The original Donington track was opened in 1931, and initially used for motorcycle races. In 1935 it saw Richard Shuttleworth win the Donington Grand Prix in an Alfa Romeo P3, in the 1937 British Grand Prix and 1938 British Grand Prix, the race winners were respectively Bernd Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari, both in Auto Union 'Silver Arrows'.
The circuit was closed in 1939 due to World War 2, when it became a military vehicle depot. In the early 1970s the circuit was bought by Tom Wheatcroft, who funded the rebuilding of the track, which was re-opened May 27th 1977. The first postwar race meeting was organised by the Nottingham Sports Car Club, but that nearly didn't happen, as the local ramblers tried to assert their rights to retain access to footpaths at the 11th hour. The meeting went ahead as a "Motor Trial", a legal loophole that curtailed the use of single seater racing cars for that opening meeting.
The NSCC continued to run race meetings at Donington until the Donington Racing Club was formed and a licence to run race meetings obtained.
The Melbourne Loop was built in 1985 to increase the lap distance to 2.5 miles (4.02 km) and allow the track to host Grand Prix motorcycle races - at 1.957 miles (3.149 km) without the loop, the circuit was deemed too short. This shorter layout remains as the National circuit, which is used for most non-Grand Prix events.
In recent times it has held meetings of the British Touring Car Championship, British Superbikes and MotoGP as well as, most famously, the 1993 European Grand Prix. This race was won by the late Ayrton Senna, and was described by AtlasF1 as the 'Drive of the Decade'. There is a memorial to Senna in the grounds of the racetrack, outside a shop selling motorsports memorabilia.
Other events taking place at the track include the World Series by Renault and the Great and British Motorsport Festival. On 26 August 2007 the circuit hosted the British Motocross Grand Prix, with a purpose-built motocross circuit being built on the infield of the road circuit.
The track is also the location of a museum, the Donington Grand Prix Collection. This opened in 1973, and is the largest collection of Grand Prix cars anywhere in the world.
In July 2008, Bernie Ecclestone announced that Donington Park will hold the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards in a 10-year deal (having been hosted exclusively by Silverstone since 1987). The track will have a major upgrade, which was announced on 10 July 2008 to include an entirely new pit complex along Starkey's Straight and increasing the circuit length to 3 miles, by the addition of a new infield loop, to get it up to the standards required for modern day Formula One racing. Experienced circuit architect Hermann Tilke will be involved in the work.