Highlands could see event magic return
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.
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.