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In a few short years, The Bend Motorsport Park grew from what seemed to be a fanciful idea to what is now considered the benchmark for Australian motorsport facilities. What was a few years ago a dustbowl at the former Mitsubishi test track at Tailem Bend is now a hub for all manner of motoring activity.
There hadn’t been a new motorsport facility built in Australia in close to two decades, and with permanent circuits at risk of closing across the country, it seemed an ambitious project for the Peregrine Corporation to build a world-class motorsport hub 100 kilometres south-east of Adelaide.
Yet South Australians knew not to doubt the Shahin family and their Peregrine Corporation, which grew from humble beginnings with a single petrol station in 1984 to one of the top 15 private companies in Australia and the largest in South Australia.
The Shahins are motorsport fanatics, with Sam and brother Yasser regular competitors in the Australian Porsche Carrera Cup and Australian GT categories respectively, and the desire to build The Bend Motorsport Park was to give something back to the community, sport and country. And the Peregrine Corporation has done just that, confounding the sceptics who didn’t believe the grand project would see the light of day.
“It’s a grand vision, a grand project, a very optimistic project, but in tough economic times, and when the chips are down and times are tough, you need people to step forward of the line up,” said Sam Shahin.
“I’m very motivated to build a facility in Australia that ranks alongside some of the great circuits and facilities around the world.”
The Bend Motorsport Park is now fully operational. An ‘On The Run’ petrol station, the Peregrine Corporation’s core business, sits on the entry of the circuit off the Dukes Highway.
Inside the facility is a 100-room Rydges Hotel, which forms part of the pit building. The foyer for the hotel doubles as the base for the circuit, where fans and competitors can mingle over a race weekend.
The hotel rooms look over the pitlane and circuit, a first for an Australian motorsport facility. The view from the top fourth level gives the best vantage point to appreciate the size of the facility.
The track is designed so it can be split into eight different configurations, constructed with all forms of motorsport in mind. The 7.77km long ‘GT Circuit’ is the second longest permanent race track in the world, second only to the Nordschleife, Nurburgring. Supercars races on the 4.95km-long ‘International Circuit’, while the facility can be split into an ‘East Circuit’ and ‘West Circuit’, run independently of each other.
Undulations and a mix of high and low-speed corners make for a challenging circuit. Given the size of the circuit and facility, an endurance event is a better fit for The Bend Motorsport Park with the track set to host the 500-kilometre PIRTEK Enduro Cup event from 2020.
Erebus Motorsport’s David Reynolds declared that “The Bend Motorsport Park is the best thing that has happened to Australian motorsport for 20 years”, one of many to praise the facility.
“It’s the best facility in Australia, hands-down,” added Triple Eight Race Engineering’s Shane van Gisbergen, winner of the first Supercars race at The Bend Motorsport Park in 2018.
“It’s always awesome to have a new circuit, and with this one there’s been no expense spared; it really is second-to-none.
“It’s like a European-style circuit in terms of the run-off areas, but I’d call it more a mixture of Phillip Island and Eastern Creek [Sydney Motorsport Park] because it’s quite open and flowing. It’s a proper, proper race track.
“Out the back of the circuit, the middle part of the lap, there’s a lot of flowing corners where one links to the other, so that’s very hard on the tyres.
“The start of the lap is quite technical to drive, and into Turn 1, the cars come over a little crest right before braking, which is pretty tough on our cars because we brake not long after that hump.
“Then there’s a couple of fast corners at the end of the lap. The second-last corner is a nearly 90-degree right-hander, so that’s the best passing spot.”
The Bend Motorsport Park also features drift, go-kart, rallycross and off-road facilities, with a dragway being considered.
Trackside villas and camping facilities in addition to the hotel will keep fans at the facility across an event – 1400-plus guests and 600 campers booked in to the holiday park – while an industrial/business park in the works will create an automotive hub that will help fill the void left by the closure of the Holden car manufacturing plant in South Australia.
The Bend Motorsport Park regularly hosts manufacturers and other automotive-related companies for launches and ride days, while the circuit’s own calendar of events now includes Supercars, Asian Le Mans Series, Asian and Australian Superbikes in addition to state-level events and regular track drive/ride days.
Despite being fully operational, work continues to improve and grow the facility. A permanent pit straight grandstand has been built since last year, while landscaping across the facility has included the planting of 3000-plus trees.
Plans are also in place to assist in improving entries and exits from the venue, easing the drive to and from Adelaide for the majority of attendees.
“We received a lot of fantastic feedback from people who attended the inaugural event, and we have been working hard to make sure that year two is even bigger and better,” says Shahin.
“The venue is constantly evolving, and we are looking forward to providing another first-class experience for visitors.
“People have really enjoyed exploring the circuit, and finding different viewpoints to watch the racing – our internal circuit shuttle will allow fans to jump on/off at different stops.
“Due to the popularity of Park ‘n’ View, we’ve also increased the capacity and split it into two zones. Seeing cars parked and campers lining the circuit and being so close to the action creates such a unique atmosphere.
“Regardless of your ticket type, fans can watch the race from different viewpoints around the whole track, which is one of the great advantages of a permanent circuit.
“Fans loved the accessibility we offer at The Bend together with the opportunity to roam the paddock and get up close to the support category garages and pitlane garages.
“Every spectator can access this area for free, which is rare across the Supercars calendar.”
The Bend Motorsport Park is indeed an Australian facility that ranks alongside some of the great circuits from around the world. And with the improvements and recent additions and a Supercars endurance event on the horizon, it will only get better.
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