Adelaide still eyeing Grand Prix

15/03/2017
NEWS STORY

Adelaide unwittingly had its hat thrown in the ring in a bid to secure a return of the Australian Grand Prix to the city, with Adelaide City Council proposing the South Australian State Government explores the possibility.

Adelaide hosted the Australian Grand Prix between 1985 and 1995 before the event switched to its current home in Albert Park in Melbourne.

After the topic was raised last month, a meeting last night saw a vote taken on whether the Council should write to the State Government and suggest it explores returning Formula 1 to the Adelaide streets.

"There's a certain nostalgia that the Grand Prix brings, and I think everyone in the room is old enough to remember the halcyon days so I'm glad that the council will write to the State Government and at least indicate that we'd like this explored," Councillor Alex Antic, who proposed the motion, told The Advertiser.

"We'd just like to see the State Government take the steps to see if it is viable and whether a pitch could be made."

Councillor Antic's suggestion has already been swatted away by the Government, with South Australian Tourism Minister Leon Bignell labelling the Adelaide City Council as "clowns".

"These are the most infuriating people in South Australia, this city council," said Bignell. "If they want the Grand Prix, how about they put in some money so we can get the grandstands up a bit quicker, which will make their rate payers happy."

Since losing the Grand Prix Adelaide has hosted a touring car race around an abridged version of the circuit Formula 1 used, which earlier this month attracted a four day crowd of over 240,000 people. It's proved a successful event, leaving Councillor Natasha Malani agreeing with the Tourism Minister.

"It would be great to have Formula One back in Adelaide," she said, "but we need to be realistic about this.

"Those interested in writing to the minister need to do a little bit more homework on what's involved."

Despite her comments, Councillor Malani was one of those who voted in favour of the letter.

This isn't the first time a rival state has made rumblings over the event, with Sydney linked with the race when New South Wales Premier Mike Baird claimed in 2015 that "no other city in the world could provide a more spectacular backdrop for this event.

"We know this event is watched by up to 30 million people around the world, and securing the Grand Prix would put our already successful events strategy in pole position."

That proposal, worth an estimated 112million, had the circuit running over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, however nothing has been heard since, and Baird resigned as Premier in January this year.

Politics and posturing aside, there are further hurdles in the road for a possible Formula 1 return to Adelaide, not least of which the fact that Melbourne has a contract until 2023 – by which point it is forecast the event will cost more than 50million a year to stage.

Developments in the parklands east of the city have already seen the famous Banana Bend section of track re-profiled, while the existing touring car event is contracted to remain in the city until 2021.

There's also a hospital redevelopment project which is costing the South Australian State Government an estimated 620,000 a day in interest payments alone on the world's third most expensive building at 1.31billion.

The Australian Grand Prix is therefore almost certain to remain in Melbourne, at least for the foreseeable future. Should the Victorian State Government elect to then pull the plug on the event it's far more likely the Grand Prix will leave Australia, rather than find a new home interstate.

Mat Coch

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Published: 15/03/2017
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