• Tom Wheatcroft 1922-2009

Donington owner Tom Wheatcroft dies

ESPNF1 Staff
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The owner of Donington Park, Tom Wheatcroft has died aged 87, following a long illness. The father of seven died just days after his beloved track failed to secure the funding to host the 2010 British Grand Prix.

Wheatcroft grew up near the track and used to cycle there from his parents' house in Leicester to watch racing. When he returned from driving tanks in World War Two, he set up a successful building business and in the 1960s he launched his own racing team.

In 1971 he bought part of the 1,100-acre Donington Hall estate, including the redundant racing circuit, for £100,000. He rebuilt the circuit and moved his classic car collection to the estate - one the largest collection of racing cars in the world. In 1993 Wheatcroft's F1 dream was realised when the circuit hosted the European Grand Prix.

In 2007 he leased the estate to Donington Ventures Leisure Limited (DVLL), and was instrumental in the negotiations to bring the British Grand Prix to Donington from 2010. However, in October 2009 DVLL failed to reach the deadline to provide evidence of funding.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh paid tribute to the 'larger-than-life' Wheatcroft and the contribution he made to British motorsport. "The term 'legend' is maybe used a little too liberally in the world of sport, but without doubt it is justified in the case of Tom Wheatcroft," said Whitmarsh. "He will, of course, be very much missed."

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