Six months ago, Tony Quinn was bedridden. A head-on crash into a concrete wall at 160km/h left him with a two-page sheet of injuries that threatened to take his life.
Now, he’s set to tick off a bucket list item; racing with his grandson Ryder in the Bathurst 6 Hour.
Quinn is one of motorsport’s most well-known names Down Under.
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He made a name for himself in business, building big brands like VIP Petfoods, confectionary company Darrel Lea, and more recently Local Legends jerky and biltong.
His empire has expanded into race track ownership, building the famed Highlands circuit in New Zealand as well as having Hampton Downs and Taupo in his cache.
Quinn is also one of motorsport’s biggest investors, owning a significant stake in the Supercars team Triple Eight.
He’s long been associated with some of Australian motorsport’s biggest drivers too, namely Shane van Gisbergen, Broc Feeney, and Liam Lawson.
However, the Bathurst 6 Hour presents an opportunity to race at Mount Panorama with his grandson for the first time – which looked unlikely to happen after last year’s crash.
“It was a big scare, especially because I wasn’t there,” Ryder told Wide World of Sports.
“I was watching it live on TV. It looked like a big shunt straight into a concrete wall at 160 km/h or whatever it was. He’s alright now, he’s getting better. He’s a tough old cookie.”
“There was a bit of doubt whether he was going to get back in a race car,” he added.
“He loves this, he loves the sport, he loves what it’s done to him and everything that he’s done for the sport, not only here in Australia but in New Zealand.
“I don’t think there was ever a thought in his mind that he’d give it up.
“He’s still on that road to recovery and it’s gonna be a little while yet before he’s 100 per cent but he’s here. You can’t take it away from him.”
The significance of the crash isn’t lost on Quinn, who’s not one to sit still.
In his own words, he could have “easily gone” and feared for a time that he might not race again.
“The last time I was in the hospital was when I was a kid with a broken arm,” Tony explained.
“You don’t go to hospital for 50 years or whatever and then you end up in hospital – and it’s essential, but it’s not a nice place to be, particularly for someone who is not used to.
“It was a few months lying in bed and shitting the bed and in a wheelchair and all that stuff and I thought, I don’t know that it’s gonna happen again,” he said of the chance to race with Ryder.
“You know, I’ll have to find other ways of passing the time if you like, but as time went on and I felt I could drive an automatic car, one thing led to another.
“I went up to Queensland Raceway and took the GT-R out for 15 minutes just to see if I can do it.
“I came in after that and I really enjoyed it and it was at that moment, I worked out that for the last decade I’ve been racing because it was an expectation.
“People expected you to be there. It was an obligation that you had to do, and I don’t think I was enjoying it that much. Whereas now I can thoroughly enjoy it.”
For Ryder, it’s a big weekend where he gets to realise a dream of racing with his grandfather he calls Pop Eye.
“It’s pretty special,” said Ryder.
“I mean, we’ve done a little bit of driving together, but this is our first proper enduro in a production car.
“It’s always been a bit of a dream for, for Pop Eye and myself to sort of compete together and race together.
“I didn’t really know if it was going to happen because of how late I’ve been introduced to motorsport.
“This is my third year in motorsport, so I was a bit – not nervous because maybe the day would come even if I didn’t start racing – but no, it’s so cool to be here doing it.
“He loves what he does and that’s why he can do it for so long is because the passion is there, the love is there for it.”
The Quinns will be joined by Grant Denyer in the Bathurst 6 Hour. They’ll drive a Ford Mustang in the endurance race, which gets underway at 11.45am AEST.
The six-hour field includes two-time Supercars champion Marcos Ambrose, two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Will Davison, TCR Australia Series winner Tony D’Alberto, as well as Supercars regulars Anton De Pasquale and Thomas Randle.
Stan Sport will carry coverage live, ad-free, and exclusively from 9am AEST.
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