There seems to be a resurrection of sorts happening in South Australian motorsport right now. With events like the Adelaide Motorsport Festival getting stronger each year and the construction of one of the world’s premiere motorsport facilities pushing ahead with record pace at Tailem Bend, the future of the sport in our part of the world looks bright to say the least.
In getting swept away with the new and flashy, it would be prudent not to forget the role that Mallala Motorsport Park has played in maintaining the foundation over the last two decades, keeping things percolating when many predicted a decline. It’s fair to say that Mallala has somewhat aged since its glory days of hosting national headline championships in front of crowds reaching into the tens of thousands, and it could certainly use a lick of paint here and there.
But gratitude must be paid to the dearly departed Clem Smith and his small band of loyal friends and employees, whose hard work has ensured that we have had a place to race and drive all this time. It surely would have been easier in his retirement for Clem to sell the place years ago as housing or farmland and live off the dividends, but it was his love for the sport that kept the gates open. And without that base being maintained, I doubt we’d have the critical mass to realise the types of events and venues that are viable today.
The question of what would happen to Mallala after the opening of The Bend Motorsport Park was one that lingered, but I think it has a future as South Australia’s second and more grassroots oriented circuit and I’m glad to see by their purchase that the Shahin family do to. Adelaide is one of the few capital cities in Australia without easy access to two circuits, an element that has probably hampered the sport’s growth in the past.
The recent Masters of Mallala event, organised by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia, was the first major race meet held under the circuit’s new ownership. From what we can tell, the only real differences at this stage is that circuit rules have been standardised and the fuel bowsers are now open for the entire day. As to how much investment Mallala will now see is anybody’s guess, but at least its future as a motorsport venue is secure.
There is plenty happening right now if the recent Masters of Mallala meeting was any indication. The Improved Production guys made a return after their incredible effort in upstaging the main-game Supercars at the recent Clipsal 500, and the event saw the return of Formula Three to state level competition. These cars are properly high-tech, and lap times in the region of 1.02’s isn’t mucking about. The Excel series provides what is consistently the best racing in the country, and the HQ Holden’s keep inexplicably soldiering on, decades after their predicted demise. That category is fast turning into proper one-make historic racing.
With The Bend and Mallala as permanent venues and a range of tantalising pop-ups such as the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, The Adelaide Rally and hillclimbs at Mounts Alma and Gambier, the future for motorsport in South Australia seems quite bright indeed.
Photos by Stuart Daddow – check out his website here for more shots.
Words by Andrew Coles
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