Motorsport: Mad Mike's future up in the air

By Dale Budge

Mad Mike Whiddett performs a drifting display at the Hampton Downs 101. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Mad Mike Whiddett performs a drifting display at the Hampton Downs 101. Photo / Matthew Hansen

Global drifting superstar Mad Mike Whiddett is contemplating his future in the sport as family life becomes more of a priority for the 35-year-old New Zealander.

Whiddett, who made his circuit racing debut at last weekend's Hampton Downs 101, finished third in the Formula Drift world championship this year but he is yet to confirm an entry into the championship next year.

The Red Bull and Mazda ambassador will ponder what direction to take his career in over the next couple of weeks with a decision needed by the end of November.

"I have been competing for nine years now with Red Bull," Whiddett tells herald.co.nz. "I just want to change path a little. Life is short - there are lots of things I want to do. One of them is to drive trucks and the other is to be the best father on the planet.

"For me, watching Lincoln [his eight-year-old son] get a trophy brings a bigger smile to my face than any trophy I could possibly win.

Whiddett and his partner Toni have bought a property that neighbours Hampton Downs raceway and he plans to build a dream house there. The pair have two children and spending time with the family has become a key priority.

"We will build our dream home here and we will have Hampton Downs as our backyard, which is a great opportunity for myself to grow motorsport with Tony Quinn but it also opens up all the doors for Lincoln."

Drifting is often criticized because of the subjective nature of the sport - judges determine winning and losing but Whiddett has been developing a concept that removes the subjective element. His Driftshifters idea uses computer technology in the car to work out the car's proximity to marker points, the angle of the steering and the speed of the car and the computer racks up scoring in real time like much like a game a pinball might operate.

Many see this idea as the future of elite level drifting.

"I've got my Red Bull Driftshifters event which is something that I really want to grow into a core competition," Whiddett says. "I want to be the creative director for it and still compete in the series as a driver but turn that into a global event.

"We have got Red Bull in many different countries wanting to back it.

"We wanted to do one in Auckland this year but you can only do so much - if you try to do too much you lose focus.

"We are better off to wipe it this year that do it half-baked. We will push it out next year and do it properly."

Outside of the Driftshifters there are numerous other opportunities Whiddett is considering for next year.

"Japan is very attractive - we have an amazing car and team up there," he says.

"There are lots of world records I can think of in my head. There are lots of Red Bull activations in all the different countries and I have the Red Bull Driftshifters and then you have events like the Hampton Downs 101 so the calendar gets filled up pretty fast.

"There are not many weekends where I am out of a driver's seat.

"I am honoured to be in the position where some very lucrative contracts get put down on our dining room table - arrive and drive deals, which are very attractive to many people.

"The entire Mad Mike brand has been driven by not chasing the money. Mazda has been in my blood since I was seven years old and heard that first rotary. It is hard to turn these offers down but of course you have to consider them because this is my job.

"You look at the dollars sign but you have to consider the fun element as well and how successful you can be with that team. There is always conflict in any workplace but we have built a really fun team.

"With these offers coming - who knows?"

He knows decision time is looming.

"Those ones with the really big budgets - I need to make a call pretty soon. By the end of November we are going to know exactly what championship we will be running and what is in-store for next year."

- NZ Herald

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