CAFE CHAT: Ken Collier
By Mat Coch
Wednesday 1st April, 2020 - 4:00pm
He’s one of the most influential people in motorsport, both in Australia and globally, but just who is Ken Collier?
A former competitor turned category manager, Collier headed Australian GT through its rapid rise before stepping away from the category at the start of 2019.
Speedcafe.com caught up with Collier to find out more about his journey into the world of motorsport.
Speedcafe.com: Where did your love of motorsport come from?
Ken Collier: I have been a motorsport fan for as long as I can remember. I have a cousin who had a large drag racing team and as a young teenager it was a real treat to go to the Warlord team workshop, look at the cars and be involved with his drivers who came in from the USA.
I first ventured into racing when I got hooked on off road buggies, mainly playing in the sand dunes near Portland and then onto some club racing. I met a friend who had the same interest and we joined the Victorian off road club (VORRA) which I was a committee member and Treasurer of for many years. In 1995 I purchased a Rivmasta frame from Sydney and by good luck met another friend who is one of the best off road engineers in the sport. We won the CAMS Off Road Championship in Class 2 in 1997 which was a big thrill.
Speedcafe.com: How did you move from competitor into the business behind the sport?
Collier: I was at the Bathurst 1000 in 2001 as a spectator and met Bob Forbes via a mutual friend. By chance he talked about not having a great merchandise range for his 00 Motorsport team and within a few weeks the friend had put together a proposed range for 2002 for which I worked on the retail aspect. We ran the 00 Motorsport merch business for 2002, I didn’t take a wage but had a great time, met a lot of fantastic people and was able to share the experience with my two kids. Life was great!
Around the same time I met the late Jamie Blaikie who was in partnership with Tony Quinn (and a few other guys) who had a plan to start the Porsche Carrera Cup Championship in Australia. Jamie asked me to lend a hand at the first event which was at Albert Park in 2003. I went along as a volunteer and helped out with whatever was needed. I didn’t miss a round of Carrera Cup or Cup Challenge round as a volunteer administrator up until the time that Jamie and Tony sold the business around 2006 or ’07.
My business role outside of motorsport allowed me to be a sponsor of the VIP Petfood Racing team for a few years and I leveraged this to build the business substantially. The connection between motorsport, brand building and customer relationships is very strong if you can manage the on-track events and the personalities to benefit your business.
Speedcafe.com: Tell us more about the relationship with Tony Quinn, because that’s perhaps what you’re best known for with Australian GT.
Collier: Meeting Tony and building a friendship with the Quinn family led to me starting with him full time in 2012. I took on the role as Category Manager of Australian GT which was absolutely fantastic. Initially a full time role, it became apparent that the business needed to build to sustain the position. I went back to work in mainstream business for a few years and ran AGT part-time until it was at the point that I could go back full-time.
Speedcafe.com: You oversaw an exciting period in GT racing while at Australian GT. Are there any highlights?
Collier: Highlights during my time with Tony and AGT were many but if I had to pick a few they would be the ability to work with my wife and create the family that was the AGT teams, the involvement with Highlands Motorsport park and the thrill of conducting the first event there, the interaction with Stephane Ratel and my role with the FIA GT Commission. Underlying all of this was that these were fully supported by Tony who I consider a great mate.
Speedcafe.com: How did the move to Australian Racing Group come about?
Collier: I thought I would switch out of motorsport when I left AGT in early 2019. I didn’t know that James Warburton had a different idea and suggested that I meet up with John McMellan of ARG. I am very grateful that James connected us, as John is a very clever man who has the vision and drive to achieve great things.
Speedcafe.com: In your experience, what’s the key to making motorsport successful?
Collier: Motorsport is a unique business however it requires all of the standard business structures. It is a business that has customers and stakeholders that require a supply of great products and excellent service. It needs to be structured for success and it must have a ROI (return on investment) for the investors. Its products become obsolete and are superseded so new ideas and constant evolution is required.