High­lands could see event magic re­turn

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By GRANT BRYANT

The owner of Cromwell’s High­lands Mo­tor­sports Park, mav­er­ick pet food mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Tony Quinn, is push­ing for the race­track and tourist at­trac­tion to be­come the home for a rein­vig­o­rated New Zealand Grand Prix. At the con­clu­sion of the High­lands 101, the first largescale race meet held at the track, Mr Quinn said he would be push­ing for the Grand Prix, cur­rently held at Palmer­ston North’s Man­feild Au­to­course to move to Cromwell in 2015 – the event, he said, had ‘‘fiz­zled’’ in the past decade. ‘‘There are only two coun­tries in the world out­side of For­mula One host­ing coun­tries that are sanc­tioned to have Grand Prix events – New Zealand and Ma­cau,’’ he said. ‘‘The New Zealand Grand Prix used to be in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned but has fiz­zled in the last 10 years. I would strongly say that High­lands could be the home of the New Zealand Grand Prix for five years from 2015 and we could build it into an event that be­fits that ti­tle again.’’ The High­lands 101 proved that the team had the means to pull off a suc­cess­ful, large-scale event, with crowds of more than 25,000 in at­ten­dance through­out the three days. Keep­ing those crowds en­ter­tained with top-notch rac­ing and other en­ter­tain­ment was the key to build­ing an event that started from noth­ing, as the com­plex was only opened in Easter, Mr Quinn said. ‘‘From the mo­ment that we hatched the plan [for the 101] we al­ways knew we’d be judged on the first event . . . This was a con­coc­tion of all the things I’ve seen around the world that work.’’ Mo­tor­sports gov­ern­ing bod­ies had be­come bogged down in rules and pa­per­work, of­ten gov­erned by the need for live TV cov­er­age, which ham­pered the crowd at­tend­ing the event get­ting the best ex­pe­ri­ence. Pump­ing some of his mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar for­tune into the com­plex and the events to be held there meant he was free of con­straints and could put on a great show for fans, Mr Quinn said. ‘‘Things like the crowd be­ing able to walk onto the track at lunch time and all the en­ter­tain­ment we put on. That’d never hap­pen at some events, but were key in my eyes.’’ The next ma­jor event at High­lands will be in Jan­uary, and sup­port from lo­cals want­ing to build up the at­trac­tions, which brought huge num­bers of off­shore visi­tors to the re­gion, was very wel­come, Mr Quinn said.

Photo: GRANT BRYANT 628619437

Magic mo­ment: Win­ning High­land 101 driv­ers Fabian Coulthard (left) and Tony Quinn throw up a num­ber one salute. Coulthard tries to match Quinn’s in­dex fin­ger, which was short­ened in ameat min­cer – a risk in the pet food trade where Quinn made the mil­lions that bankrolled the race track and event.

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