Since it was first unveiled to the world in May 2015, ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett’s ‘RADBUL’ Mazda MX-5 has taken it by storm.
There is a smorgasbord of reasons behind this. The obvious ones are how it looks and how it sounds, but the not-so-obvious ones are perhaps the most compelling. It’s different, which, as a car fettled and pioneered by Mad Mike himself, is something that shouldn’t surprise. And you only get a true feel for this difference when you see the MX-5 roll up next to something like Justin Pawlak’s Ford Mustang. It’s a bit like watching a fox terrier puff its chest out and clear its throat, before calling out the biggest pit bull in the dog kennel for straight one-on-ones in the courtyard at lunchtime. And in Formula Drift, there are an abundance of pit bulls.
But, therein lies the beauty of it. The more you look at RADBUL, the more panels you remove, and the more you flick through its endless spec sheet, the more you realize that it’s a pit bull in its own right. It just wears an adorable mask. And that transformation is what clinches it — at least for me. There’s 1032hp on low boost, generated by a four-rotor 2600cc PPRE 26B that utilizes a Twin Garrett GTX4088R. Translated to the ground via a Holinger RD6-SS six-speed sequential, KW Racing three-way adjustable struts, and Nitto NT05s. But there’s so, so much more to it than that.
Leading into the 2015 Formula Drift season, NZ Performance Car were lucky enough to size up Mad Mike’s thoughts about the forthcoming calendar — his first full roster of Formula Drift competition since 2010 — and his early appraisal of the MX-5. “When you’re looking at the wheelbase, when you’re looking at the geometry, and when you’re looking at this firewall — there couldn’t be a better platform for my driving style. Of course lots of people are saying it’s going to be too snappy, and it’s too short, but that’s the way I drive, I like cars like that, the RX-7 is a perfect example of that. A real rapid switcher.
“I need to get on top of the car, I need to make that car part of me so I can put it where I need to. It’s insanely fast and it’s insanely responsive, so it’s definitely the tool we need to do the damage, but it’s going to take a good year to learn it, and for the team to learn what each adjustment does, whether we are changing sway bars, alignments, or offsets.”
The build began by dipping the shell in the biggest acid bath in New Zealand to remove any and all unnecessary underseal and sound deadening, and then the car was handed over to Warren Overton and the PPRE team. Warren has been working with Mike since his burnout-competition days, and crewing on the drift cars gave him a good insight into what was needed to make the MX-5 work. As he’s full-time on the team he knows the car inside and out, useful when the team is at the track. Mike says the RX-7 and the RX-8 weren’t built with the knowledge that the team now has. “Warren at that stage didn’t really know the sport of drifting and its structure, with the five-minute time outs, etc. All I wanted was crazy motors, big power, and cool noise, I was not really chasing all this grip and performance. Now after all these years he’s been on the crew, he knows what bugs him at the track. So this car has been pieced together eliminating all the little things that bug him, and everything is as simple as possible,” Mike explained.
Originally the plan was for a single-turbo 20B power plant, but after Mazda came on board, the team decided it had to have a four-rotor, and while they were at it, another Garrett turbo was added to the mix. Warren had built a turbo four-rotor on the Huijs Racing jet boat, so knew he could get the reliability.
“With this much power the car is easier to drive than say ‘MADBUL’, with that car as soon as you’re off that gas it’s out of the power band, and you’re screwed. Then it comes down to clutch kicking and gear changing. All of a sudden I’m having to do all this stuff, and keep the car fluid in its drift, so driver error comes in and then it’s hard on the drivetrain, ‘boof!’ there are broken axles, driveshafts, diffs, and gearboxes. But with this car we have the power to let me just stay in the top gears and use the boost and torque ... You can bring it down pretty much to idle and then just stand back on it and the power comes straight back on. We are stoked now that we have the power and torque we needed.”
After a Formula Drift season of ups and downs, Mike approaches round six of the seven-round series in 25th, an honourable effort having only completed three rounds next to everyone else’s five, in the most competitive and professional drifting championship in the world. But Mike and the team are learning something about RADBUL at every round — check out their round-up of the Seattle event in the video below:
The walls of this office seem worlds away from Texas, where the MX-5 will be put through its paces on August 22–23 — indeed, most of New Zealand seems worlds away. But we wish the Red Bull squad and their remarkable machine our very best.
“I will be honest, it’s freaking scary to drive. It’s so next level compared to anything I have ever driven before. So it’s exciting for me. The best way to describe it now is the very first time I went to Pukekohe. I had to drift the sweeper consistently five times in a row to get my D1NZ licence, and like, doing 180kph — that’s fast, man. That adrenaline is back now.”
2014 Mazda MX-5 NC
- Model: PPRE 26B, four-rotor, 2600cc
- Block: Three-piece crank, peripheral-ported housings, Series 5 rotors, Mazda 3mm apex seals, Series 5 front and rear plates, PPRE–modified centre plates, PPRE high-rev modifications, PPRE high-boost modifications, clearanced, balanced, Mazdaspeed bearings, MFR dry sump front cover
- Intake: K&N filter, 100mm Plazmaman throttle body, PPRE custom intake manifold
- Exhaust: Twin three-inch downpipes, four-inch steel straight-through exhaust
- Turbo: Twin Garrett GTX4088R, PPRE two-inch mild steel manifold
- Wastegate: Quad 40mm Turbosmart Comp-Gate (Mad Mike edition)
- BOV: Twin 50mm Turbosmart (Mad Mike edition)
- Fuel: Aftermarket Industries surge tank, three internal fuel pumps, four ID1000cc injectors, four ID1700cc injectors, modified factory fuel tank
- Ignition: Haltech M&W rotary CDI, Haltech CDI coils, MSD ignition leads
- ECU: Haltech Sport 2000, dual Haltech wide-band oxy sensors, Haltech EGT sensors
- Cooling: PWR custom–built intercooler, PWR oil heat exchanger, PWR custom rear–mounted radiator, twin 16-inch PWR thermo fans,
- Extra: 160A Mechman alternator, Mechman race battery cell, Stewart Components electric water pump, Haltech Smartwire, Brown & Miller fittings throughout, Plazman clamps
- Struts: KW Racing three-way adjustable
- Brakes: (F) Wilwood Superlite forged six-piston calipers, lightweight two-piece rotors, (R) twin Wilwood Dynalite Pro Series forged four-piston calipers, lightweight two-piece rotors, PPRE brackets, ASD hydraulic handbrake
- Extra: Wisefab lock kit, Megan Racing rear arms, RX-8 rear knuckles, PPRE modified rear subframe
- Gearbox: Holinger RD6-SS six-speed sequential
- Clutch: Clutch Direct ceramic twin plate
- Flywheel: Clutch Direct
- Diff: ASD–built Winters Quick Change
- Extra: Driveshaft Shop axles, Driveshaft Shop driveshaft
- Wheels: Rotiform SLC, custom blue chrome centre, black anodised polished step lip, bright blue anodised hardware, blue chrome inner barrels, (F) 17x9.5-inch, (R) 18x10.5-inch
- Tyre: (F) 235/40R17 Nitto NT05, (R) 275/35R18 Nitto NT05
- Paint: Red Bull matte metallic blue/appliance white by I.T.S (Independent Truck Spraypainters), livery, design, and graphics by Mike Whiddett (CRE8GRAFX)
- Enhancements: Sandbrooks MR10 windscreen, modified Rocket Bunny FD rear over-fenders, modified Rocket Bunny FD skirts, modified Rocket Bunny duck bill, Rocket Bunny wing, MadMike Motorsports rear diffuser, MadMike Motorsports under tray/front lip, Hybrid Lab lightweight rear quarters, modified factory Mazda front fenders, modified Autokonexion over-fenders, Goodwin Racing removable carbon roof, Goodwin Racing carbon doors, OEM front and rear bumpers
- Seats: Racetech RT900HR carbon/kevlar fixed back bucket seats, Takata six-point harness
- Steering wheel: Sparco
- Instrumentation: Haltech Racepak dash
- Extra: Fire suppression system, Racepak Smartwire switch panel
- 1032hp (low boost)