Opened in January this year, The Bend Motorsport Park located 100km from Adelaide is without doubt one of the most significant developments in Australian motorsport history. The 7.7km track is the country’s only circuit to comply with the latest FIA Grade 2 and FIM Category A standards but is just one part of a magnificent new multi-faceted complex which includes facilities for drifting, karting, rallying, rallycross and drag and buggy racing. Oh, and trackside villas, unique hospitality, a business park and a whole host of other facilities to boot.
The man behind this massive, game changing shot in the arm to Australian motorsport is Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup driver Yasser Shahin, whose day job is Executive Chairman of Peregrine Corporation, which developed and primarily funded The Bend. Founded by Yasser’s father Fred in 1984, today Peregrine is South Australia’s largest private company, has an annual turnover of more than two billion Australian dollars and employs 4,000 people.
The Peregrine Corporation adheres strictly to its core founding values of care, reputation, equality and determination, ideals mirrored by Audi’s flagship one-make Cup. It was a happy accident, therefore, that Yasser and the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup came together when the championship made its debut at the Adelaide 500 in March this year.
“I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t come to Australia,” says Yasser. “The shocking thing is you came to Adelaide where I live, and I’d never raced here before!”
Like many privateer drivers, Yasser does not have a ‘typical’ racing driver background of childhood karting. His first GT race was in 2015 at Spa, one of the sport’s most formidable race tracks. For Yasser, joining the Cup represents both enjoyment and a chance to get to meet those involved in the Asian motorsport scene.
“I don’t have a big racing background unfortunately,” he explains. “I didn’t grow up in go karts. I discovered racing less than seven years ago. I do like cars and I do like racing so we’ve gone and built a race track. We’re all very busy professionals so racing is a bit of a side hobby.”
Yasser believes the concept of an Audi one-make series exclusively for non-professional drivers, with unparalleled arrive-and-drive services, is a good one: “The impetus to go racing for privateer drivers is making it easy and that’s why I’m here,” he says. “The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup makes it easy. Everything is done except, you just bring your helmet and do a little bit of track preparation. The cars are reliable, the teams are good, the organisation’s professional, everything’s taken care of.”
“The logistics for a privateer, to do that when they don’t do it all the time, is too much. So a series like this which is all-privateer and with this level of preparation has lots of potential. The format’s good. The open data policy is helpful for gentlemen drivers as it gives everyone a chance to learn a bit. Plus, the atmosphere’s friendly.”
For Yasser, seeing how a professional championship is run from the inside while clearly deriving enormous pleasure from taking part as well as satisfying what is evidently a seriously competitive streak, is time well spent. Combining all three is efficient and, while he gives the distinct impression that he is a man who places great value on time, he never appears rushed. Even when it comes to his other passion outside of business, he is succinct: “I’m a gardener. I have a very green thumb, but if I can’t eat it, I don’t have much interest in it.”