It’s been two years since the first Red Bull Drift Shifters hit Auckland CBD. The brain child of ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett, the event removes the judging element of drifting and uses a pinball-style track equipped with a complex sensor system to score each run on speed, angle, and proximity. 

The concept was a world first in 2012, and a combination of a short three-hour event, zero dead-track time, with a points scoring system displayed in real time, made Red Bull Drift Shifters an instant classic.

The drifting world was left wanting more, so the announcement of the 2014 event, was a very welcome one. In typical Mad Mike/Red Bull fashion, the 2014 event will step it up in a big way, moving from the Auckland CBD location of Victoria Street to Quay Street on Auckland’s waterfront.  We tagged along to Ardmore Airfield to check out Mike testing the new track layout, which is 140m longer and 20m wider than the Victoria Street location.

“The first time we ran the event, Victoria Street was a great venue, but it just wasn’t fast enough for me. So this time around we wanted a new venue so we could better showcase the precision driving involved with drifting,” explained Mike. They have also reworked the way some of the sensors are grouped so that drivers need to have maximum commitment to earn the big scores.

Mike was very modest in his description of the 2012 event calling it a test run, as no one had ever done anything like it before. Removing the judging aspect of the sport was by far the biggest challenge, with the amount of technology involved well above our heads.

Here is where all the information is relayed, computed, and fed to the big screen in real time. The control centre is no joke and, thankfully, after a few years in storage everything was still working. This year there is an extra seven sensors feeding back to the control bus. Those who played a smart game in 2012, and worked the course to their advantage, earned the big points, although this time around things are a little different with combination sensors forcing drivers to be committed 100 per cent. Check out the video below to see an explanation of how the sensors work.

Mike pointed out that what we were testing on is not what the track will look like, with the actual obstacles kept secret until the day. Some will remember the undertaker in 2012, which did its best to take the roof off ‘Fanga Dan’ Woolhouse’s Commodore. Reigning Drift Shifters’ champion Matt Powers is the first of six international drivers attending to be announced, and he also has the honour of designing one of the obstacles. Alongside the six internationals will be ten Kiwi drivers including Mike.

At this stage it is still not known which of the three BULs he will pilot; “We are hoping to début the RADBUL NC Mazda Miata, but with a few delays on parts we are unsure, and we are not going to rush the project of that level just to get it there. We will have both the MADBUL and BADBUL in New Zealand at the time, so we have options. This year I’m going for the win. Last time I was so preoccupied with the event itself I can’t even remember my second run.”

I jumped on board to get a feel for the larger/faster course, with Mike giving a play-by-play of what the actual course will be and what obstacles the drivers will be flying towards, in excess of 140kph. If you thought the 2012 Drift Shifters was a wild three hours, you can be sure 2014 is going to be that much better.