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Mallala – A part of South Australia’s rich motorsport history

Since The Bend Motorsport Park was completed in 2018, the venue took over from Mallala as South Australia’s premier racing facility.

However, Mallala retains a lot of history from hosting an Australian Grand Prix to laying dormant for much of the 1970s to being a Chrysler test track for its Series Production campaigns to the debut of the Nissan Skyline GT-R in 1990.

Established on the former site of RAAF Base Mallala, the land was purchased in 1961 with a track built using the taxiways, access roads and various hardstand areas where hangars were situated.

Bib Stillwell won the first race at the venue on August 19, 1961 in a Cooper Climax as the venue was thrust into the spotlight straight away by hosting the year’s Australian Grand Prix on an extended version of the current circuit.

Being reduced from a 3.37km to 2.60km layout by the northern hairpin being moved closer in where it hosted Australian Drivers’ Championship rounds in 1961-1971, Australian Tourist Trophy in 1962 and 1968, while a sole round of the Australian Touring Car Championship was staged in 1963 when it was decided by a single event won by Bob Jane.

Once the ATCC became a series, Mallala became a regular fixture until Keith Williams added the circuit to his portfolio, which already included Surfers Paradise International Raceway and Adelaide International Raceway.

Once built, Adelaide International Raceway became the place to race in South Australia after Williams moved all the events there and put a court ordered covenant stopping all racing at Mallala.

Although no events were conducted exhaustive testing was completed there by Chrysler Australia where it tested its stillborn V8 Charger.

Legendary manufacturer Elfin Sports Cars was another to regularly attend the venue to sort its various new sportscar and open-wheel designs under the stewardship of founder Garrie Cooper.

Racing returned to Mallala once South Australian businessman and Sports Sedan racer Clem Smith purchased the venue in 1977 where a redevelopment followed allowing motorcycle racing to return in 1980.

Racing on four-wheels did likewise in 1982 with the circuit issued a B licence, before being upgraded to A in 1984 when the first national event was hosted headlined by the Australian Formula 2 Championship.

Top line touring car racing returned in 1988 as Adelaide International Raceway headed into demise, holding the honour for 10 years until the introduction of the first Adelaide 500 in 1999.

The V8 Development Series, otherwise known as Super2 these days continued there until 2006.

There were a couple of history making moments at Mallala during this period including hosting the very first Formula Holden race in 1989, while the mighty Gibson Motorsport Nissan Skyline GT-R debuted the year after in the hands of Mark Skaife, but hub failure dropped it out of contention.

After Supercars moved to a modified version of the old Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit, categories such as Super Touring, Procar Champ Series and the Shannons Nationals continued at Mallala until the late 2000s.

Now owned by the Shahin’s Peregrine Group, the circuit continues to this day featuring predominately state-based competition and hopefully for many more to come.

In fact it celebrated its 60th anniversary last year.

Bring back Adelaide International Raceway as well we say!