Mad Mike: 'Drifting's common for washed up motocrossers'
Mad Mike Whiddett is someone were familiar with here at Top Gear; a drifting, well, madman whos made his name as a Red Bull athlete with utter disdain for the potential longevity of tyres. Before chatting to us at this years Goodwood Festival of Speed, he took us for a passenger ride around the historic Goodwood Circuit, and the whole thing felt like one enormous accident. In a good way. But does such a loopy sport belong at such a historic venue?“Im humbled to get the opportunity to come here. We received a special award for the most outstanding showmanship, which was really cool because in the guard of honour was Lewis Hamilton, Sebastien Loeb, Sir Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss. All these amazing icons of motorsport.“It felt like drifting was being taken seriously. Even in New Zealand, drifting is perceived as a bit of a boy racer sport. But thats only because drifting is so accessible for youngsters to get into. Ive been to lots of really cool events where Ive been able to showcase drifting. In the morning, you might get the odd person frowning upon it; oh its one of those boy racing guys. But then you do the demonstration, and in the afternoon youre flooded with fans. Thats what it was like at Goodwood. Now, every year, we come back. The fan base gets even bigger.”“Its all about thinking outside the box, and whats the next, craziest thing I can do with my discipline of driving. For me, it was to be able to create this event which is fully automated so there was no judges. So no bias or human error.”Radar guns and proximity and GPS sensors calculate how wild the competitors drifts are, the results of which are communicated via computer game-like graphics and sound effects to get every spectator on board. “Every one of the drivers was, hands down, that was the coolest drift event weve done. Because if you didnt win, it was your own fault. You didnt hit the sensors.”Mike started out on two wheels, competing in motocross until frequent injuries coined his Mad prefix, but called a halt on it. “In 2002, I got told I was paralysed for life from a T7 vertebrae, then I discovered these Japanese guys doing drifting and Im like, this looks really freakin cool. Drifting is quite a common sport for washed up motocrossers. They have broken a lot of bones, then they discover a roll cage. For me I say with age, comes a cage. So I feel really, really safe in my car.”Is he ever tempted by a return to two wheels? “I still love the adrenaline of two wheels but I just dont know how to ride 80 per cent. Every time I hop on a bike I end up hurting myself and in the A\&E pretty quickly. So I just leave it.“Id like to do more motorsport. Ive had some really strong results in the Australian GT3 Championship in a McLaren 650S. Its a totally different mindset from drifting, where its like after three or four corners youre judged one little mistake and youre back in the trailer.“In GT racing, you have a hundred laps. A small mistake, you can kind of make up for it. Very different. The cars are amazing to drive so I really hope to be able to do more GT racing. But I think the discipline I want to get into is rallycross. I think with my background of motocross and drifting, rallycross and stadium trucks would be my forte.”