SPORT has a fantastic ability to combine it’s own heritage with current-day competition.
Be it an old football player promoting the current stars or an event like Supercars’ Sandown ‘Retro Round’ there’s so much for modern day competitions to draw on.
But what I think it does really well is combine old and new to showcase where the sport has been while at the same time showing where it’s going.
Last weekend in Adelaide, the Adelaide Motorsport Festival proved that the appetite for the history of the sport was well and truly alive as more than 45,000 turned out across two days to take in what has been dubbed ‘The Goodwood Festival of Australia’.
Set in the same parklands that hosted the Adelaide Grand Prix and still host the Adelaide 500, the AMF is a week-long celebration of all things motoring and motorsport with a hub on a short, 1.4-km circuit based on the famous GP layout.
A five-day rally event taking in the famous Adelaide Hills’ roads, a major street party on one of the city’s main restaurant strips – that follows a parade through the city of $20m worth of racing machinery – to a major classic car auction, this event has it all.
What’s more, on-track is a celebration of motorsport with an enormous array of classic and modern vehicles on show in a two-day sprint event.
Headlining the show are half a dozen old ‘Adelaide era’ Formula One cars which set off on an unofficial lap record chase on the short sprint circuit.
Two years ago the benchmark was set by ex-Ferrari driver Ivan Capelli, driving the same Leyton House March car he raced in the Australian Grand Prix in the late 1980s.
Last year, Tim Slade jumped aboard a locally-owned, Cosworth Powered Footwork FA15 and lopped half-a-second out of Capelli’s time.
This year, the Italian and his Adrian Newey designed car returned and through they played the lap record chances down, the way he drove the car indicated that it was a priority. Sure enough, his 42.57s lap re-claimed the benchmark for Italy.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines a stunned crowed sat captivated by what in essence was a glorified qualifying and erupted in cheers when Capelli’s new benchmark was set.
Just as impressive was the sound: the 3.5-litre Judd V8 was almost civilised when outside of it’s power band but when Ivan got up it, that flat sound changed instantly into the kind of wail that only F1 cars of that era could create. Current cars sound terrible and the V8’s of the 2000s hurt. This sounded like music you’d get on Vinyl..
The history of Grand Prix racing in Adelaide can not be overstated and even for this particular fan, it was a great moment seeing a classic F1 car being driven hard on those streets, if a shorter version of the old circuit, once again.
So that was the old – what of the new?
At the same time Capelli was driving his Leyton House as hard as he could, David Brabham hit the go-button on his stunning new BT62 Supercar and rattled more than 800 horsepower into the Adelaide Ground.
The BT62 is a stunning example of a car for which it is remarkable a market even exists; the exclusive, track-day only hypercar set may not seem like a large market but Brabs and his business partners think there’s a market for them to sell a bunch of these cars, which will be built in Adelaide.
The BT62 is a fully-blown racer and lapped the sprint circuit only 1.5 seconds slower than Capelli, which is a reasonable indication of it’s performance potential.
All carbon fibre and modern electronics, despite the fact the car eschews Hybridisation the BT62 is still a look forward into what modern engineering is capable of when it comes to high performance vehicles.
Somewhere in between was the new S5000 open wheeler, which was demonstrated in the same sessions as Capelli’s lap record exploits. Filled with modern construction and safety (it has a Halo, for example) technology, it’s power and noise is somewhat more old fashioned.
Yet it very much held it’s own amongst the lighter and more famous F1 cars: with driver Tim Macrow at the wheel it was only 0.7s slower than Capelli, despite giving away about 300kg. Most importantly, it looked and sounded every bit as good as the classic Formula One machinery which gave it the kind of feeling that it sat somewhere in between old and new.
It’s got old school looks and sound but the latest in technology to keep people safe and make the racing as good as possible.
I like that. I think it’s good that the sport can look forward to the future while still keeping an eye on the past. The sport needs nods like that to save us from racing into an electrified future, for example, that may turn people off completely.
Finding that balance is important and it’s something that car and that event do well.
And for all the remarkable technology emerging in this digital age of motorsport, it’s nice to know that there remains events like the Adelaide Motorsport Festvial – and so many other similar or different historic events across the globe – to remind us how it once was, as well.