Classic Sports Car

Prix in the Park


Robert Heelis was a lucky lad! To be taken by his father to witness the awesome sight (and shattering sound) of the flying German racing machines driven by legends such as Rosemeyer and Nuvolari in the pre-war Donington Grands Prix, and at such close quarters, clearly made an indelible impression on him. And we are fortunate that we can read his first-hand recollecti­ons of those halcyon pre-war days at Donington (C&SC, March).

It was due to the commitment and enterprise of Donington Park owner John Gillies Shields and the

Derby & District Motor Club’s Fred Craner (for whom the famous curves were named when Tom Wheatcroft relaunched the circuit in 1977) that the site developed at an astonishin­g rate in less than 10 years up to the outbreak of WW2.

This was to take it from a dusty, loose-surfaced track in 1931 to an extended GP circuit in ’35, further lengthened in ’37 and ’38 to enable Heelis and his father to be amazed, along with 60,000 spectators, at the 170mph Mercedes and Auto Union cars. Truly a spectacle never before witnessed in Britain.

John Bailie

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