Highlands boss upset GP bid KO'd

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014

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Cromwell's Highlands Motorsport Park owner Tony Quinn has lashed out at Motorsport NZ bosses after losing a bid to host the NZ Grand Prix.

Motorsport NZ announced yesterday its decision to grant the hosting rights of the coveted motorsport event to Manawatu's Manfeild Park for the next three years from 2015 to 2017.

Owner Tony Quinn said he could not understand the decision and believed Highlands had put forward the best case to be the promoters and host circuit of the NZ Grand Prix.

"We were prepared to give it our all and ignite passion and life into the Grand Prix, restoring its place on the world stage, and we had the means and expertise to do it.

"To be honest, we feel that we have been taken along for the ride, and we've been paid lip service under the stewardship of Shayne Harris and Brian Budd of Motorsport NZ. They talk about commercial viability, yet we were never asked for specific details of the commercial opportunities we could bring, despite laying several options on the table, including alternating the Grand Prix between the North Island and South Island with Highlands as the promoter to ensure consistency, with economic benefits across both islands, and making it more accessible than ever to fans."

MSNZ president Shayne Harris said the executive felt Manfeild's "successful record of holding the event" and its "clear understanding of the costs and commercial requirements set it apart".

"Its proposal also demonstrated significant community and regional support."

The fact the National Customer Centre of Toyota New Zealand, whose Toyota Racing Series (TRS) contests the NZGP, was located in Manawatu, played only a small part in the final decision, he said.

Mr Quinn said by keeping with the status quo, the NZ Grand Prix would continue to be a non-event in the world of motorsport.

"The industry was struggling, race tracks couldn't afford to promote events, and the governing body for the industry was also a promoter and category owner.

"We were giving Motorsport NZ the chance to focus on governing the sport, while we raised the awareness and profile of the Grand Prix, and in turn motorsport in New Zealand. However ,the governing body clearly does not see this as being instrumental in creating a future for their members."

Central Otago District Mayor Tony Lepper he was "extremely disappointed" at the decision.

Both he and Queenstown-Lakes District Mayor Vanessa van Uden had written "glowing reports" supporting Mr Quinn's bid and had offered to travel with him to speak to Motorsport NZ in person, Mr Lepper said.

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