RIP Tom Wheatcroft 1922 – 2009

According to a report on Donington Park owner Tom Wheatcroft has sadly passed away.

The 87-year-old has seemingly lost his battle with cancer, passing away at his home on Saturday morning (31st October).

Having made his money through building and construction, Wheatcroft has always lived within a 30 mile radius of Castle Donington.

Wheatcrof only attended 18 months of formal school, instead preferring to cycle from his home to watch the pre-war motor racing at Donington Park, “You had to be there to know what it was like. The W125 Mercs and the V16 Auto Union racing cars were doing 170mph by halfway down the straight. The noise and the smell and the speed – we hadn’t seen anything like it before.” he was once quoted.

Wheatcroft ran his own team during the 1960s before buying part of the 1,100 acre Donington Hall estate, including the pre-war racing circuit for £100,000.

Along with rebuilding the circuit from his own money he moved his classic car collection to the estate, the largest collection of motor racing cars in the world now known as the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition.

In 2007 Wheatcroft agreed to a 150 year lease of the land to Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, who went on to secure a 10 year agreement to host the British Grand Prix.

Unfortunately Wheatcroft would never see the British Grand Prix at his much-loved circuit, with Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd failing to find the funds for the development work, after many deadlines Bernie Ecclestone announced that the bid had failed and talks with Silverstone ensued.

TCF passes on its condolences to the Wheatcroft family.

  • John Foley

    Am very sad to hear of Tom passing, I was lucky enough to have a 1-to-1 tour of the Donnington Collection on a wintery rainy Sunday back in 1987 when i used to work at East Midlands Airport.
    I was looikng at the Gordon Murray Brabham `Fan Car` when an old guy in a mack coat said “why dont you have a sit in it?”
    I repied that as the car was not mine and that it was behind a rope barrier then I didnt think this was a good idea, Tom said, “you might as well, I have the place insured for £13 million!!”
    During the tour Tom said that before he died he would love to see a Grand Prix held at Donnington. How wonderful then that the best ever motor race of the modern age should be held there in 1993 and true to my promise made on the day, I was there to see Senna destroy the likes of Prost and Hill .
    Tom was a truly great guy with great vision, I will miss him, RIP my friend.

  • It’s a shame he didn’t get to see the GP return as the British Grand Prix before he died, not that it seems at all possible now!