Insight Richard CraillRichard Craill January 19, 2022 (Comments off) (282)

COMMENT: The one man a new SA Motorsport Board must include..

MOST PEOPLE in the state will tell you that the Adelaide 500 started going downhill when the Government shut down the South Australian Motorsport Board.

Founded in 1984 to run the Grand Prix, the board was Government backed however operated as a layer between the beurocracy of politics and the act of actually putting on a damn good motorsport event, which if you remember, it did rather well for a very long time.

The board was shut down in 2016, with the Adelaide 500 organisation shifting to become part of Tourism South Australia, a decision that almost everyone outside of inner Governmental circles predicted would be a disaster. Which, of course, it was.

Under Tourism, the Adelaide 500 became another budgetary line item and, as a massive logistical exercise to stage, a pain in their proverbial.

Despite a lot of good people sticking around from the Motorsport board days, it was clearly apparent that things had lost their zing and the lack of any real advocation for the event from Tourism Chiefs meant that the event became stagnant, to the point where it became easy for Steven Marshall to knife when the Covid-19 excuse gave them an easy out.

News at the weekend that a new South Australian Labor-led Government would return the board to manage the Adelaide 500 – and a return of the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, among other things – is welcome news.

But it must be done correctly with the right people involved and one of them is, in my mind, a no brainer.

A new SA Motorsport Board must include Sam Shahin, the Managing Director of The Bend Motorsport Park.

On the surface this may strike you as an odd idea and I get that.

While both the ‘500 and The Bend co-existed for a time, whether there was or there wasn’t, it always felt like there was tension between the parties.

After all, Shahin and his team at The Bend have every right to be critical of an Adelaide 500 return because it could put their current Supercars round in jeopardy, or at least take the shine away from it.

And there’s no doubt they would rather that the Government cash, being splashed on the return of the ‘500 and the Motorsport Festival, would be tipped into events out at Tailem Bend instead.

So I agree that, on the surface at least, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, both from the point of view of a potential Motorsport board and even from Shahin himself.

But at the same time, I think it is critical that Shahin – or another representative from circuit owners, Peregrine – has a role to play because it’s important that their $200m facility that remains one of the best in Australia doesn’t get misplaced in all of this.

I want the Adelaide 500 to return as much as anyone, but I also want the Asian Le Mans Series back.

Pre-Pandemic there was promising talk of World Superbikes and one day the FIA World Endurance Championship appearing at The Bend and in recent weeks there’s been imagery popping up online pointing towards the commencement of construction on the planned world-class Drag Strip – that will finally give South Australian straight-line fans something that isn’t, essentially, derelict.

To put it simply, there’s a world of motorsport that won’t or can’t come to the Adelaide 500 or a Motorsport Festival that we have the potential and in The Bend, the facility, to embrace more than any other state.

I could and may well be be an idiot, but in my eyes it seems logical that all of these things could fall under the prevue of a South Australian Motorsport Board, with emphasis on the South Australian part of that title.

Peter Malinauskas’ plans to return South Australia to a place that is the leader in motorsport in this country is welcomed, politically canny and, coupled with the current government’s less than spectacular job satisfaction ratings around the Covid-19 pandemic, will certainly help improve the chances of them rolling into power this March.

But their plans must involve The Bend (and along with them comes Mallala) to take a wholistic approach with their motorsport plans.

Making sure that one of the most impressive permanent sporting facilities in the state – which just happens to be a motorsport facility – is involved in the return of the Motorsport Board is, in my view, entirely logical.

There will need to be acceptance from all parties on the way forward; Acceptance from The Bend that the ‘500 is coming back and they may as well welcome it, and from the proponents of the ‘500 that it’s vital that a world-class permanent venue in our own backyard is supported, nurtured and doesn’t feel like it’s being robbed because the focus of the Government has returned to Victoria Park.

(Just thinking out loud, locking in a long-term agreement to support the current Supercars event at The Bend would be an ideal place to start..)

Politicians say that they are all about working together ‘with the people’ to deliver better outcomes for everyone.

Well, here’s their chance.

My only worry is that the history of Motorsport is replete with organisations or people doing exactly the opposite.

This has the potential to be a very positive thing for motorsport in South Australia should Marshall be bundled out in March.

Let’s see what happens.

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