We need to save the Adelaide Street Circuit
THIS TIME they have gone too far.
In another chapter in the ongoing saga of the Adelaide Parklands Circuit and the demise of the Adelaide 500, a story in The Advertiser today is reporting that Adelaide City councillor Greg Mackie is, and I quote, ‘backing a residents’ group which wants most of the bitumen track to be ripped up because it has become an “urban heat island” during hot weather.’
The story goes on with similar commentary around how the approximately 1200 metres of tarmac and “the lack of tree canopy creates a significant heat trap”.
I’ll spare you having to read any more, but the motion is going towards the Council this week with a view to progressing plans in a bid to remove the hard surfaces and replace them with trees that will ‘eventually lead to a green canopy’ in the parklands.
There aren’t enough words to describe the feelings that emerge when reading this rubbish and it goes beyond motorsport.
Ripping up the 1200 metres of permanent circuit in Victoria Park would be akin to bowling over the Adelaide Oval and turning it into a carpark.
This is no longer about the political battle between the incumbent Liberal party, who killed the ‘500, and the Labor opposition, who want to bring the race back.
Bringing the race, the Motorsport Festival or anything else back will be impossible if the Adelaide City Council get their way.
This is about preserving a piece of South Australian heritage, singlehandedly responsible for doing more for South Australia’s visibility and appeal on the national and international scene in the last thirty six years than anything else I can thing of.
The Adelaide Grand Prix put South Australia on the global map and the Adelaide 500 kept it there.
This goes beyond just the politics of events or whether people want motorsport in their city or not – this is about a critical piece of sporting infrastructure that has added an incredible amount to the many rich chapters of South Australia’s history.
And it goes beyond our backyard too. The track itself and the city beyond has played a significant part in the global motorsport scene. Adelaide was the scene of Ayrton Senna’s last ever Grand Prix victory, one of the most famous names in the history of world sport.
It has been given new attention thanks to the Netflix Schumacher documentary that went into the 1994 World title battle between the German and Damon Hill. And people still ask Nigel Mansell about the famous tyre explosion.
It must be preserved. Bulldozing it to plant some trees will remove part of our state’s living history, an asset that should be grabbed and promoted rather than dug up and removed by a few people who aren’t content with already having 760 hectares of parkland that don’t have a small road – used by runners, cyclists and more – running through them.
So, this is me throwing my hat into the ring to lead a charge to make sure the track is preserved.
Put the thought and the politics of bringing the ‘500 or the Motorsport Festival back for a moment; lets just focus on keeping the circuit there in the first place.
My proposal is this:
Short of heritage listing it – that throws up other complications – the circuit should become a walking / riding trail that properly showcases the incredible history of motorsport on the Adelaide streets and in South Australia.
Starting at the Senna Chicane, the 1200 metres of road can be dedicated to art installations and info boards celebrating the major moments of the Grand Prix and ‘500 days.
Signage boards every 50 metres can tell the story of a unique individual – be it Senna, Mansell, Brock, Lowndes or McLaughlin – doing remarkable thigs, while a life-sized sculpture of Senna by a local artist could showcase how much he loved racing in Adelaide. That could just be the beginning.
It could be an interactive trail, with an application that tells more stories if people use a QR code or similar to access it.
It can be a living, breathing museum in the open that documents the history, people and moments that did so much for South Australia.
I will volunteer my time to run it. The Race Torque will sponsor one of the signage boards and the creative process to design them.
I’m sure I’m not the only one in the SA Motorsport game who will do that, either.
The current government may not want the Adelaide 500, but surely it can entertain and endorse promoting a piece of Tourism for the state that the many motorsport fans around Australia and the world who would come to see.
It’d be like people driving through Bathurst making sure they cut a lap of Mount Panorama, or people in Melbourne detouring around Albert Park.
Imagine people being able to reflect on the remarkable history of the World’s Greatest Street Circuit by walking the loop from Wakefield Street, past the Adelaide hairpin, pit lane and down through the Senna Chicane – with every few metres or so reading about a notable race, a hero of the Grand Prix, an Adelaide 500 legend or someone who tragically lost their life in the line of entertaining Adelaide fans.
I know motorsport fans and I guarantee you that people will go out of their way to experience such an attraction.
It will bring attention to Victoria Park – which hardly gets used as it is – and the East End of the CBD.
If Motorsport doesn’t return to the streets of Adelaide it will be sad, but so be it. We will move on.
But South Australia must not lose this piece of its heritage – and this goes beyond Motorsport.
It’d be like flattening the Adelaide Oval and you can imagine the outcry if that happened.
If you’re in SA, or even beyond, drop me a note via this address if you want to get involved.
It doesn’t need to be political – Steven Marshall and Peter Malinauskas and their respective parties should equally back this as a force to preserve our heritage, rather than arguing about the future.
The Council need to be smart enough to reuse to entertain such a motion, as is set to be placed by Cr Mackie, and instead embrace a vision about doing something incredible with the location that celebrates what we had, and what we still have.
It’s time to act before they go too far and consign 36 years of remarkable history – South Australian history – to a bulldozer.
(Lead image: Dale Rodgers)