It was my father, Reg Parnell, who first went to Donington Park in 1934. Living near Derby it wasn’t too far for him to travel. While at this first meeting, purely as a spectator, I think he became intoxicated with the sights, smells and aura of motor racing, so much so, he wanted a piece of the action. Until Donington Park opened for car racing, motor racing was the preserve of those who were the more wealthy members of the community. The Derby & District Motor Club must be thanked for their foresight creating a venue where the ordinary working man could participate in what essentially was a rich man’s sport, losing Brooklands’ tag of “The right crowd and no crowding.” Father was also aware that success had a cash reward in the form of prize money, this too drew him nearer to being a participant. Having fun, driving fast, and being paid was too good a prospect to miss.
With his mind fully focussed on the rewards of racing he purchased his first racing car. He withdrew all his savings, £25, and bought an old two-liter unsupercharged Grand Prix Bugatti from local scrap dealer Sam Hill, more affectionately known as “Uncle Sam.” The car was a complete wreck and no damn good, but Uncle Sam’s salesman, Frank Radford, took full advantage of my father’s naive exuberance. The Bugatti was taken to the race meeting at Donington, trailered behind father’s old Talbot. He quickly realized his naivety and the bad shape, mechanically speaking, of the Bugatti. He drove around the paddock prior to the race and the diff broke, obviously being a French car there was no chance of picking up a spare—and even if he could, the price would be far too much.
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