JUNE 14, 2002
Tom Wheatcroft is 80
TOM WHEATCROFT, the man who revived Donington Park in 1977 and who in 1993 fulfilled his dream to have the circuit host a Grand Prix, celebrated his 80th birthday this week with a dinner for 300 at the Donington Grand Prix Collection. The guests included Sir Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Le Mans winner Richard Attwood, the Earl of March, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Murray Walker. The latter was presented with The Tom Wheatcroft Trophy, a new award commissioned by Kevin Wheatcroft to celebrate his father's life in motorsport.
Wheatcroft was 15 when he watched the great racing drivers of the day in action at Donington Park in 1937. After the war he built up a very successful property business and in 1970 decided to indulge his passion for the sport and set up a team to run Derek Bell in Formula 1 and Formula 2 in old Brabham chassis. The F1 program started badly and soon faded away but in F2 Bell was competitive and won in Barcelona, going on to finish second in the championship to Clay Regazzoni.
In 1972 he supported Roger Williamson in both F2 and F3 and followed up with a full F2 program in 1973. The results were extremely promising with a victory at the Monza Lotteria and Wheatcroft decided to try him in Formula 1. Williamson was killed in the Dutch GP. In 1975 Wheatcroft made a comeback by building a Formula Atlantic car which also appeared in F2 but soon his attention had turned to reviving Donington Park, which he had bought in 1973. He rebuilt the circuit and established the Donington Collection, the world's biggest collection of Grand Prix cars and in May 1977 he opened the track.
It would be another 16 years before his dream of a Grand Prix at Donington took place but the European GP of 1993 will not be forgotten as it marked one of Ayrton Senna's greatest drives.
Wheatcroft fulfilled another ambition recently. He had long wanted a Bugatti Royale for his collection but with the cars having price tag of around $10m he decided that the best thing to do was to build a new one using the original drawings and highly-skilled engineers and mechanics. The result was a brand new Bugatti Royale, which cost him around $2.4m to complete...
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