have been various failed schemes to bring the World Drivers’ Championship down under since the early 1960s. Warwick Farm was touted; even Mount Panorama in the mid 1970s. One plan – which had some credibility, given that the man behind it was respected promoter/ entrepreneur Paul Dainty – called for a street race around Sydney’s historic Rocks district. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser went into the 1980 federal election promising a grand prix on a new circuit in Canberra.
Into the 1980s, more tangible proposals emerged. Bob Jane had hopes of hosting an F1 race at Calder, and seemed prepared to extend the circuit to do it. Meanwhile over on the other side of Melbourne, the Light Car Club had secured state government funding for a rehash of Sandown so that it could host a round of the 1984 World Endurance Championship.
This was significant, because the upgraded Sandown now met the minimum length requirements for an F1 track. If we were going to get an F1 race, Sandown appeared to be in pole position.
But there was also a bid from Adelaide. It was an idea dreamed up by businessman and former racer Bill O’Gorman, who thought an F1 GP through the streets of Adelaide would be good way to celebrate South Australia’s sesquicentenary in 1986. The Adelaide City Council agreed, as did the chief of the SA Jubilee 150 Committee, Kim Bonython (who was also the former promoter of the legendary Rowley Park Speedway).
Crucially, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone also liked the Adelaide street circuit concept – so much so that he saw it as a long-term deal and not the single 1986 race envisaged by O’Gorman.
This would be a turning point, because a multi-year contract needed the involvement of the state government. So premier John Bannon took over the negotiations with Ecclestone himself.
The deal struck was for three years with an option on the following four. But, Ecclestone stipulated, the first race had to be 1985, not ’86. With