Former racer Dr Jonathan Palmer, CEO of MSV (Motorsport Vision), has acquired the famous Donington Park racing circuit’s neighbouring 28 acre Donington Hall estate that includes the Grade 11* Listed 18th century Donington Hall.
The estate on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border was owned until 2020 by Stuart Garner the driving force behind Norton motorcycles.The elaborate Gothic Hall will now be turned into a 40-bedroom hotel alongside the famous pre-war motor racing circuit with direct access to it.
The plans echo the dream of Leicester builder Tom Wheatcroft and son Kevin who envisioned the return of Grand Prix to the challenging undulating parkland race circuit opened in 1931. Pre-war enthusiasts thrilled to spectacular scenes as single-seaters raced around the snaking track and through an arch of a narrow stone bridge, while the powerful supercharged German Auto Union and Mercedes Silver Arrows were often airborne when cresting the hill.
Events in Europe brought racing to a premature close in 1939. Rolls-Royce built two huge shadow factories on the estate to protect aero-engine production at nearby Derby while the circuit itself was requisitioned by the army and became one of the largest vehicle depots in the country.
Sadly, post WW2, the authorities scotched all attempts to bring back the Grand Prix circuit on the grounds of public safety due to the expansion of the nearby East Midlands Airport the runway of which is just 400 yards away on its eastern edge.
Despite these knock-backs car and motorcycle racing in many forms continued and the circuit was continually and expensively upgraded. Financial problems meant that the former F1 racing car museum assembled by Tom Wheatcroft was closed in 2018 and its unique collection sold off.
Palmer now has plans to repurpose Hastings House, former home of British Midland International Airlines, into a stabling and workshop facility for supercars, race cars, classics and motorcycles. The plans for the reunited site also include reinstating the original estate gatehouse and linking the complex via a one mile long driveway.