IT’S hard not to admire Tony Quinn.
His rags-to-riches tale is well known; from humble roots in Scotland, Quinn built the multimillion-dollar V.I.P. Petfoods business from scratch and resurrected Australia’s iconic Darrell Lea chocolate brand.
Even better known is his passion for motorsport which – along with sponsoring and owning categories, racing a wide variety of machines, building the stunning Highlands Park circuit and buying the Hampton Downs circuit – this week saw him revealed as the new owner of a 40 percent share in Triple Eight Race Engineering.
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Quinn is also more than willing to stand up to authority when he believes he’s getting a raw deal – which leads us to the topic of this edition of Strange But True.
The Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS, now known as Motorsport Australia) fined him $7,000 (with $4,000 suspended) in 2004 over an incident that allegedly occurred during the rides session for the Carrera Cup series (of which Quinn was a shareholder) at the Barbagallo round of that year’s V8 Supercars Championship.
It began when David Thexton, having joined the series mid-season after ending his tenure in V8 Supercars, had a spin with a passenger aboard right in front of the control tower on the front straight.
Then as now, drivers were required to keep their car under control at all times during passenger rides.
Quinn was also reported to have done the same thing around the back of the circuit – a fact he very much disputed.
“I had one of my mechanics in the car with me,” he wrote in his book Zero to 60 in a chapter entitled Don’t f#@k with me.
“I was having trouble with understeer on my car. I didn’t spin the car but I did go a little sideways to show the mechanic what the problem was.
“Nobody saw it except this one marshal who reported it. CAMS wanted to make an example of David … for the sake of consistency they fined me the same amount.”
CAMS rules meant the fine had to be paid before Quinn could take part in the next Carrera Cup round at Queensland Raceway.
So he did something that many of us have wanted to do when slugged with a fine we disagreed with.
He paid the fine in coins.
“I emptied all the vending machines in our factories and went to the bank and got some more to make up the difference,” he wrote.
“It took two of us to carry (the butcher’s tray of coins) into the CAMS office where there was some old guy sitting behind a desk in the corner by himself.
“I told him I had a fine to pay: ‘It’s all in coins. That’s all I could manage to scrape together – is it alright if I dump it here because I need the tray back?’”
Needless to say CAMS wasn’t pleased and threatened legal action; in the end, Quinn says he took the coins back.
“Word soon spread through the pits about what I’d done, though, and it earned me some serious kudos from the other drivers and teams,” he wrote.
“I remember one of the drivers giving me a big man hug and saying, ‘Good on ya, mate.’ It became a bit of an urban legend around the tracks for years afterwards.”
Quinn also added that, at the time the book was published in 2016, he now enjoyed a great relationship with CAMS and had done for some time.
The kicker in the story is that the law was on CAMS’ side.
Section 16 of the Currency Act 1965 details the maximum amounts for which coins can be used as legal tender:
- no more than $5 if any combination of 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c coins are offered
- no more than 10 times the face value of the coin if $1 or $2 are offered
While the law may have won, Quinn’s attempt to wind up the authorities through the inconvenience of over 100 kilograms-worth of coins still makes for a great story.
But as memorable as Quinn’s escapade was, it isn’t the most unusual method of paying a CAMS fine that we’ve heard about … but that’s a story for another edition of Strange But True.
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