Today and tomorrow
Just what the future holds for the 50-something motor racing facility is largely linked to its 80-something owner’s succession plans, and a new permanent track slowly coming to life about two hours’ drive away.
Mallala Motor Sport Park has long been Clem Smith’s weekend retreat, where you can find him personally attending to minor maintenance tasks, tinkering with cars in his collection or, on race weekends, chatting to competitors and officials.
South Australian motorsport’s living treasure isn’t running Mallala to become rich but to give the state’s racers somewhere to compete. He has mixed feelings on the Tailem Bend complex now under construction 100km southeast of Adelaide. On one hand Tailem Bend will provide competitors another venue and a potential shot in the arm; on the other it’s unclear whether the relatively small motorsport community can support two permanent circuits.
“We see it as a threat because it will take business away from us because every sportsperson wants to try out something new, so for a while we will expect a loss of business, yes,” Smith told the Gawler Bunyip newspaper last year.
“We are not looking for V8 Supercars, like they [Tailem Bend] are, we are happy with club events, which will continue to be run.
“They took about $40 million and 1600 acres – we’ve only got 200 acres and we haven’t got $40 million.”
“(Mallala) has been the only facility in South Australia and we have done our best to make sure it is available to every motorsport there is,” he said. “We use our facilities every weekend and during the week as well and we run the state motor racing championships, the drag championships and laps nationals, where people enjoy their hot cars twice a year.” Drifting competitors have also embraced the track. “I bought the business in 1976 and it took a few years to get it up and running (but) times have changed now, as you can see, when people are prepared to spend $40 million on a racetrack and get some millions from the government to do it. “I haven’t got any (government funding), I paid for it all myself. “They will do their thing and we will do ours.” Last November a threat of a different kind could have levelled the circuit’s buildings – bushfire. Fires that claimed two lives, left 90 people in hospital and destroyed 87 homes skirted the facility and staff members were evacuated. Some smaller structures were ruined but the track’s main buildings were spared. It was if Mother Nature recognised it was a Sacred Site and couldn’t deprive local grass roots competitors of the only place to race – for now.