Pre-War Grand Prix Featured at Donington Historics 2013

ERA Pre-War Grand PrixThe HGPCA Nuvolari Trophy Race will be among the featured racing classes at the 2013 Donington Historic Festival, scheduled for May 3-5 at Donington Park in Leicestershire, England. Pre-war Grand Prix racing cars will compete in their national colours and a number that originally raced there almost 80 years ago will compete at the track once more.

Two iconic Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 masterpieces, including the 1935 Donington Grand Prix winner, head the fast-growing entry, which currently includes Alfa Romeo Monza and 1750GS models, Bugatti T35s and T37s and a T39, a bevy of ERAs, the raucous Frazer Nash Nurburg, four, six and eight cylinder Maseratis, the Parnell-MG and a Talbot-Lago T26SS.

The sight, sound and smell of rare and historically very important racing machines returning to the circuit after so many years, cornering at Redgate and Coppice, negotiating the Craner Curves and barreling along the Wheatcroft Straight, will provide a spectacle that’s sure to have Festival visitors reaching for their cameras. The HGPCA cars will be out every day of the 2013 Donington Historic Festival, with qualifying on the Friday morning, Race One at 12.30pm on Saturday and Race Two at 2pm on Sunday.

Of the ‘Donington’ cars taking part, the straight-eight Alfa Romeo P3 of music impresario Tony Smith is of particular significance to venue historians as it is the very car in which celebrated Bedfordshire aviator Richard ‘Mad Jack’ Shuttleworth won the inaugural Donington Grand Prix in 1935. A sister car will be handled by German driver Stephan Rettenmaier.

Richard Last’s Parnell-MG also competed in a pre-war GP at the circuit, and will wear number 17, as it did when Humphrey Cuddon-Fletcher raced it (as a K3 Magnette) in 1938. Richard Pilkington’s Talbot-Lago is another machine with great period history, including Grands Prix and Le Mans.

Quickest of the Maseratis is likely to be the 1934 8CM driven for owner Chris Jacques by Dorset farmer Rob Newall, who raced Formula Ford single-seaters in the 1970s and remains one of Britain’s quickest Jaguar XK pilots. This car is dark blue rather than the traditional red of Italy, as it was originally raced by Prince Birabongese of Siam.

English Racing Automobiles (ERA) were successful in the 1930s and the voiturettes, with their supercharged Riley-based engines, remain hugely popular. There are seven examples on the entry to date: R3A, R4, R4A, R5B, R9B, R10B and GP1. R3A – driven by Briton Mark Gillies, who is commuting from the USA to race – was the first ERA to compete at Donington Park, in April 1935, while new ERA owner Nick Topliss’ R4A won the 150-mile Nuffield Trophy at Donington in July of that year, in the hands of Liverpudlian Pat Fairfield. Pat Fairfield would die two years later, in a crash at Le Mans, and a memorial to him can be found at Donington Park.

Peter Whitehead and Peter Walker drove R10B to third in the 1936 Donington Grand Prix, behind a pair of Alfa Romeos, and Whitehead went on to win the 1938 Australian GP in it. US-domiciled Irishman Paddins Dowling will race it this time, while Germany’s Rainer Ott plans to bring R9B – Charlie Martin’s 1936 Donington Park Nuffield Trophy winner. Another period podium car due to appear is R5B ‘Remus’, in which Prince Birabongse of Siam scored a second place and Tony Rolt won club races in 1938. It is now owned by American Charles McCabe.

R4, by then in C spec, won the 1937 British Empire Trophy with ERA founder Raymond Mays aboard, while GP1, the sole ERA Grand Prix car to be completed pre-war, was driven by Arthur Dobson in practice at Donington Park for the Nuffield Trophy but was a non-starter, due to an engine failure. Engineer Duncan Ricketts has it going well now, and it could well be a force to be reckoned with in the Nuvolari Trophy race.

The opportunity to celebrate 80 years of car racing at Donington Park was the catalyst for the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association’s decision to revisit an era of the sport and support this dedicated race for Pre-1940 cars at the 3rd annual Donington Historic Festival. Fittingly, the race is named for the charismatic Italian Tazio Nuvolari, winner of the 1938 Donington Grand Prix in a mighty Auto Union and the 1933 Le Mans 24 Hours in an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300MM.

With support from historic car preparers Hall & Hall of Lincolnshire – who enjoyed a long association with Donington Park’s saviour Tom Wheatcroft, restoring many of the Grand Prix cars which formed the basis of his Collection, still housed at the circuit – a fully representative grid is expected at the event.

Advance tickets for the 2013 Donington Historic Festival cost £12 for the Friday, £20 for Saturday or Sunday and just £36 for a three-day weekend ticket. On-the-gate prices will be £15 for Friday, £25 for Saturday or Sunday and £45 for the three-day weekend. Children under 16 are admitted free.

Tickets can be bought via www.doningtonhistoric.com and through the ticket hotline on 0844 873 7355.

[Source: Donington Historics; photo: Tim Scott / Fluid Images]

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