Pairing with the near immortal Craig Lowndes once again, ‘Luffy’ is one of the more colourful co-drivers in pitlane.
He spoke to v8supercars.com.au about his various driving commitments, working with Lowndes and ‘Bathurst balaclava-gate’.
Luff, 37, is one of seven competitors in the Porsche Carrera Cup doubling as a co-driver in the Pirtek Enduro Cup series – the Sandown 500, Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and Armor All Gold Coast 600.
But away from the racetrack, Luff spends plenty of time behind the wheel running the stunt show at Warner Bros Movie World. “That’s my regular job – I’m the drive captain out there, in charge of the other drivers and making sure they behave themselves day to day,” he said.
“It’s a lot of fun – not racing, but I’m still in a car every day, sliding around and driving on two wheels. It still gives you that ‘seat of the pants’ feeling – feeling what the car’s doing and reacting to that.”
He’s also an instructor at the Mt Cotton Porsche Sport Driving School, along with drivers including Baird, Tomas Mezera, Alex Davison, Fabian Coulthard, Luke Youlden and Dean Canto; as well as a contributor to Motor Magazine.
“Usually I’m working six days a week, I don’t have a lot of downtime,” he said.
“But it’s nice to have some quiet time and be a normal person; do the housework, the washing, wash the car and chill.”
Luff feels he has had plenty of time behind the wheel of the #888 Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore Car of the Future, having been given seat time at the team’s test day, during a co-driver sessions and at yesterday’s ride day at Sydney Motorsport Park.
“The first time I drove the car was a test day earlier this year – I hadn’t sat in a V8 Supercar since Bathurst.
“I’ve seen the transformation of the old car and Car of the Future, how it’s naturally improved. They are a bit easier and nicer to drive than last year’s car.”
Luff expressed how important continuity was, as well as having the right people around you in the sport. And one of the questions he’s most asked? What is Lowndes like, when the cameras turn off.
“He’s awesome to work with,” Luff said.
“By the time we do Bathurst this year, I will have done more long distance races with him than any of my other teammates. We’ve done the 12-Hour the last three years, Nurburgring in Germany in 2011 with Audi, and obviously Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast.
“And what you see on TV is what he is like. It’s no act.”
While Luff may have contested the most endurance races alongside Lowndes, his most infamous was when running with another main series driver at the Mountain – Marcos Ambrose, in 2005, with Stone Brothers Racing.
“Old balaclava-gate! One of the most famous things that happened at Bathurst in the last 10 years…
“It certainly was not a great time in my career. It was an oversight by both Marcos and I.
“The backstory coming into the race – I’d been really sick and in hospital two weeks prior, and was still sick when I got to Bathurst. In two weeks I’d lost about eight and a half kilos and wasn’t feeling too flash.
“To have that happen in the race – Marcos getting a drive-through for me not having a balaclava, and him coming in unscheduled to put his on – and be challenging Murph (Greg Murphy) for third, for it to end the way it did was pretty gut-wrenching. I look back and potentially that’s the one that slipped away from us.
“It was rather disheartening at the time. I look back and laugh, but at the time – it was an interesting team debrief afterwards!”
Luff had grown up around cars, his father having a performance driving school based out of Oran Park. He bypassed the usual route and didn’t start with karting, but raced in many one-make championships after the age of 16.
His “first crack” at V8 Supercars was in 2002, partnering Cameron McConville; followed by endurance races with Dick Johnson Racing partnering Steven Johnson in ’03, and a full-time drive eventuated from there.
He describes it as a long and eventful journey.
Third place partnered with Lowndes last year was Luff’s best finish at Mount Panorama. Though he is determined to change that.
“It’s such an amazing race, it’s special just to be a part of it and be on the grid. To be on the podium with Craig, it was a dream come true to have success at that race.
“I’d love to be on the top step this year – Jamie (Whincup) and PD (Paul Dumbrell) were last year, and I’d love to reverse the trend… there’s another 27 combos with that same opinion.”