Donington Trackdays – everything you NEED to know

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Donington Trackdays Craner Curves Drift

Over the last 10 years I have attended dozens of Donington trackdays, and have had a lot of fun there. But there’s a lot of information about trackdays at Donington Park which you don’t know until you get there, so here I’ll share everything I know about Donny to help you out before you book.

Contents

Donington Park circuit configurations / layouts

There are only two different circuit layout, both used for track days and events at Donington Park.

Donington Park National circuit

This is the shortest and most frequently used configuration for Donington trackdays. Sometimes the track day organiser may just list the day as ‘Donington Park’. In this instance it will be the National circuit.

The National circuit at Donington Park is 2 miles long. In my Clio 172 a full lap of the Donington National circuit in the dry is around 1 minute 25 seconds.

Donington Park Grand Prix circuit

The Donington Grand Prix configuration is a total of 2.5 miles long, so half a mile longer than the National circuit. In my same Clio a lap in the dry takes around 1 minute 50 seconds. Other cars can set much faster lap times.

The additional track of the Donington Grand Prix circuit is known as the ‘Melbourne Loop’ but doesn’t, in my opinion, add anything particularly exciting.

At the end of Starkey’s Straight (the back straight), the chicane goes the other way to on the National circuit, and you have a straight, followed by a hairpin, followed by another straight and then another hairpin to rejoin the start / finish straight. This is the circuit layout used in the 1993 Formula 1 race here where Senna completed his Lap of the Gods.

For me, this additional track breaks up the rhythm and flow of the rest of the track, so I would always prefer to do Donington trackdays on the National circuit.

how to get to the circuit?

Check out our article on the Donington Park main entrance locations and directions for how to get to the circuit, and how to get to the correct entrance on trackdays. There are a couple of entrances from the public road, and only one of them is normally the right one.

If you are heading to Donington as a spectator, driver or team member, make sure you check out our complete guide to Donington Park circuit before you go.

how good is the track to drive?

Donington is a very fast, flowing circuit. In pretty much any car on the National layout you’ll never drop lower than third gear.

E36 M3 at Craner Curves at Donington

The defining corners at Donington are the steep downhill right-left of Craner Curves, and the Old Hairpin, present on both circuit configurations. In most cars doing Craner Curves flat out takes real balls, with your car probably right at its limit of grip through the steep left hander. Then immediately after, stabilising your car under braking for the Old Hairpin (which isn’t a hairpin at all) take serious skill and practice.

These two corners make this circuit for me. The rest of the circuit isn’t nearly as exciting, but it is fast.

Donington Park trackdays circuit awesomeness score

what's are Donington trackdays like in the wet?

Donington is incredibly slippery in the rain, moreso than most other UK circuits. Ask anyone about it and chances are they’ll say that because it’s next to East Midlands airport, low flying planes can leave small oily aviation fuel deposits on the track which, when it rains, rise to the surface. Donington have themselves denied that this makes a difference, but it kind of makes sense.

For further proof of just how slippery it can be in the rain on cold, worn semi-slicks, check out this video. 

Donington park in the rain

Donington trackday formats

Most trackdays at Donington Park will be full day open pitlane, on either circuit configuration.

In the summer some organisers offer evening sessions whilst the days are longer. These usually run from 5.30ish – 8pm ish, but in the past I’ve found them to be more chaotic. Often the reduced track time means drivers will push harder and be on track longer than they would on a full day, to feel like they get the most for their money. This has invariably led to more red flags, which leads to more frustration and more overdriving, then more red flags, and so the loop continues.

cheapest Donington trackdays

Prices for Donington trackdays start at around £130 for a full day open pitlane in the winter, and go up to as much as £500 for a full day open pitlane in the summer.

As an example, this full day open pitlane on a Sunday in January is £149. Whereas this day with the same provider on a Friday in July is twice the price at £299.

Donington trackday prices
Donington trackday prices

If you are keen to get something booked in for the new year, some track day providers offer early-bird booking discounts for any trackdays booked in December for the following year. Javelin, Circuit Days and Open Track are providers that offer this.

An evening session in the summer is usually the same price as a full day in the winter. I’d always rather go for the full day – embrace the slippery conditions and probably much quieter track.

run-offs / danger spots at Donington

For the most part, there’s fairly decent run off at Donington. There are a couple of exceptions to this where I’ve seen people get it wrong and hit something hard…

Out of the old hairpin: there’s a big gravel trap to the left as you enter and pass through the old hairpin, but on the right hand side the tyre wall isn’t far away. I have seen a car run wide on the exit, hit the grass, oversteer and spear off across the track, ending up in the tyre wall on the right.

Donington Park old hairpin trackdays

Out of the final chicane: There’s not a lot of run off on the right hand side of the main straight once you exit the chicane, and zero run off on the left (concrete pit wall). It is not uncommon to get oversteer on the exit of the chicane if you touch the grass with your rear tyres, so beware of ending up in the pit wall.

Donington Park main straight trackdays

If you’re worried about the risks of taking your car on track, don’t forget you can always get some additional trackday insurance to help put your mind at rest.

Donington Park noise limits on trackdays

The noise limit at Donington for trackdays in 2023 is 98db drive-by. This is the same across the main track day organisers – Circuit Days, Open Track, Gold Track, Javelin. Some list a static requirement as well, but others don’t. Static noise tests have been getting less and less frequent at some of the UK trackdays.

Donington Park noise limits
Donington Park noise limits

From my experience over the last few years Donington is one of the strictest tracks when it comes to making sure those limits are enforced. And 98db drive-by is not that hard to reach. An EP3 Civic with a loud exhaust would reach that, as would a standard Italian Supercar.

Usually you will get one warning, at best you will get two warnings before your car is no longer allowed on the track and it’s day over for you.

You may be allowed back on track if you can perform some make-shift modifications to reduce the noise. There’s a couple of things you can invest in and keep in your toolkit that can help. I have seen both of the below decibel reducers in action on trackdays:

Decibel Slayer bolt-on exhaust silencer / db reducer

These bolt-on exhaust silencers are a pretty worthwhile thing to carry around in your trackday tool kit. The perforated section goes in your exhaust pipe and the 4 screws around the larger end clamp on to your tail pipe. They can shave off up to 6 decibels at a fast idle, which may just make the difference between being allowed back out on track or not.

Decibel Slayer Exhaust DB Silencer for trackdays

Supertrapp bolt on disc silencer

This is an alternative type of bolt-on silencer that can help get you back under the noise limit. This one comes with 12 removable discs; changing the number of discs changes the sound attenuation and the backpressure, so allows some fine tuning. Available in three different diameters and lengths so you can order one that suits your tailpipe.

Supertrapp bolt on exhaust disc silencer

Go and find some insulation and stick it under your bonnet if your spicy induction kit is to blame for the noise, just like Matt from Camber and Combustion did in this video. 

If you’re worried about being close to the noise limits, one option is to book yourself on a (hellishly expensive) unsilenced Donington trackday where there are no noise limits.

Donington trackday pit garages

There’s normally around 35 – 40 pit garages available to hire on most track days, depending on how many the track day organiser keeps for themselves and their pals. These are all of the ones to the east of Garage 39 cafe.

Each individual garage at Donington is big enough to fit two cars in nose-to-tail. Booking one garage will just about get you enough space for 2 cars, with not a lot of room at either end. In the picture below booking one garage would either get you #19 or #20, not both.

Donington Park pit garage

As the image above shows there is no central wall between each pair of adjacent garages, so if there’s a big group of you you can book two garages and ask for them to be adjacent to get the whole thing.

At a push, you can actually fit 5 cars in a pair of garages. As in the image below, one car can go in the middle of either two sides. So splitting the cost of a pair of adjacent garages betweenfour or five of you can work out pretty cheap.

Donington Park pit garage

Each individual garage at Donington has a plug socket in, perfect for charging your GoPro or powering your kettle for that all important trackday cuppa. There is now a ‘fair use’ policy in place for these sockets which says you can’t use them to plug in your Tesla or your motorhome on a trackday or test day. There is also a cold water tap and sink in most pairs of garages.

If you don’t have a pit garage, parking at Donington trackdays is available anywhere behind the pit garages to the east of the Garage 39 cafe.

Donington park pit garage sink and tap
MSV fair use policy on electric sockets

If you don’t have a pit garage, parking at Donington trackdays is available anywhere behind the pit garages to the east of the Garage 39 cafe.

fuel stations: on-site

There is a fuel station on-site at Donington. This is unmanned and there is a pay-at-pump card reader, so you are normally free to fill up here any time you want throughout the day. 

There are premium unleaded and diesel pumps. The price for premium unleaded on the 29th Jan 2023 was £1.95 per litre. For reference, the price of premimum unleaded at the BP petrol station in Castle Donington on the same day, 10 minutes from the circuit, was £1.59.

Total Donington petrol station

fuel stations: off-site

There are a few BP stations within around 10 minutes’ drive of the track, so more than reachable during your lunch break. All three of them normally have premimum unleaded, allbeit 97 RON. The BP in Castle Donington seems to be the closest by a smidge, especially if you leave via the East Entrance.

wristband collection / signing on

Usually at the start of a track day you will need to sign on and collect your drivers / passengers wristband. Most of the time at Donington this will be in the building next to the toilets directly behind Garage 39 cafe, to the left of pit garage #38. In the image below it is through the glass double doors.

Donington park toilets and office block

cafe / food on-site

Donington trackdays are blessed by one of the better cafes at any of the UK circuits. Garage 39 has been refurbished relatively recently and sits right in the middle of the paddock, so it easy to get to. It has been open and serving food at lunch everytime I have attended a track day at Donington.

Don’t expect fine dining, but you can expect to find some half decent food here if you didn’t have time to make a peanut butter sarny the night before.

accomodation / camping

There are lots of hotels and Airbnbs near by which usually have good availability around trackdays. There are also campsites within the circuit but these aren’t normally available for trackdays. You may be able to camp in the paddock at the track day organiser’s discretion – see our post on Donington camping for more info.

Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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