We Sent A Clipsal 500 Virgin To The Races And This Is What She Learnt

Photos: Elyse Williams

Clipsal 500 has been on my radar as nothing more than an inconvenience that interrupts Adelaide’s traffic for far too bloody long and the repetitive laps of the V8s on the television put me to sleep.

So it was with some trepidation that I found out I would have to go this year.

“Unless you want to come home with feet dirtier than the footpath of Hindley Street, I recommend wearing closed shoes.”

Why? My boyfriend’s brother-in-law, Brenton Clift, had the opportunity to race his Holden Torana SL/R 5000 – the Toranasaurus – around the 2017 track.

This year is the first time improved production cars like Brenton’s were allowed to race and that meant we weren’t missing it for the world. I needed to get over my aversion to the races and bask in the Clipsal spirit.


Here’s what I discovered.

Stadium Trucks

It’s loud

Whether you’re sitting in the stands watching the cars go round the track, or you’re walking around checking it all out behind the scenes, there’ll be a distinctive ringing in your ears. At first, you’ll look at those wearing earplugs with curiosity and laugh, but when the humming starts to sound like a swarm of bees in your ears, you’ll wish you had followed in their footsteps. A heads up: it can take a few days for that ringing to wear off.

It’s hot

I don’t know if it’s the recent autumn heatwave or if this is a typical Clipsal 500 trait, but walking around in the sun felt like I was walking in the fiery pits of hell. I’ve never sweated quite as much as I did on the 37ºC Thursday, and that was when I had access to an air conditioned corporate box. My jaw dropped when Brenton told me it was close to mid-50ºC inside the cars.

You’ll meet a plethora of people

Accidentally sit in someone’s seat? They’ll probably abuse you with a string of profanities. Bump someone as you push through the crowds and you’ll receive daggers that burn a hole through your back. But trip over your own two feet and someone will be there to catch your fall and ask if you’re okay. And if you’re tired of walking, just wave over one of the OzHarvest golf buggies and for a gold coin donation, they’ll drop you at your car with a smile and discussion about your day. I had assumed that I wouldn’t suit the Clipsal 500 crowds, but was thrilled to see it wasn’t purely male bogans. Many women and children were there enjoying their surrounds, and the enthusiasm of the young kids brings a smile to your face. Everyone there just wants to have a great time.

You’ll look out of place in anything but a team shirt

On the Thursday – Ladies’ Day – we dressed up for the corporate box. If you do this, you’ll need to be prepared for the stares of random strangers walking past because you’ll stand out like a Golden Gaytime in a pile of Icy Poles. Chuck on shorts and a t-shirt, preferably covered in your team’s branding, and you blend right in. And unless you want to come home with feet dirtier than the footpath of Hindley Street, I recommend wearing closed shoes.

You’ll end up loving every moment of it

If you let go of any preconceptions and take in the atmosphere, it’s actually a whole lot of fun. I’ve built an appreciation for the racers, the cars and a whole weekend in the sun. Hell, I might even be back next year.


What’s your favourite thing about the Clipsal 500? Tell us in the comments, below.

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