THE BEND

Ade­laide home to Aus­tralia’s new motorsport mecca

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ANDY EN­RIGHT

South Aus­tralia’s world­class mo­tor­sports park

THE BEND is open for busi­ness. Aus­tralia’s long­est race track, and the world’s sec­ond-long­est pur­pose­built track af­ter the Nord­schleife, has opened its doors to the pub­lic, of­fer­ing what pro­pri­etor Sam Shahin de­scribes as a ‘motorsport theme park’. The scale of the ambition at what was Mit­subishi’s test fa­cil­ity, some 100km south­east of Ade­laide, is dizzy­ing. As well as the main FIA Grade 2/ FIM Grade A-stan­dard 7.7km cir­cuit, there are also eight shorter track con­fig­u­ra­tions, two skid pans, off-road ad­ven­ture cour­ses, gravel rally stages, a 34-garage pit fa­cil­ity, a 100-room Ry­dges pit-lane ho­tel, plus press fa­cil­i­ties and func­tion cen­tres. Work is also be­ing un­der­taken on an An­draap­proved Group 1 drag strip, a pro­posed 2km Vmax straight, kart track, drift fa­cil­ity and a ral­ly­cross cir­cuit with wa­ter splashes and mul­ti­ple jumps.

“To drive through a gate and see all those dis­ci­plines of motorsport rep­re­sented in the one place is a very unique propo­si­tion,” Shahin says. “Some of the cyn­ics will say there’s a very good rea­son why this has not been done any­where in the world and I get it, but we’re hav­ing a crack. At the end of the day it’s the motorsport pub­lic – spec­ta­tors, par­tic­i­pants, driv­ers, own­ers – who will vote with their feet, that will tell us we’ve made a big mis­take or whether we’ve got some­thing very unique right here in Aus­tralia now.”

It’s hard to ar­gue with that ap­praisal and the track de­sign has been ab­so­lutely ex­haus­tive.

Orig­i­nally de­signed to be po­si­tioned on the near side of the avail­able par­cel of land, it was ap­par­ent that the far side of­fered more el­e­va­tion change so Shahin flipped it over and de­vised plans to in­crease the peaks and troughs fur­ther still, only to be in­formed by the FIA that there was a limit to the amount of re­lief that they’d cer­tify. From this process we learn that were Spa-fran­cor­champs to make a fresh ap­pli­ca­tion for FIA Grade 1 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion it would never achieve it for ex­actly this rea­son.

Cer­tain FIA stip­u­la­tions in­formed track width, sight­lines and so on, the de­sign team hav­ing fi­nessed these de­tails on a sim­u­la­tor be­fore ground was bro­ken. Do­mes­tic mo­tor­sports lu­mi­nar­ies such as Mark Web­ber, Mick Doohan, Mark Skaife, Jamie Whin­cup, Garth Tan­der and Nick Per­cat all had a hand in con­sul­ta­tion, with Shahin also seek­ing the ad­vice of former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, who mas­ter­minded the cre­ation of a clean-sheet mo­tor­sports park in the UK, the Bed­ford Au­to­drome.

“We didn’t want any­thing that feels or looks or repli­cates any other race­track in the world; any other cor­ner any­where in Aus­tralia or any­where in the world,” ex­plains Shahin. “We wanted a fast, flow­ing, tech­ni­cal cir­cuit that is go­ing to re­ward great driv­ers.”

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