Red Bull Drift Shifters

A new spin

Photo above: Graeme Murray

On Saturday, December 6 downtown Auckland will be transformed into a giant pinball-themed race track. Red Bull Drift Shifters will showcase the talents of 
16 of the best drifters from New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the USA. Here’s what to expect…

1. How It 

In competition drifting, a typical course consists of consecutive corners on a racetrack or a custom-built layout in a car park. In both cases, drivers drift the section laid out in front of them and follow a racing line predetermined by the judges. In Red Bull Drift Shifters, the game plays out a little different.

Other than a defined entry point and the finishing line, there is no set course that needs to be followed. Instead, much like the free-roam nature of freestyle motocross, it’s up to competitors to choose where they drive. Drivers need to decide on their strategy in advance.

The more obstacles they negotiate and combinations they can put together, the higher their score. But there’s a catch – with only limited time on the clock, drivers need to be fast and precise to score big. Mistakes or slow progress through the course can be costly.

Mike Whiddett

Action stations: ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett spins his wheels in the start chute ahead of his run at the 2012 Drift Shifters

© Graeme Murray

2. Game Format

Two cars going head-to-head is the traditional format for drifting, but Drift Shifters is a single-car, knockout format. After a free practice session during which 16 competitors familiarise themselves with the course layout, it’s down to business. Each driver has one timed-and-scored run in each round of competition.

Total points scored determine which drivers progress and which drivers are eliminated. In the first round, the six highest-scoring drivers move on, while those who didn’t make the cut take to the course one more time to vie for two final last-chance qualifier positions.

After the eight-car quarter-final round, four drivers progress to the semi-final, at which point the third- and fourth-placed drivers are left behind and the top two head to the final, where the title will be decided. 

Red Bull Drift Shifters

Crowd-pleaser: ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett pushes his car to the limit and beyond as he approaches the curved wall at the 2012 event

© Scott Sinton/ Red Bull Content Pool

3. On Point

As a judged sport, drifting is subjective. Red Bull Drift Shifters scoring mechanism is computerised and totally automated to do away with inconsistencies and human error. Scores are calculated from the data delivered by the digital sensors positioned throughout the course.

These state-of-the-art sensors measure the drift angle, speed and proximity of the cars to the obstacles. As competitors negotiate the course, their running total accumulates and is displayed in real time on the electronic scoreboard.

Red Bull Drift Shifters

Tight fit: ‘The Undertaker’ obstacle was a highlight of Red Bull Drift Shifters 2012. Drivers scored big points for drifting under the trailer

© Simeon Patience


Jarod De Anda, a larger than life character from Southern California known as the voice of drift, is back in New Zealand as the event MC.

THE RED BULLETIN: You were the MC for the first Red Bull Drift Shifters in 2012. What are your memories of that event?

Jarod de Anda: It was rad. I travel a lot for work, but Auckland was an incredible experience for me and for the drivers. I’ve so many good memories. Before the event we went jet boating in the harbour in the pouring rain, the event itself just went off and the afterparty was spectacular.

What made it so special?

Drifting on city streets has been done before, but never on this scale. The beauty of the concept is that you don’t need a lot of space to show off the driver’s car control and ability. RedBull Drift Shifters takes facets of drifting that everybody enjoys and a proprietary technology that no one had ever seen before. Add a sprinkle of pinball wizardry, the backdrop of the Auckland skyline and the Sky Tower and you have a pretty special event. 

Red Bull Drift Shifters

© Jim Krantz

Which drivers impressed you most in 2012? 

There was the guy who smashed the roof of his car drifting under the trailer, Daniel ‘Fanga Dan’ Woolhouse. Then there was Sam Hubinette in the Dodge Challenger, I mean Sammy is a Swedish driver, driving an American car, throwing it down in New Zealand. What’s not to like about that? Then the icing on the cake was Matt Powers, who’s a total bro, winning the event.

Are you a drifter yourself?

I grew up street racing in San Diego, but I’m 6ft 4in tall and I weigh 250lb, so I’m not a small dude. I don’t race anymore but my job means I get to hang out with all these drifting stars and other action sports stars like Tony Hawk, Bucky Lasek and Travis Pastrana. I’m quite happy that I decided to leave it to those guys to do the hard yards. I’ve found my sweet spot and I feel blessed.

What’s your catchphrase?

‘Send it!’ is my go-to line when the cars are on the start line all revved up and ready to go. If something spectacular happens then you’ll hear me shout ‘Oh Doctor!’ which basically means ‘get psyched on it’.

How would you describe your commentary style?

I speak American. I don’t speak the Queen’s English. I’m an excitable, yell-at-the-top-of-my-lungs kind of guy, but I also appreciate the technicalities of the sport and the skill of the drivers. I’ve travelled the world with drifting and I’m known as ‘the voice of drift’. I was lucky enough to get involved in the early days of the sport in the US. I’ve seen every single run of the Formula Drift championship both in the US and internationally. I’m the only person in the world who can say that. I’ve been doing this 11 years now and I feel privileged to be involved at the start of Red Bull Drift Shifters.

Can you see the event working outside of New Zealand?

One hundred per cent and I can’t wait to be part of it. I’d love to bring it to Japan, to Europe to the States. It’s all open. It’s a concept that’s ready to plug and play. ‘Mad Mike’ has created something very special.

How is ‘Mad Mike’ regarded in international drift circles?

Mike is first and foremost a professional, but he’s also got a very personal touch. He’s developed this brand and this event that people want to be part of. He’s got a very magnetic personality and he’s passionate about what he does, who he works with and the sport of drifting. He’s got this incredible energy and anything he does, he does it with style. 

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12 2014 The Red Bulletin

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