Tributes flow for Mallala owner Clem Smith

Gordon Lomas

By Gordon Lomas

Thursday 9th February, 2017 - 4:33pm

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Clem Smith

The South Australian motor racing community is mourning the death of popular Mallala owner Clem Smith.

Smith, 90, died peacefully earlier today after enjoying a career long span as a competitor and well respected custodian of the historic circuit which he saved from oblivion.

A speedway driver at Rowley Park back in his youth, Smith was a successful state competitor through several decades from the 1950’s.

Smith, who harboured a fine personal car collection highlighted by his beloved Valiants, had purchased Mallala in the mid-1970’s at a time when the circuit was close to being lost.

Keith Williams, owner of Surfers Paradise Raceway, had a few years earlier built Adelaide International Raceway at the same time as owning Mallala.

Williams had consequently closed Mallala when AIR was being built and placed a covenant on the land prohibiting motor racing to be conducted in the future.

When Smith purchased Mallala he managed to beat huge odds and overturn the covenant in a court case which set a legal precedent at the time.

Glen Dix, the former animated flag marshal at the Adelaide Formula 1 Grand Prix from 1985 to 1995, reflected on a life-long association with Smith.

“I saw Clem race his first car (Terraplane single-seater) down at Sellicks Beach in the early 1950’s and I was at Port Wakefield for his next race when the car had its mudguards removed,” Dix told Speedcafe.com.

“I, along with many other people, realise and appreciate just how much Clem has done for motorsport in this state.

“I believe Clem was the first guy to ever win a court case against Keith Williams.

“And years later when judges are hearing similar type cases, the Smith v Williams situation is brought up as a precedent.”

Smith is being remembered as a fiercely loyal and passionate man who was a recipient of an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) and his commitment to motorsport was also recognised with an Australian Sports Medal.

“We were both members of the Adelaide Sporting Car Club and have done a lot together over the years,” Dix said.

“I can remember navigating for him and his kids in a ski race down at Murray Bridge.

“We drove to together in various Valiant cars to get to Bathurst driving at 100 mph (160km/h) just to be a spectator.

“We went to Sandown together, where, in one of the first long distance events Clem drove a car for the Melbourne Chrysler dealer at the time.”

From 1991 Dix decided to put much of his spare time in retirement into volunteering jobs to help Smith out at Mallala.

“It was tidying up around the place, planting about 1600 trees and general maintenance which turned into seven days a week. I only gave it up about 18 months ago.

“Clem would come in to have a cup of tea in the caravan at the track then put his overalls on and we would go out and do the pick and shovel work or whatever the job was at the time.

“He would be alongside of me the whole way.

“For many, many, many years Clem placed enormous trust in me.

“And that relationship meant a million dollars to me.”

His trust and good name resonated with many suppliers of the Mallala circuit.

“When the petrol truck arrived at the circuit to fill up the tanks one of the drivers said to me; ‘this is the only delivery I make where I don’t have to collect the money before I leave the premises’.”

“They might only seem small words but if you think about it, they mean say a hell of a lot about Clem’s character.”

Smith was a man of honour which is reflected in the avalanche of glowing tributes on social media channels.

Speedcafe.com extends its condolences to Smith’s family and friends.