Donington Historic Festival 2012 – Report and Photos

Donington Historic Festival 2012 - Start of the Pre-63 GT raceThe Donington Historic Festival 2012 was held 5-6 May at Donington Park near Castle Donington in Leicestershire, England. Thousands of spectators enjoyed the 2nd annual Donington Historics, with its great display of tight racing action, plus off-track entertainment and even an unexpected day of sunshine on the Sunday.

Event organiser Duncan Wiltshire, said, “We could hardly have hoped for a more successful meeting 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.”

“With 300 racing cars taking part in the 12 races, and some of the sport’s top drivers, we knew the racing action would be outstanding, but the nail-bitingly close finishes in some of the races were a bonus. As were the 54 car clubs who turned up to put on a display of around a thousand fabulous classic cars of all kinds, the historic karts belting round the Grand Prix Loop, the Trade Village in the race paddock and, of course, Sir Stirling Moss – who is still an enthusiastic supporter of historic motorsport even though he retired from competition himself last year,” continued Wiltshire.

Among the many highlights 2012 Donington Historic Festival were the four races organised by Motor Racing Legends – Pre-War Sports Cars, 1950s Sports Cars, 1966-85 Touring Cars and Pre-1961 Sports-Racers.

While the Frazer Nash Super Sport of Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards won the ‘Mad Jack’ race for Pre-War Sports Cars by a country mile, it was the tiny three-wheeler Morgan Super Aero of Gary Caroline and Sue Darbyshire who took second place – much to the delight of spectators. Another heroic pairing was the husband and wife team of Simon and Jo Blakeney-Edwards, sharing a Frazer Nash Shelsley that raced at Donington back in 1935. In 2012, the Nash’s back axle broke in qualifying, so Jo drove across the country to collect a borrowed differential, Simon fitted it before the race began, they started from the back of the grid – and came through to finish fifth.

Gary Pearson came both first and second in the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy for pre-1956 sports cars paired with Carlos Monteverde in the winning Jaguar D-type, and sharing the second-placed D-type with his own brother, John Pearson. With four laps of the race to go, Gary was in the curious position of coming up to overtake his brother in the D-type he had himself been driving in the earlier part of the race. Mention must also be made of motorsport’s racing vicar, the Reverend Simon Butler, who was very modest about his chances in this, his first historic event. But he and Jonathan Crouch took their shared Jaguar C-type to 14th place overall, and 4th in class.

The tussle for first place between the Jaguar TWR XJS of Gary Pearson and Alex Buncombe, and the Ford RS1800 of Mark Wright and Dave Coyne, was the highlight of this nail-biting round of the JD Classics Challenge for 1966-85 Touring Cars.

Watching from the grandstand, racing legend Win Percy was egging on the Jaguar, lying in second place but rapidly reeling in the Ford. “That TWR XJS means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s the actual car I drove here in 1984, to my first European Touring Car win. I had a bet with Tom as to whether I could take the Craner Curves flat. He said I couldn’t, I said I could. I did it once, but only once – after that the tyres wouldn’t take it.”

Along with the rest of the spectators, Win’s heart was in his mouth as the JD Classics Challenge race came to its final lap. Heading into Redgate, Alex Buncombe attempted a do-or-die manoeuvre on the RS1800, and slipped between the Ford and a back marker to take the lead. “He’s going to do it!” yelled Win Percy–but sadly not. Later in that final lap, out of sight of the main grandstand, Buncombe spun and had to settle for second place.

The great man himself was there to watch the race named in his honour, the Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-1961 sports-racing cars, and Sir Stirling happily presented the trophies in the pit lane when the victorious cars came in. And what a race it was. Bobby Verdon-Roe put in a spectacular performance in the 1959 Le Mans-winning Aston Martin DBR1, beautifully prepared by Tim Samways, staying in the lead for the first half of the race but never more than a second ahead of the Lister Knobbly of Martin Stretton. When the two cars pitted, Stretton handed over the Knobbly to Jon Minshaw, while Bobby – as a single driver – had to keep the Aston stationary in the pit-lane for 45 seconds. As a result, when the two cars were back on track the Lister was ahead, but Bobby didn’t give up – closing in until on the penultimate lap he slipped back into the lead and won by a mere 1.4 seconds.

Frank Sytner returned to Donington for his 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.”

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.”

For complete results from all the races, visit

In the infield, around 1000 classic cars brought along by the members of 54 car clubs formed a 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.

Donington Historic Festival 2012 – Photo Gallery (click photo for larger picture and description)

[Source: Motor Racing Legends; Donington Historic Festival]


  1. says

    A superb event yet again. It is only the second year the event has been held and I hope it goes from strength to strength. One of the biggest attractions for me was the fantastic access to cars/pits/paddock and the very relaxed atmosphere with the emphasis very much on the racing.

    I took a little video of the first days’ proceedings –

    (You may need a reasonably fast connection to see it the first time)

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