DREAM TEAM BACKS THE NEXT GENERATION OF KIWI MOTORSPORT STARS
|New Zealand drivers have long punched above their weight on the world stage. Identifying, supporting and sponsoring the next generation of talented young Kiwis on their journey is the goal of the new Tony Quinn Foundation. The foundation boasts a wealth of well-connected motorsport industry players including Tony Quinn, Steve Horne, Greg Murphy, John Gordon, and Josie Spillane.|
“Since I built Highlands in 2013 it was always my intention to establish a foundation to help Kiwi drivers with the ambition of making a career from motorsport,” says Tony Quinn. “We’ve brought together a dream team that can add real value to the process. One of the first people I spoke to about the foundation was Steve Horne, who has had a long and distinguished motorsport career all over the world. He’s got the kind of contacts in the sport that money can’t buy.”
Horne has spent much of his career in the US, originally as a team manager and then a team owner. As a team manager he helped Bobby Rahal win the Indianapolis 500 in 1986 while he also has two CART championships and five Indy Lights titles to his credit.
“I’d like to think my little black book of contacts is still relevant and there are probably a few shortcuts I can help young drivers with,” says Horne. “My motorsport career started in New Zealand in the 60s and I always felt if there was an opportunity for me to give back to the sport in a positive way, I’d like to do it.”
“New Zealand motorsport has a rich heritage dating back to Bruce McLaren who won the ‘Driver to Europe’ scholarship in 1958 right through to today’s stars including Scott Dixon, Scott McLaughlin, Liam Lawson, Brendon Hartley and Mitch Evans. The purpose of the foundation is to give more opportunities to young Kiwi drivers.”
“The basics are still the same no matter where in the world you come from; you’ve got to be able to drive fast. The guys that make it to the top do so not because they’re Kiwis but because they work hard and they have a plan and the discipline to follow through on that plan.”
John Gordon is currently working with one of New Zealand’s most exciting young talents, Liam Lawson who came to see him four years ago with the ambition of getting to Formula 1. Gordon, who will provide legal and contractual advice to the foundation, helped put a plan together for Lawson and his parents and he says Lawson has the characteristics the foundation will be looking for in the drivers they support.
“It starts with talent obviously,” says Gordon. “Liam is blessed with an incredible talent but he’s also got a golden personality. He’s got a huge smile and he’s wonderful around supporters and sponsors. What will make Liam, and any driver we support through the foundation, successful is their ability to work harder than anyone else. Liam works incredibly hard on his fitness and he’s incredibly disciplined in everything he does. They’re the kind of qualities we’ll be looking for in the drivers we work with.”
Gordon says the foundation is excited about finding the next Liam Lawson, Scott Dixon or Scott McLaughlin. The goal is to create pathways for New Zealand drivers to compete in Formula 1, Indy Car, European sports cars, and Supercars in Australia.
“The foundation is well equipped to help people through all those different streams,” says Gordon. “Our job is to find the talent, identify the best pathway for them and put them in touch with supporters. If they are good enough — and we’ve got to be realistic about that — we’ll put some money around them, put some structure around them and send them off to go and do their thing.”
However, Tony Quinn has word of warning to any young drivers excited about the prospect of getting financial support for their racing dreams.
“This is not about throwing a lump of cash at a young driver and saying: ‘Here you go. Have at it,’ says Quinn. “It’s as much, or more about drawing on the experience and contacts of the trustees in the foundation.”
“Any driver we work with has to be prepared for a school of hard knocks. It won’t be a holiday. It will be more like boot camp. And we’ll be honest with the kids and their parents because the parents will still have to invest their hard-earned cash. If we don’t think they have what it takes we’ll advise parents not to waste too much money and to treat the sport as a hobby instead of trying to make a career out of it. But for the kids who do have the talent and the determination to make it, we’ll do everything we can to help them.”
This year the Tony Quinn Foundation is committing over $200,000 to scholarships and categories for emerging talent (details to be announced soon) and will also consider further support for any Kiwi that finishes in the top three in Toyota GAZOO Racing’s two championships — the Castrol Toyota Racing Series and Toyota 86 Championship — with dollar for dollar funding towards their next campaign.
“I got into motorsport because of a scholarship,” says Greg Murphy. “I won the inaugural Shell Ultra Formula Ford scholarship in 1990 when I was 18-years-old. I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have had a motorsport career outside karting, if I hadn’t won that scholarship. Ever since then I’ve been very passionate about supporting the future of the sport and young drivers like me, who don’t have the connections or the financial resources to give it a decent nudge on their own.”
“Lots of drivers have been incredibly fortunate to receive support from individuals like the Giltrap family, Peter ‘PJ’ Johnson, Kenny Smith, and many others who have been supporting Kiwi drivers for a long time. That’s one of the reasons we’ve got so many drivers representing New Zealand on the world stage because of the support from so many. This foundation wants to continue that tradition and take some load off some of these other people that have contributed so much. It’s another avenue for funding and support for future motorsport stars. How would you not want to be a part of that?”
Originally from Scotland, Quinn is a serial entrepreneur who made millions from the sale of his V.I.P. pet food brand in Australia. He invested some of his hard-earned cash in his passion for motorsport, owning the Porsche Carrera Cup, the Australian GT series, and the Aussie Racing Cars as well as sponsoring a number of V8 Supercars teams. Quinn built Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago in 2012 and purchased Hampton Downs in 2015. In 2021 he became the majority shareholder of Australian Supercars team, Triple Eight Racing. The Scottish-Australian-Kiwi entrepreneur is no slouch behind the wheel. He’s won Targa Tasmania twice, Targa New Zealand five times and he’s also competed in iconic races like the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and Pikes Peak.
Greg Murphy is a legend of Kiwi motorsport and a four-time winner of the Bathurst 1000. Like most V8 Supercar drivers, Murph started out in karts before moving into Supercars. His 2003 Bathurst qualifying lap time is referred to as “The Lap of the Gods” and today, Murph is a prominent motorsport media commentator on both sides of the Tasman.
Steve has spent much of his career in the US, originally as a team manager and then a team owner. As a team manager he helped Bobby Rahal win the Indianapolis 500 in 1986 while he also has two CART championships and five Indy Lights titles to his credit. More recently, Horne was the chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission.
John has over 40 years of legal experience with a wide experience across a range of industries, in particular the importation and sale of motor vehicles. His passion for motorsport dates back to the Tasman Series in the 1960s and 70s when he watched the stars of Formula 1 including Kiwi drivers Chris Amon, Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren, and global superstars like Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt, race in New Zealand. More recently, John has supported Richie Stanaway, Liam Lawson and Callum Hedge with their motorsport careers.
Josie Spillane, the Chief Executive Officer of Highlands, Hampton Downs and Game Over, was one of Tony Quinn’s first employees when he opened Highlands in Cromwell in 2013. Since then Highlands has become an iconic tourist destination in Central Otago. Spillane has championed several changes in the sport and led both the Hamptons and Highlands teams to deliver some of NZ’s most successful motorsport events under her leadership, with the 66th NZ Grand Prix, being their most recent success.
Rachel Lister June 22, 2021
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