Lots of people thought ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett was, well, actually mad when he released his Formula D–spec RADBUL MX-5 in 2015. The naysayers said it wouldn't work, the rotary non-believers scoffed at the engine combination, and even the head honcho at Red Bull didn't believe Mike could make the chassis look as rad as the other cars in the ‘MM Stables’. But all of that was put to rest last season; the car, the driver, and the team proved their worth on the Formula D (FD) USA grid.
Following the 2015 season, where Mike finished 19th out of 40 drivers after missing two rounds, RADBUL was shipped back to New Zealand for off-season changes and upgrades, getting it ready for its second assault on the series — only this time it would be contesting all the rounds of the 2016 championship.
The first and the most noticeable changes have been the update to the recently released 2016 ND MX-5 front and rear clips. Mazda had offered the team a switch in chassis, but due to the time restrictions of building an entirely new car, and the fact that it has completely different geometry, that would have rendered all that valuable data obtained last season useless, so they decided to keep the 2015 chassis.
With the help of GT Refinishers and Hybrid Lab, the ND and NC parts became one. These are complemented by a mix of Rocket Bunny over fenders from various kits. The man hours in making it all work have been massive, but the end result is an MX-5 like no other on the planet.
The large Rocket Bunny GT wing has also gone. It was found that, with the angle Mike was pulling on the banked tracks, it was right in the firing line. Instead the team have opted for a ducktail–style boot wing. The carbon hardtop is also here to stay. The livery features blue chrome–printed camo, 787B-inspired stitching, and a ton more white to really clean it up. New wheels are also currently in the CNC at Rotiform.
Also in that firing line last season were the outer lips of those custom Rotiform wheels. Mike said to NZ Performance Car that they were almost a consumable item, but Mike also has a plan to combat that, which will feature on the new wheels. Another wall-riding upgrade has been the rear diffuser. The boys at PPRE have mounted the rear diffuser on a tubular frame that is attached to the chassis via rose-jointed arms and a set of small coilovers. The theory is that this will absorb some of the impact with the wall and allow Mike to do what he does best — wall ride.
Inside, the cockpit remains much the same, apart from a dashboard upgrade to an ND shell. The three slots cut into the left-hand side allow an easy view to Wilwood reservoirs. The dashboard is Zeus-clipped in place and can be removed in seconds. Flat shifting has also been added to the Haltech ECU, so Mike can bang through the gears even faster on the Holinger HD6 sequential.
PPRE stripped the 26B to find it was looking as good as the day it was put together in late 2014. Considering the beat down it took, that's no easy feat. In terms of power, the engine will remain the same ‘#1200hpeasy’, with Mike commenting that there is still plenty of chassis development that could see power figures rise if they ever needed to.
Like last season, the car is still missing a boot lid — not that there would be much of one if it were in place. A Perspex scoop was added to help direct air through the PWR cooler, which now also has water sprayers helping it stay cool. PPRE built an alloy reservoir for the water sprayers that also acts as a fuel cooler. Cooling is a huge issue for FD cars with the brutal temps seen at some rounds, and the amount of time the car is sitting stationary, both before and after a run.
As you will have noticed, we shot the MX-5 at the shipping yard, as it was preparing to leave the country. It touches down at the Ports of Los Angeles this week ready for round one of FD on the street circuit at Long Beach on April 9. Mike missed this round last year due to that big crash at Highlands Motorsport Park while filming, and also due to the strikes at the ports. But this season the team are running a full championship and gunning for that title. We have a full interview with Mike on last season, more in-depth reasoning behind the changes this season, his team and life as a dad in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 233 (on sale now) so check it out.
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