A Sim Racer's First Time At Donington Park

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Josh Cook, LKQ Euro Car Parts with SYNETIQ: Image Credit: C. Minniss Photography
Donington Park is one of the UK's most loved race circuits. As a sim racer, there is a very good chance that you would have driven Donington in your sim. But what's it like to visit the circuit in reality?

The British Touring Car Championship's opening weekend at Donington Park was a mixture of rain, drama and fantastic racing. Keen sim racer and my good friend, Chris Hancock, has given us a rundown on his first ever experience at Donington Park from a sim racer's perspective.

Chris has some real racing experience, specifically, he has competed in multiple national karting endurance events. However, he had never been to a proper car racing track. This was also his first BTCC experience, and no better place exists for this combination than Donington Park!

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#33 Adam Morgan, West Surrey Racing. Image Credit: C.Minniss Photography

Q: What Surprised you the most about the event and the venue?
"I was surprised by the organisation of the meeting and the track's curfew, the meeting overran by a considerable amount and the curfew of 8 pm was not hit. We managed to see the majority of races, excluding one of the Porsche races. The delays were caused by rain, safety cars and red flags. These aren't anything to do with the circuit or the event organisers, I just wish the racing had been allowed to resume when the rain had stopped. Seeing the touring cars in the evening sun was a pretty special experience however, i had a lot of nostalgia for the late nineties super touring night races!

Q: What did you find most disappointing about the circuit and the event?
"The lack of racing due to the rain in the morning was a bit of a letdown, we travelled from Cornwall to get there for the first Touring Car Race and we could have left hours later if the delays had been communicated earlier than 10 minutes before the race was supposed to start. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had started it when the rain stopped, but it didn't. I understand the need for safety, but the tarmac was almost dry by the time racing started again!"

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#15s Cameron Richardson, NAPA Racing UK JCW Mini Challenge. Image Credit: C. Minniss Photography

Q: Did the event live up to your expectations?
"It's the BTCC... The racing is always spectacular! The support series' was also fantastic! The smaller size of the grid this year is a shame to see, however, the racing and competition up and down the grid were awesome to see. DeLeon (Un-Limited Motorsport) and Moffat (LKQ Euro Car Parts with SYNETIQ) especially surprised me and the normal culprits at the front, Ingram (ExcelR8 Motorsport) Ashley Sutton (NAPA Racing UK) and Jake Hill (Laser Tools with MB Motorsport) were fantastic to watch as ever!

Q: What advice would you give to someone who hasn't been to Donington Park before?
"Be prepared to walk up a lot of hills! In sim racing, it's hard to understand the level of elevation, especially around the Craner Curves and the Old Hairpin. I felt like I had been to the gym afterwards. Make sure you know where the open toilet facilities are, some of them were closed which surprised me considering the BTCC weekends are among the biggest events for the circuit."

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#17 Ben Mahoney, Legends Championship. Image Credit: C. Minniss Photography

As mentioned earlier, Chris is a keen sim racer. He has turned hundreds and hundreds of laps on various circuits, but what was the biggest surprise from his real-life experience of Donington Park?

"Scale. The scale of the track is something that is lost on a lot of sim racers. The track is miles long and the walk around the whole track can take up to an hour or potentially more if it's wet. The amount of closed walkways and underpasses caused problems with viewing. Planning where you want to watch the action from beforehand is essential."

What was your first visit to a track you frequently raced virtually like? Have you got any advice for sim racers looking to experience a racetrack they know so well in the virtual world? Let us know on X @OverTake_gg or down in the comments below!
About author
Connor Minniss
Website Content Editor & Motorsport Photographer aiming to bring you the best of the best within the world of sim racing.

Comments

Premium
For me it was the opposite I visited Oschersleben for the first time, after that it become my favorit virtual driven track for long time (I think it was RACE O7 by simbin)
I think I can drive it perfect after nearly 20 years (rF2, AC, RRE)

Its the only race track in the entire region so there even no alternatives.
 
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OverTake
Premium
For me it was the opposite I visited Oschersleben for the first time, after that it become my favorit virtual driven track for long time (I think it was RACE O7 by simbin)
I think I can drive it perfect after nearly 20 years (rF2, AC, RRE)

Its the only race track in the entire region so there even no alternatives.
Similar story for me :D Oschersleben really grew on me after I went there. Pretty nice place to watch a race on-site, spectators can go anywhere pretty conveniently. Made it easy to take in multiple cool viewing points.
 
I was at donny last weekend for the historic. It wasn't so much the hill down the craner curves that surprised me, as much as the climb out of the old hairpin, I've never really noticed it on sims, but its a real climb back up! The outside of the old hairpin is a great spot though, just on top of the rock wall, perfect place to watch the old vintage cars start their 4 wheel drift into the turn.
 
You should go for the masters historic weekend at the start of August.

think you will like it ;) better noise than BTCC lol
There is also a historic in August as well as May???
Any excuse to see this mental thing again

2m wheelbase and 300bhp of american V8:confused:
 
Premium
Don’t forget all the ex f1 cars and old Le Mans car as well :)

I saw a couple of those running at brands yesterday, they are awesome. And that was including the angriest pack of gt3 cars you will see
 
Congrats on surviving the rain Chris! That weekend was my first BTCC experience, and only my 3rd trip to Donington as well - I completely agree with how the sim can never prepare you for the elevation.

While the rain was extremely frustrating, the sheer amount of water flowing down the hill through the Craner Curves long after the rain actually stopped did make me slightly more sympathetic to the cause. Although it did give us a sunset BTCC race, which as you said, was absolutely stunning!
 
Premium
Similar story for me :D Oschersleben really grew on me after I went there. Pretty nice place to watch a race on-site, spectators can go anywhere pretty conveniently. Made it easy to take in multiple cool viewing points.
Exactly thats really great about it. The opportunity to go to every corner you want, buy a beer in the meantime eat some fries.... I mean fixed places was only @DTM Events ...
 
Its great that you had a good day at Donington.Race fans are pretty spoiled with the amount of racing we can watch on tv today but nothing beats being at a live event.Brands Hatch is my favourite track to spectate at because you can see so much action and it has a great atmosphere,history and the layout has only been tweaked.
 
OverTake
Premium
Exactly thats really great about it. The opportunity to go to every corner you want, buy a beer in the meantime eat some fries.... I mean fixed places was only @DTM Events ...
Yup! Went there for the ADAC GT Masters event in 2022 with my dad, and watching the races and the support series from various different points at the track made for a very memorable weekend.

On that note, if anyone here was ever wondering about that: Getting general admission tickets is almost always well worth it, if available. When I went to Spa in 2022 for the 9-Hour historic event, my girlfriend and I were joking about how much more expensive with much less ability to move around being there would have been about eight weeks earlier when F1 is in town.

To me, experiencing a circuit is closely linked to exploring the place as much as possible. Makes me appreciate the venues a lot more usually. The only time that wasn't possible was at Pocono - but the fact that you could see the entire track if you were high enough on the grandstand definitely made up for that :)
 
I was a photographer for a newspaper for about 8 years and had season accreditation for BTCC and BSB so I know UK circuits quite well. Oulton and Cadwell were always my favourites, especially with bikes. Worst imo is Silverstone. Even with trackside access it's boring.
 
I was a photographer for a newspaper for about 8 years and had season accreditation for BTCC and BSB so I know UK circuits quite well. Oulton and Cadwell were always my favourites, especially with bikes. Worst imo is Silverstone. Even with trackside access it's boring.
I'm still amazed 200mph superbikes race at Cadwell, amazing track but It's full on and relentless, with not much of a "straight" to rest. I imagine the riders are pretty knackered after a race there on those beasts.
 
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I'm still amazed 200mph superbikes race at Cadwell, amazing track but It's full on and relentless, with not much of a "straight" to rest. I imagine the riders are pretty knackered after a race there on those beasts.
Cadwell is one of those weird ones where the laptimes between 600s and 1000s aren't a world apart despite masses more horsepower. It's certainly a busy circuit and even 20 mins per session on a track day is too much for some on a bike if you're unfit.
 
Premium
I've been several times to our "local" track at a famous dutch beach ;) I attended the A1GP race there (Zandvoort) in 2006, which was awesome because the weather was "wisselvallig" (constantly changing from rainy to sunny)... Jos Verstappen was supposed to drive for Team Netherlands but he had a dispute with the management about his unpaid salary and he refused to race. Local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen took the wheel and looked like his knowledge of the track in tricky conditions would win him the feature race but a very young Nico Hulkenberg finished on top that day. It was great fun. I also did a track day before the circuit got renovated for Formula 1 and I had a blast... it was a day with light rain (check the pictures) and I was the last car on both stints so I would hold back at the last sector and exit the last corner at full speed, throgh the straight into the Tarzan corner... it was simply lovely! I've also been to Spa-Francorchamps twice, before the latest renovations, once as a tourist and once in the weekend of the 24 hours. Gorgeous place and great atmosphere. Next on the list is the Nordschleife... but I have to find a used E30 first to waste it there.

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Cadwell is one of those weird ones where the laptimes between 600s and 1000s aren't a world apart despite masses more horsepower. It's certainly a busy circuit and even 20 mins per session on a track day is too much for some on a bike if you're unfit.
There's only one area (main straight) where I presume the 1000s are giving it full beans?
 

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