ON this day in 2002, V8 Supercar drivers had their first taste of a corner that proved one of the most famous – and feared – in Australian motorsport history: Adelaide’s Turn 8 sweeper.
Linking the two main straights on the Adelaide Parklands Circuit had been problematic in its Formula 1 era due to a lack of run-off space and the move to a shorter layout for the new Adelaide 500 in 1999 only exacerbated the issue.
The first three years of the V8 Supercar event ran with a chicane connecting the two key straights, Bartels Road and Dequetteville Terrace, but that caused its own headaches.
A tyre barrier installed in 2000 to stop over-use of the exit kerb tripped up Larry Perkins, Russell Ingall and, most spectacularly, Brad Jones in the Saturday race and was removed for the following day.
Jones’ rollover is one of a number of memorable Turn 8 moments to feature in our new book, ‘Sensational Adelaide: An Illustrated History of the Adelaide 500’.
Two big brake failure-induced accidents in 2001, for Paul Weel and Dean Canto, preceded a major overhaul for ‘02 that resulted in the chicane being opened up into a concrete-lined sweeper.
The intention was to avoid the kind of head-on accidents that Weel and Canto had suffered. In reality, the new corner solved some issues while creating others.
What was a fourth gear, 130km/h chicane became a sixth gear, 210km/h sweeper with no room for mistakes. It was lauded by drivers as a real challenge and had big consequences when things went wrong.
Taking the corner tentatively was not an option either in qualifying or racing, as anyone slightly down on apex speed would also lose ground on the back straight and, in a battle, be vulnerable into the Turn 9 hairpin.
It didn’t take long for the sweeper to claim its first car. Paul Radisich lost control of his Dick Johnson Racing Ford during Practice 2 at the 2002 Clipsal 500 and slammed the outside concrete side-on.
The Falcon slid along the barrier before striking a driver/marshal exit point that caused yet more damage.
Radisich was taken to hospital for X-rays on sore ribs before being cleared to race on Saturday. His car was repaired for the Saturday race but completed just two laps before suffering engine failure.
A host of others also found the concrete before the weekend was out. That included Jason Bright, who tagged the wall while leading with just six laps to go in the Saturday race, putting him out of the contest.
Ford drivers Steven Ellery and Glenn Seton suffered heavy hits on Saturday and Sunday respectively, while Todd Kelly slapped the fence on the final lap of Race 2 and limped across the finish line.
Big incidents at the Turn 8 sweeper became a regular part of the event and formed some of its most enduring moments.
Sadly, crashes at the sweeper included an accident in 2008 that claimed the life of Development Series driver Ashley Cooper.
Several changes aimed at improving safety took place made over the years and included moving the inside wall back to improve vision and re-aligning the outside wall.
Through those tweaks though, the speed and challenge of the corner remained largely undiminished.
The recent axing of the Adelaide 500 therefore robbed Australian motorsport of one of its most famous corners, as well as one of its premiere and most-loved events.