Shahin casts doubt on long-term viability of street races
The Bend owner Sam Shahin has declared permanent facilities critical to the future of Australian motorsport amid the return of the Adelaide 500.
The Bend Motorsport Park is, for now, Australia’s newest permanent race track, and had briefly been the only South Australian venue on the Supercars calendar.
That changes this year with the return of the Valo Adelaide 500 in December, after the high-profile street circuit event had been unceremoniously axed by the previous state government.
Of course, its sudden dumping and almost as sudden comeback demonstrates that such events exist at the whims of governments.
On the other hand, while those at permanent circuits often enjoy government support also, they are at least underpinned by long-term infrastructure.
Even some of that is under threat, however, with Wakefield Park on life support following a recent New South Wales court decision, and Melbourne’s Sandown teetering on the edge of closure to make way for a residential development.
Queensland will soon enjoy another race track, however, with Townsville’s DriveIt NQ nearing completion.
“I think the broader motorsport public has to be entirely satisfied that permanent facilities like The Bend are making a contribution to promoting and growing the motorsport base in Australia, and I firmly believe that,” Shahin told Speedcafe.com.
“I absolutely believe that permanent facilities are absolutely critical to the sustainability of motorsport in Australia.
“At some point, government support across the country will wane for big motorsport events and the addiction on government support has to remain in the forefront of everybody in motorsport.
“We have to build models that are sustainable in the long-term, and this is the premise that The Bend operates on.
“I’ve built a business and a facility that has to stand on its own two feet and has to participate at the highest level of any discipline of motorsport.
“But, it’s like any relationship, whether it’s a business or a personal one; the best relationships work when each party wants the relationship to be more successful than the other [does].
“That’s the magic of sustainable, long-term relationships.”
Despite that commentary, Shahin is supportive of the move to bring back the Adelaide 500, citing its economic contribution to the state of South Australia and the exposure it attracted for the capital.
He furthermore believes it can coexist with his event, as it had done in the years after The Bend opened in 2018.
“Personally, I thought it was a mistake to let the Adelaide 500 go,” said the Executive Director of the Peregrine Corporation, the state’s largest private employer and owner also of South Australia’s Mallala Motor Sport Park.
“It was a terrific event that, like most large events, just shines the torch at the city of Adelaide and the state of South Australia for a week, and I think there aren’t many events that bring that contribution to a state economy.
“Despite declining patronage, it still was one of the best attended events in the country so, personally, I’m very pleased that the event is back, and I think it can very happily live side by side with The Bend Supercars event.
“The precedent is there, not just in South Australia, but across in other states as well.
“Remember, South Australia hosted Supercars at The Bend, as well as the Adelaide 500 in 2018 and 2019 – pre-COVID – and very successfully.
“Street circuits bring on a different market to permanent circuits.
“There is slight overlap at the corporate end of the market, but I think that they can happily coexist.
“There are multiple events across most other states that I think South Australia can happily provide for two events on the calendar.