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'AJ' puts himself in pole position for a stellar career in motorsport

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Fourteeen-year-old Ashton ‘AJ’ Gealy is too young to have a standard driver’s licence. But that hasn’t put the brakes on his motorsport dreams.

He’s just raced into the record books, clinching the title of 2023 Ute Racing Qld V8 Championship winner.

The Kawana Waters State College Year 9 student made the most of his pole position for this month’s Round 5 championship event at Lakeside Park in Kurwongbah, north of Brisbane.

He took the win in each of the five races to secure victory in the point-scoring championship, adding to the Round 1 clean sweep he accomplished as a 13-year-old in February at Queensland Raceway’s (QR) Willowbank in Ipswich.

AJ told Sunshine Coast News he was “extremely stoked” with victory as the only rookie in the field in his inaugural year with Ute Racing Qld.

“The year had its ups and downs from tyre blowouts to fires and crashes,” he said.

“It was quite eventful, but the team was able to work very hard and got the car gathered and looking good for each round.

“The safety features and requirements in these race cars are second to none, and at no point was I in any danger. Racing cars is much safer than driving on a public road, or in my case – riding my bike to school.”

His reward for taking pole position.

The Ford FG and AJ also proved to be a heady combination in setting the V8 utes’ lap record in the category during Round 4 at QR.

AJ clocked 1:22.8 on a Dunlop Direzza control tyre – slicing the record by about three seconds.

The Ford FG, which respected driver Ben Dunn last raced in the 2017 Australian V8 Ute Racing Series, came into his grandparents’ possession unexpectedly.

“One day I got a message from a mate of mine and he was mentioning how one of his dad’s mates had this race ute up for sale,” AJ recalled.

“Then I got told it was a genuine ex-series Brute Ute built by Sieders. I ran that past my grandfather. As it turns out, he’d always wanted one in the collection as the series was a fan favourite and one he’d loved watching.

“The deal was done before he had the chance to make the phone call.

“Grandad – he’s as Ford as you get. He bleeds blue. They (his grandparents) bought the car and trusted me to drive it. We never had any intention of racing the car until Peter Clarke, from Ute Racing Qld, invited me into the series.

“I gave him a run for his money at a round at QR – my Toyota 86 versus the V6 Class utes – and I made them work hard to get around me. The rest was history and he gave me the opportunity to show what I could do behind the wheel of a V8.”

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Born and bred on the Sunshine Coast, AJ is a third-generation racer who has motor oil running through his veins.

His grandfather, mother Alaina and Aunt Ashlee all have done timed sprint events over the years in Foxbody Mustangs, RX7s and Nissan 350Zs, mostly on Southeast Queensland circuits.

AJ started his karting journey in 2017 at Lakeside before transitioning to cars after attaining age dispensations for two national race licences with RACERS and Australian Auto-Sport Alliance. He is officially the youngest and only 13-year-old to have received his national RACERS licence.

As well as competing in ute racing, he also has spent time behind the wheel in a Hyundai Excel and Toyota 86s in the:

  • Production Sports Car Association of Queensland (racing Enduros with teammate Dylan Pereira);
  • Queensland Production Cars;
  • Short course and open sprints with Sunshine Coast Motor Sport Club;
  • Enduro driving for 710 Motorsport (in an Audi A3, competing in the Motor Events Racing 20 Hour Night Fever Round at Morgan Park and the 7 Hour GOAT Challenge at Lakeside); and
  • Noosa Hill Climb with Noosa Beach Classic Car Club (he was the 2021 Event Rookie of the Year and youngest-ever competitor).
AJ behind the wheel.

In March 2021, at age 12, AJ was invited to participate in the Pilot Junior Development Program initiated by Jonno Reynolds at the Sunshine Coast Motor Sport Club and John Tetley at RACERS.

AJ was told to expect to wait a year before he progressed to running solo or racing in timed events – but he achieved that goal in seven weeks. Eight weeks into the program, AJ made his debut in open sprints at Lakeside.

He also applied for selection into the NAPA Motorsport Academy in 2021 and was accepted, giving him more access to mentors.

Through his connections, AJ has been mentored by the Jones family – learning to engineer and set up his Hyundai Excel, and has worked closely with his coach Harri Jones (2022 Porsche Carrera Cup champion) via SIM training and on track to further his race craft.

Winning the Porsche Carrera Cup, just like his coach, is AJ’s dream goal.

AJ and Hamish Pemberton, from HPData, crunch the numbers.

Last year, he began working closely with race engineer Phil Curtis, from P&K RacePrep, for Toyota 86GTS technical knowledge and driver coaching, and AJ has started to learn to read MoTec (a data collection tool used by race teams to extract the final few tenths of pace from their car) with the help of data engineer Hamish Pemberton, from HPData.

While he must barely have time for a pitstop, AJ also has the drive to excel academically, and is an ambassador for local charity Bravery Buddies that provides companion dolls to children with cancer.

Kawana Waters State College principal Brett Burgess said it was clear the Academic Excellence Program student aimed to make a career out of motorsport “one way or another” and “he’s certainly making great gains”.

AJ is absorbing as much knowledge as possible, living and breathing motorsport.

“We’re planning to facilitate an apprenticeship while he studies his Grade 10, 11 and 12 starting next year with a mechanics role with one of the motor racing teams,” he said.

AJ said he was really excited to begin his apprenticeship.

“We’ve been speaking with a few people and hope to have all our nuts and bolts together and a plan in place for next year,” he said.

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