Top Kiwi drifter, Mad Mike Whiddett, has scored official Mazda New Zealand sponsorship.
It's been a long held dream for internationally-acclaimed Whiddett to receive manufacturer backing. Since launching his drifting career in 2006, the Red Bull-sponsored 33-year-old has unofficially championed the Mazda brand through the exclusive use of Mazda chassis and custom-built Mazda rotary engines.
According to Whiddett it's a loyalty that goes back even further; his first car was a rotary repowered Mazda 323, and by the time he had reached 20 more than 15 similarly modified vehicles had passed through his hands.
"The partnership feels totally natural," says Whiddett.
"Mazda is a massive part of who I am and what got me to where I am today, so to have this sort of backing is truly mind-blowing. It's also going to help us realise the goal of taking our programme back to drifting's F1 equivalent -- the Formula Drift Championship in USA."
Included in the sponsorship package are two new road cars -- a Mazda6 wagon and a limited edition Mazda BT-50 Arashi utility.
Design elements found in the Arashi's body graphics have been incorporated into the livery of the sixth reimagination of Whiddett's MADBUL -- a series six Mazda RX-7 fitted with a custom-built naturally aspirated four-rotor engine.
It's something that will be carried across to his other competition drift car -- a Mazda RX-8 better known as BADBUL -- and Whiddett's newest and possibly most ambitious drift car build yet: RADBUL.
Every ounce of knowledge is being thrown at the 2014-spec Mazda MX-5, which is currently being built to international specification at high-profile Auckland race fabrication workshop TBR.
A PPRE Mazda 20B three-rotor engine is slated for this car, which with extensive racing modifications and the addition of a dinner plate-sized turbocharger is expected to generate more than 745kW (1000hp).
For comparison's sake, that's more than six times the output of the MX-5's factory-fitted 2-litre four-cylinder mill. With a wheelbase much shorter than that of the RX-7 and RX-8, and a chassis that through weight-shedding measures should tip the scales at only 1000kg in race trim, Whiddett is guaranteed a wild ride.
Glenn Harris, general manager of vehicle sales and marketing at Mazda New Zealand, shares Whiddett's enthusiasm for the partnership.
"Mad Mike is a Kiwi who has won hearts and minds not only here in New Zealand but around the globe, he's recognised on the international stage as one of the world's best drifters and we are stoked to be helping his drive for excellence," says Harris.
"Sports cars are part of our DNA and still to this day our racing heritage shines through in our current vehicles, we cannot forget where we have come from and what makes Mazda unique. Mike is the full embodiment of the Mazda spirit."