‘MAD MIKE’‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett devised Red Bull Drift Shifters six years ago. The 33-year-old is one of the most popular drivers in the sport with over one million followers on Facebook.
THE RED BULLETIN: HI MIKE, give us the dummies’ guide to Red Bull Drift Shifters…
‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett: Drifting is a judged sport and like any judged sport there’s human error involved. Politics and bias comes into it and the result depends on someone else’s opinion. Our goal was to create an event that was scored electronically and based on the three main criteria in drifting: the line, the speed and the angle. It’s a spectator-friendly event and the scoring system is simple to understand.
What makes the concept unique?
There are three main differences from regular drifting. The first is the fact that instead of judges we use high-tech proximity, speed and angle sensors to measure the driver’s skills. The software we’ve developed allows the driver to get bonus combos by activating multiple sensors depending on the difficulty of the obstacle. Then there is the nature of the event itself. Usually drifting and other motorsport events run for the whole day: ours is a much more compact event. For the first event in 2012 we put on this really explosive show in three hours. Finally we took drifting from the race track and brought these high-powered cars to the city centre. We gave spectators a chance to get right up close to the action. There’s no other motorsport event where you can get so close to cars going that fast.
What were the highlights of the first Red Bull Drift Shifters in 2012?
There had never been a major motorsport event on the streets of Auckland before. The council had turned down a round of the V8 Supercars which is Australasia’s biggest motorsport series. So for them to accept a drifting event dreamed up by aguy named ‘Mad Mike’, I never thought that would happen. It was quite surreal to see this dream I had of building a drift track come together in my own backyard.
Were you disappointed to only finish fourth in your own event in 2012?
I definitely wasn’t disappointed. My main focus was to ensure the event ran smoothly, that the crowd were happy and all the drivers were looked after. I can barely remember driving in 2012.
What was the feedback from the other drivers?
They all wanted to have more track time. Because we ran the event over three hours a lot of drivers only got two runs on the track and their runs lasted just under a minute. We’re hoping to have an extra hour this year and change up the format a little bit so we can give the drivers more track time.
What did you learn from 2012?
We need more space for spectators. We had 15,000 spectators at the event in 2012 and there was an awesome atmosphere but I want to make sure that people who come along can see everything that’s happening.
What’s new for the 2014 event?
The track will be twice as big as in 2012, so it’s going to be much faster and much more exciting. With a longer course, the cars will reach higher speeds and produce longer slides, showcasing true drifting rather than just burnouts. A lot of people still think drifting is all about burnouts and pulling doughnuts. I want to showcase the speed and precision driving of drifters. I want to make sure the track flows and drivers use all of the track.
What are your ambitions for Red Bull Drift Shifters?
It’s a concept that can work in any city in the world. There’s been huge interest from Japan and considering that is where the sport of drifting originated, to bring the event to downtown Tokyo would be incredible. We’d also like to take it to the US, to LA or San Francisco. We were hoping to put on an event in London this year, but the timing didn’t work out.
What car will you be driving?
I’m hoping to unveil the new 2014 MAZDA MX5 (#RADBUL), but unfortunately it’s unlikely to be ready on time. The Mazda MX5 is the best-selling sportscar in the world, but some people perceive it as a hairdressers’ car. Nothing against hairdressers, but our goal is to turn it into this crazy monster of a drift car. The spec and geometry of the car is almost perfect. It’s set up to be a violent, explosive drift car that will really suit my driving style. We’ve gone totally over the top with every part in the car: the engine, the turbo, the suspension, everything is next level. We’ve got 1,000hp in a 1,200kg car. It will be difficult to drive, but very competitive.
What are your goals for the 2014 Red Bull Drift Shifters 2014?
I want it to be bigger, better and badder than the first event, and the other drivers should know I’m in it to win it this year.
Raw driving talent and bravery are required to throw a car sideways at more than 180kph. Also needed: the right hardware, namely a rear-wheel drive machine with drift-specific modifications. Brad Lord takes us through the car.