South Australia hosted the non-world championship Australian Grand Prix at five different circuits between 1936 and 1961.
These are those five circuits:
Port Elliot-Victor Harbor Circuit
Distance: 32 laps, 386.16km
Winner: Les Murphy, MG P-type
The first road race held for cars in South Australia was organised by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia. It marked the first Australian Grand Prix to be held away from Phillip Island in Victoria. The circuit ran on public roads between Victor Harbor and Port Elliot, beachside towns 80 kilometres south of Adelaide. It was the only time the circuit was used for a grand prix, celebrating the centenary of European settlement in South Australia. A plaque recognises the event on Adelaide Road, at the Lions Information Bay, in Victor Harbor.
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Distance: 17 laps, 241.35km
Winner: Allan Tomlinson, MG TA
The triangular-shaped circuit hosted the second South Australian grand prix, taking in the towns of Lobethal and Charleston, 42 kilometres east of Adelaide. The Lobethal Circuit hosted four events between 1937 to 1948 for motorbikes and cars, including the Australian Senior Tourist Trophy in 1938 and Australian Grand Prix in 1939. The latter was the final Australian Grand Prix before the outbreak of the Second World War. A plaque commemorating the Lobethal Circuits sits in Main Street in the heart of the town. It was the longest circuit ever used for the Australian Grand Prix at close to 14 kilometres.
Nuriootpa Road Circuit
Distance: 34 laps, 163.9km
Winner: Doug Whiteford, Ford V8 Special
The Barossa Valley township of Nuriootpa held the grand prix on a rectangular-shaped temporary circuit. The road course was first used in 1949 and held the grand prix in 1950. The Nuriootpa Road Circuit was a temporary solution for a motorsport venue in South Australia, in place of Lobethal. However, a spate of crashes off the back serious accidents at Lobethal led to a ban on racing on public roads in South Australia through legislation that would remain until 1985.
Port Wakefield Circuit
Distance: 80 laps, 167.3km
Winner: Jack Brabham, Cooper T40
The ban on racing on public roads led to the creation of the first purpose-built motorsport facility in Australia at Port Wakefield, 98 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. The circuit was fast, featuring a long back straight, though was relatively short at just over two kilometres. It was built in 1953 ahead of hosting the grand prix in 1955 (pictured above), though it was considered inadequate to host further events with its infrastructure moved to the new circuit being built at Mallala. Port Wakefield Circuit closed soon after with the track layout still visible on Google Maps and a sign in the town recognising the event.
Mallala Race Circuit
Length: 3.38 km
Distance: 50 laps, 168.95km
Winner: Lex Davison, Cooper T51
South Australia’s second purpose-built motorsport facility opened in 1961 in time to host that year’s Australian Grand Prix. It was built on the site of the former RAAF base in Mallala, 55 kilometres north of Adelaide, utilising infrastructure from Port Wakefield Circuit. The original lap distance of 3.38 kilometres was reduced to 2.6 kilometres following the grand prix, removing the north-eastern leg of the circuit. Mallala Motor Sport Park became the hub of South Australian motorsport, hosting various categories including the Australian Touring Car Championship until 1998 ahead of the debut of the Adelaide 500 in 1999. Mallala Motor Sport Park continues to this day, hosting various grassroots events and is now owned by the Peregrine Corporation, builders of The Bend Motorsport Park in Tailem Bend.
CLICK HERE for more on the history of the Australian Grand Prix.