Gearing up for new Excitement
words miles kemp
She is the Iron Maiden who smashes records, survives fireballs and has stood on IndyCar podiums. Now Swiss Simona De Silvestro is set to rewrite Aussie Supercars history as the first female full-time driver. The 28-year-old signed a historic three-year deal earlier this year that will see her join the national tour from next year, starting with Adelaide’s Clipsal 500.
But her much talked about addition to the race is just the beginning of a new era that is transforming the Australian motorsport scene forever.
In a few years “Supercars” events as they are now called will be unrecognisable, transformed into something more resembling the posh glamour-filled spectacles of Europe or Asia. Those who don’t get it found last year’s demise of Adelaide’s Clipsal 500 grid girls unthinkable.
The V8 prefix has been quietly dropped from the Supercars franchise to mirror the death of eight cylinder Australian family sedan manufacturing next year. At the same time organisers are busily developing, testing and encouraging others to investigate sophisticated alternative engines such as a Turbo V6 configuration.
The evolution of the format plays perfectly into the hands of Adelaide’s Clipsal 500, to be held from March 2 to 5 next year. The event’s organisers have for years cultivated interstate the long weekend as a high-end option for those seeking a taste of a highly competitive series of 16 races around the nation.
The man who first proposed the demise of the grid girls; South Australia’s Tourism Minister Leon Bignell, is well aware of how the transformation will work and attract additional sophisticated inbound visitor dollars. “In 2016 for the first time the race was promoted by the State Government through marketing campaigns in New Zealand where there is huge interest from motor racing fans who follow the series,’’ he says.
“The 2016 attendance figure was 263,500 — with more than 13,500 people travelling from interstate. The event was broadcast to an audience of nearly 300 million people — with an estimated media value of more than $179.5 million internationally — up on the 2015 media value of $167 million. The Clipsal 500 Adelaide continues to be the most successful V8 supercar race in Australia, with this year’s event recording its highest economic impact of $65.6 million.’’
The Clipsal 500 Adelaide is Australia’s largest ticketed domestic motorsport event and the State Government was keen to sign up until at least 2021. But wthout the effort-free tourism pull some states have, including the Great Barrier Reef or Sydney Harbour, the Clipsal 500 relies on man-made attractions to bolster attendances.
Happily coincides with Adelaide Fringe and Adelaide Festival. A “small bar” strategy by the State Government, to the chagrin of the established licensed nightclub and pub industry, has rejuvenated the city’s nightlife in the past two years. Bars can now be found crammed into small laneway spaces and on rooftops. Summer rainfall is a rare event in the city’s mediterranean climate and daylight saving gives light until 9pm in March.
The outback is a one-hour flight north of the city, the spectacular wildlife of Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln a similar distance away. Add to this the ever-present free wine tastings offered at cellar doors in international wine regions like the Barossa, and interstate visitors will find no better time to travel to South Australia.
The Director’s Club is the hottest premium ticket in town, with fine local cuisine on offer, bringing together businesses and socialites in a glamorous space, overlooking pit straight.
Staying in Adelaide for the Clipsal 500
In the Adelaide Hills
Mount Lofty House
Attractions: This luxurious hotel is set in the spectacular Adelaide Hills among wineries and dotted with small historic towns. It is only 15 minutes drive down the hill to the track.
By the beach
The Stamford Grand
Attractions: The hotel is situated on Glenelg beach, a 20 minute tram ride to the city and from there a shuttle bus ride to the track. The hotel was fully refurbished in 2015.
In the CBD
Crowne Plaza Adelaide
Attractions: In the heart of Adelaide’s party district the East End, with dozens of its best restaurants and nightclubs and a five-minute walk to the track.
Close to the track
Adelaide Royal Coach
Attractions: This hotel is only two minutes from the closest track entry gate and was refurbished in 2016. In the opposite direction it is a 10 minute walk to the premier restaurant strip The Parade in Norwood.