Checking into this past weekend's World Time Attack Challenge in Sydney, TMR's Kez Casey found himself in the hot seat with 'Mad Mike' Whiddett. Here's how it went down.
For a special breed of racing fans, nothing comes close to the all-out crazy antics of Formula Drift.
If you’re not familiar with the series, you can consider this the drift scene's equivalent to Formula 1. It's a select group of top-end competitors who make outlandish oversteer a fine art.
Those more intimate with the category will know of New Zealand driver Mike Whiddett, better known as the Mazda-obsessed ‘Mad Mike’.
In the midst of round three of Formula Drift Asia, held as part of the World Time Attack Challenge at Sydney Motorsport Park, Mad Mike took a few minutes out for a chat with TMR.
He's a friendly sort, shaking hands with fans, posing for 'selfies' and popping the bonnet of is FD Mazda RX-7 for all that ask.
It might seem odd then that he's been christened 'Mad', but get him on the track and it quickly makes sense.
He’s genuinely excited to be in Sydney for this round, too, warmly congratulating the WTAC crew for a well organised event. There's no 'NZ versus Australia' rivalry in his attitude today.
Quizzed about his favourite place to drift, after a moment of thought, Mike tipped his hat to the USA.
“I would say the USA. That has the money, the big sponsors, all the media, the craziest fans and the biggest crowds… but, that’s just America," he says.
There’s also a real love of being able to do his thing wherever he can.
“We’ve been the first to drift on many Formula One tracks, such as Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi."
"We’ve demonstrations with Formula One and V8 Supercars, and recently we’ve done the Goodwood Festival of Speed and that was probably the most amazing event I’ve done yet. "
“We’ve got four cars now around the world, and I just really enjoy going to some crazy places... it’s an eye-opener, not only racing but just 'life', seeing how other people get to live.”
For us at home, the sight of Mad Mike’s MADBUL Mazda RX-7 is impressive enough, draped in a standout livery designed by the man himself.
(To add to his list of talents, Whiddett runs his own sign writing and graphic design outfit in Auckland).
Hearing that absolutely mad-house four-rotor naturally-aspirated 26B engine (with around 538whp) in action is something else again. Keep an eye on TMR, because we'll have a shotgun-seat review of that shortly.
We wanted to know more about his cars and his collaboration with Mazda.
“The partnership with Red Bull has always been a dream as a teenager, but there is one brand that’s been in my blood since I was seven years old, and that’s Mazda. "I’ve always had a Mazda, since the age of 13,” Whiddett says.
“When I had my first rotary, I didn’t build the engine, but I had a 1978 Mazda 323 and I put a rotary engine in it. This was two years before I had a license.”
“I never thought that would ever happen, the passion for us to drive the Mazdas, and to have them come on board is just a dream," he adds.
Mike’s latest build, RADBUL, teams a four-rotor turbo engine with a heavily modified MX-5 chassis.
Whiddett tells us this car has everything he’s ever wanted, and with an expected output of around 1000hp it’s not hard to see why.
RADBUL aside, what lies ahead for Mad Mike?
Whiddett’s 2014 D1NZ season resulted in a podium finish; runner-up behind Gaz Whiter. A solid result.
As for this weekend’s Formula Drift Asia, Whiddett’s fortunes were mixed. After qualifying third, he “charged too hard” and made contact with Beau Yates in the top 16, cutting the day short.
Keep an eye on TMR, we've got a ‘review’ of the MADBUL RX-7 coming soon.