Adelaide 500 winner Scott McLaughlin with the Supercars championship trophy he won last year. (AAP: Mark Horsburgh)
A range of factors have been blamed for the lowest number of people attending the Adelaide 500 Supercars race since it became a four-day event in 2003.
- About 200,000 people attended this week’s Adelaide 500 Supercars event
- Bushfires, the coronavirus and the economy have been suggested as factors in the low crowd numbers
- The Hilltops Hoods headlined this year’s concert after previous international acts
Just over 206,000 people attended the event over the four days to Sunday, down from 254,000 last year and 273,500 in 2018.
That is the lowest attendance since 213,600 motor racing fans turned up in 2003, according to figures provided by the organiser, Events South Australia.
Attendance on the Sunday was down from 91,500 last year to 66,000 this year.
The race was won by Ford driver Scott McLaughlin, six days after GM announced the Holden brand would be axed by the end of the year.
Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed blamed “consumer behaviour changing”, ageing motorsport fans and the generally weak economy for the crowd drop.
“It’s certainly a big drop,” she said.
“I still think more than 200,000 people across four days in anyone’s language is still a great crowd, but definitely crowds were down over the last four days and I’m sure there a number of reasons why that might be.”
Musical act not as attractive
Events SA is contracted to host the Supercars at the Adelaide CBD circuit until next year.
A Supercar race is also held at The Bend Motorsport Park in Tailem Bend, about 100 kilometres south-east of Adelaide.
This year’s Adelaide 500 included a concert headlined by the Hilltop Hoods after previous races were headlined by international acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Robbie Williams.
Both McLaughlin and Australian Hotels Association SA chief executive Ian Horne suspected the smaller musical drawcard was a factor in the attendance fall.
“No disrespect to the Hilltop Hoods — they’re a well known South Australian and Australian band with an international reputation — but in other years we’ve had some very, very high-profile acts — Robbie Williams just to name one,” Mr Horne said.
Two Red Bull Holden Commodore Supercars in the pit lane of the Adelaide 500 last week. (ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)
Mr Horne also suggested the “reality and psyche impact of bushfires and coronavirus”, less corporate support, competition from other events and the length of the event could have been factors.
“There’s no one single reason this year would be down on others but clearly there will be an analysis by the [SA] Tourism Commission,” he said.
McLaughlin said “overall as a whole the sport does need to have a big think about a few things” with Holden’s closure.
“But they’ve been harder times and we’ll get through this and we’ll keep focusing,” he said.
“I don’t think we need to replicate the Holden v Ford rivalry but we need to somehow find that applicable to younger people coming forward and the next generation.
“We’re losing that Holden–Ford rivalry that was built over 60-odd years, but I think if we can build something new and exciting and fresh for everyone else the sport can be in a good spot.”
Race-goers want more categories and more screens
Ms Rasheed said more attractions had been added around the track, including two water slides and more than 1,000 square metres of extra shade.
She said the concert was “a great night”.
“We were pretty proud to profile the Hilltop Hoods — Adelaide’s own that are internationally renown — and the concert site was absolutely packed last night,” she said.
Race-goers complained online about fewer big screens and race categories at this year’s event.
“You have removed stands and television screens, blocked off general admission viewing areas, cut back on amenities including food and beverage … fun policed this event so much that it is a downsized, sanitised, shadow of its former self,” Jason Mitchell wrote on the Adelaide 500’s Facebook page.
Christine Weber said the event was “getting quite disappointing”.
“Bring back the utes, the stunt drivers, the Aussie [Racing] Cars, the Harley drivers parade, keep the stadium trucks, change race time back to how it was and open the gates earlier,” she wrote.
ABC Radio Adelaide listener Deborah said her family made the decision not to go at the end of last year’s event.
“The tone of the race has changed,” she said.
“Those bouncy trucks — they disappeared last year.
“The set-out of the track and everything.
“There was a lot of disgruntled people last year and I think if the organisers want to figure out why people aren’t going, they need to contact the people who didn’t renew their tickets and it has nothing to do with the bushfires or the psyche of the recent events.
“We made our decision a year ago.”