Tony Quinn has high hopes for the newly refurbished Hampton Downs raceway.

Although his Highlands motorsport park in Cromwell has become a complementary tourist destination to Queenstown, he has bigger things in mind for the Waikato site.

"I would love to host the New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs in February, every year, and make it the event it should have always been," he said, confidently. "So that all of New Zealand recognises we have a Grand Prix."

It will be difficult, he said, playing the politics and convincing the powers that be to give him a shot.

"But I'm determined to do it and, given the opportunity, I would make a great effort to re-establish it as an iconic event."

But it's not just the Grand Prix Quinn is interested in. There's the GT Endurance Race, a classic car festival and a motorbike festival to add to the year's lineup.

"The GT3 will bring a new demographic to a race meeting. If you had a race meeting here, in the past, there would be fords, commodores, the normal. The GT3, globally, is the premier racing category. That's a cool, event."

When Quinn bought the 350 acre site last year, motorsport in New Zealand was in a messy state, he said. Someone needed to spend money on it, to make money.

"Motorsport in New Zealand has been in a state of turmoil for some time. Spectators weren't interested because there was nothing new, the tracks were in a state, nobody was making money. Everybody was in a desperate situation."

It was, in fact, the fourth time Quinn had been in negotiations with the previous owners of Hampton Downs before they would agree on a price.

Although Quinn doesn't confirm the exact amount he spent scrubbing up the place, he doesn't argue with the suggested $23 million figure.

"My history has been making things successful in whatever I do. Fair to say it was in a hell of a f-----g mess. Since that time, we've done what we said we were going to do. Clearly, we've finished the pit lane complex, extended the track, the go-kart track will be finished in September, the industrial buildings will be finished, the garages are being finished.

"There's still a little bit more to do, but, weather permitting, it will all be finished by the end of October."

He is planning a hard launch of the newly polished site a week before the V8 supercars hit Pukekohe.

"We want to relaunch the product with a new set of rules and standards. The challenge is actually changing the culture of the customer of Hampton Downs.

"In past years, because the place was in such a state, there was no respect from management. They couldn't see a way out.

"They'd lost interest and that was reflected in the way they treated the asset and the customers. So we have to re-educate our customers of the standards we expect to have at Hampton Downs - it's all for the better."

He said while there will always be those that complain the site isn't run the way it used to be, Quinn doesn't seem to care.

"It's like having children, if you let children please themselves, it's chaos."

Membership opened in March, he said. Already 80 people have signed up, helping to pay for the upkeep of the site. It's a great start for a business that has its sights on big things.

"The [racetrack] had good bones. It's in a great position on the main highway south. People used to think it was part of the prison, but by September, they will clearly be aware it's a racetrack. That free exposure is valuable and what other racetrack have you seen on a main highway?"

And he hopes the two million people in the surrounding cities will take notice.

"So as long as you've got something to show, people will come and see it," he said.

  Nancy El-Gamel - Stuff

Image: Tony Quinn has his heart set on hosting the New Zealand Grand Prix at his newly refurbished racetrack at Hampton Downs.  Mark Taylor - Fairfax NZ


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