“This one is for Kawato,” exclaimed Kiwi ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett following his maiden win in Formula D Japan behind a reworked ‘HUMBUL’ — an FD RX-7 built and developed by Taisuke Kawato of TCP Magic. Round two of Formula D Japan, at the famed Ebisu Circuit, served as the shakedown for the FD, on a very tight and technical layout.
Mike and Kawato have been working together since 2009, and this is the third RX-7 built for Mike by the small workshop — and it looked to be dialled and on point right from the word go over the weekend of May 21–22.
“Kawato and his team from TCP Magic did a great job preparing the car — it felt super strong and responsive on the track,” says Mike. “The RX-7 chassis really feels like an extension of my body when I drive it — it's a chassis I'm really familiar with and I have been driving one since the beginning of my career.”
The FD layout chosen at Ebisu promoted the Japanese door-to-door driving style, something that Mike is also known for back home in New Zealand. The 100–130kph entry into the first of two hairpins favoured the brave and the skilled. Mike looked confident behind the wheel and threw down a 94-point run during qualifying to place himself third and earn a bye into the top 16 battles.
Here Mike would face Hiroshi Fukuda in a JZX00 Chaser.
“The top 16 battle with Fukuda was tricky as his big four-door sedan was running at lower speeds, and it was a challenge for HUMBUL to be able to drift at these speeds when I was chasing him. We advanced with the win into the great eight,” stated Mike.
The great eight would be an easy pass for Mike, with rookie driver Daichi Oshiro (fresh from third at round one) not able to match his pace due to car issues. During Oshiro's lead run the car would come to a stop, handing Mike a place in the top four.
“The semi-final is where I really start to push hard when we came up against [Seimi] Tanaka in his D-Max S15. This guy is quick. It was an insane battle in both runs, but we managed to take it out and move, which gave us a spot in the grand final.”
This left only one battle between Mike and his first-ever top place on a Formula D podium. Going up against a driver that Mike has plenty of experience driving with, including on the regular American-based FD circuit, Masashi Yokoi.
To say the battle was a nail-bitter would not do it justice. With Mike leading on the first run he laid down another clip-to-clip run, showing just how comfortable he is in the FD chassis. Yokoi was right there on Mike's door however, to the point of making slight contact. Yokoi would wash a little wide and off line on the last corner, handing a big advantage to Mike.
The final run saw Mike make a flawless chase pass stuck to the back of the D-Max S15. When I think of what a drift battle should be, it's this type of driving that gets me excited — no games, no drag race, just door-to-door battles showcasing great talent.
“Yokoi is a great friend here in Japan and we have tested a lot together down in Osaka near Kawato's home base, so I am very familiar with his driving style. I knew he wouldn't play any strategy games, which is one of the reasons I really respect the Japanese drivers — they always push 100 per cent. Today our team pushed 101 per cent and we got the win!” said Mike.
The win moves Mike into first place in the Formula D World Championship. He will be back in the seat of ‘RADBUL’ in two weeks time in Florida, but makes a return to Japan and HUMBUL for round three of FD Japan in Okayama on August 20-21
Thanks to Greame Murray / Red Bull for the images