Motorsport in South Australia had been held mainly on "closed road" circuits such as Victor Harbor, Nuriootpa, Lobethal and Woodside. When racing on these circuits was banned, a purpose-built circuit was established at Port Wakefield, 60 miles north of Adelaide. This circuit was used for many years, but was seen to be too dusty and too far from Adelaide.
During 1959 CAMS decided that the Port Wakefield circuit would be unsuitable for the scheduled 1961 Australian Grand Prix. With new high standard motor racing circuits being built interstate it was decided to start with a new site closer to Adelaide. The RAAF's 24 Squadron operational air base at Mallala was coming up for sale during 1962.
After much persuading the sale was brought forward to April 1961. It was bought as an entirety, and then sub-divided into a 200-acre airfield, the rest of the farming property was sold off. With the AGP planned for the October long weekend work commenced quickly.
A Premier Race meeting to try the circuit and facilities out was enjoyed by 15,000 people and due to a packed program the last race was started at 6.15pm!! The 1961 Australian Grand prix was the first to have sponsorship by WD & HO Wills (Craven A cigarettes) to the value of 1000 pounds. Sixteen cars faced the starter for the 32-lap race. It was won by Lex Davison.
Mallala hosted many important championship races over the next 10 years including 1962 & 1964 Gold Star Championship, 1962 & 1968 Australian Tourist Trophy, and 1963 and 1965 Touring Car Championship. The track was shortened during 1964 from 2.1 miles to 1.6 miles and the pits were moved to outside the circuit.
During 1977 Clem Smith purchased the property and the track was used for Club Sprints and motocross and mud plugging events on purpose built courses.
In 1982 Mallala was reopened to circuit racing with a CAMS B - class track license (no national championship races). With each event Clem Smith slowly upgraded the facilities. The timing tower and commentary box were said to be the best in Australia at the time. These improvements paid off with the 1989 Shell Australian Touring Car Championship returning to Mallala.
Other Championship events have included 2-litre Super Touring cars, Super Trucks, Super Bikes and Drift Supercup.
The initial "loss" of the V8 Supercars to the Clipsal 500 at the Adelaide Street Grand Prix Circuit reduced the number of major events at Mallala. However, new events and activities at the circuit has ensured that is booked almost all year round with Club sprints, Go-kart and motorcycle race meetings, Historic race meetings, drifting, SA Police driver training, motor racing schools and "driving experiences".
Circuit racing is still popular at Mallala, however in recent years Mallala has become one of Australia's premier Drift tracks, holding several state and national level events.
1964 - Clem Smith in his number 46 R Series Valiant on his way to win at the Mallala Circuit. Photo: Bill Forsyth.
1965 - The winner of the South Australian Touring Car Championship Norm Beechey takes the inside line on his team mate in the Neptune Cortina at the Mallala circuit. Photo: unknown.