Back in Auckland, NZ, I did a drift demo at the Skycity Casino for the release of WRC NZ in MADBUL our 4rotor FD RX7. It was an honor to meet fellow Redbull athlete Sebastien Loeb and hear of his respect for drifting.
An hour later and we were at the airport. Then after the 13hour flight to LAX we went straight to Twins Turbo Motorsport to be welcomed by the team. They had made a few changes, were prepping the RX8 over the last 2 weeks for Atlanta and getting it ready for re-tech inspection.
We then hauled our new 44 foot home-away-from-home trailer behind our Dodge 'Bro Dozer' Dually the 3000 miles to Atlanta. The trailer consists of 20ft living quarters with a lounge, kitchen, shower, toilet, flat screen, surround sound and 24ft for the car, tools, wheels, spares, Miller Welder, Red Bulls and all the other stuff we need to lug to each event. So Sunday night we started our road trip which is a story in itself! So onto our round two update.
Wednesday we got to see Road Atlanta for the first time. It's truly amazing and I was itching to get out on the track, just don’t think of getting around without golf carts.. this track is SO vast. We set ourselves up in the pits and chilled out recovering from our long journey.
Round 2 of the Formula D Championship was something else!
Thursday was set up day and also a private test day, I was told we would get lots of track time as usually there are only 10-15 cars max that test on set-up day. However that was not the case, the only car I recall that wasn't testing was the Hyundai of Rhys Millen so there were around 60+ drivers on the grid for 2x 1 hour sessions. After our last testing at Willow Springs on the Falken 615k tyre, I was real confident going into this round.
So here I am looking down the shoot for the very first time for the left hand entry – and in my usual preparation up to this point, I had been soaking up hours of previous rounds on dvd to get as familiar with the track as much as possible. I’m guessing around 95% of the competition I am up against already know each track of the series having experienced them first hand.
My first pass I was stoked: the track felt good, the tyres felt good, car was good and I felt in the mode.
Until when I was sitting in line waiting for my next run, all my electrics started to die! The Tein EDFC controller was reading "Error", The HKS Camp2 digital dash fuzzed out and all the lights on the dash had come on. We killed the car and the team jumped under the bonnet (a.k.a hood haha) and found the alternator had decided to pack it in for the day. We crash started the car before my run and I attempted to make another run. However, with a dead battery and no alternator, there was no show of the Bosch pumps being able to pump my 20b full of fuel so the car just missed as soon as I would get anywhere near 3/4 throttle. We had to park the car to the side and I stood track side in the hot pit watching my competition annihilate the track until we could get the car back to the pit (paddock) and fit our spare alt and battery in time for the second session later that afternoon.
After day one, it was apparent why they call
it Hotlanta. And it’s not because of the hot guys cruising on golf
Attack of the scissors…. Watch out Andy!!
Second session: Right now I’m pumped again, car is firing from the key,
all correct lights are on, helmet and harness are tight and I’m ready to
take off down the shoot again! Raraaaaaaaaaatatatatatatat F*#K now the
car is missing up top I keep the throttle hard to the floor to try and
clear it out but no joy. I still managed to link the track but there was
less smoke than burnt toast, little angle and it was a struggle as I
clutch kicked around the entire horse shoe to try and keep it on line.
It was a real disappointment not getting the track time, but I guess it's also blessing to have the drama on a test day rather than the day of competition. Once again, I stand track side and smell the burning rubber for an hour while Marc, C-Los and Kev worked full steam on the car to find the problems. It turns out the 20b had eat'n a set of spark plugs so it was looking good for an easy fix for tomorrows qualifying session.
That night we worked on the car till 11pm when C-Los fired up the car
and gave it a quick rev to the limiter and it sounded clean. Stoked!
Friday Qualifying: I was shocked to see the die hard drifting fans all pouring through the gate at 9am when Friday was only qualifying and didn’t start till 3pm. They set up their tents around the track to ensure they had the perfect view for the weekend.
Friday morning interview with Jarod Deanda for the live feed and a quick shout out to all my fans that are watching the live stream footage.
We then had a drivers meeting where the Andy,
Tony and Ernie laid down the requirements for what we needed to pull
off in qualifying.
The team going over the schedule and making sure the car is looking pristine for the fans.
Alright, so here we go our first lap in the test session before qualifying, car is running crisp but I had only completed those 2 laps the day before so I still wasn’t pushing to hard. I hit approx 87-90mph in 4th gear then initiate with a big weight transfer, hard on the e-brake, hard on foot brake, chop it down to 3rd gear into the near 90degree left hander with an inside clipping point.
I kept it full throttle through the first switch.
Trying to keep the momentum uphill to push me out into the outside clipping zone.
Once I was at the first cone of the zone again, I needed to be hard on the foot brake to slow down enough to power into the super tight right hand entry with an inside clipping point for the horse shoe.
This picture is after the switch in from full lock. I had just shifted down to 2nd gear finding the outside edge of the track.
Here I am setting up to rail the best but hardest part of the whole track….
Slamming through the gears into 3rd around the outside clipping zone, I love the heat waves rising from the track. Looking at this pic it’s hard to believe we’ve raised the car 35mm / 1.37” since Long Beach.
Cut back across the track for the inside clipping point.
At the crest of the hill, whack it into 4th gear for the full throttle decent. This part is so much fun but you have to get the entry nailed way back in the horse shoe to pull off a perfect line and yes those outside rumble strips are now facing backwards!!
So from the outside clipping zone the hard part is to stretch the drift down to the inside left hand clipping point, still staying full throttle from the horse shoe. I actually needed to shallow up my drift to gain the speed to stretch it down the hill to the next clip.
Keeping it full throttle, a quick stab to the foot brake with my left foot to throw the car some more angle, slow it down slightly before the fast right hand inside clipping point just before the return up the hill. You needed to be careful not to swing too wide heading up as another set of backwards rumble strips would catch your outside wheel and slam you straight into the wall as we had seen happen to a number of drivers over the weekend.
Atlanta was super technical for the RX8 running at its capacity that weekend, however it’s definitely not the fastest track throughout this championship.
As I’m sitting in line idling away waiting for my next run, the car decides it wants to fowl up the spark plugs. GREAT! After just getting in the mode from my first run, I’m pushed out of the cue again to the side line! Arrrrgh! Marc was quick to pull out the plugs and the boys cleaned them up, checked all the leads, wiring and took some fuel pressure out of it from the Turbosmart fuel reg. By the time we had completed the car the field was lining up for qualifying. So now, I was super nervous. Only completing a few laps throughout all 3 x 1 hour testing sessions and knowing that I can’t let the car idle or it will fowl the plugs again. This meant that the team had to push me all the way up to the grid, once there I would fire up the car and drop it straight into a burnout bouncing off the limiter to get the heat and pressures up in the Falkens and then keep it revving for the green light.
My first pass felt on point hittin' the speed, I hit all the clipping points
Then I freakin' spun out AFTER the last corner looking back up at the track and right beside me was the finish cone. Gutted!! But I had one last chance.
My next run definitely wasn't the best but I’m lovin this pic.
My run managed to get me into the top 32 at 29th.
I was still stoked with that and looking forward to the battle practice tonight.
Warming up for the Edward scissor hands tree pruning comp.
So heading into battle practice I sat down with Toni. We went over all her notes, speeds etc of the other drivers from her observations out of the spotters tower that she had been taking the entire time. This time I flew into the first corner and as I went to initiate the steering went rock hard and I had to pull the e-brake and spin out before I went straight into the wall or sand trap. As I was driving back up to the hot pit I could hear the power steering pump surging. So now we had power steering fluid everywhere and were not aloud back on the track. So that ended any chance of chasing the others around the track. So gutted.
Friday night was sleepless as we had so much trouble at this round. Thanks to Marc, C-Los and Kev they sorted the pump issues and had the car prepped for Saturdays main event.
Saturday the main event: I spent the morning meeting and greeting fans and supporters and mingled with the crowds as they came through the Need For Speed Electro lounge.
Powers and I found some time to relax and have some drift battles on NFS Shift (yes JR, I was using your Mustang) Can't’t wait for my car to be on the game! I was also loving my Mulisha sandals in the hot weather.
If I could, I’d want my 'MADMIKE bonus car' to be the BRO DOZER dually!!! Yeah 750hp of twin turbo Cummins power with sparks flying off the chassis as you drift/scrape around Irwindale! Powers wants his to be a little PONY! Ha I love his style.
Still always smiling, even after all the issues we had. After all we were drifting at Atlanta!
Toni and C-Loz boostin' around in the golf karts.
Insert witty comment here.
Toni getting some practice in for the golf kart extreme challenge that would happen on Saturday night. And if anybody asks… No, it didn’t consist of Wheel stand comps, un-governed drag racing and high speed down hill bush runs in neutral. Thanks to our winning team Toni, Cody, Pat and I. Good times!
Okay so back to business. Here we line up to head onto the track for top 32. I had my work cut out for me now for my 1st battle.
I meet Dai Yoshihara who placed 2nd at the Red Bull World Drifting champs. Dai is a real character and great guy and has a big following in the drift community. Definitely one of the crowd favorites. So with Dai qualifying ahead of me, it meant I would chase first. Dai had faster entry speeds than me but I knew my car had been playing up so if it would run crisp I could hang with him.
So I’m on the staging grid waiting for the double red light, mean while Dai's crazy V8 motor is sounding rather evil as is snaps into life every time Dai touches the throttle.
The lights approve and I dump the clutch and power full throttle through 1st, 2nd, and am preparing myself to tuck in behind him when I miss 3rd gear and instantly loose at least 4 car lengths.
I managed to close the gap in the course.
But then came in to shallow, I should have my rear wheels on the outer edge of the track.
Dai’s car is definitely one of my favorites in the FD field. Its low, its loud and has a sweet stance and suits Dai’s style. The graphics kind of look like his hair too!
Dai has put his foot down and proved there is something special beneath the carbon and fibreglass s13 body. It is a very quick car.
Dai was one of the fastest drivers around Atlanta. So, I knew he was going to be on me everywhere. I just pushed as hard as I could.
This is Falkens new release brown coloured smoke tyres (kidding!). I love this pic…. I went into the horse shoe too hot and dirt dropped.
The amphitheatre shaped stands surround the track and flow out into the hilly bush allowing the track to be viewed from no matter where you sit, and for the brave the fence line around the horse will get you showered in rubber and red dirt.
Still keeping it full throttle to rail around to the hill. This is the hatch back model RX8
Sorry to all the fans that got roosted, oh and Dai for getting ya car dirty. My bad!
Just after this pic, my rear bumper came into view laying in the middle of the track. I continued on my decent holding it tapped and smashed straight through it as I wasn’t going to back down and loose my line.
I was unhappy with the judges call to advance Dai with the win, considering my 2wheel dirt drop and bumper smash I thought it was clear cut..
I congratulated Dai for the win. He said that he must now go on to win the event! So at least I can say I lost to the winner! And that he did which made my loss that much easier to swallow. Congrats Dai, you inspire me dude.
Toni and I then went and jumped into the mix with the raging crazy crowd and watched the intense battles through to the finals. Special thanks to the crowds that came out – Atlanta was off the hook and the atmosphere was pumping throughout the entire weekend.
Also thanks to the FD Team for putting on another great event and my team Toni and the Twins Turbo Motorsport boys Marc, C-Los and Kev.
Lastly thank my ever so supportive USA based sponsors Need For Speed, Red Bull, Metal Mulisha, TengTools, Tein, Falken and Miller welders.
See ya’ll in Jersey!