16-05-2018 – Tom Taylor
Classic Vibes- Donington Historic Festival 2018

Donington Historic Festival, as you’d imagine, is a historic car event held at the legendary Donington Park circuit. I thought it only right, given that I’m not too far away, to pop over and have a look and see what’s what. 

The first car I saw when I emerged from the tunnel to the infield was a Morgan Three Wheeler, so I knew it was going to be a good day. Just don’t mention the sun, and my lack of suntan lotion, and the resulting sunburn.

Along with this RAF-themed (why not?) Three Wheeler was nestled amongst a plethora of other Morgan models, old and new, from an Aero 8 all the way back to… you know, classic Morgan.

What a collection of old, significant chunks of metal though. I heard one gentleman refer to the infield as ‘what heaven might look like’, and he’s not far off in my eyes. Here’s hoping my house in heaven has a huge garage!

With the weather as it was, it just seemed right to have a wander around the infield and just take in all this classic car goodness. The people were amongst the friendliest I’ve come across at some of the bigger shows. Load sparked up random conversations about how tight the seat of this racing car is, or ‘I’ve no idea how they could drive this quickly’ when looking at some of the more unusual examples. Ice creams and conversation flowed in equal measure.

And yes, that plane is as low as it looks!

My absolute highlight of the entire infield though, was this Alfa 1750. I can guarantee you that this would be one of my most driven cars in my Heavenly collection. I mean, look at it. Wide arches front and back to accommodate the 245 wide tyres, stripped and caged, it just screams functionality and speed at every angle. I’d even keep it yellow, just to show how bananas it is (sorry).

Speaking of unusual cars…

This beauty had a small crowd of people poring over its every detail for the majority of the day. I’d love to be able to tell you what it is, but truth be told, I’ve no idea. If you happen to know, drop it in the comments below, I’d love to find out!

However, I can tell you that I’ve got no clue at all how anyone would race this thing, or how the driver manages to shoehorn his sizeable cohones into such a small seat area. This thing must take some balls to drive. Balls and goggles, don’t forget your goggles.

And, a quick nod to this Marcos. First one I’ve ever seen. Ever. It didn’t disappoint, with its louvred bonnet and just plain unique looks, I couldn’t think of a car I’d expect to see less at this show. Maybe Donington’s trying to teach me to expect the unexpected? Who knows…

Then there was the racing. Bearing in mind that I’d missed loads on the Saturday, there was still loads to see and hear on the Sunday. 

The Coy’s Trophy harked back to when Minis shared the track with Ford Mustangs and Lotus Cortinas, with the Minis dominating in the corners, and the larger cars making up their shortcomings by tearing down the straights. To give you an idea how close these cars are over the course of a race, the top 3 were a Lotus Ford Cortina Mk1, followed three thousands of a second later by a Ford Mustang, which finished 0.14s ahead of a Mini Cooper S. Positions swapped lap after lap, and it made for fascinating viewing.

U2TC (Under 2 Litre Touring Cars) was chock full of  yet more Lotus Cortinas, but had a few BMW 1800 Ti and Alfa Giulia Sprint GTAs thrown in for a bit of variety. There was even an appearance from a certain British comedy icon. Well, his car, at least.

Rowan Atkinson is known for being a bit of a car nut, being a Goodwood Revival regular. He probably won’t be all that happy that his Cortina, number 75, came in last. It was a close grid though, with only 10 seconds separating the entire field. A far cry from this week’s F1 gap in Barcelona, it just goes to show how evenly matched these cars are, with a tonne of overtaking and competitiveness through the entire race.

But the biggest, fastest and noisiest of all the races I caught all day were the Formula 5000 and Formula 2 single seaters competing in the Derek Bell trophy. I’ve never seen formula cars on track before and this was a baptism of fire. These cars raced between 1967 and 1979, and I’ve never heard noise like it. Ear piercing, bone shaking noise. Quite how the drivers can hold a conversation after getting out of the cars is beyond me.

Earplugs, perhaps?

As ever, the unsung heroes of any motorsport event are the marshals. They had their work cut out for them throughout the day, responding to multiple breakdowns. Pushing an already hot Formula 5000 car up the hill of the back straight under a red hot sun is not my idea of fun, so hats off to the guys in orange. Without them, these events simply couldn’t happen. Thanks guys.

I’ve got a feeling I’ll be attending a few more of these historic races, the vibe flowing through this one was so relaxed, from the layout to the people to the cars, my short time at Donington was packed from start to finish.

All this, and I’ve not even shown you the car park yet… keep your eyes peeled folks!

To keep up to date with all the happenings here at Grip & Slide, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.