I was very excited when Mike told me at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon that he was making a return to Formula Drift, because not only is he a fan favorite, he brings a sense of style unlike anyone else on the grid.
I had a moment to catch up with Mike as soon as he was finished with Thursday practice ahead of this weekend’s FD Atlanta round.
Larry: You just finished open practice – how is your return to Formula Drift going so far?
Mike: It’s insane – seeing the speed of all the cars especially!
Just watching from the outside, you can definitely see the progression. I’ve been away from Formula Drift USA for five years, and the difference in speed from back then until now is ridiculous.
Today is our first time running on a new Nitto Tire NT05 compound, and it feels amazing.
Scott from SPD, who used to be Daijiro Yoshihara’s crew chief, has done a lot with setting up our KW coilovers and the rest of the suspension, so we’re really comfortable with the car now.
It helped that we took a lot of grip out of the car this morning, but since then we’ve just been fine tuning the setup and I’ve been getting used to the track with this layout, as I haven’t driven it before.
As for the speed of RADBUL, it’s pretty scary. I just need to learn the car and get my confidence up – mainly for the initiation and staying on the gas. It’s just that much faster than what we’re used to.
Larry: I noticed that when you are going back up the hill, your car is just pouring out smoke like I have never seen before. It’s so cool.
Mike: Yeah, it’s actually been a bit of a problem and we’ve had to put wind deflectors in to try and blow the smoke out. Because the cabin of the Miata is kind of like the back of a pickup truck, the tire smoke just gathers inside and swirls around.
The deflectors are really working too, because now when I’m on it, it feels like I’m not making any smoke at all. But when I pull back into the pits, my crew is telling me, ‘Man – that’s smokey as!’
I’m just really pumped to be back though. The camaraderie between the teams is amazing – it’s like a big family!
Nothing comes close to Formula Drift, and I’m just really stoked to be back.
I’m not here to break any records on this first season back – we just want to mix it up again, have some fun with the guys out here, and try and learn as much as we can.
As I said, the pace is the biggest thing that I need to get used to. I’m just trying to keep up with these guys because the cars have developed so much in the past five years.
Larry Chen and Mad Mike Whiddett
After some time to reflect, I still think this was the best round of Formula D I’ve seen to date. Jersey last year was a good one, as was Irwindale in 2011, but this one was the best. For starters, Road Atlanta has always been my favorite Formula D track just from a visual perspective. Throw some good cars, good driving, random freak occurrences, and incredible battles in the mix, and you get a show anyone would want to watch a second time. The only thing that was missing was the rain we had last year!