Anticipation building ahead of Adelaide 500 outcome

Scott Pye climbs the iconic Senna Chicane in Adelaide. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

Next Saturday, South Australians will head to voting booths to decide which party will form the state’s government for the next four years, and ultimately, whether the Adelaide 500 will return.

As it stands, the event is unlikely to make a comeback under the watch of the incumbent Steven Marshall-led South Australian Liberal Party if reelected.

However, opposition leader Peter Malinauskas of South Australian Labor has committed to the return of the Adelaide 500 this year if his party wins.

For Scott Pye, the prospect of the event returning is one that has him excited.

The Team 18 driver grew up watching the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix on the streets of Adelaide and eventually made his first full-time Supercars start at the Adelaide 500 in 2013.

“The possibility of that event returning is very exciting, and to think that we could finish the season there would be an unreal opportunity for a local boy,” Pye told Speedcafe.com.

“I’ve had the chance to start the season there, but to have the season finish there as well is a really cool opportunity and one that not many people get to have.

“Whether or not there’s a change of government and it happens is still to be seen, but certainly there’s that anticipation and excitement around the possibility of it returning.

“It’s my favourite event on the calendar, obviously being biased, but amongst the drivers; the track has always been one we’ve loved racing at.

“I think from a fan’s perspective, it’s pretty unique and street circuits are exciting. From all those aspects, and the category’s perspective, I hope it comes back.

“I’m just really hopeful that it does. If not this year, I think there’s been enough for the event that it will return in some form. That’s been the best thing out of what we’ve seen.

“Whether the government changes or not, ideally it’s back at the end of this year and us drivers get the opportunity to race in Adelaide again, but if not, I think there’s been enough traction now to prove that that event deserves to be on the calendar.”

If the Adelaide 500 returns in 2022, mooted for December 1-4, Pye believes it has to return bigger and better than before.

Off-track entertainment supplemented the on-track experience for fans, with the likes of Robbie Williams and the Red Hot Chili Peppers headlining the 2018 and 2019 events.

The most recent Adelaide 500 suffered a dip in attendance in 2020, with a little over 200,000 fans flocking to the circuit.

It marked a downturn on the two years prior, which amassed 254,000 spectators in 2019 and 273,500 in 2018.

That slump, and the COVID-19 pandemic, were attributed to the event’s ultimate demise, which was announced at the end of 2020.

For Pye, moving the event away from ‘Mad March’ – a period in which Adelaide hosts numerous events including the Fringe Festival – could benefit the Adelaide 500.

“The government that was in at the time was not doing the best job for the event, and I think that’s why it tapered off,” said Pye.

“I don’t think it was necessarily a loss of love for that event, I think locals have benefitted from that event financially.

“It’s a huge asset, but separating it from the Fringe Festival and having it at the end of the year is a good opportunity for those local businesses to have two periods throughout the year that attract massive tourism from all over Australia.

“Yes, you always want to make it bigger and better, but I think it’s about getting the small things right so that it’s a future success, not just that it’s back and then it fails. “

Pye said he has been encouraged by how receptive Malinauskas has been to feedback.

“The opposition leader was very open to those discussions in taking advice from the drivers and from the right people to make sure that we’re offering an experience to the fans when they return, not just the racing,” he said.

“Because at the end of the day, we want families to come to these events, we want young people to come and have a good time.

“When we’re only on track for a few hours a day, it’s about the show and experience they get when they walk through those gates.

“There are talks that are happening that make it a very exciting prospect to have it back on the calendar, and not just the race cars on track.”

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