Donington Park is one of the most popular tracks in Europe and is known for its fast, flowing and hilly characteristics and the famous Craner Curves. The circuit hosts several major national and international motor racing events including British GT and British Touring Cars as well as British and World Superbikes.
Donington was also the scene of McLaren legend Ayrton Senna’s spectacular race victory at the 1993 European Grand Prix. Senna’s first lap became one of the most famous in Grand Prix history when he passed five cars to lead the field before going on to dominate the rain-affected race.
TURN 1 - REDGATE
Redgate is a slow-medium speed right-hand corner that follows a reasonably long, and slightly downhill, start/finish straight. The track is flat and wide at the corner entry with plenty of good braking reference points. This is a relatively simple and satisfying corner to drive and offers a great start to the lap ahead.
- On the approach position your car on the left hand side of the track
- Use the long approach to prepare yourself and look ahead into the corner
- The pit exit merges with the racing line in the braking zone so look out for cars joining the circuit
- Blue and white chevrons mark the pit lane exit and can be a useful braking point reference
- Brake hard initially, you can then begin to release pressure on the brake pedal as you approach the turn-in point
- By the time you reach the turn-in point you should already be looking ahead to the apex (the clipping point on the inside of the corner)
- Finish the braking phase before turning into the corner and, although the corner is tighter than 90 degrees, the track is wide enough to allow you to maintain a reasonable amount of entry speed
- Try to avoid slowing the car too much on the approach. Slowing the car excessively usually results in the driver then accelerating too early to regain the lost speed. Accelerating too hard and too early can cause the front of the car to slide (understeer)
- Be patient when applying the power. As you approach the apex apply only a light amount of throttle, which can increase gradually as you progress through the corner and begin to straighten the steering wheel as you near the exit
- Use all available track width on the left hand side of the track as you exit the corner to reduce the corner angle and immediately start to prepare for Turn 2.
TURN 2 - HOLLYWOOD
On approach you will not be able to see the whole of Hollywood because the track starts to head downhill just after the turn-in point. This means it will take at least a few laps before you feel comfortable with the shape of the corner. However, once you have become more familiar with the layout, you will find that Hollywood is a very gradual curve that serves as an acceleration zone and can be taken at full speed in dry conditions.
- This is a fast section of track so look as far ahead as possible. You will start to turn into the corner almost immediately after exiting Turn 1
- Turn smoothly and be gentle with the car throughout the corner to ensure that the car is not destabilised for the much more challenging Craner Curvers that follow immdiately after
- Hollywood consists of three consecutive right-hand kinks in the track that merge into one curve. By the time you reach the first kink your car should be positioned roughly in the middle of the track, however you should continue to bring the car to the right hand side so that you almost touch the kerb at the apex of the third kink
- Keep the car to the right hand side as this is the best position for the approaching Craner Curves
TURN 3 - CRANER CURVES
This is one of the most exciting corners in the world and to drive it at speed will require full concentration. The gradient changes just at the turn-in point meaning that the car has to change direction at high speed whilst also having to deal with the undulating nature of the track. Smooth technique is essential. Although the Craner Curves can be taken at full throttle in some cars that have low power and high aerodynamic grip levels, this is not the case in a high performance road car or GT car so you will probably need to apply the brakes before turning.
- Your car should be positioned on the right hand side of the track at the end of Turn 2
- Apply the brakes lightly and, as with all fast corners, ensure you have finished braking before you turn into the corner to avoid destabilising the car
- The apex of Turn 3 is not visible at the turn-in point. A good guide would be to turn into the corner as the white line on the right hand side of the track starts to straighten after Turn 2
- Turn smoothly and aim for the apex on the left hand side
- Apply the power gently and avoid accelerating too aggresively
- After the apex, don't allow the car to run too wide on the exit as you must ensure that your car is positioned back on the left hand side for Turn 4 which follows immediately. You want to avoid arriving in the Turn 4 braking zone finding that you are still trying to recover the correct approach position. However, don't fight the car back to the left hand side as this could unsettle the car. Instead, if you find that you are running too wide on the exit of Turn 3, carry on and go a little slower next time around
TURN 4 - OLD HAIRPIN
Turn 4 follows immediately so there isn't much time to prepare. Despite the misleading name, this another challenging fast corner with a downhill braking area and changing gradients.
- If you have driven Turn 3 correctly your car should be positioned on the left hand side well before the braking zone for Turn 4. It is important that you brake in a straight line and you shouldn't have to find yourself recovering the correct position in the Turn 4 braking zone
- As this is a fast corner, you should look as far ahead as possible. The downhill approach means that you will have good visibility of the entire corner so use this to your advantage
- The braking point is earlier than you might think for this corner and so is the turn-in point. Braking early and smoothly and releasing the brakes before a relatively early turn-in will allow you to achieve a good entry speed. Try to avoid braking too late and too much, and avoid turning in too late. These are all symptoms of not looking far enough ahead
- At the turn-in point you should already be looking ahead to the apex. If you have entered the corner correctly you should only require light application of the throttle
- Look ahead and use all available track space on exit and accelerate towards Turn 5
TURN 5 - STARKEY’S BRIDGE
Like Turn 2, this doesn't present much of a challenge and in dry conditions will be taken at full speed in most cars.
- After exiting Turn 4, bring the car back to the right slightly before turning into Turn 5 smoothly
- After the apex be aware that the track continues to turn gradually as you head up the hill. Although Turn 5 is relatively straightforward it is easy to run wide on the exit as the track turns and you are busy concentrating on the next corner, Schwantz
TURN 6 - SCHWANTZ
Named after American Motorcycle Grand Prix legend Kevin Schwantz, this is a fast left-hand uphill corner that leads immediately into Turn 7. This is a very short section of track and the priority here is to use it to position the car in the best possible way for Turn 7.
- You might need to brake very lightly for this corner, but normally it just requires a gentle or partial lift off the throttle pedal on the approach. As this is another fast corner, ensure that this is done as smoothly as possible
- Resist the temptation to turn into the corner too early as this would lead to the car running wide on the exit and compromising the approach to Turn 7. Instead turn slightly later which will help you to keep the car to the left hand side after the apex
- After turn-in aim for the apex and apply the power gently
- After the apex you don't need to keep the car fully to the left, as this would require you to keep turning. Instead, pick a line that allows you to straighten the car for the upcoming braking zone whilst keeping the car from drifting to the right hand side
- Turn 7 follows immediately so prepare to start braking for this medium-speed corner
TURN 7 - McLEANS
This corner is at one of the highest points of the circuit following the long climb from the Old Hairpin. In fact the apex is hidden by the crest of the hill making the approach quite challenging and it will take a number of laps before you find the perfect line through Turn 7. In addition you have barely finished Turn 6 before arriving at Turn 7 so there is a lot to think about in a short space of time.
- Ensure that your car is pointing in a straight line before applying the brakes firmly
- Your car should be positioned to the left hand side of the track as you approach Turn 7, but not so much so that you need to keep turning whilst braking on the approach. As a result the nature of this corner means that your trajectory whilst braking will bring you towards the middle of the track for an unconventional turn-in point
- Ensure you finish braking before turning in smoothly and resist the temptation to aim directly for the apex kerb. The correct apex point is hiding behind the crest of the hill and is slightly later than you might expect
- Be patient before applying the the throttle smoothly. Be aware that the car might be unsettled by the crest of the hill near the apex and the slightly uneven surface at the exit, so accelerate gently and use all available track on exit of corner to reduce the steering angle
TURN 8 - COPPICE
A steep uphill approach followed by a blind apex make Turn 8 a real challenge. It will take several laps to find the correct line but, once you have found it, Turn 8 is highly rewarding and leads onto the longest straight on the circuit.
- Position your car on the left hand side of the track and use the kerb on the left as a useful braking point reference
- Brake in a straight line and aim to complete your braking before turning into the corner
- You will find that the apex kerb comes into view at almost the same time as you need to turn into the corner. If you wait for the apex to appear first you will probably turn in too late so you need to anticipate. This requires some practice, don't worry if it takes a few laps before you feel comfortable
- It is important to make it to the apex here, if you run wide then your exit onto the long straight will be compromised
- Once you have positioned the car correctly over the crest you can start applying the power smoothly. As at Turn 7, the change in gradient can destabilise the car slightly
- You don't need to use the full width of the track near the first exit kerb as the track continues to turn to the right. You also don't need to connect with the second apex on the inside, instead concentrate on accelerating smoothly onto the long straight
TURN 9 - FOGARTY ESSES
This is a relatively fast and enjoyable "esses" which takes you onto the Grand Prix Loop section of the track.
- On approach position your car to the right hand side
- You will approach this downhill braking zone at a very high speed, so use the long straight beforehand to think ahead and prepare
- Brake hard initially for this corner then release pressure on brakes as you approach the turn-in point. As this is a relatively fast chicane, ensure that you have finished braking before you turn to maintain stability and a good entry speed
- Once you have turned into the corner and establised that you are in the correct position you can start to apply the power smoothly. It is generally best to start applying the power between the two apexes. If you are able to start accelerating before the first apex, then you have probably slowed the car too much in the braking zone
- Use all available track to the left on the corner exit
TURN 10 - MELBOURNE HAIRPIN
A slow hairpin with a heavy downhill braking zone. Slow speed corners like this are often less thrilling than the fast flowing sections, however they are usually more important to overall performance. Therefore take time to master Turns 10 & 11 to optimise your lap.
- Having negotiated the slight left-hand kink before the start of the downhill section, position your car to the left hand side and ensure that you are pointing in a straight line before braking
- Brake as late and as hard as is safely possible and gradually release the brake pressure as you approach the turn-in point
- For slow corners such as this you should try a technique known as trail braking, this means continuing to brake lightly as you turn into the corner to give you more control over the front of the car
- The apex kerb at Turn 10 is u-shaped which presents two apexes. Your priority should be to connect with the second apex which will allow you to straighten the car and accelerate out of the corner. However don't try to take too late a turn-in in order to achieve this because the negative camber of the track will make it difficult for you to recover if you miss the first apex by too much
- Once turned into the corner be patient before accelerating. Allow the car turn before you start to accelerate, accelerating too early will cause the car to understeer and will harm your exit speed
- At the exit the track heads uphill, so a good exit is important
TURN 11 - GODDARDS
Another slow-speed hairpin with unusual gradients and cambers. A challenging finish to the lap.
- On the approach you should position your car to the right hand side of the track
- Brake as late and as hard as is safely possible and use the same trail braking technique as at Turn 10
- The turn in point is difficult to judge because the apex is hidden behind the crest as the track drops away to the left. It will take several laps before you find the correct line
- As the track drops away after the turn-in point, the trail braking will help minimise understeer by keeping weight over the front wheels
- Aim to make a mid-late apex which will allow you to straighten the car and accelerate out of the corner
- Allow the car to turn before you start to accelerate, accelerating too early will cause the car to understeer and will harm your exit speed
- Once you have made the apex, apply the power smoothly and head towards the finish line before moving back to the left hand side to begin another lap
We hope that you found this Circuit Guide to be useful. Always remember to drive safely and always build up speed gradually over the course of the day.