40. (37) Tom Wheatcroft £125m (£125m)
All being well, 2010 will see the first of at least 10 British Formula One Grand Prix races at the Donington Park circuit. It will be the first Grand Prix at the East Midland racetrack since 1993 when it hosted a rain-soaked European Grand Prix which was won in spectacular style by the late Ayrton Senna.
No one will be more pleased than veteran motorsport enthusiast Tom Wheatcroft, now 86, who sold the circuit in 2007 to Donnington Ventures Leisure Ltd fronted by computer magnate Simon Gillett. Following the sale Tom Wheatcroft, who rescued the circuit from disrepair in 1973, was appointed president.
Formula One coming to Donington means a massive £100 million revamp of the track and facilities. The plans involve a new re-routed track, six new grandstands, a new club house, new pits and paddocks, new hospitality suites, a media centre and a new medical centre.
The track is also home to Tom Wheatcroft’s pride and joy – the world’s largest collection of Formula One racing cars which he has assembled over many years.
The Donington Grand Prix Collection is worth well over £60 million and includes classics such as Jim Clark’s 1963 world championship-winning Lotus, a 1936 Alfa Romeo Bimotore and a flat-12 Ferrari 312B among Vanwalls, Williams, Jaguars, Maseratis, Coopers and a Michael Schumacher Ferrari in which he took three pole positions and won the Canadian Grand Prix. Tom Wheatcroft was just 15 years-old when he watched the great racing drivers of the day compete in the Donington Grand Prix races of the 1930s – a period dominated by the might of Mercedes Benz and Auto Union.
During the war the circuit was used as an army base, and after that fell into disuse. Having built up his very successful property business after the war he determined to restore Donington Park to its former glory. In 1973 he bought the circuit, and rebuilt it, upgrading and re-routing it in the process. After spending around £2 million of his own money fighting legal battles to open Donington for racing again, he finally fulfilled his ambitions. He re-opened the track in 1977.
He has won a host of awards for his work in supporting motorsport, and an award is also named in his honour. The Tom Wheatcroft Trophy is awarded for outstanding contributions to the sport and industry of motor racing. The most recent winner was Frank Williams of Williams Formula One. Other winners include Stirling Moss, Murray Walker and Bernie Ecclestone.
Having leased out Donington in 1997, the circuit, including the surrounding land, was sold in 2007 £30 million.