Feature: Racing for Luke

The Australian Production Car Series has welcomed the Best Jet team to its series for the Tyreright Sydney Challenge, with the Best Jet Ute and the Best Jet Holden VE HSV GTS being driven by Jonathan Bloxsom and Michael James respectively this weekend.

The #23 will ring a bell for many in racing circles – for it, and the ute on which this number resides, was campaigned by young up-and-coming racer Luke Spalding, who sadly succumbed to a rare form of cancer in September last year.

Now, his family team and long-time sponsor Michael James are continuing the racing of the ute in his legacy.

Michael James

“We followed Luke through Formula Vee, Formula Three and then together with his dad John we purchased the Ute for Luke,” James said.

“The ute today is exactly the same as when Luke drove it – we only just put some extra stickers on it today for Hankook and Tyreright, but apart from that all of the marks and everything else on it is actually just as Luke left it.

“If we do change anything, we will put it back to what it was – it is a bit of a memorial for Luke.

“The whole team came together around this car after Luke’s passing, and we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Luke as he got us all involved. The ute has done only one race [since Luke’s passing – QR 300 at Queensland Raceway] and that is how the team came together.

“We are all here because of that, and even when Luke was here all of these guys that are here with us this weekend supported him. The whole community did, and that is where the ‘We Fly With #23’ came from – it is pretty surreal to see ‘We Fly With #23’ stuck on one car [the GTS] and then actually have the #23 sitting here next to it.”

For the driver at the helm of the Luke Spalding ute, it is a privilege to be driving this weekend.

Jonathon Bloxsam

“This is my first real dig at having a race, I have been playing cars for a while and when we did the QR 300 is when I started to get used to the ute – I am still not used to it yet though, I keep thinking the back is going to pass me every now and again,” Bloxsom laughed.

“We had a very emotional moment when we took the ute out at Queensland a few weeks ago. We had a very large group of people there, everyone was there for the first time it had been run again.

“It is a real privilege to be the driver and this is just a wonderful, very family orientated team; everyone is here for each other, here for fun.

“Hopefully this weekend we can finish – that is always a good way to start! My lap times are getting quicker as I go on and I think I will probably surprise myself, but the main thing is not to be too hard on the car and get through the weekend.”

Like Bloxom, James is focusing on finishing this weekend.

“We are getting our confidence up with the cars, they are handling well. The ute hasn’t had any real issues at all, while the GTS has had a few fiddly ones as we haven’t had a lot of track time for that one,” James said.

“For us, to finish is the main thing. We would like to get all four races out of the way and qualify well – we want to finish clean and get some good lap times and some good track time – it is more about the experience on the track for us and for the team, and about getting a lot of data out of the weekend as well.”