2006 FESTIVAL OF SPEED
Tom Wheatcroft with Luc Ghys.
Tom Wheatcroft was a racing fan from his boyhood when he watched the great racing drivers of the day in action at Donington Park in 1937 and 1938. Wheatcroft finished his national service and began to build a hugely successful building empire. By the 1970s he was in a position to indulged his passion for the sport and he established a team to run a Brabham BT30 Formula 2 car for Derek Bell. He also bought a BT26 for a selection of F1 races although it was not very successful. The F2 program, however, was a big success and Bell finished second in the European Championship. The following season Wheatcroft took a lower profile but that year he bought Donington Park to provide a home for his collection of classic racing machinery and as a future home of the British Grand Prix. In 1972 he returned to running teams for another rising star - Roger Williamson - in British Formula 3 and occasional European F2 races. In 1973 there was a full program of European F2 and selected F1 races with the March works team. Williamson's first F1 race was the ill-fated British Grand Prix where he was involved in the famous first lap accident. His second was the Dutch GP. He crashed on the eighth lap, the car coming to rest upside-down and he died in the fire which followed. Wheatcroft continued to back drivers in Formula Atlantic and Formula 2 - notably Brian Henton - but his chief passion became developing Donington Park and his ambition to return Grand Prix racing to the track was fulfilled in 1993 when the European Grand Prix was held there.