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Donington Collection closing (Merged)


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#1 Doug Nye

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 11:59

I was involved at the beginning - now at the end... DCN

 

For Immediate Release: October 10, 2018

 

 

WORLD’S LARGEST GRAND PRIX RACING CAR MUSEUM

TO CLOSE ON NOVEMBER 5

 

News is released today of the Donington Collection museum’s imminent closure. Its doors will close to the public for the final time on November 5 this year, after 45 years as an absolutely must-see Mecca for motor racing enthusiasts worldwide…

 

Situated at the Donington Park motor racing circuit on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border, the Donington Collection Museum has housed the World’s largest display of purebred Grand Prix racing cars, including many rated as being amongst the most historically and financially valuable of their kind.

 

The Museum – full title ‘The Donington Collection of Single-Seater Racing Cars’ – was the brainchild of Leicester-based builder Frederick Bernard ‘Tom’ Wheatcroft. 

 

A lifelong motor sports enthusiast he had first visited Donington Park in 1935 to watch motor-cycle racing on the British mainland’s very first true road-racing circuit. He would recall: “From then on I was a confirmed enthusiast. I saw most of the bike and car meetings that followed, and in 1937 and 1938 I was hanging on the fence with the best of them, watching those giant German cars running in the Donington Grand Prix”.  Those two sensational races were the pre-war equivalent of today’s British Grand Prix.

 

After six years of wartime Army service Tom Wheatcroft launched his building business in 1946. It thrived, making him a wealthy man. In 1964 he bought a 13-year-old Formula 1 Ferrari single-seater racing car “just for fun – and I caught the collecting bug”. Over the following six years he acquired more historic Formula 1 machines, observing sagely “There’s nought so cheap as last year’s racing car”.

 

Initially the cars were housed in a cramped garage building at his Leicester home. But in September, 1971, he bought the circuit section of Donington Park from its long-time owners, the Gillies Shields family.  His long-term plan was to restore the old circuit – unused since 1939 - for modern racing, but first he built the museum there to house his fabulous fleet of purebred competition cars.

 

Tom Wheatcroft opened the Museum on March 16, 1973. Core of the display were three groups of the racing world’s rarest and most valuable treasures; the BRM group preserving ‘British Racing Motor’ team cars including the legendary 1950-55 V16-cylinder design with Rolls-Royce supercharging – the Vanwall group of cars which won Britain’s first Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship title in 1958 – and a stunning group of such truly Historic cars as the Ferrari in which the sport’s first double-World Champion Alberto Ascari scored the majority of his 11 title-qualifying Grand Prix wins through 1952-53, the Lotus 18 which Stirling Moss drove to win both the 1961 Monaco and German GPs against vastly superior opposition – and the very first Formula 1 car built and raced by triple-World Champion Driver, Jack Brabham.

 

With these core cars backed by many more of the World’s finest designs, including dozens loaned to the Collection by such leading still-active teams as Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, Williams and many more, The Donington Collection became an absolute magnet for a global audience. Over its 45 year career more than 2.5-million visitors have viewed its treasures.

 

Since Tom Wheatcroft passed away in October, 2009, the Museum has been run by his son Kevin. Today Kevin Wheatcroft says: “Closing the Museum after 45 years has been a really difficult decision, but family responsibilities simply make it the right thing to do…” 

 

Further details will be released shortly.

 

ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by Vitesse2, 10 October 2018 - 12:34.


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#2 GreenMachine

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 12:04

Wow. I came here to ask if, after visiting in 2007, it would be a pleasure or a disappointment if visited now. Looks like the question is redundant, or will be soon.

 

I have to say that my visit in 2007 was one of the highlights of my trip.



#3 mfd

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 12:53

Something has happened then between Palmer announcing he'd take over the museum & now

https://www.autocar....op-circuit-boss

Edited by mfd, 10 October 2018 - 12:53.


#4 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 14:19

:eek:



#5 Radoye

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 14:23

wow :|



#6 FLB

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 16:25

So glad I went in 2009... :(



#7 ChrisJson

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 20:26

So glad I went in 2009... :(

And I that I went there after the F3/GT race in September!

 

Christer



#8 Sterzo

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 20:49

This is sad, but the collection's been shrinking for some time so it's not a complete surprise. Quite probably it was never commercially viable. It's one thing to own a private collection of racing cars, and put them on display without expecting to cover the costs, but quite another to make a business out of a racing museum.



#9 nexfast

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 20:57

That's really a pity, it  was a very interesting collection, I'm glad I had the chance to visit it in 2014.



#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 October 2018 - 22:08

I think I was the only visitor at the time I was there (one wet Wednesday in 2016) so it wouldn't have been paying its way that day...

But it was a great disappointment to me, too. Depleted exhibits and unlabelled exhibits took the shine off the truly great exhibits.

What really comes to mind is just what will happen to all those really exciting and interesting things? Will they ever be seen again?

#11 Shane Bowden

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 02:47

I was there in 1975 and thought it was the most fantastic collection of racing cars. I still have the brochure of exhibits. Finding it may be more difficult.



#12 sabrejet

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 05:51

I visited around 1988 and thought its remit was too narrow: I expected racing cars and just got single-seaters. I doubt that was the reason it folded, but it was certainly the reason I never went back.



#13 2F-001

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 06:18

... I expected racing cars and just got single-seaters ...

To be fair, the museum was opened ('73-ish?) as - and is still titled - the Donington Grand Prix Collection.
I know that 'GP' might encompass all sorts of things, but maybe it's reasonable to have expected a focus on single-seaters?

#14 Doug Nye

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 07:44

Indeed. Before buying the tin - read the label?   :rolleyes:

 

DCN



#15 mfd

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 08:39

Ye Gods, it's full of Grand Prix cars...

#16 sabrejet

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 09:10

Nothing from the Miami GP sadly. :(



#17 Charlieman

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 09:59

What really comes to mind is just what will happen to all those really exciting and interesting things? Will they ever be seen again?

I remember reading announcements for the sale of the Vanwall cars and associated ephemera by Vandervell. I was so pleased when Tom Wheatcroft bought up almost all of it and have been delighted to see some of it on display. Some parts of the Vanwall collection have been sold over the years which makes it even more important to find a new home for the remaining (and substantial) display.



#18 F1matt

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 10:10

I read that in the last few years there has been an introduction of military machinery into the museum I am guessing this hasn't helped the visitor numbers? What will happen to the collection, hopefully another museum can step in otherwise it may be broken up, sold to private collectors and never seen in public again which would be sad. 



#19 sabrejet

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 10:15

Doubtful many of these will not e seen in public again: more likely that the collection will be dispersed and we'll see many inmates at various historic meetings. It could be a positive (less negative) outcome?



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#20 Pat Clarke

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 11:28

Sad news indeed. I have been to the museum about half a dozen times over the years, the last visit being a couple of years ago. I came away from that visit somewhat disappointed, but being glad I had seen it in its prime. Even then, I suspected the museum might not be there for much longer.

Others have discussed the disappointing direction the museum has taken over the years, but I prefer to remember what a great experience I had on my first visit.

 

My favourite memory was taking my son Conor to see the museum almost 25 years ago. When he first laid eyes on a McLaren M8 in all its orange, big block glory, his jaw dropped and he insisted he have his picture taken alongside.  There was an old guy doing some odd job nearby, so I approached and asked for permission for Conor to cross the barrier. "Arrr, tha's okay lad, but show respect" was the response. It was a few minutes before it struck me who I had been speaking with and when I returned to thank him he had gone.

 

Thanks Tom RIP for a grand gift to motorsport enthusiasts, but sadly, all good things come to an end  :cry:

 

Pat


Edited by Pat Clarke, 11 October 2018 - 11:29.


#21 Terry Walker

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 12:21

From 1994

 

13_Donington1994.jpg

 

15_Donington1994.jpg

 

19_Donington1994.jpg


Edited by Terry Walker, 11 October 2018 - 12:28.


#22 Terry Walker

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 12:24

19_Donington1994.jpg

 

22_Donington1994.jpg

 

22_Donington1994.jpg



#23 Terry Walker

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 12:28

Bugger! doubled up.

 

20_Donington1994.jpg

 

18_Donington1994.jpg

 

16_Donington1994.jpg



#24 Pat Clarke

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 12:35

 

 

 

 

18_Donington1994.jpg

 

 

 

Thanks Terry. That's 'Conor's M8', and the rope barricade he had permission to cross   ;)

 

Pat


Edited by Pat Clarke, 12 October 2018 - 03:16.


#25 Belmondo

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 14:11

Good news in my view, I found it a depressing place. The inmates can now be liberated...



#26 PCC

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 14:40

This is terribly sad news. I visited only once, as a young man in (I think) 1983. My recollection is that it was called 'The Tom Wheatcroft Collection of Single-Seater Racing Cars.'

 

The occasion of my visit was my first-ever trip abroad. Unlike most Canadian boys, I grew up following racing with fanatical enthusiasm, and the drivers were my heroes. My trip to England was in the dead of winter, so there was no prospect of seeing a race, but I had read about the Wheatcroft Collection many times, and this was my big chance.

 

Figuring out how to reach Donnington on a combination of trains and buses was not the work of a moment, but that merely heightened the sense of pilgrimage. And it more than lived up to my expectations. I was the only one in the place, and walking around in silence among the icons of my childhood filled me with awe. I know that some maintain that a racing car is only truly alive when it's on the track, but seeing them still and quiet gave me the opportunity to fill in the gaps with my own imagination. To me, they weren't in a museum - they were at Monza, and Spa, and the Nürburging, all at once - and even at Mosport, where I'd seen a few of them race.

 

It's tragic that no new generation of impressionable racing fans will be able to have that experience.



#27 Rob Ryder

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 18:25

I am led to wondering what will be next?   The Donington Park Housing Estate?

 

:cry:



#28 MCS

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Posted 11 October 2018 - 20:45

Rob may have a point, sadly and depressingly.

 

First time I went was 1977 and it was simply great back then - a fabulous novelty.  All those cars, all that history, within reaching distance.

 

I last visited about fifteen or so years ago and it wasn't good.  Far from it.

 

A fantasy, I know, but wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all chip together and buy at least some of the cars and get them to somebody like Simon Hadfield to prepare and race again?!  I seriously doubt he would keep them in a museum.



#29 Terry Walker

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 01:13

A couple more:

 

17-Donington1994.jpg

 

15-Donington800.jpg



#30 Terry Walker

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 01:14

I still remember well how awestruck I was at the incredible collection and how well arranged it was back in 1994. There ere only about three or four people there when I visited, admittedly a weekday, as you can see by the photos.



#31 Terry Walker

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 01:17

Oh, and these single--seaters, too:

 

14-Donington800.jpg



#32 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 06:49

With many collections there seem to be a certain end. In the Ferrari world we used to have famous collections: Setton, Obrist and Bardinon. They had more to make Enzo envy and likely gave an inspiration to start a museum in Maranello. All three collections have disappeared now.

With the DC that I visited twice, I feel the crown jewels of British motorsport are assembled. In the other thread I stated most Loti's escaped, but still Vanwall, BRM, ... I hope there will be the sense that closing and selling it all off is like making a big mistake. Of course I do not oppose to bring these cars back to the track (as discussed in said thread), with all the risks (a March 701 similar to the one that sat on the wall for years, had this awful incident here in Zandvoort). But a diaspora will surely bring in a risk of extinction. Keep them together I say, even together with what Mr. E collected and stores.

No, the number of visitors have not been huge, also my visits I saw possibly 3 to 5 persons in the three hours I spend. Yet Donington is also not enroute for most tourists or racing fans (mid week). A spot at Silverstone would possibly be more viable?

 

In Amsterdam the Rijksmuseum is located in the center and house, like the Tower in London, what needs to be seen. Of course by the people and not just the racing fans. They however made a smart move by opening a small branch at Schiphol aiport. Just a thought.


Edited by Arjan de Roos, 19 October 2018 - 15:07.


#33 john aston

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 07:39

I get the impression that although we nearly all mourn its loss,  some of us went regularly, many didn't go often or at all , through geography or other reasons. The place was always deserted, so are we so surprised ? I might make one last valedictory trip. 



#34 Terry Walker

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 11:57

For me it was more than a day trip. Apart from flying from Australia. I was staying in London, went to work with my brother in his car, to South Mimms; then borrowed said car, headed north. Enjoyed the museum; then had to be back at South Mimms (or rather The Old Guinea pub at Ridge, nearby) by 6 pm without damaging his car (a Vauxhall Calibra coupe, remember those?) in time have a pint and go home to Hanwell. Great day.


Edited by Terry Walker, 12 October 2018 - 11:58.


#35 2F-001

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 12:10

If anyone is thinking of paying a last visit, perhaps they could - in due course - post their intended (or possible) dates here?
As I spend a fair bit of time in Leicestershire, one last trip wouldn't be a major undertaking.

Apart from on my first visit in the mid-seventies, it did always have something of a forlorn air, not least because there was rarely more than a few other souls there. I haven't been since the Military Coup, so I'm wondering quite how I'd feel about the place now.
The company of a few others might make the experience less melancholy.

#36 ensign14

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 12:46

Well, I was thinking about popping up tomorrow or Sunday, although that's weather dependent.  At the moment I am building an ark just in case.  But if it does blow through I tend to travel a lot further.



#37 mfd

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 13:05

Looking at the East Midlands weather today, it seems Saturday over here is dry as opposed to Sunday wet

#38 kayemod

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 13:28

Looking at the East Midlands weather today, it seems Saturday over here is dry as opposed to Sunday wet

 

Since it's all covered, does the weather really matter? At least rain would keep the crowd numbers down, though I've been twice and there were only a handful of visitors each time. I'm amazed that Kevin has kept the place open for as long as he has, it must have lost many thousands, though I suppose it's cheap parking for his tank collection. I wonder what Tom would have thought about all the military stuff?



#39 Charlieman

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 13:33

[Can we rename this thread: Memories of the Donington Collection? or similar?]

 

I first went to the collection in 1981. I'd picked where I went to university close to places where motor sport was going on at the time. On an autumn Wednesday afternoon I cycled to Donington Park. I'd been to the circuit before with family but this was my first time to the collection.

 

The exhibits represented the eclectic tastes of the collection's founder. The big F1 teams hadn't discovered it as a place to put a few pieces on display and the WDC Donington Park GP was still an ambition. The exhibits were things that Tom W or his mates thought to be interesting. As an engineering student, it was fascinating to me that so many exhibits contradicted the "standard" evolution of racing car development.

 

I've lived half of my life in the East Midlands. My second visit was in 2017, so I missed the BRM and Vanwall displays when they were packed out with goodies. There was still a lot to see last year. With better signage, the Williams F1 collection could have explained many aerodynamics rule changes. The McLaren exhibits are all right but they don't tell a story to me.

 

If anyone is passing M1 J21 and can offer a lift, send me a message.



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#40 ensign14

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 14:01

Since it's all covered, does the weather really matter?

 

That's just me - I try to find somewhere sunny for weekend sightseeing and walking.  So if it's persisting down over the UK tomorrow I could go up to Donington instead.
 



#41 cpbell

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 14:51

Very sad.  I went there in the mid-1990s and then again around 12 years ago.



#42 Peter Morley

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 15:30

First time I went there I was very young and extremely impressed by the 3 cars sat on the roof at the front of the museum.

Many years later I was very pleased to buy the Lotus that was part of that display.

 

Personally I liked the museum and the fact it had such a huge range of single-seaters (and the odd sports car, like Ford F3Ls, pre-war Bentley special etc. on occasions) and was disappointed when Kevin had to sell bits off to fund the work on the circuit but entirely understand the financial issues and appreciated the opportunity to buy one of them.

 

Likewise I can understand why people think the cars should be used but if that means destroying an original car so that it can be "raced" I'm not so sure.

Chances are the cars that have now been "liberated" will end up either locked away or on display somewhere I am unlikely to visit.



#43 David Birchall

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 18:58

I went to Donington in 1976 but it was a long trip.

 

I was working for a CPAir and flew into Manchester for a couple of days.  "I'll visit the new collection at Donington" I thought.  So I went to the local renta wreck company who could only rent me a rather dilapidated white van...  But the price was right since I wasn't going far.

I set off from Manchester having quickly looked at a map and spotted Donington near the east coast of England.  Funny, I thought.  Several hours later I arrived at (from memory)Castle Donington.  There is no race track or car collection there!  

 

I was directed back to Donington Park and I now put serious, fast miles on the van.  I arrived there just as the museum was about to close.  I was allowed in and they kept the place open just so I could view the collection.  I had about an hour I recall and was thrilled. There was also a motorcycle racing event taking place on the track and I was able to watch some of that before heading back to Manchester to return the white van.  

 

The man was not amused with the mileage I had added to his "valuable vehicle" and we did not part on friendly terms.

But I got to see the Donington Collection!



#44 Bonde

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Posted 12 October 2018 - 20:04

In 2007 about 20 of the cars were displayed at the Aros Museum of Art in Århus, Denmark. Living nearby, I was of course thrilled that a good bite of the collection was displayed so close to my home - in Denmark of all places (thank you, Thorkild Thyrring!). Having forgotten my camera on my first visit, I was happy to pay a (fairly steep) second ticket later in the same week in order to get my snappies.

 

Like Charlieman said, some of the cars were rather off-beat (Alfa Bimotore, Vanwall streamliner, Mclaren and Cosworth 4WDs) but that was probably more appealing to the artist Ingvar Cronhammer who had designed the installation, and great for a nuts'n'bolts nut like me. This exhibition appeared to be very well attended, both by petrolheads (who'd not normally go to an art museum) and by the general art museum public (who'd not normally consider paying to get a close look at old racing cars).

 

A nice thing about that display was the fact that each car was placed on its own little podium, well-lit and with no fencing around them, which actually allowed them to be studied at rather close quarters from all angles. 'Twas there, for instance, that I first noticed the steel rope pullrods on the collection's Lotus 72 (D or E).

 

I can see the difficulty in retaining the collection when only so few people actually visit it. I hope the cars find good homes, preferably open to the public. I'm divided as to whether they should be raced or not, but I cannot conceal the huge enjoyment I get every year, roaming about the pit garages and paddock of the Masters and Historic Grand Prix Car Association expeditions to the Spa Historic Six Hours event each September. Every year there's a "new" handful of cars I haven't seen before - it's better than Christmas! I only miss some more frequent visits by 3L 12 cylinder cars though - it looks like they only want to go to Monaco...


Edited by Bonde, 12 October 2018 - 20:05.


#45 john aston

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Posted 13 October 2018 - 07:04

I will make an effort to get down next Saturday , 20th. Just wish I'd popped in when  I was at CSCC Donington last month ...



#46 Doug Nye

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Posted 13 October 2018 - 09:24

FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE DONINGTON COLLECTION’S CLOSURE

 

Kevin Wheatcroft's personal statement further to the October 10 press release announcing permanent closure of The Donington Grand Prix Collection as of 5pm, Monday, November 5, 2018

 

"As the wider motor racing public will know, Motor Sport Vision (MSV), took over operation of Donington Park last year year while I retained the freehold. We have kept the museum open for one more season and there was a possibility that it might have stayed open under the control of MSV. They have considered this option, but it does not fit their business plan - and the decision was then made to close the museum.

 

“Its exhibits will go into storage until my family and I have considered their future. This applies not only to the Formula 1 cars which have occupied this building for over 45 years, but also 'The Wheatcroft Collection', a unique array of World War 2 armour and military vehicles which has been a stablemate to the Grand Prix Collection for 10 years.

 

“On a personal note, I have been associated with these historic machines all my adult life, having helped my late father to locate many of them, and it has been a privilege to help create and operate both one of Leicestershire's greatest attractions, and a piece of world motor sport history."

 

ENDS



#47 jimjimjeroo

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Posted 13 October 2018 - 15:00

F1 teams should step in and try and save it. Bet the running costs are peanuts in the grand scheme of things. Maybe relocate the collection to Silverstone

#48 mfd

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Posted 13 October 2018 - 16:13

The massed ranks of Williams, McLarens surely attest to some support from the world of F1?

#49 LittleChris

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Posted 13 October 2018 - 20:22

Wonder what will happen to the remains of David Purleys LEC ?



#50 mfd

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Posted 13 October 2018 - 21:33

It was sold by Purley's family a couple of years ago