The Race of a Thousand Years only ran once: 31 December 2000. With the 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual taking place this weekend, our writer Luca asks if an Adelaide sportscar enduro could happen again through sim racing.
Image credit: Studio 397
In September 2017, Motorsport.com ran a survey in collaboration with the World Endurance Championship. The 2017 WEC Global Fan Survey asked the fans of the series what they most wanted to see going forward, such as broadcasting methods, changes to the format of events and most importantly to today’s topic, which tracks to visit.
In this survey, fans were given a plethora of tracks to choose from. This included now-former venues Silverstone and Nürburgring, future circuits Monza and Algarve, and even a few undesirable tracks such as the ever-unpopular Sochi.
But one circuit on the survey stood out, as it was the only street circuit on the list.
The Adelaide street circuit held the Australian F1 race between 1985 and 1995 on its 2.35 mile original layout. It has also since played host to a round of the Australian Supercars championship on a shortened version of the track.
Drivers and spectators alike have commended the circuit for its high speed corners and relentlessly challenging nature. Most racing fans loathe street circuits as they’re either challenging to drive but boring to watch races on, or vice versa. Or, more often than not, neither. Adelaide, though, is often cited as the exception to the rule.
Whilst Adelaide’s two major headline races may have been the Grand Prix and the Supercars 500 event, those aren’t the only significant championships to have raced there.
Race of a Thousand Years
Endurance racing is not a foreign concept to the residents of the Parklands. Those attempting to enjoy their new years celebrations back in 2000 had to share it with a pack of sportscars racing around the streets.
For the final round of the American Le Mans Series in 2000, the competitors went to South Australia in the final of three intercontinental trips that year. The race was held on New Years Eve in what was dubbed the Race of a Thousand Years, and it was the last time that any drivers would tackle the full Grand Prix circuit.
If you are interested to learn more about this race, which was won by Allan McNish, Rinaldo Capello and Brad Jones, I recommend this very informative and well made video by Stijn Paspont.
At the time of the WEC survey, the organisers had been evaluating two types of season structure. The first was a more conventional structure of starting early in the year and ending later that same year like WEC had done since it began in 2012. Second was a proposal which would mirror what Formula E does, starting in the latter half of one year and ending in the early part of the next, concluding the season at Le Mans.
WEC did end up adopting a Formula E-style schedule, with its 2018-19 ‘super season’ which featured Spa and Le Mans on the schedule twice. Unfortunately, after COVID-19 reared its ugly head during the 2019-20 season, it forced them to revert back to a more conventional season structure.
But, if they had kept the Formula E-style schedule, what better race to transition from one year to the next than the Race of a Thousand Years? The 2000 running very nearly ran past midnight, being stopped two hours from the end. It would have made it the only motor race in history to start in one year and end in another.
Realistically speaking, to have an annual event closing off the streets of Adelaide on New Years is highly impractical. Indeed, the initial planned contract for the Race of a Thousand Years was shredded for reasons still unknown. It’s certainly probable that the logistical limitations of setting up the track at Christmas and reverting it back to a regular road after New Years contributed to its cancellation.
We lost what could have been yet another golden ribbon endurance sportscar event. Up there with the likes of the 24 hours races at Le Mans, Daytona, Nürburgring and Spa as well as the 12 hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. It is unfortunate, but of course it is unavoidable that limitations exist in the world.
Although, there are some ways around those restrictions. The easiest way is to use the virtual world. Many major sim racing events have taken crazy concepts that just wouldn’t work in the real world.
Lack of Limitations
With the 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual just around the corner, could there be a case for Studio 397 adding Adelaide in an official capacity to rFactor 2 and putting it on the schedule? The second season of the Le Mans Virtual Series has exclusively only featured circuits on the WEC calendar, with only Fuji not occupying a slot on the schedule. But the first season did see LMVS tackle a circuit that could never realistically be used in the real world.
The third round of the 2021-22 season saw the LMVS competitors take to the Nordschleife, typically not a circuit that sees anything quicker than a GT3 car race on it for safety reasons. But since there really isn’t any safety issues in sim racing, the Le Mans Virtual organisers decided to bring the mouth-watering prospect of LMP and GTE cars to the near-16 mile layout.
The race did have to be stopped before the end due to connection reasons but up until that point, the ultra-narrow Nordschleife provided quite the challenge for all drivers. For the following season, LMVS swapped out the Nordschleife for the Bahrain International Circuit. That meant the one race that couldn’t happen in real life has unfortunately been done away with.
But the fact that this Nordschleife race with LMP and GTE cars happened, proves that anything that is near-impossible to pull off in the real world can be managed virtually. Which is why the Race of a Thousand Years can, and should, return in sim racing form.
Whether it’s a closed off event for pro drivers as part of an existing championship like the Le Mans Virtual Series, or a community race open to all held through Low Fuel Motorsport or as an iRacing Special Event. A multi-class enduro race on the Adelaide GP layout racing in the dark on the first weekend after Christmas would be truly special.
As for whether it could happen, that would be more of a question for the professional organisers. Right now, the only appearance of the classic Adelaide layout in an official capacity on any sim is Automobilista 2. There are some third party mods for the likes of Assetto Corsa and also for rFactor 2, albeit with only the Supercars layout.
There’s nothing perfect but if there’s a will, there’s a way. If any community can make an event happen, it’s the sim racing community. Hopefully Adelaide can get added in an official capacity to a densely populated racing game in the future, but regardless of how, let’s see the Race of a Thousand Years return.
If you’re in the mood for more Adelaide appreciation, watch this video by SouthPawRacer.
What classic race would you like to see return through sim racing? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!