ing motorsport park, the global Peregrine Corporation, has outlined plans to revitalise Mallala’s iconic race track and grow grassroots racing in the process.
Speaking at a business event organised by the Adelaide Plains Business Advisory Group (APBAG) at Mallala Motorsport park last month, The Bend Motorsport Park’s general manager, Mark Warren, shared future plans for the track, which could see the site once again become a focus for motor sports in South Australia.
Following the passing of Mallala local?? Clem Smith, The Peregrine Corporation bought the Mallala Motorsport Park in 2017.
Mr Warren said while ‘The Bend’ at Tailem Bend had now become the home of motorsport in the state, the track at Mallala had a wealth of history in the industry and the owners were looking to preserve and build upon that.
This year, he said, the track would celebrate its 60th anniversary, with the first race being held on August 19, 1961.
In October of that same year the Australian Grand Prix was held at Mallala.
For those rev heads out there, Lex Davidson was the winner.
“Mallala holds a very special place in a lot of people’s hearts,” Mr Warren said.
“Mallala is the spiritual home of motorsport in South Australia, but also for Australia.
“It’s something that we need to celebrate and preserve.
“Mallala was a very special place for a lot of drivers over the years (and) there’s actually a lot of history behind what happened here in Mallala in motorsport.”
The decade of 1961-1971 saw the track host a raft of championships and undergo some track modifications before racing was shut down in 1971 when new interstate owners purchased the property and focused their attention on developing the Adelaide International Raceway at Virginia.
Mr Warren said Clem Smith, who was a successful racing competitor and avid rare car collector, should be attributed with the re-birth of Mallala Motorsport when he bought the property in 1976/77.
“He was literally the champion for Mallala to bring racing back,” he said.
Racing resumed in 1984, and from 1989-1998 the track roared with the sounds of the V8s going round as part of the Australian Touring Car Championships.
“We are trying to recapture a lot of that history (and) we are very keen for anyone who has some stories to tell or knows something that perhaps isn’t well known, to come and let us know so that we can capture that as part of some celebrations planned for later in the year,” Mr Warren said.
The purchase of the track by the Peregrine Corporation was very much about holding onto the state’s motorsport history, Mr Warren revealed.
“We have some very passionate owners who love their motorsport, very parochial and passionate South Australians,” he said.
“They were very keen to make sure that we preserve motorsport history within South Australia.
“They were concerned that should this track be purchased by just anyone, they could turn it into residential, it could be shut down like it was in the 70s, so they want to make sure that we preserve that history, celebrate it and regrow motorsport.”
Drive and ride experiences, events, conferences, advanced driver training and of course racing, are all on the cards for Mallala Motorsport Park.
A focus for the company, Mr Warren said, is to build the grassroots motorsport industry, with plans to bring the Shannons Nationals MotorRacing Championships to Mallala also.
“Bringing Mallala into the fold is all about that grassroots motorsport and making sure that we make it successful once more,” he outlined.
“Mallala is very much integrated and integral to our business plan.
“For us it’s creating Mallala as a destination, so that people can come here and experience being on the track.
“We want to bring back national circuit racing, starting with Shannons.”
The owners also have plans to bring more regular gokart racing to the track.
“It’s been very successful for us at The Bend,” Mr Warren said.
“There’s a great opportunity for us to bring more of that here.”
Mr Warren said the Mallala track was a fantastic track for young drivers and those new to motorsports, to learn, with
driver education and training a key focus for the business over the next 10 years.
“The key message I wanted to relay was that it (Mallala Motorsport Park) is very much a part of our business plan,” he said.
“This is a fantastic track, it’s actually quite technical in places, and also quite safe, to actually bring people out here to learn their race craft.
“We think there’s a great opportunity to build more of what would be an overall racing capacity, starting with young kids and moving right through to getting GT races, which will really build again that racing industry in South Australia.
“It’s going to take us 10 years to move down that path but Mallala features quite prominently in how we might do that (and) it’s important to us to have this as an accessible motorsport facility.”
As an avid supporter of the track and having raced on it some years ago, Adelaide Plains Business Advisory Group (APBAG) chairman, Ian O’Loan said he was pleased to learn the direction the Peregrine Corporation was taking.
“It was pretty positive to see,” Mr O’Loan said.
“It looks like they’ve got an agenda worked out to actually use the track for a variety of reasons, it’s just not going to be dormant, it’s going to involve a variety of users and also looking at bringing events there as well.
“I would be more than happy to see it come back into more use where public access is able to be had.”