For­mula Bull

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READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD

MAD MIKE’S BAR­BER SHOP IS OPEN FOR BUSI­NESS, AND READY TO DISH OUT SOME CUT-THROAT RA­ZOR SHAVES TO THE FOR­MULA DRIFT COM­PE­TI­TION

It scares me” is not ex­actly the kind of re­sponse you’d ex­pect from Mad Mike Whid­dett when talk­ing about his lat­est build, but then again, the Mazda MX-5 he is re­fer­ring to isn’t ex­actly your av­er­age kind of car. It is, how­ever, the kind of nec­es­sary evil needed if Mike is to be suc­cess­ful in his quest to take on the world’s best in the For­mula D World Cham­pi­onship, and be com­pet­i­tive.

This was some­thing his team learned first-hand in 2010, when he shipped his RX-8 — known as BADBUL — to the USA fresh from win­ning the NZ Drift Cham­pi­onship. Mike ex­plained, “Hav­ing been up there a few times be­fore, I knew that the devel­op­ment of not only the cars, but the driv­ers, was in­sane. We knew it was go­ing to be a hard task, and the fact that Need For Speed came to us in Fe­bru­ary and asked if we wanted to run the en­tire For­mula Drift pro­gramme … we lit­er­ally had about two weeks be­fore we had to have an RX-8 in a con­tainer to make round one. So while the bud­get was there to make ev­ery­thing hap­pen, it was a steep learn­ing curve, and to be aligned with crew who we found out weren’t re­ally into drift­ing was chal­leng­ing.”

Mike tells us that dur­ing that 2010 sea­son he pro­gressed more as a pro­fes­sional driver than all the other years put to­gether. Each time they went to a new track his team was learn­ing about set­ting up a car, with ad­vice com­ing from the likes of ASD’s Ian Ste­wart, as Mike told NZPC. “We were on op­pos­ing teams, but be­ing a fel­low Kiwi he helped us out, just lit­tle things like run­ning stag­gered off­sets and stag­gered align­ments. Tak­ing an end cap off one side of your wing, all th­ese lit­tle things that I thought wouldn’t have done any­thing just made such ma­jor changes to the car. Then go­ing from Top 32 to Top 16 to Top 8, they would have set-ups for each as it just gets faster and faster and faster.”

That sea­son five years ago Mike fin­ished a cred­i­ble 21st out of 49 driv­ers, and earned For­mula D’s Most Im­proved Driver award. Ever since then it’s been Mike’s dream to re­turn to For­mula D and make his mark, as he ex­plained. “Ev­ery year since we have had some amaz­ing ar­rive-and-drive of­fers from teams, which in­cluded get­ting paid a good wage to turn up and drive the seven rounds.” Mike’s part­ner and team manager, Toni, said that Mike wanted to do it on his own terms, with his own team and be­hind the wheel of a Mazda. “Be­cause as we all know Mike is a ro­tary guy through and through. To an ex­tent Mike would have seen him­self as a sell­out go­ing and driv­ing for an­other man­u­fac­turer, when his heart wouldn’t have been in it. We wanted to get back there first and make sure we did it our way with our own team.”

That op­por­tu­nity arose mid­way through 2014, when the team picked up an NC MX-5 shell, and Mike put it to his Face­book fans to de­cide whether it would be­come a pro car or a mis­sile. With so­cial me­dia opt­ing for a pro car, the team be­gan putting to­gether their For­mula Drift pro­gramme.

To com­pete in a cham­pi­onship boasting the most ad­vanced uni­body race cars on the planet, ve­hi­cles with an av­er­age of 634kW (850hp), they needed to dream big, some­thing they have never had a prob­lem do­ing.

“On pa­per the MX-5 had ev­ery­thing to do the dam­age,” Mike said. “When you’re look­ing at the wheel­base, when you’re look­ing at the ge­om­e­try, and when you’re look­ing at this fire­wall — there couldn’t be a bet­ter plat­form for my driv­ing style. Of course lots of peo­ple are say­ing it’s go­ing to be to snappy, and it’s too short, but that’s the way I drive, I like cars like that, the RX-7 is a per­fect ex­am­ple of that. A real rapid switcher.”

The build be­gan by dip­ping the shell in the big­gest acid bath in New Zealand to re­move any and all un­nec­es­sary un­der­seal and sound dead­en­ing, and then the car was handed over to War­ren Over­ton and the PPRE team.

War­ren has been work­ing with Mike since his burnout com­pe­ti­tion days, and crew­ing on the drift cars gave him a good in­sight into what was needed to make the MX-5 work. As he’s full

He signed with Red Bull in 2008, and Mike — who is a tal­ented sign­writer — has al­ways in­cor­po­rated his per­sonal flair into each livery, and taken it about as far away from brand guide­lines as he’s al­lowed. But this year sees the car go full brand im­age. “We are rep­re­sent­ing the best part­ners in the most elite drift­ing cham­pi­onship in the world, so I want to ex­pose Red Bull as hard as I can. It’s a big thanks to them for all th­ese years of in­sane projects and sup­port”

time on the team he knows the car in­side and out, use­ful when the team is at the track. Mike says the RX-7 and the RX-8 weren’t built with the knowl­edge the team now has. “War­ren at that stage didn’t re­ally know the sport of drift­ing and its struc­ture, with the five-minute time outs, etc. All I wanted was crazy mo­tors, big power and cool noise, I was not re­ally chas­ing all this grip and per­for­mance. Now af­ter all th­ese years he’s been on the crew, he knows what bugs him at the track. So this car has been pieced to­gether elim­i­nat­ing all the lit­tle things that bug him, and ev­ery­thing is as sim­ple as pos­si­ble,” Mike ex­plained.

Orig­i­nally the plan was for a sin­gle-turbo 20B power plant, but af­ter Mazda came on board, and a mo­ment of crazi­ness at last year’s Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed, the team de­cided it had to have a four-ro­tor, and while they were at it, an­other Gar­rett turbo was added to the mix. War­ren had built a turbo four-ro­tor on the Huijs Rac­ing jet boat, so knew he could get the re­li­a­bil­ity.

The com­bi­na­tion has proved its worth in testing. It makes over 745kW on low boost, with mas­sive torque and plenty of power at base­ment revs, as Mike ex­plained. “With this much power the car is eas­ier to drive than say MADBUL, with that car as soon as you’re off that gas it’s out of the power band, and you’re screwed. Then it comes down to clutch kick­ing and gear chang­ing. All of a sud­den I’m hav­ing to do all this stuff, and keep the car fluid in its drift, so driver er­ror comes in and then it’s hard on the driv­e­train, ‘boof!’ there are bro­ken axles, drive­shafts, diffs and gear­boxes. But with this car we have the power to let me just stay in the top gears and use the boost and torque. We were at Man­feild last week testing, and I’m telling my­self ‘OK leave the shifter alone, just get it into top gear and just drive it.’ You can bring it down pretty much to idle and then just stand back on it and the power comes straight back on. We are stoked now that we have the power and torque we needed.”

Mak­ing four-digit power fig­ures re­quires some se­ri­ous fire­power, which comes from a Hal­tech M&W CDI ig­ni­tion sys­tem. This is pack­aged neatly un­der the dash with the Hal­tech ECU and all other elec­tronic com­po­nents. The fac­tory dash, which is an FD re­quire­ment, can be re­moved in sec­onds as it’s held in by a few Dzus fas­ten­ers

PWR has come on board and built all-cus­tom cool­ing com­po­nents for the MX-5, in­clud­ing this unique wa­ter-to-oil heat ex­changer lo­cated in the pas­sen­ger footwell. That means no air-to-oil cool­ers are hang­ing out the front in harm’s way, which is great, as this is a com­po­nent Mike has dam­aged count­less times be­fore on the RX-7 and RX-8 While putting the MX-5 to­gether the team has en­deav­oured to use the best com­po­nents avail­able. They have al­ways had is­sues with gear­box dam­age, and we aren’t talk­ing about cheap OEM boxes. So they’ve opted for a Holinger RD6 six-speed se­quen­tial, which is widely ac­knowl­edged as the tough­est box in the busi­ness, and one used by most of the high-power teams in drift­ing

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