Adelaide 500 was a "major risk" for SA – tourism boss

Andrew van Leeuwen
·4-min read

Supercars was rocked by news yesterday that the famous Adelaide 500 is no more, the SA government pulling the pin on the event effective immediately.

That's despite a contract with Supercars that ran until 2021, and an announcement earlier this year that the event would indeed be on the next calendar, just not in it's traditional season-opening slot.

With declining crowds even pre-pandemic, and fresh challenges posed by COVID-19, were cited as reasons for the axing yesterday, SA Tourism Commission chief executive Harrex has now expanded on the decision.

He says trying to stage the event next year with so much uncertainty around the make-up of large gatherings posed a "major risk" to the state, one the tourism body wasn't prepared to take.

"The decision has been a very long one," he said.

"We've been taking to Supercars for a considerable amount of time, in excess of 12 months. We've looked at the history of this event, we've been looking at declining numbers around motorsport fans that have been declining for over 10 years. We've been looking at the commercial support for this event [and] we've seen a decline in hospitality.

"Ultimately we've got to make the right decisions that will drive the most jobs growth for this state. And when we look into the future we see the challenges around holding the Adelaide 500 going forward. With COVID restrictions it's going to present some serious challenges.

"It is a significant investment, and we are putting all of our investment into one event. We see that as a major risk for the state and the for SATC.

"When you're building a street circuit, this is a massive investment. And if there are any issues around COVID-related challenges, all of your investment is in one space.

"So we're really committed to work with The Bend and committed to work with Supercars to find the right solution."

Harrex brushed off suggestions Supercars was blindsided by yesterday's news, claiming there were no surprises given the direction talks had been heading.

"We have a really strong partnership with Supercars," he said. "We've put a lot of effort into it. We have worked very hard to find the right outcome and right solution.

"How strong is that partnership? They came to us mid-season when they were in trouble with a Queensland event. We gave them funding to bring two races here to The Bend. This is how strong that partnership is.

"We're there to work with them. This has been a very long negotiation and discussion with all options on the table. There are no surprises."

He also urged the category to not go cold on holding events at The Bend, the state's biggest permanent motor racing facility, because of the Adelaide 500 decision.

"What I'd say is that we want to work with Supercars, we're working with The Bend, we know it is a world-class piece of infrastructure," he said.

"It's important to utilise the great assets that our country has to offer, and The Bend is one of those pieces."

Meanwhile Harrex wouldn't be drawn on the specifics of what cutting the deal a year short may cost SA taxpayers, instead claiming both Supercars and the national governing body Motorsport Australia had said it wasn't possible to stage the event.

"We'll continue to work through those discussions," he said.

"What we do know, and Supercars has said to us, the ability to run the event next year wasn't possible. Motorsport Australia has talked to us about the challenges and risks of running street circuits. So we'll continue those discussions."

As for whether the Adelaide 500 may return in the future, Harrex says it's unlikely.

"The decision has been made now," he said.

"Again, we have explored all of these options. It's been extensive discussions with Supercars. In this new world, as we look forward, we've made it really clear; we need to look at options that we can work and deliver, and drive jobs and growths."