I grew up in a wooden caravan in Aberdeen in Scotland. My late father, Jimmy Quinn was in the pet food business. We weren't what you’d call impoverished but we were poor for a long time.
I didn’t win the lottery, my parents never gave me a handout and I never got an inheritance. I’m a self-made man and that’s something I’m very proud of.
I worked in Dad’s factory from a young age but my passion was motorsport. Up until my late teens I dreamed of racing cars for a living but when I realised I wasn't as fast as I thought I was, I gave up motorsport and focused on business instead.
Despite doing it tough when I was younger, I’ve always expected to do well. I’ve always expected to be a winner and from an early age I was successful thanks to a combination of hard work, good luck and common sense.
I bought my first business, a sign writing company in Aberdeen, at the age of 21. I doubled my money when I sold it a few years later and I moved to Australia in 1980.
Since then I’ve set up and sold V.I.P Petfoods, bought Darrell Lea Confectionery and turned the company around and been involved in a number of other successful businesses. In 2013 I built Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago in New Zealand, which has become an iconic motorsport and tourism venture.
Apart from business, motorsport is my other passion in life and it’s been really good to me. I got back into motor racing in my 40’s and motorsport has taught me a lot about life and business. To be successful in life you have to think positive. Likewise, you’ll never win a race unless you’re truly convinced that you can.
Driving a race car is the ultimate escape from the pressures of running a big business. I love the speed, the look and the feel of a powerful race car but most of all I love the fact that you can lose yourself in a race.
It helps that I’m clearly competitive. I’ve won my fair share of trophies but I could never have made a living as a race car driver. Still I’m not an embarrassment on the racetrack, not yet at least. I love racing and competing regularly keeps me young and healthy.
Since I built Highlands in 2013 I’ve bought Hampton Downs, Taupo Motorsport Park and Queensland Raceway. I’m one of the few people in the world who is a circuit owner, an event promoter, a category owner, a sponsor and a race car driver and with all those different roles comes different responsibilities.
Today, I feel lucky to be in a position to give back to the sport that’s given me so much. We launched the Tony Quinn Foundation in 2021 to support young, talented Kiwi racing drivers looking to make a career for themselves overseas. Liam Lawson is the first driver to benefit from the foundation to support his ambition to race in Formula 1.
The Hampton Downs Racing Academy is the first step for young drivers and graduates from the academy are eligible for scholarships, mentorship and international connections through the foundation.
We also set up the Popeye Legacy Fund at Highlands to fund mental health workshops for local school students and pay for a social worker to work in the community for the next five years. This initiative will help a lot of young people and families in the local community and if we can save one life, then it will be worthwhile.