[Matyi] Our photographer Phillip Nguyen headed to Auckland to cover the Red Bull DriftShifters in December, and collaborated with Jake Jones aka DriftSquid for this article. Enjoy this inside view of an epic event!

[Jake Jones] First off I remember all the way back in early 2012 when I went to compete as the first ever Australian in D1GP Japan. Creator and good mate of mine Mad Mike Whiddett was driving at this event also. The night before the event we caught up for a few drinks and had a good old yarn, Mike mentioned to me about this idea he had and he was working on. He didn’t have a name for it then but he told me about how its run. From the first moment Mike told me about it I knew it was going to be a huge success. So along with Mikes determination and Redbull backing he brought his dream alive later that year. End of 2012 he ran the first ever Drift Shifters event in downtown Auckland city. It was a huge success and I remember badly wanting to go over and watch the event but just didn’t have the time off work to be able to get it done.

Mad Mike Whiddett (NZ)



Auckland – New Zealand


Jake Jones (AUS)



Knowing full well the Driftshifters event was going to roll on into bigger and better things Mike then created the second event in 2014. Getting the official invite from Red Bull NZ and Mike was pretty overwhelming to say the least, I was going to do what ever it takes to make it thats for sure.



The lead up to the event was pretty full on. I always knew having anything to do with red Bull would be pretty full on and unreal. But before I even got to the event I couldn’t believe the professionalism of how they roll. Its hard to describe but basically everything is planned, structured and just done right.



Before I knew it I was on a flight to NZ with my car already in the country awaiting my arrival. Red Bull NZ advised that I would be picked up by the Red Bull Staff once I get out of customs. Sure enough this was where I got to meet Hugo who was the man behind the organising of all us athletes. Greeted with a awesome gift package from Red Bull and then taken straight to the HQ for an introduction. It was all so surreal for me, was loving life!



Arriving at the Red Bull HQ in Auckland NZ was cool. The place is decked out with some really cool things and accommodates just about everything from ping pong tables, Xbox One, professional studios, cinema and a millions and one Red Bull fridges filled to the brim with Red Bull goodness. My smile was not coming off my face anytime soon. This is where I got to meet Brendan the Sport Marketing Manager and boss behind the creation of Drift Shifters. Brendan being an Aussie who moved to NZ, We had a good old chat and then went outside to see that Mazda NZ hooked up every single Athlete with their own Mazda 6 to use while we were in NZ. Could this trip get any cooler??? you betchya!. It was then time to head back to the hotel, get settled and go over the full literary that Red Bull gave me in the gift pack, along with 6 ice cold Red Bull cans. So while downing the Red Bull goodness I went over the schedule for the week, with many time slots saying “Red bull Fun Activity” leaving me a little worried.


It was still early in the night once I settled in at the hotel so I rang Mad Mike up and headed down to his factory. It has been awhile since I got to actually catch up with Mike, his fiancée Toni and lil Linc. Its always damn cool heading to Mike and Toni’s Factory to see what they’ve been up too. The last time I was there was 4 years prior and a LOT has changed. Before I knew it it was 3am and we all needed some much deserved sleep.



The following day arrived and my good mate and only pit crew member Lee who flew in late afternoon. So I had a free day and got to head down to Red Bull HQ to meet all the Americans. These dudes are a crazy bunch and I ended up heading to the beach with them after. Bunch of bloody good eggs!

Ryan Tuerck (USA)


Matt Powers (USA)


Tyler McQuarrie (USA)


Chris Forsberg (USA)


Before I knew it Lee had arrived, Red Bull got every single driver to the HQ for a photo shoot of themselves, the cars and we created all these crazy actions clips for the event. It was like nothing Ive done before and everyone involved was extremely proactive. I don’t know if Aussies are just laid back but these Kiwis just seem to get everything rolling along with ease. We then proceeded on to have a full drivers briefing at the Red Bull HQ which they clearly told us what was going to go down on the day. The whole operation was huge, from setup through to pack up. I don’t think a lot of the Red Bull staff got to sleep for the entire weekend.



Daigo Saito (JPN)



Nomuken (Ken) Nomura (JPN)


The day before the event Red Bull took all the Drivers on a “Fun Activity”. I was a little worried but also knew it would be a good rush what ever its going to be. All I said to them was “lets please hope its nothing to do with heights” as I’m terrified of heights. Even to the point that I get the dizzys on when I get on top of the roof at home to fix the Air-Conditioner.

Sure enough we end up at Auckland bridge and its BUNGEE JUMPING!!!! ahhhhhhhh why!? I knew this would happen but there was no way I was going to be the only guy that doesn’t jump. I had no choice and was also kind of pumped that by Red Bull forcing me to jump off a perfectly good bridge I will face my ultimate fear.

Long story short I did jump, I got some crazy footage and I can’t thank Hugo, Mike and Red Bull enough for making me do this. Something I never thought I would achieve in my life was this and I’ve now done it.


From a huge rush to pretty much an even bigger one now. We move onto the main event, this whole operation was crazy big. Lee and I went down to the street in Auckland it was running on the night before to see it being built. It was a mad house but everyone seemed way to chilled out, seems to be the Kiwi way around here. We didn’t hang around for long but we could tell it was going to be a crazy looking track.


6 hours later we were back at 6am in the morning and keen as to get behind the wheel of my Nissan Sonvia. The track looked very tight and we knew straight up that damage was imminent. The barriers, sensors and pure fact that we don’t have time to mess about. You get 2 practice runs and then Qualifying is straight up so its literally go hard or go home. But in this case it was “put on a wild show and go home knowing your fans got to see what they wanted”.




I hadn’t been in NZ for 4 years but I still have some amazing fans from NZ. A lot of fans hit up my Facebook page leading up to the event letting me know they are travelling in excess of 4 hours drive just to see and hear my car shred again. It was pretty overwhelming and I wanted to make sure they got to see the RB27 tear through a pair of Advan Neovas.




Mad Mike giving the drivers a rundown on the course.


Drivers paying attention to how the scoring system works!



The show was to begin around 11:30am so the lead up was very nerve racking. We walked the track several times and the more I looked at it the smaller it seem to get. I was a little worried about the tight high speed start as I was going to go all out and wasn’t sure I could hold myself back. Turns out the high speed wasn’t an issue for me it was the slow speed, more on that later!


Gaz Whiter (NZ)


Curt Whittaker (NZ)


Cole Armstrong (NZ)


Class of 2014 #DriftShifters


The time had come and the Staff from Red Bull made us well aware that when the show starts it doesn’t stop for nothing. Its pure adrenaline pumping action until the show is over.

I was about to jump in my car to line up for the first practice run and had a look down the street. It was bloody packed and I mean packed, around 20,000 plus people lined the skinny street and I couldn’t wait to put on a show. You know your a show off when you get this excited over the opportunity to show you skills in front of so many people.

Mad Mike had the honours to go first!














We all rolled out to the street in a huge line up for our drivers briefing, with everyone doing an intro skid on the main street of Auckland city. It didn’t feel right at all skidding up the street but damn did the crowd go nuts, it was only the beginning of the show also. The driver intro was short and sweet and then the practice runs begun. It was go go go!




Before I knew it I was on the scrub area and laid down a solid skid for the kids to get my Advan Neovas up to temp. I was in no way going to do the normal scout run to suss the track.


It was go hard or nothing, pure balls to the wall straight up. The flag dropped, up to 3rd gear limiter pretty much instantly and just missing objects by a few centimetres.




It was literally crazy to think what I just did in 60 seconds. I flew past a truck…


Went down a lane sideways no wider then 4 meters…



Under a massive Ice-Cream…


Around the Go Pro wall ride…




Around a Red Bull Hummer worth $500,000…


Then proceeded back down to the truck which I was about to drift underneath, how ever the car locked into gear and I had to forfeit the run. Writing this on paper is hard to imagine but god damn it was the most bizarre and best thing I’ve ever done!


You’re probably thinking “what the hell did I just read”. But its exactly what I did and to put it simply this is like no other Drift event you will ever see. There is no judges, its completely computerised with a huge magnitude of sensors, telemetry and gadgets I could never figure out for the life of me. If you’re not within 300mm of a sensor you’re doing it wrong. If you have weak angle there is an angle box that will pick this up and you will score lower. If you hit multiple sensors in one area you’ll get bonus points and at the end of the day its just like a Giant Pinball machine. Its the coolest!

Commentators Jarod DeAnda (Voice of Drift) & Ed


After having the car issue, Lee and I did everything we could to resolve the issue. Turns out the Clutch received a nice present from being cleaned before going into the container so it was just a matter of slipping it and changing over the fluid. It wasn’t 100% but it was now working again. Practice run 2 was now up and Lee said I needed to get close to just about everything as it wasn’t good enough. I was worried as I wasn’t sure we fixed the gear locking issue and also hadn’t managed to go over all the obstacles on the track. I couldn’t play it safe and get to know the track so it was all or nothing. I completed the run and managed to tap the wall slightly dislodging the rear bar, this in turn meant the car was not registering the sensors as I run a tube frame rear end so I ended up with a very low score. In other words you need to keep your kit on haha, every aspect of this event was damn cool. You had to be mighty aggressive but need to make sure you register those sensors otherwise the score won’t go up.



It was then straight into qualifying and after watching the first few guys get massive scores I had to just put it all on the line. Lee got ahold of my rear bumper and we got that back on. It was now my turn to make the most of this adventure. 60 seconds to make it or break it, turns out I was down to just break it. I got down to the Go Pro Wall Ride (slowest section of the course) and as I came into the hairpin the rear of the car clipped the water barrier and split it, forcing water to gush out onto the road. I went for a double combo around this and didn’t notice the water. Sure enough I seen it last min and it was too late, BOOOOOOOM straight into the barrier and I knew I had done some serious damage. First thought in my head was (DO NOT STOP), I had fans who came a long way to see me so I shook my head then quickly got straight back on the rev limiter driving aggressively. Completely ignoring the fact my car was crabbing so bad I couldn’t drive in a straight line. I completed the course with huge damage and didn’t manage to get a strong enough score to get through to the top 8.



Getting back into the pits I didn’t realise how extensive the damage was till I go out. The rear hub had broke and gave in. The might Work Equips took the mighty impact like a boss and broke my DriftWorks hub. Thanks to the boys from Fangas crew and Lee we got it fixed to attempt to last chance Qualifying session but unfortunately I didn’t make it through. The car was still crabbing hard but was just driveable. I did the absolute best I could and I can’t thank Fanga Dan’s crew and Lee enough for getting me back out there.



It was one heck of an experience and full credit to Mike Whiddett for the taking the win on his creation. He crashed his RX7 in practice and then owned the show in his RX8. It was damn impressive to watch to say the least. I am really looking forward to what is in store for the entire Drift Shifters crew and Mike. Its going to be huge and I really hope I can be apart of it in the future.









Red Bull NZ you have outdone yourself with everything, it was and will be the most amazing adventure I’ll ever experience in my life. Can’t thank you all enough!


Jake Jones
Instagram: @driftsquid

Photos By: Phillip Nguyen

1) ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ)
2) Chris Forsberg (USA)
3) ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse (NZ)

‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ) – 4,012,088
Chris Forsberg (USA) – 2,650,885

‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse (NZ) – 3,216,985
Matt Powers (USA) – 1,982,799
Chris Forsberg (USA) – 3,505,449
‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ) – 3,276,400

Matt Powers (USA) – 4,101,229 (top score of the day)
Andrew Redward (NZ) – 2,912,827 (retired)
‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (NZ) – 2,685,799
Chris Forsberg (USA) – 2,194,329
‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse (NZ) – 1,774,430
Gaz Whiter (NZ) – 1,616,266
Ryan Tuerck (USA) – 886,850
Daigo Saito (JAP) – 719,310

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