Motorsport Voices

WALKER: Stopping for the Clipsal 500

Melbourne has its Cup for horse racing, Sydney has a rather impressive cracker show on December 31st, while Brisbane pauses whenever the State of Origin teams run on to Lang Park.

In Adelaide, the annual city stopping event is the Clipsal 500.

A walk around the outfield reveals folk from all walks of life in attendance. A glance at the names on the side of the corporate boxes show that it isn’t just the big corporates getting involved; ‘Joe’s Tow Trucks’ and ‘Anne’s Bakery’ have a suite set aside for their annual Coopers fuelled weekend out.

While the Bathurst 1000 is a must visit-in-your-lifetime event, it’s an oddity. Mount Panorama is three hours travel from a major centre, and the pilgrimage there is for one thing – the race.

The ‘Clipsal’ however is the red-letter event on the Supercars calendar. The local promoters of the race tip a huge effort into innovating. Covering the grandstands with shade cloth, after race concerts, twilight racing, having a Ferrari F1 cut demo laps, and the introduction of the Stadium Supertrucks to Australian shores, are just some examples of what sets it apart.

Outside of the race precinct, Adelaide in March is heaving. The Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Comedy Festival, the Adelaide Festival and the Royal Croquet Club are all in full swing, because I guess you can never be too festive.

Even if there were no auto racing scheduled, it is the premium time of year to visit the City of Churches.

From a sporting perspective, there is no easing into the new season. Twin 250km races on a stinking hot, or entirely flooded concrete canyon is a challenge, and especially so when fatigue sets in on Sunday afternoon.

The drivers who were well prepared hated the short lived 125km race format on Saturday, as their off-season toil was curtailed by a half time break.

From an atmosphere perspective, because the event is accessible to a massive audience, it is absolutely chockers.

There are no grace periods for new teams, drivers and engineering combinations. Squads who have laboured hard over the off season to prepare new kit are often faced with the dreaded overnight rebuild.

From a media perspective, it’s the biggest event of the year. Although Bathurst garners the most eyeballs, the lead in is typically less intense.

Because Clipsal is the season opener, there is a multitude of photo shoots and TV promos to be banked for the year ahead. Also, because it is a Melbourne Cup spec event, Adelaide cares. Print, radio and local TV are all on board, and want their piece of the action.

Sure, you get a lot of local media attention when you roll into some of the smaller centres like Launceston, Darwin or Townsville, but the size and scope of their local media industry is overshadowed by Adelaide.

Hardened fans often moan that street circuits don’t offer the longer viewing sight lines available at many permanent facilities. While that’s a reasonable point, I feel it’s counter balanced by how close you can get to the action, and the atmosphere trackside.

In general admission land, standing on the exit of the Senna Chicane is simply breathtaking. Nowhere else in the country will you have cars accelerate that hard and fast at you, all within touching distance. Seeing cars from a kilometre away at Phillip Island or Eastern Creek has nothing on this.

From an atmosphere perspective, because the event is accessible to a massive audience, it is absolutely chockers.

I don’t think I have ever experienced a better crowd reaction at any sporting event than that from the Scott McLaughlin/Jamie Whincup finish on Saturday in 2014. It overpowered the roar of the cars and sent shivers down your spine.

The noise was almost eclipsed when McLaughlin shortly thereafter introduced the word “jandal” to the Australian vernacular.

WORDS: Mark Walker
IMAGE: Dirk Klynsmith / Touring Car Masters