The Donington Historic Festival 2012

In Events by Brian Smith

The 2012 Donington Historic Festival was held on the 5-6th May. A full day of spectacular racing action, off-track entertainments and even the sun showed its face on the Sunday. sent Brian Smith along to record some of the days action..

Over 300 racing cars took part in the days 12 races driven by some of the motor racing’s top drivers. As usual the action was outstanding, nail-bitingly close finishes and high speed racing all day. 54 car clubs put on displays of around a thousand fabulous classic cars of all kinds, historic karts belted around the Grand Prix Loop, the Trade Village in the race paddock. Sir Stirling Moss, was at the festival – an enthusiastic supporter of historic motorsport even though he retired from competition himself last year at eight two years old.

“We could hardly have hoped for a more successful meeting,” said event organiser Duncan Wiltshire, “with visitor numbers significantly up against last year. The weather on Saturday was a touch on the cold side, but against all expectations the sun came out on Sunday and shone on and off all day. Some spectators even complained of sunburn!”

Among the many highlights of the second Donington Historic Festival were… Sir Stirling Moss, who took to the track on Sunday for some demonstration laps in a very special Jaguar C-type. This, chassis XKC 005, was the actual C-type he drove to victory in the 1952 Reims Grand Prix for sports cars – and the first disc-braked car ever to win a race. “After driving with drum brakes, there was an amazing difference to driving with discs,” said Sir Stirling, reminiscing on his GP win of 60 years ago, and signing autographs for spectators.

Norman Dewis, the renowned Jaguar test driver, along with racing legend Win Percy, also came along to enjoy the Festival and sign autographs for fans. Frank Sytner returned to Donington for his very first race since suffering a heart attack while driving his Lola T70 at last year’s Donington Historic Festival. Clearly bouncing with health and “chuffed” to come third in Saturday’s ‘1000Km’ for pre-’72 sports-racing cars – driving the same Lola T70 as last year – Frank described how his life was saved in 2011 by the marshals, the circuit doctor and the staff of the Derby Royal Infirmary. “The marshals got to me first and they were unbelievable – how do I ever thank them for that? When the doctor got to me, my heart had stopped and they had to defibrillate for about two and a half minutes.” When asked whether he’d still be alive if he’d had the heart attack on the M25, he replied, “No. Absolutely not. The course doctor saved my life.” The Lola, meanwhile, took longer to recover than Frank himself, with the car’s rebuild only finished three weeks before the Festival, and no time for testing. “My first time back in it was for the 20-minute practice session at Donington, on Saturday morning. I’d obviously had loads of serious health tests before I could regain my race licence, but even so, I had myself linked up to a heart monitor while I was driving in practice, to check everything was okay.” And it clearly was… welcome back, Frank, and well done on third place!

In the infield, around 1000 classic cars brought along by the members of 54 car clubs formed a magnificent display. Jaguar and Porsche were the marques with the most cars on show, but there was strong support from Lotus, MG, Morgan, TVR, Triumph and Ferrari, plus a host of other marques including Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Riley and Daimler. And, of course, the racing… from the pre-War cars of the ‘Mad Jack’ to the thunderous Group C sports cars, not to mention 1950s sports cars and 1960s sports-racers, single-seaters and Touring Cars, the on-track action was fast and furious