Auckland’s Quay Street roared to life on Saturday morning as the Red Bull Drift Shifters returned to Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud of Tyre Smoke. Transforming the down town waterfront into a giant pinball inspired drift track.
Drivers from Australia, Japan, America and New Zealand, by special invitation, came out to push themselves and their cars to the limit. Sometimes beyond, as event Mad Scientist creator “Mad Mike” Whiddett did during his second run of the course taking out his front control arm and forcing him to retire his infamous four rotor 900+Hp Mazda RX7 and swap to his slightly less Mad yet no less formidable RX8.
What makes this even unique, in not only the world of motorsport but also to drifting its self, is the scoring system. It is fully automated with drift-angle sensors, digital proximity sensors and speed radars, all used in place of the traditional judging panel to ensure accuracy and consistency wins out over shear aesthetic style. This of course doesn’t take anything away from the sideways, flat tack, balls out thrill of the event by any means and spectators were wowed my the precise driving skills it takes to get through the tight course.
Points were awarded drivers for their speed, proximity to sensors and were able to unlock bonus points via combos, achieved when passing sensors in allocated order. All of this happens in real time and points are counted on the big screen for all to see as the clock counts down its 70 second limit.
The course its self is made up of 12 obstacles spread out over 31 by 10 meter course.The bottom of the course is a circular 180 degree corner which drivers needed to drift all the way round in order to score maximum points.
“ If you’re scraping here, then you are winning!” Says Whiddett. A major drawcard and proud favourite from the last event is a huge Semi-trailer rig located near the start of the course which drivers needed to skilfully navigate underneath the trailer and around the front of the truck with only inches to spare. Finally, drivers needed to complete their run by 90 degrees into a perfect curtsied park, finding themselves inside a simulated service centre. All before the countdown clock stops ticking.
The man to beat on the day was Chris “The Force” Forsberg from the USA, just off the back of his D1 Championship win and the man racking up the points higher and higher each run. This is until the final round when the one man who despite reacting the even was unable to take out the top podium in 2012, where Mat Powers took top honour, “Mad Mike” Whiddett clocked up a staggering 4,000,000 plus points in his final run. A number the Forsbergs best efforts just couldn’t beat. Making Mad Mike the second winner in what will hopefully be man more Red Bull Drift Shifters events.