COVID-19 spells end of Adelaide 500 supercar race after 21 years

The Adelaide 500 supercar race will not run again, bringing an end to what was the biggest street race on the Australian calendar for more than 20 years.

Next year’s event was going to be the last under the existing contract, but it has been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) said the contract would not be renewed.

SATC’s chief executive Rodney Harrex said all avenues to keep the event alive had been explored.

“At the end of the day, with the current set of circumstances we are not in a position to deliver a sustainable, successful future for the event for next year and beyond,” Mr Harrex said.

“Due to the high level of uncertainty around the ability of the event to proceed in 2021, the likely impact on the event for both the consumer and commercial market, and the long-term decline in the core motorsport fan, a decision has been made that it will not be possible to hold the race next year, and to not seek a contract for future years.”

Premier and Tourism Minister Steven Marshall said the decision to cancel next year’s event was made with careful consideration.

“The Superloop Adelaide 500 has been an event icon for over 20 years,” Mr Marshall said.

“We remain a strong supporter of motorsports and will move swiftly to assess all options for motorsport future events.”

Empty grandstands at a race trackEmpty grandstands at a race track
The Adelaide 500 was one of the biggest events on the South Australian calendar, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators to the race.(ABC Radio Adelaide)

The 2020 event attracted the lowest crowd since 2003, with just over 206,000 people over the event’s four days.

Several factors were blamed for the downturn including bushfires, the coronavirus pandemic and the demise of Australian manufacturing and the traditional Holden versus Ford rivalry.

In a statement the Supercars Championship said it was disappointed in the state government’s decision.

“If at any time in the future, the South Australian Government decides to recommence the Adelaide 500, Supercars would be delighted to be there,” organisers said.

Former race promoter Mike Drewer told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Drive program the decision was not a shock.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve let it go and obviously things like COVID and the Tailem Bend track probably provides them with a rationale for doing it,” Mr Drewer said.

“But I think it’s a great shame; a street circuit really did bring the city alive, it was the biggest event.

The SATC said the money set aside for the Adelaide 500 would be used for new events.