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FEATURE! The Tour Down Under, Adelaide 500 and the grand prix legacy

The loss of the Australian Grand Prix left Adelaide with a gaping hole in its calendar of major events.

The state government, still reeling from the collapse of the State Bank (the biggest factor in the loss of the grand prix), needed new major events that would make sense under tight fiscal requirements.

The South Australian Tourism Commission Act came into being in 1993, giving birth to Australian Major Events Corporation (eventually becoming Events South Australia). Coupled with a Major Project Task Force, they were charged with developing and supporting grand prix replacements.

Adelaide’s success in staging the Australian Grand Prix showed the state’s ability to host world-class events, making it a desirable partner for budding applicants.

The two major sporting events that followed both debuted in 1999: the Tour Down Under and the Adelaide 500.

The Tour Down Under, a UCI World Tour event created by South Australian cycling gold medallist Michael Turtur, became one of the headline acts of South Australia’s major-events calendar, starting the schedule in January and leading into the Fringe and Festival arts in February and March at the same time as the Adelaide 500 – ‘Mad March’.

Premier John Olsen championed those events, taking the gamble on V8 Supercars, which contested non-championship races throughout the Adelaide Grand Prix era, headlining its own event on a shortened version of the circuit.

The series had come under new management in 1996 with the creation of Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company (AVESCO), a joint venture between the teams (Touring Car Entrants Group of Australia, TEGA) and sports promoters IMG, led by the ambitious Tony Cochrane and his newly created Sports & Entertainment Limited (SEL) company. Their goal was to elevate a championship that played second fiddle to the Bathurst 1000, which wasn’t part of the championship, with marquee rounds such as Adelaide.

With the government acting quickly in the wake of the loss of the grand prix, personnel from the Australian Grand Prix Formula One Office could be deployed into roles within these new ventures and sectors, utilising their experience in major events.

Andrew Daniels was an integral part of the transition as one of the last employees in the Australian Grand Prix Formula One Office who moved on to Australian Major Events Corporation and then became CEO of the Adelaide 500.

“Adelaide has moved on; Formula 1 was a long time ago and I don’t think it’ll ever come back… it was of its time,” he says.

“Now, when you look at what’s on in Adelaide, the calendar of events and developments are so huge, it’s a different feeling in the state.

“Without an event like the grand prix, which bred an organisation like Australian Major Events Corporation, the Adelaide 500 etc, they wouldn’t have been able to be built upon each other. And if the grand prix had never happened, I wonder what events we would even have in Adelaide.

“Those events were all trying to get Adelaide to be proud of itself. And, therefore, they are so powerful. The forces of darkness line up to try and stop them. But you need to have this great activity to promote the city and promote the state.”

Daniels is now CEO of Adelaide Oval, one of many former grand prix staffers in various positions within Adelaide continuing the push of major events.


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