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Frederick Bernard "Tom" Wheatcroft (May 8, 1922 – October 31, 2009) was an English businessman, who made his fortune through building and construction.[1][2]



Born in and around Castle Donington, Wheatcroft had always lived within a 30mile radius of the village, had an estimate fortune of £120million,[3] and was father to seven children.[4]

Wheatcroft had only 20 months of formal schooling, and preferred to cycle from his parents home in Leicester to Donington Park to watch pre-war motor racing:

You had to be there to know what it was like. The W125 Mercs and the V16 Auto Union racing cars were doing 170mph by halfway down the straight. The noise and the smell and the speed – we hadn't seen anything like it before.[5]

Wheatcroft drove tanks during World War 2, returning to set up a successful building business.[5]

Wheatcroft racing

Derek Bell in the Wheatcroft Racing Brabham BT26 at the Nürburgring in 1970.

Having made his fortune, and started to build his car collection, Wheatcroft further indulged his racing passion by running his own racing car team. In 1970, he purchased a Brabham BT30 for Derek Bell to run in Formula 2, with Bell finishing second in the European Championship. During the season, Wheatcroft purchased a BT26 which he entered into a selection of Formula1 races, which was far less successful.[6]

He purchased Donington Park in 1978, but in 1979 fully resurrected the team, running Roger Williamson in British Formula 3, which he won, and selected European F2 races. In 1973 Wheatcroft sponsored Williamson in the Formula One March Engineering works team, run by Max Mosley. His short career lasted two races: a crash at the ill-fated British Grand Prix on the first lap, and a crash on the eighth lap of the Dutch GP, where he died in the subsequent fire.[6]

After this, Wheatcroft continued to back occasional drivers in Formula Atlantic and Formula 2, including 1974 British F2 champion Brian Henton, but never resurrected his team.[6]

Donington Park

In 1971, Wheatcroft bought part of the 1,100-acre (450 ha) Donington Hall estate, including the famous pre-war racing circuit, for £100,000.[4] At his own cost, he rebuilt the circuit and moved his classic car collection to the estate, the largest collection of motor racing cars in the world now known as the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition.

In 2007, Wheatcroft agreed a 150 year lease of the land on which the circuit and museum are located to Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, who subsequently with his support won a 10 year agreement from Bernie Ecclestone to host the British Grand Prix from July 2010.[4]

He died aged 87 on October 31, 2009 at his home in Arnesby, after a long illness.[7]




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