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Whipped Up: Red Bull Drift Shifters

9 December 2014

It would be silly to lie and say that I’m still as enthusiastic about drifting as I was the day I first shot it. It has taken its toll on me a bit and with that comes my inevitable decreasing photo count of drifting. However with World Time Attack having just been, I was feeling a little refreshed. Red Bull Drift Shifters was coming up and although I was feeling a bit over drifting, I knew that I had to return to ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett’s Drift Shifters event. Not to mention as soon as Ryan Tuerck was announced the fanboy inside of me insisted that I go. As we’re all media around here, we were given our passes and noted that we were restricted to a small box down the end to shoot from. Getting tricky and weird is what I’m all about so this was an opportunity to show you the event through my ‘freshly whipped’ up goggles/lens.

With my inner fanboy in mind, the first photo was always going to be Tuerck. He’d brought his car over all the way from little old Derry, New Hampshire in USA with his Scion FRS. Something about the graphics scheme on this car always brings it home for me. Definitely one of the better looking cars in the drift scene.

Jake Jones aka DriftSquid brought his car back over after it was crushed by an earthquake, and he nearly burnt Jacob Hakaraia’s car alive on his last trip over. All jokes aside, Jake’s RB-powered ‘Sonvia’ was here to keep the Aussie fans pumping.

Jumping behind the wheel of a championship-winning car is somewhat odd. The 370Z of Chris Forsberg contains what many would’ve loved in their car possibly 10 years ago — a monster tacho. But when you have a 950hp VK56DE Nissan V8 under the hood you can understand the basic needs that the engine comes with. It just so happens that a monster tacho is probably one of them.

Since this is through my eye, I feel that it’s probably healthy to introduce a few people to you all as they’re also contributors to this place we call The Motorhood. On the left we have Mr Aaron Mai — a regular contributor from the lower North Island, and on the right we have Richie Opie — a contributor from the north side of the North Island.

Although these aren’t traditional pits, they’re good enough for the drivers and their crew to work on the cars and check over the finer details. Nico’s car was running strong for the first half of the day but sadly was forced out with a leaking injector seal.

Daigo’s 2JZ-powered Lexus IS seemed to be under control all day with help from a custom steering set-up and the Achillies 123S tyres. 

Much like Jarod Deanda stated on the day, having taken a break from drifting and mostly being caught around coffee and surfboards, Matt Powers is a slight underdog for the competition, although he won it last time. Not only that however, he’s running a very simple engine set-up compared to last time with his LS7 being bought by Sky Zhao, leaving him to run a stock LS3 boasting around 400 horsepower. 

Even weirder than having a stock engine was having a road-legal R34 Skyline. Ken ‘Nomuken’ Nomura’s Skyline is about as simple as it gets with a full dash including stereo and a bolt-in cage. Under the hood we have a very simplistic engine comprising of a RB25DET putting out around 400bhp. 

Last of the internationals — we have Tyler McQaurrie running a LS7 V8-powered Camaro. Being the nice guy that he is, Tyler was happy to help put the car back together after a few practice runs and experiencing close encounters with the wall. 

Warming up tyres is a crucial part of the event as the course doesn’t allow you much room to scrub before being thrown at a wall sideways in front of 40-odd media. Nico’s S15 was a crowd favourite with many fans grateful to see the South Aucklander strutting around the pits. 

It’s kinda hard to sum up an event like this. I mean this photo to me really shows it off as it should be. Loud, proud, huge crowd, and media scrambling to get the shot/s.

It’s literally a bit of a whirlwind on the front line of the media pit. There’s a crazy amount of media hanging their gear over the barriers to try and get that shot whilst being pushed by other media to get their shot. 

I started to wonder by this point, what the heck am I going to shoot that’s different from all of the other media in the pit. After all, everyone seems to be going for the same shot with a slight variation. Using the media crowd as part context for the shoot, I was able to gain a critical shot of Mr Drift Calamari aka DriftSquid — Jake Jones.

Sure you can look at the obvious big fluro vests as a means of proving your place, but at the same time working with them to create flares in photos definitely brings out the colours. Throwing in his VE Commodore sideways, ‘Fanga Dan’ was a good representation of how to enter the midsection. 

I find the best spectator photos come from those that you really couldn’t have faked. 

Mad Mike broke his car after a fairly decent spin-crash into one of the props. He was lucky enough to have a back-up car however that allowed him to go another round. 

As an OG boss of Japanese drifting and all-round crazy character, Ken Nomura’s R34 wasn’t the quickest around the track but was somewhat funny to watch. Slightly unsuspecting and tame, the R34 made its way around the course bumping along the way but still remaining tough in the field. 

Tyler McQuarrie’s Camaro would have to have been one of the more surprisingly tame cars for the weekend with the LS7-powered beast playing quite cool and precise, no doubt coming down to the driver behind the wheel. 

However by the time he had the car thrown sideways, the car certainly looked a lot more nimble than you would expect a V8 muscle car to be. It reminds me of Samuel Hubinette’s Dodge Challenger from the last Drift Shifters and how that was easily able to be thrown into corners — but also had enough crazy power to bake up the rear tyres in a matter of seconds.  

Ryan Tuerck sadly didn’t progress on too far but managed to pull a solid position in the quarter-finals selection. His 2JZ did sound amazing and was definitely a perfect fit for the 86 chassis. His final score was 886,850.  

Daigo also only made it to the quarter finals yet left the competition with possibly the least amount of damage on his car. He managed to pocket a score of 719,310.

By this point every car had lost a panel and no one was going to bother putting the cars back together again. It was as if the day had become a missile festival and everyone was out to destroy their cars for the sake of downtown entertainment.

Getting down to the final few figures, the kids were doing whatever it takes to get a better vantage point. Didn’t matter if it meant climbing, there were spots to be had and the kids put them to use.

In the quarter finals, Fanga Dan Woolhouse laid down a solid run of 3,216,985 putting him in third place overall for the day, while Mad Mike and Chris Forsberg went on another round.

Chris Forsberg was then placed up against Mad Mike for the final battles. With each driver getting a chance at cracking the points, Forsberg came in with 2,650,885 points after a strong clean final run.

After an emotional speech to thank partner Toni Cook, Mike graced the top spot with a score of 4,012,088 — just under that of Matt Power’s as overall highest score of the day. 

Certainly the vibes and feelings coming from a screaming crowd of over 30,000 people must be quite intense by this point. So the only logical thing to do was to grab a bottle of proper Moët & Chandon and start spraying your mates. 

With nearly every member of the crowd coming back for a poster and a photo with a star, the drivers started to jot down every last note of their weekend on the fans’ pieces of paper. 

Congratulations to Mike, Toni, Linc, and the team on a successful event. Here’s hoping there’s another one in the works soon!

All work shot by myself, Chris Smith on various cameras and lenses. Any questions, please do ask below.
Additional photos below.

Red Bull Drift Shifters 2014 overall results

1) ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ)
2) Chris Forsberg (USA)
3) ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse (NZ)


‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ) – 4,012,088
Chris Forsberg (USA) – 2,650,885

Semi finals

‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse (NZ) – 3,216,985
Matt Powers (USA) – 1,982,799
Chris Forsberg (USA) – 3,505,449
‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ) – 3,276,400

Quarter finals

Matt Powers (USA) – 4,101,229 (top score of the day)
Andrew Redward (NZ) – 2,912,827 (retired)
‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ) – 2,685,799
Chris Forsberg (USA) – 2,194,329
‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse (NZ) – 1,774,430
Gaz Whiter (NZ) – 1,616,266
Ryan Tuerck (USA) – 886,850
Daigo Saito (JAP) – 719,310