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Adelaide’s successful pitch for Formula 1

It’s coming up to 40 years since Adelaide hosted its first Australian Grand Prix, which soon set the benchmark for all future Formula 1 events.

In 1985, the Australian Grand Prix became part of the Formula 1 circus in Adelaide in what was a high point for the sport featuring many legendary personalities and the rise of turbo technology.

The likes of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Niki Lauda, John Watson, Martin Brundle, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Elio De Angelis, Derek Warwick, Gerhard Berger and our own Alan Jones, who lapped the new circuit for the first time.

During the early 1980s, Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was searching for a new city to host a Grand Prix and Australia’s motorsport stocks was rising. Bob Jane was pitching for a Grand Prix to be held at his Calder Raceway, but the circuit was deemed to small although it hosted a multitude of big names in the early-1980s in a mix of events for Formula 5000 and Formula Atlantic entries.

Adelaide soon emerged as the favourite after launching a strong bid and it was awarded the season ending race. It launched the otherwise quiet city into the world eye for at least a week of the year and was acknowledged as the best run all season.

Professionally held on a street circuit also using the city’s Victoria Park precinct enabled the event to have an enviable location to the Adelaide CBD and the parklands.

Although it was the season ending race, just twice was the title decided on the Adelaide streets and both it was in spectacular circumstances. First, a tyre burst on Mansell’s Williams in 1986 to give Prost the win for McLaren, while Michael Schumacher secured his first crown after crashing and re-joining the track resulting in a collision with title rival Damon Hill in 1994.

Held until 1995, Adelaide was a sad departure from the calendar as the race moved to Melbourne and the Albert Park precinct it still remains at to this day.

Of course, Adelaide’s street circuit is still used partly for the annual Repco Supercars Championship finale in November, but was previously the season opener for many seasons.