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2022 Masters Race Weekend at Donington Park

Growing up, Donington Park was my local circuit, the first place I ever really experienced motorsport first hand, the sights, sounds and smells of finely prepared race cars, the thrill of last lap battles and late lunges on the brakes.

The oft-recalled drive of Ayrton Senna in 1993, setting a ferocious pace in the iconic red and white liveried Mclaren was one of the highlights of my younger days, so the opportunity to once again reminisce over those glorious days, as the Masters Racing Legends and their grid of DFV engined Formula One cars returned to Donington Park last weekend, Steve Hartley notably in a Marlboro Mclaren, albeit the MP4/1 amongst the field, once again rekindling fond memories of ‘93 to those in attendance.

The first of three visits to the UK in for the Masters Racing Legends, and one of five Masters Historic Racing participations in the UK this year, a forecast for wall to wall sunshine on a Bank Holiday weekend seemed too good to be true. Arriving early as the gates first opened on Saturday, I was not to be disappointed, as glorious light poured into the paddocks, teams already hard at work fettling and making last minute adjustments before the track opened and qualifying sessions commenced.

The iconic sight of a Marlboro Mclaren descending towards the Old Hairpin
The iconic sight of a Marlboro Mclaren descending towards the Old Hairpin

Masters Racing Legends

In a wonderful moment of authenticity, the qualifying session on Saturday morning ended with Ken Tyrrell taking an unlikely pole in the ever-gorgeous Tyrrell 011. Narrowly posting the fastest time, Tyrrell was closely tailed by the perennially quick Martin Stretton, with David Shaw in the Arrows A4 and Steve Hartley’s Mclaren, all posting times within a second of that of Tyrrell.

In the first of two races over the weekend, Tyrrell succumbed to the pressure from the chasing pack. Stretton in the Tyrrell 012 stretching out an early lead over the Mclaren of Hartley. The Mclaren was seemingly enjoying the warm track conditions, and looked to threaten for a number of laps, as the pressure mounted, before in a sublime penultimate lap challenge, making the move that gained him the race win, passing Stretton on the start/finish straight.

F1 car on racetrack

Similar fortune did not befall Hartley in the second race of the weekend, with a mechanical issue forcing his retirement on the first lap. Stretton, who started from the pitlane, constructed an inspired drive to cut his way through the field, to join the fight for a podium with the duelling Lotuses of Kubota and Brooks, both engaged in a compelling battle at the head of the field.

Stretton’s pace ultimately proving too much for the two, freeing him to chase after the leading Greg Thornton, with the race ultimately coming down to the final few minutes, Stretton easing his Tyrrell 012 past Thornton to expertly manage the last couple of laps, before taking the chequered flag.

Two wonderful races, packed with drama and tension, a reminder, if one were needed, that the effortless grace with which the F1 cars of yesteryear apply their power to the Donington tarmac, is always a thing of wonder, and for me will never lose its magic.

Masters Gentlemen Drivers

The race winning Cobra Daytona of Thomas/Lockie
The race winning Cobra Daytona of Thomas/Lockie

The Cobra was the car to be in for the 90 minute Gentlemen Drivers race, with two sensational Cobras on the front row of the grid, one proving to be the class of the field in the race, with the Thomas/Lockie 192 car dominating the field by flying to the chequered flag with just under a minute separating them from the TVR Griffith of Greensall and Spiers. The Daytona of Jordan/Alderslade faded as the race progressed, getting usurped by the Pearson/Brundle Jaguar E Type.

Masters Sports Car Legends

The Mclaren M1B leads a trail of cars down the Craner Curves
The Mclaren M1B leads a trail of cars down the Craner Curves

The rolling thunder of the Masters Sports Car Legends, consistently proves to be one of the highlights of the Master Historic series. In a one hour race, where the thunder of Lolas, Chevrons and a particularly throaty Corvette attacked the Leicestershire circuit, it seemed that polesitter Tom Bradshaw in the dominant Chevron B19 would have no trouble racing to the top step of the podium.

Indeed, his pole lap was significantly quicker than the rest of the field, and in the early stages of the race, Bradshaw tore to a seemingly unassailable lead. However, during the mandatory pitstop, Bradshaw struggled to get restarted, and it fell to the Lola T212 of Joebstl/Willis to take the lead, which unexpectedly became up for grabs.

Willis controlled the rest of the race to take the win, ahead of a duo of Chevron B19s, with the Mclaren M1B of Greensall/Spiers taking the honours in the Hulme class.

Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars

Green flag for the Masters Pre-66 Touring cars
Green flag for the Masters Pre-66 Touring cars

The ever entertaining Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars saw Fords both large and small contesting hotly fought battles throughout the field. The Mustang of Soper/Mann placed on pole with a 0.2s gap in qualifying over the leading Falcon of Sam Torgoff.

The leading Lotus Cortina of Spiers/Greensall managing to lead a trio of Cortinas to split the Mustangs in qualifying. The initial stages of the race panned out with a relative sense of calm, the Thomas/Lockie Falcon managing to retain the lead over the chasing Tordoff. With the mandatory pit stop window opening once 25 minutes had elapsed, it appeared that the Falcons had the measure of the field, but a safety car in the second half of the race allowed the Mustang of Craig Davies to wrestle the lead from the Falcon of Lockie, after which he raced to the chequered flag.

An enthralling battle between a pack of six Lotus Cortinas delighted the crowds for numerous laps before the fall of the flag, Spiers/Greensall emerging victorious in this class from a nip and tuck battle which saw some of the best racing of the weekend.

Historic Grand Prix Cars Association

Two races over the weekend from the sublime HGPCA grids served up a banquet of delectable historic race cars, with the Bugatti 35B of Julia de Baldanza exuding period grace, albeit at the back of the field, in the oldest car of the weekend. It was Will Nuttall that claimed victory in both of the two races over the weekend. Dominating race one, with a winning margin of 41s over the battling Lotus 25 of Nick Fennell and Brabham BT3/4 of Tim Child.

Historic Grand Prix Cars Association podium

Race two saw little change at the top of the field, with Nuttall once again asserting his dominance over the chasing pack. A spirited drive by Peter Horsman in the Lotus 18/21 saw him claim third, behind the ever-impressive Tim Child’s Brabham.

Historic Formula Junior

No less than four entertaining races over the two classes of Historic Formula Junior (front engined and rear engined) were contested over the two days. Ray Mallock taking victory in his U2 Mk2 in both front engined plateaus.

Alex Ames’ Brabham BT6 streaking to a well-deserved win in the first race, but finding more difficulty in race two, as pole sitter Clive Richards kept him honest, until ultimately the pace and class of Ames saw him once again take the chequered flag at the head of the field

Tim Child sits awaiting release in his Lotus 22
Tim Child sits awaiting release in his Lotus 22

Donington Delivers!

Take away the glorious spring sunshine from the Leicestershire circuit, and you’d still be left with a thrilling, compelling weekend of racing. A welcome return to UK soil for the Masters Historic series, ably supported by both the HGPCA and Historic Formula Juniors.

In less than two weeks, Donington Park will host yet another historic extravaganza, in the Donington Historic Festival, while in just over a month, the Masters Historic Racing series returns to the UK for it’s ever-popular visit to the legendary Brands Hatch circuit.

2022 Donington Masters Race Weekend Photo Gallery