The Adelaide 500 returns in December 2022, revived by the Labor Party following its win in the South Australian election.
The South Australian Motor Sport Board also returns to run the event, after being disbanded in 2016 with control of the Adelaide 500 handed to South Australia’s government-supported tourism commission.
After stagnating under the tourism commission’s control in recent years, and that stagnation used as an excuse by the government to cancel an event run by what is essentially one of its own departments, the South Australian Motor Sport Board is tasked with returning the Adelaide 500 to its former glory. But it will need to learn from not only the failings of the tourism commission but also other aspects that predated the change of control in order to get the event back on track.
The following needs to be considered:
Putting the Adelaide 500 back under the control of the South Australian Motor Sport Board was vital; reapplying the formula that worked so well for the Adelaide 500 and Adelaide Grand Prix before it. Motorsport experts focusing only on motorsport events will do a far better job running the Adelaide 500 than a tourism commission spread too thinly across multiple events, blindly applying the same generic organisational and promotional tactics to them all.
What the switch needs to do, though, is take politics out of the equation, with the tourism commission’s close ties to the state government putting the event at the mercy of political manoeuvrings. The South Australian Motor Sport Board has a proven track record running the event, but it will need to show the event can once again stand on its own two feet with no significant government support.
If political interference remains, the Adelaide 500 risks becoming a bi-partisan event that’s at risk at each election. Political factors condemned the Adelaide Grand Prix and the ‘Race of a Thousand Years’, with the Adelaide 500 avoiding a similar fate for now.
Remember, while the Labor Party supported the return of the Adelaide 500, it was also the party that disbanded the original South Australian Motor Sport Board. And, once handed over to the tourism commission, allowed the neglect that had such a negative impact on the event and gave the Liberal Party the impetus it needed to condemn it.
The return of Andrew Daniels as leader of the South Australian Motor Sport Board is a huge positive. Daniels not only has the experience of running the Adelaide 500 but he also held key roles in the Australian Formula One Grand Prix Office and was chief executive officer of Adelaide Oval. That sort of experience is vital and suggests the South Australian Motor Sport Board will have the leadership it needs to get back on track.
The end-of-season December date for the 2022 Adelaide 500 is the result of the election timing and late addition to the Supercars schedule. While there may be some temptation to revert to the traditional season-opening February/March date from 2023, there are some clear advantages to a permanent end-of-year date.
The Adelaide 500 was increasingly lost amongst the Fringe and Festival arts events held in Adelaide in February/March. Not only did the events encroach on one another in the east end of the city, it created an uncomfortable dynamic with the Adelaide 500 increasingly seen as an odd one out over that period.
Staging the Adelaide 500 in the middle of the festivals only fuelled those who were against the event given it was on the one weekend in contrast to the month-long festivals, especially considering there wasn’t much of a correlation between the events happening at the same time in the same space.
In order to grow beyond a motorsport audience, the Adelaide 500 needs to be the one big event in town on its own weekend. The tourism commission’s flawed attempts to market the Adelaide 500 as an event for all with a festival-like vibe made little sense when there was already a festival going on within walking distance. And there were countless examples of the events taking away from each other on that weekend.
If Adelaide wants to show it deserves to host major events, then it needs to move away from the idea that it can only do so by staging its biggest ones at the same time.
The season-ending date also replicates the time and place on the calendar of the Adelaide Grand Prix, which worked so well with its end-of-term vibe and championship-deciding races.
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas has already hinted the Adelaide 500 could keep its season-ending slot. Like with the revival of the South Australian Motor Sport Board and its appointment of Daniels, it’s a positive early sign that the new government will learn from the mistakes of its predecessors.
The formula for a successful Adelaide 500 is simple – four days of on-track action headlined by 250-kilometre Supercars races on the Saturday and Sunday with several support categories complimented by off-track entertainment.
With Supercars the main act, hopefully with a championship still on the line, the quality of the support categories is important, as witnessed by the impact a lack of depth in the support package had in recent Adelaide 500s.
Which supports should race at the Adelaide 500? Supercars’ second-tier Super2/Super3 is an easy decision, to showcase future Supercars stars and add another V8-powered class to the bill. The S5000 could bring high-powered open-wheelers back to the Adelaide Street Circuit. The Porsche Carrera Cup and Australian GT Championship would add exotic European sportscars into the mix. The Touring Car Masters would give it a historic element that ties in with the track’s legacy.
The Adelaide Motorsport Festival also returns in 2022, scheduled for the week before the Adelaide 500 on November 24 to 27. While the revived festival is the place for an Adelaide Grand Prix commemoration, it’s also important there is some celebration or at least recognition of the event that started it all at the Adelaide 500.
Then there are the off-track supports, with concerts on all four nights of the event and improved facilities and entertainment options also a must.
It was once the hallmark of the Adelaide 500, not to mention the Adelaide Grand Prix. Adelaide did it before and did it so well, which makes the recent mismanagement of the event so puzzling.