“MAD MIKE” WHIDDETT BRINGS NEW BRAND OF MADNESS TO AMERICA’S MOUNTAIN
Colorado Springs, CO – Some say it’s madness to race a car up a 14,115′ mountain at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, through 156 turns – many without guardrails – in pursuit of glory. For New Zealand’s Red Bull Athlete “Mad Mike” Whiddett, a world champion Formula Drift superstar, controlling speed and pushing limits is the name of his racing game. The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo, welcomed Whiddett, to the Race to the Clouds in June where he entered his #123 2022 Mazda 3 in the Exhibition division.
Whiddett’s impressive car-control skills coupled with his radical driving style and over-the-top personality have launched him to the pinnacle of motorsport drifting competitions around the world. He stepped to the top of the podium in 2009 in the Formula Drift Asia Pacific Championship and the New Zealand Drift Championship. By 2013, Whiddett won the World Powerslide Championship, Gatebil, in Norway. He followed that with a win at the 2014 Red Bull DrifterShifters. Throughout 2017 and 2018, Mad Mike captured drifting championships across Japan. In a bit of a divergence, he also claimed first place in the 2018 New Zealand Super Truck Off-Road Racing Championship.
The BULLET Build
With his eyes fixed on Pikes Peak, Whiddett began the year long build of the Mazda 3 coined “BULLET” he planned to use on his mountain assault. Asked about the Mazda-backed machine and what made it well suited for Pikes Peak, Whiddett explained, “The car was wild! We built this car within a year. It was a huge task to convert it to rear-wheel drive and right-hand drive to left-hand to fit the 4-rotor twin-turbo engine.”
“Mazda really wanted to showcase the Model 3, and what’s crazy is the wide-body kit was also designed by Mazda…so it’s not as wild as some of the other cars you see on Pikes Peak with the massive aero, but we still added the diffuser and the Rocket Bunny wing. As far as the engine, a lot of the parts are genuine parts. The only part not genuine is the crank, which we build in New Zealand.”
Using his prior drifting knowledge, Whiddett and his team built this racecar to Formula Drift rules and specs. “The key is to stick to what you’re comfortable with,” offered Whiddett. “The car did not include any traction or stability control. The hand-brake is my stability control.”
As an ambassador of the sport, Whiddett not only showcases his skills but brings his charismatic and down-to-earth persona to fans at every appearance. “I had so many amazing fan moments throughout the entire week. All the gifts and fan art creations I received at Fan Fest were mind-blowing,” shared Whiddett.
A Mountain of Surprises
Discussing expectations versus the actual Race Week experience, Whiddett was quick to point out some things that took him by surprise, “First of all, the lack of oxygen, little sleep and no real realization of how intense the event is. Plus, you can practice on the simulator all day long, but none of it gives you the sense of the mountain until you are there. I was also very surprised by the grassroots atmosphere at the PPIHC, for being an international event. And, I loved the camaraderie and the countless competitors willing to help me and provide advice. I felt insane nerves, like I’d never felt before, but once I took my first qualifying run, I was completely focused.”
Whiddett continued, “After that first attempt, I was surprised to learn we had the third fastest time in the lower section.” By the end of the qualifying session, he had qualified fifth in the Exhibition division.
“We were all about building a car that people would talk about,” said Whiddett. “Personally, I wanted to have fun and get to the top with a wild build that no one had seen before.”
The team had their sights set on a time of 11:24 but shattered that on Race Day with Whiddett’s clocking of 10:34.980, for 5th in division.
Risk vs. Reward
Whiddett recalled a special experience in Japan following this year’s race, “While one of the best moments was crossing the finish line and setting two world records for Mazda, I was amazed at how proud the Mazda HQ Hiroshima staff was of our team result. We showed the Pikes Peak clip and the whole room broke down with emotion. Then, a Mazda Motorsports executive told us, ‘Never stop challenging. Motorsport is our treasure and we must never lose our treasure.’ ”
“Not in 2024,” shared Whiddett, “but when the time comes I’d love to build a proper hill climb monster! I’d stay true to Mazda’s brand and use a 4-rotor engine, but we’d build it from scratch with a tube frame, more cooling and ducting. As far as traction control…to be determined.”
GET TO KNOW “MAD MIKE”
Three Things For Fans To Know:
“After three years as a pro Freestyle Motocross athlete with a lot of broken bones and concussions, I earned the nickname “Mad Mike.”
“I’ve participated in drifting events from my home country New Zealand to Australia, United States of America, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, South Africa, New Caledonia and Canada.”
“My favorite food is chocolate.”
Any mentors on Pikes Peak? “Rhys Millen convinced me to change tires. I’d been practicing on rain tires since I felt I had more control. On the last day of testing Rhys told me to be on slicks or I was going to run out of tire over the entirety of the course.”
Best advice? “Get oxygen set up in the car!”
What challenged you most? “Cooling the car.”
What was your favorite corner? “I really enjoyed the fast sweeping left hander up into Devils Playground – full noise, sideways and hundreds of fans down the fence line!
Choose any car you’d like to get behind the wheel on Pikes Peak? “I would have loved to drive Rod Millen’s Tacoma truck; to take it back to the 1980s and drive it in the dirt!”
How quickly could you make it to the top if you drifted every “driftable” section? “Well, I would definitely need a couple of pit stops to change tires, however I’m up for this challenge!”
Photos by: Larry Chen, Luis Garcia, Charles Zhao, Jason Zindroski
Communications Manager / Historian