Today and tomorrow
the F1 race is a distant memory for most Australian motor racing fans. Yet it’s not been forgotten by South Australians. Last November the Victoria Park section of the old track echoed once more to the sound of F1 cars competing at the Adelaide Motorsport Festival (below).
And earlier this year, the Adelaide City Council requested the state government investigate the possibility of bringing the GP back to South Australia. In the unlikely event of that happening, it wouldn’t be taking place on the original layout. Adelaide’s new tram network currently under construction will cut across Rundle Road, effectively slicing off the section from Banana Bend to Turn 10.
In any case, F1 is now part of Adelaide’s past. Today, the Parklands circuit is more synonymous with Supercars and the annual season-opening Clipsal 500 (although Clipsal won’t be the naming rights sponsor from 2018 on).
The idea came from then V8 Supercars chief Tony Cochrane. The plan was to revive the track to host a touring car spectacular, using an abridged 3.2km layout that turned off East Terrace at Bartels Road, thereby avoiding the section down through Banana Bend and onto Rundle Road. As Bartels and Rundle Roads run parallel, the new corner onto Dequetteville Terrace was almost identical to the old Turn 10 on the original track. This would be the infamous Turn 8.
The shorter layout had the advantage of reduced set up costs (an important consideration given that none of the original concrete walls could be reused – they’d been sold off to Melbourne for its race) and reduced traffic disruption, while retaining much of the essence of the original layout.
Just as Adelaide wholeheartedly embraced the ‘Clipsal’, fairly quickly the event established itself as the most prestigious on the Supercars calendar outside of the Bathurst 1000.
The reason it’s so special is the track itself. Just as the F1 race had been to the wider Formula 1 world, the Adelaide 500 was a wholly new experience in Australian touring car racing. For one thing, twin 250km races around a concrete canyon in late February South Australian heat was (and remains) a supreme test of physical endurance for the drivers.
Next year will be the 20th running of the event. It has endured almost twice as long as the F1 race which preceded it, and in all likelihood will continue well into the future.
There will, however, be challenges. For one, the event remains dependent on state government blessing and funding – without those it simply won’t happen. And with ever increasing traffic congestion in the city (something which might be eased by the new tram network), not all South Australian voters think it’s a good idea. It’s also yet to be determined what effect, if any, the new motor racing facility at Tailem Bend will have – and whether or not there is room for two Supercars Championship rounds in South Australia.