Voices

CRAILL: The Clipsal 500 is Magic

THE CLIPSAL 500 is magic.

There’s something intangible about the event and the place in which it’s held that few other events on our domestic calendar have.

The eleven years of Grand Prix history, before the V8’s came to town in a headlining role, defined this place and everything that continues to occur around Victoria Park.

For someone that grew up with ‘our’ Grand Prix, the echoes of Senna, Berger and Mansell reverberate when Lowndes, Whincup or van Gisbergen bounce off a kerb or slide through a turn.

This place will always be the Grand Prix track first, a Supercar track second – but the fact that the domestic product has only enhanced the history of this great circuit is a massive pat on the back to the Touring Car Tour.

The Adelaide Parklands circuit is special. It’s the best possible mix of demanding concrete canyon and dedicated circuit; one that offers passing opportunities mixed with – though controlled – elements of danger and peril that motorsport should offer.

Remember, this is an event that started with a chicane on the corner of Bartels Road and Dequetteville Tce – but that wouldn’t do.

Unsatisfied with cars hopping kerbs and rolling when they hit the tyre bundles, they replaced it with a fearsome 200km/hr corner lined by concrete that has written off more cars than we can remember.

For someone that grew up with ‘our’ Grand Prix, the echoes of Senna, Berger and Mansell reverberate when Lowndes, Whincup or van Gisbergen bounce off a kerb or slide through a turn.

They could’ve made a safer chicane, but instead put in a corner people speak of in hushed tones. ‘Turn eight,’ they say. ‘It’s wild.’

It’s an event famous and respected because it’s not only a car breaker, but a people breaker too. Drivers being dragged from their cars over the years, dehydrated and immobile never hurt the event: it made people respect it even more. It builds the legend.

In this racing city, nothing else would do. You have to earn your stripes here and if you don’t respect the place it will bite.

Perhaps – just perhaps – part of it’s appeal is that there’s an old fashioned racing feel about the place; perhaps part of it is still 1985 rather than 2015 when men were men and racing cars could hurt you more often than not. Those who make jokes about Adelaide living in the past will smirk at this, but others will nod, sagely, and quietly say; ‘Yes. We agree. And that’s good..’

But it’s proof that this place is more than just a collection of concrete blocks and mesh fencing.

This is a place where city streets are known more by their racing names than they are their definitions in the street directory. The Senna Chicane. Brabham Straight. Even the corner of Rundle street is known still as Brewery bend, and it hasn’t been a race track – nor a Brewery – since the year 2000. It’s just that kind of place.

Like Bathurst, this is a place where you have to earn the right to have something named after you. The Adelaide Parklands circuit isn’t a place just to name things for the sake of publicity. It names them because it has a meaning and a history relevant to the place.

And that makes the place special.

People still underestimate the Clipsal 500 but there’s no doubt that it has created a history and a resonance with the sport that only Bathurst can match.

It and October’s 1000km epic are the only two events where the cheers of the crowd eclipse the cars in Australian Motor Sport and the 85,000 who will gather on Sunday will do so again this year. It’s still the best attended event in Australia, per capita, of any other sport; recent estimates suggest that nearly ten per cent of Adelaide’s 1.2 million people attend the event each year.

If the Melbourne Cup drew the same crowd on those figures, it would have an attendance of over 400,000.

But perhaps the best thing about the Clipsal 500 – about any event – is the feeling it creates.

The feeling that people have been racing on these city streets for more than 30 years, and the location has a history and tradition of it’s own that few circuits or events in Australia can replicate.

It’s unique that it can combine the world’s best and Australia’s best into a melting pot of everything good about Motorsport.

The action. The Drama. The personalities. The competition. The emotion.

All of it continues to send up the hairs on the back of this writers neck whenever something special happens, be it Craig Lowndes dicing with Glenn Seton in 1999, or Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup more than 15 years later.

There are few places in our sport with the feeling that the Clipsal 500 has. And that’s what makes it special.

The Clipsal 500 is Magic.

 

Richard Craill is the editor of theracetorque.com and one of arguably the most parochial South Australians around.. so there’s a reasonable chance the opinions expressed here may be skewed towards the affirmative..