That Brutal Crash:<br />Vaughn Answers The Big Questions

Thanks to our incredibly well-connected world, even if you have just a passing interest in the sport of drifting, you probably know that Speedhunters driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. had a serious crash at last weekend’s Texas round of Formula D. It was a brutal hit; the sort of car-meets-wall moment that makes you stop and say, ‘sh*t, I hope he’s going to walk away from this one.’ He did, thankfully.

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We needed to know the whats, the whys and the hows, so after giving just enough time for the dust to settle, we sat down with Vaughn (virtually) and talked about the incident, the aftermath and what happens next.

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SH: First of all, how are you feeling after that hit, both physically and mentally?

VGJr:  Physically, my neck and back are a bit sore, which is to be expected. I had a MRI done and everything checked out great, so it’s just muscle and ligament related from the impact. Any fog has left my head rapidly. So overall, I’m in pretty awesome shape considering the hit. Mentally, I am totally fine. Well, as fine as I was before the hit. I am not thrilled it happened, but I understand the reality of the possibilities every time I dump the clutch. There is no nervousness on my end to ‘get back on the horse’ or anything like that.

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SH: Could you please talk us through the crash? What happened and why?

VGJr: While wide open between inner clip one and two, the car felt like it was misfiring a bit and it was not accelerating like it should have. I went to change directions after inner clip two, and when I gave throttle input for the direction change, the car did not have enough response to change direction and suddenly my inner clip two angle and speed was heading straight for the wall. After looking at the data in the car, we were having rising and falling fuel pressure, which we believe to be from fuel being too hot from idling on grid for too long or a failing fuel system component.

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SH: We’re curious to know what went through your mind at the point when you realized it had all gone pear-shaped?

VGJr: As soon as I knew the inevitable was coming, I remember thinking that going into the wall at that speed front-end first was a very bad idea. I yanked the wheel, grabbed the handbrake, and used the momentum I had to spin the car around and back it in. This in-the-moment processing is what likely saved me from being seriously hurt. Those couple seconds seemed more like half a minute in my brain.

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SH: At what point did you figure out it was a serious incident for the car – before impact, during or not until you got out and took a look at the damage?

VGJr: I knew it was going to be real bad once I knew the wall was inevitable. When the dust settled I remember looking to the right and seeing through the roof that had separated and then looking at the windscreen that had split apart. It was not until a bit later in the day that I looked over the car in the pit and realized it was trash.

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SH: Can you talk us through the kind of engineering involved in you being able to walk away virtually unscathed?

VGJr: Multiple things add up to being able to walk away virtually unscathed:

– A well thought out and safely-built race car.
– Most of our team have raced and crashed cars and motorcycles themselves so they understand safety comes first.
– ASD (Autosport Dynamics) designs the cars firstly to be as safe as possible, and then focuses on performance.
– Although they start with a unibody Mustang in drifting, the added tube structure serves two purposes. How the energy is transferred in a crash from any angle, and how that energy is transferred to the rest of the structure. And how that added structure also adds rigidity to the unibody in key areas for performance.
– The choice of materials during construction and a good understanding of metallurgy for material choice, yield strength, stress and load requirements, and welding and joining techniques. These four things make a massive difference.
– Not a single weld in the entire car broke or cracked during the impact with any part of the car built by the team. Tubes deformed as expected due to the size of the impact, but nothing broke. Because the structure built by the team stayed intact and didn’t break, it kept absorbing energy until the car stopped completely.  The driver compartment area stayed completely intact.
– The rollcage structure and other parts attached to it are designed in CAD and tested in CAD with an FEA analysis program to make sure critical areas do what they are supposed to in a big crash from different angles. ASD has been doing that with drift car design for many years, and showed Formula Drift the FEA stress analysis results for the first time back in 2008.
– Proper safety equipment. In this instance my HJC Si-12R helmet and the halo on my Recaro seat saved my head and neck. Without the halo-style seat, I without question would have had a broken neck. (I highly suggest a safety net for anyone that does not have a halo seat).
– On the fly thinking. While I was put in the situation by the car not reacting when I gave it an input, I drove it till the end. Having the brain in the moment and backing it in saved me from serious injury. A lot of people’s default is to just freeze up and be along for the ride.
– Driver preparation. I take pretty good care of myself; I CrossFit, eat clean (most of the time), stretch, and mental train. All of those things came into play and paid off in this situation.

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SH: We understand the car is a complete write-off, could you tell us about the damage and why it’s unsalvageable?

VGJr: I reached out to Ian Stewart, the owner of ASD and the brains behind our competition car builds, to give insight here. This is what he had to share on the topic.

– Because drift cars are built by starting with a unibody street car shell, the unibody shell was never designed to survive an impact of this size and be re-usable.
– Even with all of the added structure added by our team, the unibody shell will always break the OEM spot welds holding the unibody sheetmetal together and tear a lot of sheetmetal with a crash like this.
– Once the OEM unibody part of the car deforms to a certain point, it just can’t be repaired well enough to ensure the car will ever be as safe again. In this case, we don’t think it ever could be repaired even if safety wasn’t a priority, which for us it is of course.

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SH: What will actually happen to what’s left of the car now?

VGJr: All of the salvageable parts will be taken off the car and the chassis will be cut up and dropped at a recycler.

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SH: Lastly, with the chassis destroyed, do you plan on competing in the final round at Irwindale, and if so, could you tell us what you will be driving? Could this be our first look at the 2015 Mustang in FD competition?

VGJr: Competing at Irwindale is currently up in the air, as the timing really sucks to have totaled my FD car. The twin to the FD car that we built for international initiatives is now on its way to Japan. Irwindale will not be the debut of the 2015 Mustang Formula D car. My team is making awesome progress on our new Formula D car and the chassis should be to paint in about two weeks, however it is simply not possible to have the car completed in time to make Irwindale. The prototype competition 2015 Mustang everyone has seen me drive in demos this year was built for development purposes only, and it will not meet some of the rules of Formula Drift.

VGJr: All in all I am pretty gutted, however being the realist that I am, I accept what happened as ‘a part of it’, and I am just thrilled to have walked away pretty unscathed. This weekend, I will race in my first Trans-Am race, as well as perform some drift demos in front of the NASCAR/Trans-Am crowd at Road America. So I’m pretty pumped that I can handle that given last weekend’s hit.

I sincerely appreciate the well wishes from everyone. The outcome of this situation is truly the best it could be and I know it’s been a reality check for a lot of us. Many of us are talking and exploring what we can learn from the chassis and safety equipment to understand what we can improve on safety-wise for the future of drifting as a result.

Thanks for reading!

Vaughn Gittin Jr.
Instagram: vaughngittinjr
Vaughn Gittin Jr. Official Website

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50 comments

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1
90nissanS13@my350z

SMH, modern day demo-derby with judges. What a waste of craftsmanship.

2

90nissanS13@my350z yea your right, race cars of this caliber never get crashed.

3

90nissanS13@my350z yea your right, race cars of this caliber never get crashed.

4

Do all/most competitors in FD have the same level of $ to spend with engineers, etc. Or is this limited to the Mike Whidett's and Vaughn's of the sport?

5

Do all/most competitors in FD have the same level of $ to spend with engineers, etc. Or is this limited to the Mike Whidett's and Vaughn's of the sport?

6

They don't necessarily have the same amount of money to spend on their cars but because of formula drifts safety regulations, they are all built in similar ways safety wise. But even saying that, Vaughn Gittins team most likely still has a higher budget so he would still have a safety advantage in terms of budget.

7

I wanna know if theirs a video of the crash

8

@SW1 ASD if pretty incomparable. Absolutely the top pit crew.

9

90nissanS13@my350z SMH, why are a hater like you still reading and following the going-ons in this sport if you are so hell-bent on hating?
Comparing this to demolition derby is a joke. The challenge of drifting is to maintain control of your car at all times and to avoid stuffing it into walls if you want to win. While demolition derby crashes cars intentionally until they break and
the last man standing is the winner, tell me which part of drifting does
the "crash till they break and last man standing wins"?

11

If you're gonna hate on those guys, better break out the haterade. Do you hate RB/Merc/Ferrari in F1? Hate Honda in BTCC/WTCC/INDY? A big budget is what you get when you work your ass off for many years to be the best at what you do, after living in the trenches for many years. So what if they have a bigger budget than Chelsae DeNofa? In every single professional competition in the world there are guys with big budgets, and guys with small. All playing within the same rules. A budget only allows you to get things done faster. 

Think about this one my friend. A privateer budget did not keep Essa from a crown.... Falken's money did not win VG a crown.

12

Ouch... I wish you the best of luck Jr. and hopefully we will see you in next FD runs. Keep it sideways m8.

13

Ouch... I wish you the best of luck Jr. and hopefully we will see you in next FD runs. Keep it sideways m8.

14

jay8393 macacofurioso That seems to be the only angle I have seen.

15

jay8393 macacofurioso That seems to be the only angle I have seen.

16

D1RGE Plus, you guys have to remember that Vaughn did not come from a traditional racing background and he did not start karting at a young age. He used to tow his SR20 S13 with an open trailer. BTW he still has his S13.

17

Larry Chen jay8393 macacofurioso With how many GoPros attached to his car, how can they not have the hi-def from in car, the rear, helmet, flank-aft and flank-fore?

18

D1RGE jay8393 macacofurioso I actually did not see any on the car at the time of the crash. Maybe inside?

19

I saw Vaughn's Mustang on the flatbed when I walked in to the event. Knew it wasn't good with the roof popped up and how it was sitting. One of the things that people haven't seen, unless you watched the event or replays, was the moment when he pitched the car to back it into the wall. That's the type of split-second decision making that takes mental and physical skill that few possess.

20

I saw Vaughn's Mustang on the flatbed when I walked in to the event. Knew it wasn't good with the roof popped up and how it was sitting. One of the things that people haven't seen, unless you watched the event or replays, was the moment when he pitched the car to back it into the wall. That's the type of split-second decision making that takes mental and physical skill that few possess.

21

I saw Vaughn's Mustang on the flatbed when I walked in to the event. Knew it wasn't good with the roof popped up and how it was sitting. One of the things that people haven't seen, unless you watched the event or replays, was the moment when he pitched the car to back it into the wall. That's the type of split-second decision making that takes mental and physical skill that few possess.

22

D1RGE Even without the same budget, Chelsea is smart enough to have one of the smartest engineers I know on his team and technicians as well.  It's a decision on the part of the driver or team manager to stock the roster with capable individuals who are all on board with the same goals and safety mindset.  I think the biggest difference in terms of budget is how much workload each person has to handle and the time they are allotted for each task they're assigned.  On the smaller teams, you can have a person just as intelligent as anyone at ASD but if they're being pulled in twenty different directions, the quality of what they can put out is definitely diminished.  Hence why rule books are intended to be very thorough.

23

D1RGE Even without the same budget, Chelsea is smart enough to have one of the smartest engineers I know on his team and technicians as well.  It's a decision on the part of the driver or team manager to stock the roster with capable individuals who are all on board with the same goals and safety mindset.  I think the biggest difference in terms of budget is how much workload each person has to handle and the time they are allotted for each task they're assigned.  On the smaller teams, you can have a person just as intelligent as anyone at ASD but if they're being pulled in twenty different directions, the quality of what they can put out is definitely diminished.  Hence why rule books are intended to be very thorough.

24

D1RGE Even without the same budget, Chelsea is smart enough to have one of the smartest engineers I know on his team and technicians as well.  It's a decision on the part of the driver or team manager to stock the roster with capable individuals who are all on board with the same goals and safety mindset.  I think the biggest difference in terms of budget is how much workload each person has to handle and the time they are allotted for each task they're assigned.  On the smaller teams, you can have a person just as intelligent as anyone at ASD but if they're being pulled in twenty different directions, the quality of what they can put out is definitely diminished.  Hence why rule books are intended to be very thorough.

26

My comment was not intended as hate towards these guys, they all work very hard out there, some of them just don't have the spnsorships that some of the bigger competitors do, that's all I was saying

27

EMRiadhiShalihin macacofurioso good lord.....Vaughn, great thinking backing that bad boy in....you had about  1/4second to either go head in, or spin it. Hope to see you back out there soon!

28

gdane and that's every motorsport out there.

29

KamikazeBottleRockets D1RGE Exactly. Budget only gets things done faster. Hiring a great pit crew is key.

30

Larry Chen D1RGE jay8393 macacofurioso They showed a good view of it on the Livestream a couple times so it does exist. Just depends if FD and Dailymotion release it.

31

On a somewhat related note, SH can we PLEASE get a similar article from Magnus Walker regarding his recent Need For Speed inspired driving debacle with car #277?

32

EMRiadhiShalihin macacofurioso Crazy, I didn't see that angle yet. You can clearly see something was wrong.

34

Looks like some thing in the steering went

35

He mentioned in the article that they were having fuel issues in when he went past the apex and went to change the angle of the car it's on its face and wouldn't make power therefore understeered straight into the wall.

36

@SW1 it'll probably get buried, so Magnus doesn't inspire more idiots. I think the guy has style but holy crap was that ever dumb going that fast on that street at that time of day. He deserved to lose that car for his actions.

37

he also locked up the front wheels right before he spun it around as you can see in the photo, mightve had a part in the crash, or he mightve already been past the point of no return

38

SteveMartling he also locked the front wheels up right before it snapped on him

39

macacofurioso Larry Chen  heres a picture i took right before it snapped on him, he locked up all of the wheels and spun

40

jay8393 McQuarrie V. Pawlak Seattle 2015

41

Lol, drifting...

42

Cjackson97 macacofurioso Thanks for sharing!

43

Wow, he eats clean, do sports....and still looks huge

44

Wow, he eats clean, do sports....and still looks huge

45

Wow, he eats clean, do sports....and still looks huge

46
deleted_82067014_Abezzegh87

im glad he is ok, but if we're honest, this is no biggie, compared to a rally crash.

47
deleted_82067014_Abezzegh87

im glad he is ok, but if we're honest, this is no biggie, compared to a rally crash.

48

I LOVE YOUR word!

49

D1RGE he just asked a question, he didn't even hate. calm down.

50

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