Businessman, racer and track owner Tony Quinn believes Hampton Downs International Motorsport Park is the luckiest race circuit in the country.
“Think about it; you have an international-level race track that sits right beside a main highway and is less than an hour’s drive away from two million people. As far as opportunities go, we have a pretty impressive one here,” he tells me.
Tracking Quinn down isn’t easy. He’s keen to retire in New Zealand eventually, but right now he logs many miles between his current family base in Queensland; his other race track, Highlands Motorsport Park, in Cromwell which he built from the ground up some years ago; and his latest investment here on the Auckland-Waikato border.
The day I catch up with him, Quinn has just returned from competing at the challenging Pikes Peak hillclimb event in the US (where he finished with a respectable 18th fastest time) and – warn his people – he’s been with TV3’s Story current affairs show all day; he might be all talked out.
In actual fact we sit and chat for two hours. He’s honest; a straight-shooter, but exceptionally warm with it.
Why did he buy Hampton Downs, I ask at one point.
“Why did I buy it?” he repeats. “Well I… I don’t really know,” he laughs.
Quinn, a native of Scotland who made his money in pet food in Australia, purchased Hampton Downs about a year ago and has spent $25m on upgrading the place. His teams have constructed a 1.2 kilometre track extension, new corporate facilities and members’ suites, new garages, an international quality pit building, an adjacent go-kart track and all the major landscaping work that needs to go into making the place fulfill the promise it was initially built on a decade ago.
“This is about to become an international race track,” Quinn says.
“We’ve got the Australian GTs coming. I firmly believe we’ll eventually get the New Zealand Grand Prix. We have motorsport festivals and the go-kart track and we’re 40 minutes from an international airport.
“Highlands Motorsport Park is a destination track – it’s built around tourism because there is so much to do in that part of the world and because of that it’s a very unique facility.
“Hampton Downs is a different beast though; it has to stand on its own as a racing destination. And that’s why I’ve invested so much in it. It needs to be world class and it’s transforming into the sort of place people will come from around the world to compete at.”
Quinn says that, with Auckland spreading south and Hamilton spreading north, Hampton Downs is in a prime location. He has a 25 year plan for the place; something he bluntly suggests he won’t benefit from, but his grandkids will.
He’s also realistic when discussing the risks associated with owning race tracks.
“If you own a pencil making factory, what are the chances of someone getting killed in your factory? Weigh that up against owning a race track. Believe me, the fact that we’re facilitating high speed, high performance motorsport weighs heavily. We wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.
“If something terrible happens on track – even if you’re not there – you’re inevitably going to kick yourself. You’re going to ask why and where and was there anything we could have done differently with the infrastructure. I’ve known track owners who are constantly working under extreme stress and accidents only make it worse.
“It’s the nature of the beast that every lap presents danger. But we can’t police stupidity,” he says.
Quinn is an incredibly quick driver himself – there is more than an interest in real estate and tourism tied up in his development of race tracks at either end of the country – but he’s realistic about his chances of staying at the front of the grid.
“I love racing and I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m not embarrassing myself out there. But I love the sport generally; that’s why I want to be involved at the level I am. Running events with the talented people I’ve managed to attract is a fun thing to do.”
It’s plain to see why Quinn bought Hampton Downs. He loves everything that goes on here, along with the promise of everything that is yet to come.
Article by Cameron Officer / NBR
Art Dept September 13, 2016
Posted In: News
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