Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Donnelly links up with past at Donington

Martin Donnelly will be back in a Lotus and back on track this weekend.

The west Belfast driver who scaled the heights to Formula One with Lotus in 1990 but then suffered career-ending injuries in an horrific crash during practice for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, is to take part in the Lotus Elise Trophy race at Donington Park on Saturday.

Donnelly was the rising star of British racing, the Irish Formula Ford 2000 champion who went on to win international races in Formula Three — including the Macau Grand Prix — and Formula 3000, before graduating to F1, first with Arrows and then Lotus.

But just 14 races into his F1 career, his Camel Lotus Lamborghini disintegrated when it hit the barriers at Jerez and Donnelly was flung from the car still attached to his seat.

He suffered such terrible injuries it was a miracle he survived at all.

Indeed, when his friend Ayrton Senna visited him in hospital some hours later, the great Brazilian later admitted he considered quitting racing.

Four years later the three-times World champion died in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix.

The accident ended Donnelly's serious racing days and he has since concentrated on team management and driver development while making occasional guest appearances on track.

Based in Norfolk and working as a consultant in GP2 and Formula BMW, Donnelly, now 45, will pull on his distinctive blue and orange helmet again on Saturday, and with backing from his original Belfast sponsor, Davidson Builder Supplies, drive a Lotus Elise in a support race at the FIA Formula Two meeting at Donington.

“It is always nice to get back in a racing car and I’m particularly pleased to be linking up again with Jackie Davidson who was one of my first sponsors way back in 1981,” said Donnelly.

When he took part in a similar event there last year, Donnelly showed he had lost little of his racecraft as he beat 32 other Lotus drivers to the chequered flag.