Jonathan Palmer takes over Donington Park

2017 F1 season

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Jonathan Palmer, father of F1 racer Jolyon Palmer, has added a former grand prix venue to his portfolio of British racing circuits.

Palmer’s Motor Sport Vision company has taken a 21-year lease on the running of Donington Park. The Leicestershire circuit held the European Grand Prix in 1993. The one-off event was won by Ayrton Senna.

1993 European Grand Prix: Senna’s last great win
Donington Park was named as the new venue for the British Grand Prix from 2010 as part of ambitious development programme by then-owner Simon Gillette. But financial problems thwarted the scheme and the race returned to its current venue Silverstone.

In recent weeks Silverstone has voiced concerns over the cost of holding its round of the world championship and indicated it may activate an escape clause in its contract. Donington Park had played down suggestions it could take over the running of the race.

Palmer, who raced in F1 himself in the eighties, already operates another ex-F1 venue, Brands Hatch. Oulton Park, Snetterton and Cadwell Park are also part of the MSV group.

Donington Park held pre-championship grands Prix in the thirties. It was redeveloped as a venue by Tom Wheatcroft. Following Gilette’s failed grand prix bid the track was acquired by Wheatcroft’s son Kevin.

“Like many circuits in the UK, Donington has had a turbulent time over the last ten years,” said Palmer, “though thankfully Kevin Wheatcroft and his team have now recovered the damage done by the previous owner of the business.”

“Donington is a good British circuit that deserves further investment, energy and expertise in order to make it truly outstanding, and MSV will provide this. We plan a great new era for Donington, with some exciting new events and much enhanced quality of experience for all of its customers, whether spectators, competitors and track day participants, together with even better value.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Jonathan Palmer takes over Donington Park”

  1. The proposed 2010 lay-out looked pretty good imho. I don’t know what went wrong there, but it could work.

    Would the MSV group look to prepare Donington for F1 again or is there no connection with the Silverstone situation at all here?

    1. Why would they, it would be suicide! They can’t make any money from hosting an F1 event so why on earth would they want to lose money?

    2. They should just extend both parallel straights up to where the original Melbourne hairpin was in the 1930’s. That would work for F1.

    3. LovelyLovelyLuffield
      14th January 2017, 5:34

      Still gonna butcher Coppice, but otherwise, yes, please.

    4. “What went wrong” was that the then-owner thought it would be a lot cheaper than it was, to the point where they barely managed to demolish the things they were going to rebuild before the cash ran out. Needless to say, this created a huge mess. Thankfully Kevin Wheatcroft and his team got the track back from the brink.

      In the unlikely event that MSV is intending to try for the Grand Prix, I would imagine that they would go about it in a much more financially organised way.

  2. @keithcollantine: Small nitpitck, it’s Cadwell Park, not Caldwell Park

    1. @jimg The well-worn backspace button has been duly jabbed. Ta!

  3. Think I commented on this when it was mooted a month or two ago, but I feel like bringing all of our major circuits under the ownership of one company is storing up problems for the future, regardless of their expertise. That said, I have nothing against Palmer or his company in particular, by all accounts they do a great job.

    1. It’s not the first time MSV has attempted it, and it went somewhat odd in 2000 as well (albeit mostly because Bernie got beaten at his own “brinkmanship with Silverstone” game by the operator of the Brands Hatch circuit – long story). I have misgivings too, though like you I can also think of much worse purchasers for a racing circuit.

  4. Palmer overtaking, tastes like more ;)

  5. Donnington, Cadwell or Oulton Park are nowhere near the caliber of Silverstone. Upgrade the others to the level of hospitality and infrastructure of Silverstone will cost Palmer more than he’ll ever receive from it, that is unless Liberty plan to hold 4 British GPs a year,…

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