For those of you who’ve been following our Speedhunting over the past few weeks, you might have noticed that Vaughn Gittin Jr. made the long trek to the Mecca of automotive madness, Gatebil Rudskogen. Once the mayhem had settled, Speedhunters sat down with Vaughn to take in his reaction from the sensory overload over the weekend in Norway.
SH: So Mr. Vaughnster Truck, we’ve just finished Gatebil, and everyone is smiling in a big way…
Vaughn: Smiling, struggling to talk and exhausted but my face is for sure in pain from all the smiling over the last three days.
SH: Let’s just rewind a bit. Why don’t you tell us about what you thought Gatebil was?
Vaughn: I’ve seen pictures and videos in the last couple of years. I thought I was just coming to Norway, you know? Cool automotive festival where I was gonna be able to have some fun and meet some good drifters and enjoy a new track.
I came out here and my mind was just completely blown.
SH: What was your first impression when you rolled in, going to where the Monster area was set up?
Vaughn: First of all, when we got here, there was stuff everywhere. I mean I was in the middle of this paddock and it was super crowded. You’d come up around this back stretch and there were all these cars in line, waiting to get tagged. I just got off a nine hour flight and I felt like I’d come to the automotive Mecca. All these cars getting unloaded and everyone is setting up, all these drift cars I’m not used to seeing… Volvos and Audis and a lot of BMW drift cars. It was like a different world.
SH: When did the scale of the event dawn on you, because it’s a big event, right? I think 43,500 people came to this event.
Vaughn: When we started hitting the track, that’s when I realized – this is INSANE. There are WAY too many cars running on the track right now.
SH: Was that surprising? This sheer number of cars, different drift sessions, variety of skills, builds…
Vaughn: Yeah, to be honest, I don’t know how it works. Once I got on the track for the first time with Fredric and Mike going through traffic I was thinking, this can’t work, this isn’t happening and somehow it does man, all those different cars, different drivers – it just happens. I felt like it was slightly foreign to me when I first arrived and I always kinda feel that when I get to a new country for the first time, but as soon as I hit the track it felt like I’ve been here forever, because we’re all just connected through drift and doing what we love to do.
It was just mad, every second on the track was just gnarly, and it seemed lawless, but it’s not. I learned that by the black flags we got. I really didn’t understand what I could and couldn’t do, and I know I was never being unsafe, but it was really interesting in my mind to be drifting with 50 cars on the track and then getting black flagged for drifting on the rumble strips – that was crazy to me.
SH: Talk us through what it’s like: are you passing cars on the track? Are you tandeming with random cars? I think there were a lot of cars chasing you.
Vaughn: Going onto the track, well, you’re in the car, you are waiting, they open the queue, release the queue and you all enter onto the track in single file. If you’re in the middle of the session, cars are already blasting, drifting by when you get onto the track, so you gotta enter at the right time.
Then you go round this long sweeping right hander to a super fast straightaway. I don’t even know how fast I was going, I was fourth gear wide open. You come over this blind hill and as soon as you crest, you enter and just sail your car, 500 feet down the hill.
SH: How fast were you going when you initiated down the hill?
Vaughn: I don’t know man, fast. Real fast. Top of fourth. As fast as the car would go.
SH: How do you compare this to other American tracks?
Vaughn: Faster than any American track without any question, faster than any Formula D track. And you go down the long sweeping hill and it just goes, super long. Once you enter you’re just sailing, e-brake modulating, keeping the car sideways, and as soon as you see the exit of the turn – which feels like a mile away – you just jump on the throttle and you just sail this super long sweeping turn uphill into the S-section.
SH: Were you doing that while passing cars?
Vaughn: Yes, not only that was crazy, but Fredric set a really bad example for me, haha.
A couple of times we’d come through traffic, so you’d enter on the outside of the turn and nail it but then there are cars everywhere. So now you are in the middle of this huge sweeping right hand turn, dodging in and out of traffic.
SH: While drifting…
Vaughn: Exactly. Then you go to the S-section and then you’re picking off people. I’m gonna get him there, him there, like all these moving clipping points. And then couple that with the fact that I’m the guy from America and everybody wants to be on my door, so I’m negotiating these people.
SH: You were in 10 car drift trains. They were side by side and it was pretty wild to watch.
Vaughn: It was so insane, so much FUN. I found myself on the doors of some of the most interesting cars ever. One turn it’s a Volvo wagon with a 2JZ, next turn is Aasbø, next turn is Liam Doran backwards in his Rally X car. Mad Mike is over here and there’s a guy with a little a 2002 BMW… I cant explain it, it’s so insane, so many emotions going on.
SH: I can think of so many times when I’ve literally stood there watching, thinking to myself, I cannot believe what I am seeing and my brain just starts melting, because all these cars are together. It seems every year more and more people are coming from all over the world. You had an RTR-D come out from Saudi Arabia which is amazing, and I’m sure there’s a drift team from Russia here.
Vaughn: Ryan Tuerck is here too, driving a tube chassis BMW.
SH: This is becoming a global thing now, this one event…
Vaughn: Without any question the most insane cars I’ve ever seen. Not just that I’ve ever seen at one place, but everybody trashed them on the tracks. I was driving my car like it was a missile car. I was out there, going hard. You know we don’t get the opportunity to do that much with FD cars, that’s why we have missiles and demo cars, but the car that I have here is a proper FD chassis that ASD built and holy sh** it’s fun to flog that thing. I just loved coming out of one big turn and just going as fast down the straight and entering it at the 200 marker.
SH: What did you think of the wall tap? You know it’s the officials that are holding up the signs?
Vaughn: Oh it was?
SH: The officials are encouraging you to come and dirt drop and run the wall.
Vaughn: Yeah once I got the memo, thanks to you about the wall rubbing, it was quite a fun challenge.
SH: I think there were black flags involved.
Vaughn: Yeah I definitely got black flagged way too many times.
My sticker got pulled on Friday, but they kept letting me drive and then I went to ask, “What are the rules?” and they answer with a smile: “You will never know the rules of Gatebil.”
I’m like, how can I learn to not get a black flag every time I go on the track.
SH: Fredric is probably a better person to ask these questions to.
Vaughn: Yeah he was setting a good example for his American counterpart.
SH: Everyone loves it, as long as you smile and you’re friendly, and you laugh with the people you are going door to door with, everyone’s happy. Its all fun, right?
Vaughn: This is why we drift, this is why I got into this sport.
SH: It’s the spirit of Gatebil: you’re supposed to be black flagged. If you’re not black flagged, you’re not going hard enough.
Vaughn: I believe the track officials were not happy. One of them hit my car with a flag once, because I didn’t know he was waving it the first time.
SH: I heard you were driving a Lamborghini Countach.
Vaughn: I had a childhood dream fulfilled and slightly crushed at the same time. One of the Gatebil owners let me drive his Countach. We were talking, I told him it was my childhood dream car, and he offered to let me drive it around the track! My eyes just lit up. I was like a giddy kid. I’ve never even sat in one before.
Everyone told me I would never fit in a Countach, said it’ll be too tight. I asked if I can sit in that thing and see if I fit. I’ve been kinda halfway interested in maybe finding one. He opens the door for me, I jump in, get the seat belt on and he can’t find the keys. I’m like, “Whaaat, can’t find the keys?” So anyway, he finds the key, starts it up, then I jump in the car and go on the track.
He said make sure to put temperature in it so I just did a cruise around the track and then started pushing it a little harder and harder and realize that you really couldn’t do much more than cruise around the track. It didn’t like it: it didn’t wanna turn, the brakes weren’t the best, power steering… there was none.
SH: A bit like driving a tractor. Was it really hard?
Vaughn: It really was like driving a tractor, it really was. I was trying to be nice, because I have personal feelings towards this vehicle. I used to have the Countach bed at my dad’s! So you know, we spent time together and I wanted it to be so much better but it’s kinda like ‘Don’t meet your childhood heroes’. It was a really cool experience though and now I believe instead of wanting to buy a Countach, maybe I’ll just buy a body and build a tube chassis or something some day, when I’m bored.
SH: What’s amazing is, that’s just one of many experiences that can be had at Gatebil. If you think about it, everyone experiences it completely differently and it’s almost impossible to gather together all the things that could possibly happen there. Speedhunters has crazy experiences there finding all these cars and meeting people from around the world.
Vaughn: It was so random. I never thought I’d be coming to Gatebil, doing the things I did there and also enjoying driving my childhood dream car… or not enjoying, I should say. Haha!
It was epic. It’s one big party. It’s a party on the track, it’s a party off the track. The insanity in the forest and the camp ground after hours was nuts. I was DJing a party! DJ Vaughny Vaughn in the forest. So much stuff my voice is gone. I feel broken. I have two days to get rested up for Seattle.
SH: What I think is gonna be a lot of fun, is that everyone from the FD scene who’ve been here, when you see each other in the US, you’ll have that glint in your eye.
Vaughn: Oh yeah!
SH: You just know something…
Vaughn: No one else would know what we’ve seen. What has been seen cannot be unseen.
I’m coming back next year.
Story produced by Alok Paleri
Interview by Rod Chong
Photos by Paddy McGrath, Larry Chen, Egil Håskjold, Taryn Croucher and Rod Chong