Quinn honoured for contribution to motoring

Entrepreneur and motor racer Tony Quinn has become the latest recipient of the Neil Nelson Trophy from the New Zealand Motoring Writer’s Guild.

The award is bestowed upon individuals whom the Guild has considered to have gone above and beyond the norm in contributing to the motoring landscape in New Zealand.

Some of the past 11 recipients of the Neil Nelson Award have included Giltrap Group founder and philanthropist Colin Giltrap, used vehicle importer and Rally NZ chair Peter ‘PJ’ Johnston, the late Formula 1 Ferrari driver Chris Amon, who engineered cars for Toyota New Zealand, and V8 Supercar driver and Road Safety advocate Greg Murphy.

The Guild’s award started in 1998 and honoured the memory of the late Neil Nelson of Palmerston North, a former president of the Guild.

“Because of the unique criteria for the Neil Nelson Award, it’s not a trophy that is presented regularly, but rather when the Guild executive considers that a person rightfully deserves some recognition,” New Zealand Motoring Writer’s Guild president Robert Barry says.

“The Guild chose Tony Quinn because he has made a more than significant investment in three now world-class motor racing circuits in New Zealand since 2012; he also established a racing academy and a foundation to support young Kiwis in pursuing their motorsport dreams,” Barry says.

Quinn says he is humbled and honoured to receive such recognition from the New Zealand Motoring Writers Guild. He is more focused than ever on helping young people achieve their dreams in the motorsport arena, locally and internationally.

“I’m more than happy to share my experiences in motorsport with young people seeking some advice and guidance as they start their journey,” he says. 

Quinn was the driving force behind the Cromwell-based Highlands Motorsport Park, which opened in March 2013; he acquired the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in 2015 and immediately completed the circuit extension.  In November 2021, Quinn achieved his circuit trifecta by acquiring the Taupo International Motorsport Park.

The award also recognises the Tony Quinn Foundation (TGF) formation in 2021, which supports grassroots competitors and elite Kiwi drivers competing internationally with grants and scholarship opportunities.

More than 14 drivers have received support from the TQF, including Red Bull Formula 1 junior team driver Liam Lawson, Indy Lights driver Hunter McElrea, Porsche Carrera Cup GT3 driver Callum Hedge, and Brock Gilchrist, who won the 2023 Toyota 86 New Zealand championship.

Quinn also established the Hampton Downs New Zealand Racing Academy (HDNZRA) to help young drivers get the best tuition from experienced motorsport professionals.

In the past years, Quinn has owned and driven Porsche Carrera Cup, Australian GT, and Aussie racing cars, and he currently has a majority shareholding in the Triple Eight Racing V8 Supercars Team.

Feature photo: (left to right) Tony Quinn receives the Neil Nelson trophy from Robert Barry in the Hampton Downs pit lane on March 15, 2024.

Motoring writers applaud Rally NZ chairman Peter Johnston


4 November 2022

BEING a central figure in the successful reinstatement of New Zealand as a stop on this year’s World Rally calendar has put Peter ‘PJ’ Johnston in the winner’s seat with Kiwi motoring commentators.

Well-known and highly regarded in business and motorsport, notably in his involvement in furthering the careers of some title-winning world-class Kiwi drivers, the Aucklander has become the latest recipient of a prestigious prize presented by the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild.

The Neil Nelson Award is presented to the person judged to have made a significant contribution to the motoring industry.

“The New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild is proud to name Peter as the 2022 recipient of this very special award,” says Guild president Richard Bosselman, Palmerston North.

“The Neil Nelson Award is not just about achievement. It’s about going that extra mile. To be nominated it’s not enough to just do your job or your calling – it requires passion and commitment above and beyond.”

In his capacity as Rally New Zealand chairman, Peter Johnston and his team had demonstrated just that and more in realising the return, on September 29-October 2, of the World Rally Championship to New Zealand for the first time since 2012 and in an effort to secure the four-day event a biennial place on the competition’s calendar. 

Said Bosselman: “They worked tirelessly, including during this year’s Repco Rally New Zealand.

“During the very moments when the world’s best rally teams were taking on the world’s best rally roads here in New Zealand, they were working to convince WRC Promoter and stakeholders to bring the event back in 2024.”

In accepting the award, Johnston made clear it was a team effort. “We had a powerful, wonderful team of volunteers who were driven by their passion for this event.”

Said Bosselman: “Kiwi interest in the event was massive; the challenging weather for much of the event did not dissuade them heading into the country and, specifically, to Jack’s Ridge in their thousands.

“The WRC television broadcast was seen by more than 70 million viewers globally and, of course, the crews were effusive in their praise of the roads, the scenery and the hospitality.

“WRC has deep roots here and the 2022 rally reminded us how special this event is for our country.”

Another strong positive from the rally came from how it embraced technologies that Kiwi motorists were keen to uptake into their daily lives.

“As Peter has noted, this was the first FIA World Championship motorsport event to be held in New Zealand featuring hybrid electric vehicles and using fully sustainable fuel; a new age of motorsport,” said Bosselman.

“It also provided a global showcase for the ground-breaking fully electric rally car developed by our biggest international name, the supremely talented Hayden Paddon.”

The Guild admired that the return of international rallying had a deeply personal connection for Johnston, as in 1969 his father, Reg, drove in the inaugural Rally of New Zealand, finishing ninth.

Johnston’s adult involvement in motorsport has been diverse. He headed the team that helped launch Scott Dixon’s career in the United States, where he is now a legend of the NTT IndyCar Series. He also backed Brendon Hartley through Formula One and into Le Mans and world title-winning sports car racing programmes with Porsche and now Toyota.

The Guild’s award started in 1998, honours the memory of the late Neil Nelson of Palmerston North, a former president of the Guild.

Among the 10 previous recipients are ex-Formula One driver, the late Chris Amon, motor retail supremo Colin Giltrap, and V8 Supercar hero, Greg Murphy.

Feature photo: New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild president Richard Bosselman and Peter ‘PJ’ Johnston, recipient of the Neil Nelson award for realising the return of the World Rally Championship to New Zealand this year. They are pictured with a 1970 Ford Escort RS1600, a car synonymous with early rallysport in NZ. (Photo: Ed Finn, Amped PR).