Twenty years ago, the State government of South Australia decided that it would be a great way to lift the profile of the City of Adelaide if the city hosted a race in the Formula 1 Grand Prix racing World Championship.
I don’t recall how exactly this was secured, although I’m assuming large slabs of public money were involved. Anyhow the deed was done, and from 1984, every November, the streets of the eastern side of the CBD were disrupted as the roads were turned into a racetrack.
Certainly, the Grand Prix race probably did lift the profile of Adelaide, at least in Europe, where Formula 1 was and is followed with something of a passion in some circles. And as Adelaide hosted the last race of the year, there were times when the World Championship could be decided in Adelaide.
So this was all rather wonderful really; every November Adelaide would be inundated by high spending European racing teams, journalists, hangers on and the other waifs, strays and scoundrels that are associated with that sport.
Anyway, the perception arose in Australia that this was all rather a good thing, and other cities became rather jealous. In 1994, the State government of Victoria persuaded the powers that be in Formula 1 circles that the race would be better staged in the City of Melbourne. This caused dismay in Adelaide…
The loss of the race was somehow perceived to be a part of the decline of Adelaide, and the state of South Australia as a whole. In 1994, memories of the collapse of the State Bank of South Australia, which devastated the state’s finances and the economy in general, were still raw, and the loss of the Grand Prix was seen as part of that decline.
So the powers that be resolved that although they might not be able to provide bread, they were damned if they were going to not provide circuses, decided that motor racing sport was ipso facto a good thing, and so the Clipsal 500 idea was born.
The race is moved to March, but the principle is the same. Close off city streets and charge amazing amounts of money to people to watch cars drive fast and make lots of noise. (As you might have gathered, I am not enamoured of motorsport.)
The participants are Australian touring car racers, which is a rather serious sport in financial terms, but doesn’t capture the public imagination.
I must admit I loathe the hosting of this race in our city. It was bad enough when the Formula 1 Grand Prix was here, but at least we got some tourism and big spending Eurotrash here. Now we just get a silly race that makes the city look terribly parochial and small minded. Not to mention the fact that the roads of Adelaide will be crawling with would be racing stars over the next week. Thank goodness football season starts next week, and we can all get back to normal.