Catching Up With Mad Mike At The MADLAB

This weekend, Mad Mike Whiddett will publicly unveil his latest build – a 2019 Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2 – amongst motorsport royalty at one of the most prestigious automotive events in the world.

Mike has become a staple of the Goodwood Festival of Speed over the last few years, and it only seems fitting that he chose the Duke of Richmond’s driveway event to do the real world reveal of NIMBUL, aka SLAMBO. After all, this was the place that 12 months ago a Lamborghini partnership was first floated – a story retold in the first episode of ‘Drift Lamborghini’ on Red Bull TV.


On top of those partnerships already forged with Red Bull and Mazda, joining forces with Lamborghini is amazing feat for a number of reasons, but none more so, personally, than the fact that it doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was watching Mad Mike make a name for himself on concrete skid pad in the middle of a velodrome in South Auckland, New Zealand.

In reality it was 15 years ago, but who could have ever imagined Mike would go from blowing the tyres off his 13B-PP Mazda 808 wagon, FURSTY – and the many other rotary-powered cars that preceded it – to being presented with the key fob to a brand spanking new Huracán and being told by those on the top floor of Lamborghini HQ in Sant’Agata Bolognese to go nuts with it?

Not even Mike himself, as it turns out.


If what Mike told me when I dropped by his workshop a couple of days before he was due to fly out to the UK for the 2019 Festival of Speed has transpired, the magnitude of signing a sponsorship deal with Lamborghini will only be sinking in about now, as he builds up to the Huracán’s imminent unveiling.

It certainly hadn’t during the manic four weeks between picking up the car, building it, then loading it into a container bound for the other side of the world.


Unsurprisingly, the Mike I met at his workshop a couple of weeks back was far more relaxed than the Mike I spoke to during the build crunch, but that’s to be expected.


That’s not to say he’s had nothing to do since the Lamborghini left the building; when you’ve got a fleet of cars and ongoing commitments with them all over the world, just keeping up with maintenance and making repairs and upgrades has become a full-time job for Mike.

Working in the background on logistics, Mike’s partner Toni ensures that Mad Mike Motorsports is a well-oiled machine.


Long time readers might remember that we visited Mike at his shop back in 2012. A lot has changed since then, including the location.

While the original shop doubled as Mike and Toni’s home with an upstairs apartment, his new space – better known as the MADLAB – is a pure commercial building. And being based at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park south of Auckland, he quite literally has a race track in his backyard.


Currently, Mike, Toni, and their two children, Lincoln and Jett, are living in rented accommodation nearby, but in a matter of weeks they’ll be moving into their brand new home on the outskirts of the race track. While this will provide some sort of division between work and play, Mike tells me that the new house has a huge double-row garage space, which will provide him with plenty of room for the toys that don’t necessarily need to be kept in the workshop but currently are (think dirt bikes and BMXs). More importantly though, it will allow him to bring his work home when he needs to. Mike is a guy that travels a lot, so being able to maximise his family time is extremely important to him.

From the outside, the workshop is modern but totally nondescript. There’s always something interesting parked outside though, and on this occasion it was Mike’s daily-driven Mazda BT-50 pickup.

The Office

Opening the front door, there’s no question you’re in the right place.

Mike had a similar setup in his original shop’s office, but that space doubled-up as a reception area for his signwriting business. He still has all the equipment – he designs, prints, cuts, and applies his own liveries after all – but these days he’s full-time on Mad Mike Motorsports, and the new office reflects that.


There’s a lot of history and the memorabilia to go with it inside this room, but front and centre is the physical recognition of Mike’s biggest achievement in competition drifting thus far – the 2018 Formula Drift Japan Series Championship trophy. Check out this video for a recap of the win.


Die-casts feature heavily in Mike’s collection too, and he’s got everything from hard-to-find releases to custom-built scale cars. One of the coolest has to be this little diorama gifted by an overseas fan, featuring Mike’s PITBUL Mazda REPU (with added engine) and Auckland’s cityscape for a backdrop.


Over the years Mike has amassed a nice collection of helmets, and they make great display pieces too. Up top is the Kiwiana-themed helmet that Red Bull presented to Mike last year on his 10-year sponsorship anniversary.


I could have a spent a long time in the office checking out all Mike’s collectibles, but the workshop beckoned. Even the through door has been given a custom treatment.


Inside, it just got even better. Earplugs, anyone?


What struck me first is just how big this race shop is. There’s ample room for Mike’s entire fleet, a large inventory of spare parts, plus the actual workshop area with hoist, tools, and tyre-changing machine. It’s clean and bright, and has a really good feel about it, due mostly to the custom touches Mike has imparted on the space.

Who wouldn’t want to come to work if this is the sight that greeted you every morning? If that’s not enough, the fact there’s an award-winning barista roasting and preparing fresh coffee and baking savoury goods less than a 30-second walk away would surely seal the deal.


See what I mean about custom touches? Even the pit trolley has received the Mad Mike treatment.


There are reminders all over the place that the Whiddetts work hard, but play hard, too.


It was cool to see this huge poster montage of BADBUL in its Need for Speed and Speedhunters-sponsored guise for the 2010 Formula Drift USA Championship in the main workshop area. Inspiration for a competition comeback perhaps? We’ll have to wait and see…


While not all of the competition cars were in the shop they day I visited, two special street cars were: Toni’s Rocket Bunny Pandem-kitted MX-5 and Mike’s ’73 Mazda RX-2, which he swapped his Mazda REPU pickup in the USA at the end of the 2016 FD USA championship.


I also spotted LILBUL, the cartoon-esque MX-5 that Mike built for the 2015 Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix here in New Zealand. Although it was gravity-powered for the event, the little cart – which features a full custom fibreglass body from Kei Miura – was designed to eventually accomodate a 2-stroke engine, which Mike tells me is something that he hopes will happen soon.


Of all Mike’s car, none are more well-known – or have seen so much action – than MADBUL. Under the numerous generational facelifts, this is the original FD3S Mazda RX-7 built for Mike’s first foray into competition drifting in 2006.

Even more crazy is the fact that three-quarters of this four-rotor 26B-PP engine is the original 20B-PP that powered the car almost a decade and a half ago.


While I explored the shop, Mike was busy refitting the naturally aspirated engine’s quad throttle body setup.


Parked alongside MADBUL was one of Mike’s more recent builds – MADCAB. This 1987 Mazda Luce wasn’t built for competition, but rather a car for Mike to take people for rides in here at Hampton Downs, and generally just have fun in at his regular Mad Mike Drift Force grassroots drift days. It’s also street registered.

Ever since I’ve known Mike he’s always maintained that the creative process behind a building car provides him with just as much pleasure as getting behind the wheel and cutting very loose does. It’s something that really shines through in all of his builds, too. Every single detail, no matter how small, is always a considered one.


With four individual Takata Racing bucket seats and a 500hp+ 13B turbo setup, the Luce has a pretty solid setup, which you can read all about in Richard’s feature here.


Lincoln’s super-fast Yamaha YZ450F-powered ModCart, the family karts, and Jett’s dirt bike are kept in the shop and see plenty of use. How long before the kids are quicker than dad? Mike tells me he already can’t keep up with Lincoln when they’re both racing around in the dirt…

It’s always good to see RUMBUL – Mike’s ex-Super Lite Championship series stadium truck, now powered by a rowdy 13B-PP.

The Studio

Finishing off my tour of the MADLAB, Mike directed me up to the mezzanine floor, where the shop-facing half wall provides the perfect place to display some of his event driver placards and prize money cheques.


While all areas of the shop inspire creativity, this upstairs design studio is where a lot of Mike’s idea take shape on paper and in the digital realm.


It’s also the place where large-format prints, vinyl wraps and stickers come to life.

Not The End

Although I only envisaged spending an hour or so in the MADLAB, it ended up being a whole lot longer than that. Can you blame me though?

What Mike and Toni have created in Mad Mike Motorsports is amazing, but it didn’t just come by chance. The amount of hard work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes of this operation is something that a lot of people will never understand.


It’s crazy to think that sport of drifting, which not even 20 years ago was really all that well known outside of Japan, could take someone so far, but Mike is living proof that it can.

I’m not entirely done with my visit to MADLAB. Stay tuned for a spotlight on the FURSTY Mazda RX-2 – a simple build that perfectly captures a uniquely-Kiwi style of rotary street car modifying.

In the meantime, though, check out this clip featuring Mike and his Lamborghini, and Eduard Nikolaev and his Kamaz Truck, as a warm-up for Goodwood this weekend.

Brad Lord
Instagram: speedhunters_brad



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Travis Stewart

How could you not like MM?


The passenger ride I had with MM at Gatebil was something I'll never forget. The rowdiest experience, with one of the coolest drivers/builders I've met. Great story, Brad. Pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing this.


He had me at those GT World Tour and Haro 80's spec bikes on the wall.... and FURSTY.....


That man cave is dope!


I don't wish anything of Mike but imagine he should go missing, the shop gets mothballed and forgotten about for the next half century, IMAGINE being the guy to crack open the doors to find this stuff. Dreams. I must be late to the REPU party, a little sad I missed that.


all of us car enthusiast think that our visiting places like these will take short time (I admit never been to a place as great as this) but at the end we forget about time just like a kid playing outside. I laughed at my self when you said you envisaged staying there for an hour only hahaha.... great story though thank you for sharing.


Great story! Good luck to mad mike for future. And the mazda doors from which car they are from?they seem to have a fair bit of history.