s a better look at Jenson’s Mclaren. What a beautiful piece of engineering. And presented very well too. I’m impressed already.

There are a couple of halls FULL of Military vehicles and paraphernalia, like these – a Steyr and a couple of Horches.

Some of the military stuff is pretty weird, but very interesting, I thought..

Lots of very cool Motorbikes here too, like this 1941 BMW R75.

Even a 1939 Austin 7! But that’s enough Military stuff for now, let’s get on to the cars! (If people are interested in the military collection, let me know and I’ll either write a separate article or point you to my own website.)

The collections are housed in a number of buildings that are laid out in a snake-like manner, so you walk from one end to the other and past everything. Even the external windows are used, each having an image of a race-track past or present.

As we leave the Military halls, we encounter the first collection, which is dedicated to Roger Williamson. Roger was a protoge of Tom’s, who drove briefly in F1 before passing in a fire at the Dutch GP in 1973.

This gorgeous March BMW 732 was driven by Roger in Formula 3.

The walls are adorned with beautiful period photographs usually relating in some way to the display below them.

Another of Rogers cars, this 1971 March Holbar-Ford 713M was also driven in Formula 3.

Under most windows are these rather nostalgic-looking cabinets full of Trophies, car parts, and momentos.

This Wheatcroft-Hart R26 looks like a real beast…

And this VERY cool looking machine was built in 1969 by Cosworth, more famous for their hot engines. It featured 4-wheel drive for extra traction, and was designed by Mclaren.

I *DO* like that Cosworth!

This looks interesting! A whole hall dedicated to WIlliams!

Now THIS is what I expected when I came here! But it’s just a small part of the whole collection.

This FW11 was driven by Nigel Mansell in 1986, taking 5 F1 wins. It was one of the first F1 cars to feature car-to-pit in-race telemetry which allowed the pit crew to “watch the gauges” live! Power was from a Honda 4-cam V6.

By 1992 Renault had displaced Honda at Williams, and this FW14B was drive by Nigel Mansell to win the World Championship.

Damon Hill drove this very pretty FW17 in 1995. The car was designed by Adrian Newey and the second team car was driven by David Coulthard. WIlliams took 2nd place in the Manufacturers Championship.

This 2000 FW22 was the first car driven by the young Jenson Button in F1! The car was powered by BMW with a 3 litre V-10. I think I preferred the old colour scheme though…

The walls here are plastered with fantastic old photographs, like this one of Mike Hawthorn in a Ferrari 500.

Juan Pablo Montoya won the final race (Brazil) of the 2004 season in this amazing looking FW26. Juan’s team-mate that year was Ralph Schumacher.

Trippy! Moving away from Williams now, this is a Jaguar! The R3 was driven in F1 by Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa. 2002 was NOT a good year for Jaguar, unfortunately. I don’t recall it being raced in this livery, I thought it was Green/White?

That’s closer to what I thought it should be.. This is the earlier (2001) Jaguar R2. Only 4 Points finishes that year, with one podium at Monaco, by Eddie Irvine.

I’m not sure which year this Renault V-10 was used, but it sure is purty 🙂

Hello! Red Cars! Everybody knows they go faster, this should be great! This one is a 1972 March 721G/4. Now that really LOOKS like a race car should!

It’s 1972 and March released this very unorthodox looking 721-3 for the F1 season.

Now THAT’s a wing! This is a Trojan T101. Trojan built F5000 cars for Mclaren. Jody Scheckter drove one of these with a lot of success in 1973.

In 1973 Lola started their dominance of F5000 with this pretty T330. Jody Scheckter swapped from the Trojan (above) to one of these mid-season to win the US series.

And here’s a sponsor I don’t think I can recall on a racecar before. This 1975 Hesketh 308D originally featured a fully naked model, but censors forced a “cover-up”. James Hunt drove this, I believe.

Pretty as an Alfa should be, this 1980 Tipo 179 contested F1 with little success. It was driven by Andrea de Cesaris in the US and Canadian Grands Prix.

A Brabham BT60 from 1992. That’s a weird looking beast! Damon Hill finished 11th in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Sadly, this was the last Brabham to race in F1, but Damon went to become the 1996 World Champ. This is a very nice restoration which runs.

This 2007 Spyker M16 wasn’t very successful in race terms, but it laid the foundations for the team that became Force India. Some really nice engineering on this car, and a lot of attention to detail.

At the end of the hall is this really nice montage, a tribute to British Race Drivers. Very cool.

This very pretty 2003 Jordan EJ13 was quite unsuccessful other than a lucky win in Brazil for Giancarlo Fisichella.

Enter the very famous Ferrari 312b2 of 1971/72. Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx both had multiple victories in these cars.

Mclaren goodness! I am at this stage quite overwhelmed by the numbers, quality, and history of the exhibits, and still it goes on!

This is just one end of the Mclaren hall!

Adrian Newey designed this Mclaren MP4/21A-6 for the 2006 F1 season. Unfortunately not as successful as good looking, it failed to win a race.

Some Serious Aero there..

This hall features a large tribute of Ayrton Senna photographs by Keith Sutton, who was Ayrton’s PR Manager. My photos of his photos would be a great injustice, but if you can visit the Collection I would plan to spend some time here. The images were fantastic, and as a rabid Senna fan, they made me quite emotional. Keith does have a web-site where you can view and buy his images.

Ayrton Senna drove one of these 1993 Mclaren MP4/8’s which ended up with 5 wins. Quite a feat considering it was 100hp down on the WIlliams and 40hp down on the Bennetons that year. Ayrton did NOT approve 🙂

Here’s the other end of the Mclaren hall, with the beautiful 1967 Mclaren M4/A in the foreground. Although designed and run in Formula Two, one car was converted to F1 specification and raced.

This Mclaren M15 Indianapolis car was raced in 1969, but suffered a number of mishaps which injured drivers and prevented success.

And here’s ANOTHER hall, stepping further back into British Racing history. I don’t know a whole lot about Vanwall and BRM, so this should be interesting.

That’s a LOT of British Racing Green, and a whole lot of Vintage Race car too. Aren’t they just beautiful?

This 1956 Vanwall VW6 Streamliner had input from legendary Lotus designer Colin Chapman and was driven to victory at the International Trophy Race by Stirling Moss. This shape had a short lifespan.

And this 1950 “Thin Wall Special” was a Ferrari prepared by Tony Vandervell. It won the F1 title that year, becoming the 4th Ferrari to do so. It was the fastest race car in Britain at the time.

A very nice BRM cut-away engine which actually “worked”, driven by an electric motor.

How brave were the men who drove cars like this 1946 ERA E type GP2? Seat belts even? Naaaaaaaaah!!

Did I mention brave?

This hot looking 1969 BRM P139 was driven by John Surtees, but was not very successful.

Pedro Rodriguez (One of my early heroes!) drove this 1970 BRM P153, recording a (then) record average speed of 157.176 mph at the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix. Lovely looking car.

BRM’s last victory was attained in the rain in this P180. Monaco was the place, and the driver was Beltoise, who only won on this one occasion. Again, such a pretty car.

Maserati built this 250F back in 1955. Juan Manuel Fangio won two races in this car before leaving the team for Mercedes-Benz and taking the World Title. Stunning looking racecar.

Why don’t you wait here while i stroll back through all the halls to my car so that i can replace the camera battery which just went flat? I’ve taken over 600 photos by now – far in excess of what i expected, so i hadn’t brought a spare battery along. I won’t fall for that one again! I’ll be back soon.

I’ve seen lots of Austin 7’s before, including some race cars. But not like this 1935 Twin Cam. These revved to 12,000rpm! They competed in everything from speed trials and hillclimbs through 500 mile races at Brooklands.

This beauty is a 1927 1100cc Salmson. It had a twin-cam 4-cylinder engine which developed 80 bhp. Love the “Warning device!”

So here’s our next surprise. As well as the MYRIAD of Race Cars, we have some classic Sports Cars! Let’s see what’s here.

This LOVELY 1947 MG TC Sports 2-Seater is completely original, and has never been restored. It took the owners all over Europe on holidays before being loaned to the museum.

Here’s a whole lot of Memorabilia in a very cool setting.

This is a very early Jowett Sports, believed to be a 1923 type C Sports.

Here’s a nice picture of one of the early Vanwall Race Cars.

And this is a legendary AC Cobra! Built in Britain by AC Cars, the Chassis and Body were shipped to the US where Carroll Shelby fitted a 260 cubic inch Ford V-8. This is NOT a cheap car!

I’ve always been partial to the little Lotus machines, and this 1967 Lotus Elan tuned by BRM certainly hits all my buttons! Very cool.

Here’s a great photo of the famous Graham Hill. Like many legendary race drivers he was taken from us way too soon.

Thanks for all the memories Ayrton…

Well, that was quite the trip through Motor Racing history.

As usual, I’ve only posted a selection of the exhibits I found at Donington. I’m sure that like most other museums Donington is constantly evolving and improving, and that a visit in a few years would be quite different from mine.

Donington absolutely surpassed all of my expectations, and I loved every minute of my visit there. I hope this glimpse into the collection will inspire you to go visit and make your own memories!

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