Last weekend as I fought for the best shots I could get at Formula Drift Long Beach I was at one point startled by a loud buzzing sound which seemed to come from overhead. I looked up and I saw what I could only describe as a giant hovering robo-spider in the sky above me. Then, to my surprise it followed the sliding cars below, hovering just 10 to 20 feet above them as they sped by.
It was startling and awesome all at the same time. I continued to watch the machine work until it eventually swiftly returned back to the photo pit area and landed safely, waiting for the next run so it could take to the skies once again. This thing was awesome. It looked evil, sounded alien in nature, but had complete precision in its task. Upon further inspection I could see that the drone was made almost completely from carbon fiber, even down to the props on each of the 8 electric copter engines. The drone also utilized a Canon 5D Mark III housed in a cradle underneath.
I was so fascinated by it that I decided to find the “pilot” or “pilots” if you will to learn what they were up to. Turns out the drone was owned and operated by Kyle Dorosz of Aerial Imagery Works based in Detroit, MI. Kyle was hired by Formula Drift to get aerial shots of drift battles to use for their television show. Kyle told me that he occasionally gets hired by parties such as this to film sporting events and the like.
The particular drone that Kyle was using at Formula Drift actually requires a two man team. Kyle himself pilots the drone while his associate uses a separate remote to control servos attached to the camera cradle to pan and tilt making sure the action is kept in frame. The camera man is able to do this via a VR style headset which wirelessly picks up the video feed from the 5D.
In addition to filming for clients Kyle also builds the drones himself and makes them available for sale. The drone on hand at Formula Drift has a price tag of $35,000. Which sounds astronomical but the Canon 5D Mark III, video headset, two remotes, charger, and pilot training are all included in the price. There are also smaller, lighter less expensive models available that utilize smaller cameras (GoPro, etc.).
You would think his most common clients are from the Hollywood set but according to Kyle his most common customers are law enforcement agencies. They use the drones for tactical purposes, such as surveying an area before sending in a S.W.A.T. team.
Kyle says the ceiling is technically 10,000 feet but due to FAA regulations, he usually has to keep the ceiling down to 400ft or so. The battery will last about 10 minutes per flight before needing to be charged again. The drone also has several safety features. It can stay airborne even if three out of 8 engines fail and if the battery gets too low to sustain flight an on board computer takes over and uses an auto pilot paired with GPS to send the drone back to the exact point of its last take off.
Maybe we need to invest in one of these drones for MotorworldHype. It would sure beat getting pelted with tire bits while choking on smoke!
If you want to see the drone in action check out the short video piece I did below.
When Formula Drift comes to Long Beach, its a pretty big deal. It is the first round of the season, it marks the debut of new teams, sponsors, drivers, and it also sets the tone for the rest of the season. Its also right in my backyard (kind of) so I always try to do my due diligence when it comes to covering this event for you all.
With the silly season over, new cars revealed, and the track ready the talk of the weekend was Justin “JTP” Pawlak. He was one of the few drivers to remain in (basically) the same car as last year and he has also won Long Beach the last two years in a row. Falken Tire was already anticipating their driver turning the weekend into a three-peat. However hopes of that were nearly dashed when JTP made an uncharacteristic mistake in Friday qualifying and had a bad shunt into the tires and wall at the beginning of Long Beach’s infamous sweeper.
The impact nearly destroyed the front end of JTP’s Falken Tire Ford Mustang but luckily his team was able to get the car back together in time to make another qualifying run. Despite the damage JTP managed to qualify 23rd and get into the big show. Unfortunately the show ended for JTP when his Drift Alliance brother Ryan Tuerck managed to take him down in the Top 16 which blew the competition wide open. With JTP out it was anyone’s game. Except for Tuerck who like JTP was taken out by a Drift Alliance member, this time Chris Forsberg. Forsberg fell to the same fate when Vaughn Gittin Jr. took him down in the Final 4. This sent 2011 champion Vaughn to the final to face none other than his main rival of that year Dai Yoshihara.
Unlike JTP, Dai was having a great weekend. He remained in a familiar car and due to his confidence in his machine and his team giving him a great set up Dai managed to qualify first. After that there was no stopping him as he took down Tyler McQuarrie, Matt Powers, Fredric Aasbo, and finally Chelsea DeNofa to make it to the finals.
After a heated battle Dai Yoshihara bested Vaughn Gittin Jr. to win the round and complete a perfect weekend (1st qualifier, and the win). During the podium ceremony Dai said that with his momentum he will “definitely go for the championship”. Watch out guys, Dai has officially begun his mission.
If you want to check out our photo galleries just click the red links below.
If you like drifting at all and have no idea what to do this weekend then you are a magnificent moron! The 2013 Formula Drift season starts tomorrow you idiot! Where the hell have you been? Did you not see the banner at the top of this website for the last two months!?
Whew, ok, ok I am going to cut you some slack. In case I did not make it incredibly clear a second ago, Formula Drift round 1 is going down this weekend (tomorrow and Saturday) on the streets of Long Beach. Most tickets might be sold out by now but there may be a few hundred seats left and city officials have allowed Formula Drift to sell some overflow general admission tickets. Technically, those tickets are “standing room only” but Formula Drift will allow folding lawn chairs.
So hurry up and get your tickets! Here is all the info:
One of the biggest shake ups of the Formula Drift off-season was that Vaughn Gittin Jr. would be leaving Falken Tire (the only pro-team he had ever known prior) to join Forces with Nitto Tire for the 2013 Formula Drift season. The “why” and “what for” are kind of irrelevant at this point but the one thing that everyone clung onto in this news was what his new Falken-less livery would look like. Today we got our answer with a slew of pics from Vaughn and a press release detailing his new 2013 program.
The biggest news in the release is that now Vaughn is officially driving for himself! Yes, Mr. Gittin is running the show with Nitto acting as a major sponsor and tire backer rather than team owner and ASD acting as the official build and support team for Vaughn’s RTR Ford Mustang drift car. As you can see in the picture Monster Energy remains on board for 2013 as well.
To keep his sponsors visible Vaughn Gittin Jr. is taking on a monster (no pun inten-oh what the hell sure lets pun it up!) schedule which, beyond the full 2013 Formula Drift season, includes several events in China, and even drift demos on military bases! With all the traveling, competition, and Vaughn taking on both driver and team owner duties, 2013 is going to be a busy year!
For all the pics of the new livery click the thumbnails below. You can also see the new car in action in the official reveal video and check out Vaughn’s 2013 schedule and the detailed specs of the Monster Energy/Nitto Tire 2014 Ford Mustang RTR
BALTIMORE, Md. (March 26, 2013) – Formula Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. is excited to announce the formation of the RTR Drift Team, their tentative 2013 worldwide schedule, and the reveal of his Monster Energy Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR livery. This year marks the beginning of a new era for Vaughn coming into his tenth season of professional drifting with the formation of the RTR Drift Team. He is focused on his duties as RTR Team owner and driver, and is also taking full advantage of the freedoms that come along with being a team owner – as portrayed by his unique new livery. Check out the official VIDEO revealing the Monster Energy Nitto Tire 2014 Ford Mustang RTR.
“I’m really pumped on this years’ livery and overall aesthetics surrounding our efforts,” says Vaughn. “For the first time in my career, I have been able to start from a clean slate and get a bit crazy with the look of my car that I will be using for battle. Being that the Mustang is my weapon of choice out there on the track, the base of the livery was inspired from old battle ships that were covered with ‘dazzle camo’. From there, we added my XX5 (#25) logo and flag elements, along with some of my favorite colors and a little rock n’ roll to get a livery that I feel really portrays me. I look forward to giving it some real battle scars!”
Vaughn will be piloting a brand new 2014 Ford Mustang RTR built by Autosport Dynamics and will make its first competition debut at Formula Drift Round 1 in Long Beach, California April 12-13. Having worked side by side with Vaughn since 2007, ASD will supply their valued support yet again for the 2013 season. Combining the superior knowledge and car building skills of the ASD crew, with the proven driving ability and aggressiveness behind the wheel of 2010 Formula Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr., there is no doubt that the RTR Drift Team will be a serious force on the track. Check out the DETAILED SPECS of the Monster Energy Nitto Tire 2014 Ford Mustang RTR.
“I couldn’t be happier to continue working with the team at ASD,” says Vaughn. “We have had great success over the past 5 years together and the word ‘team’ as I know it has been redefined around our new focused effort. ”
While Vaughn’s number one priority is to chase down the Formula Drift Championship, he will also be taking his global efforts to the next level in 2013. Vaughn will once again head to China to compete in the World Drift Series, as well as participate in select competition and demonstration events in Europe. Just as years past, Vaughn will continue to perform at select demo and experiential events in the USA. Thanks to Monster Energy and Ford Motor Company, this year he will be heading to select military bases surrounding the Formula Drift Championship on Sundays after competition, to provide demos and ride-alongs for some of America’s finest men and women. See the 2013 TENTATIVE SCHEDULE.
“It is really crazy for me to look at my schedule for this year and realize all of the awesome that is about to go down all over the world behind the wheel of some badass Ford Mustangs,” adds Vaughn. “While I am pumped on all of the events we have chosen to participate in this year, I am especially excited about the opportunity to go visit some military bases and put smiles on the men and women’s faces that make me living my dream possible!”
Monster Energy/Nitto Tire 2014 Ford Mustang RTR Specs:
MONSTER ENERGY NITTO TIRE 2014 FORD MUSTANG RTR
Roush Yates Racing Engines/Ford Racing Aluminum V8 (845HP)
Weight – 2900 LBS
4 Speed Dog Box Transmission
MoTeC M84 Engine Management and Dash Display/Logger (CDL-3)
Is there anything more tranquil than a lush American forrest? It is often the setting where people find enlightenment and even achieve true inner peace. On the other hand, for Ryan Tuerck the forrest is the perfect place to go rip riot at break neck speed, sideways almost the whole time. In the new “Off Seasons Two” video he does just that! Scroll down to check it out.
Welcome to the first big news bit of the year! What was just a “rumor” a little more than a month ago is confirmed news today. Vaughn Gittin Jr. has officially parted ways with Falken Tire and will run Nitto Tires this season and he is bringing ASD and Monster Energy with him. This is pretty big news for the drift set. Vaughn Gittin Jr. is hands down the most marketable driver in all of drifting and has had the most marketing success. Gittin made regular appearances representing both Ford and Falken Tire all over the world, was featured in national Ford advertising campaigns that included network tv advertising, movie theater advertising, and an elaborate online campaigns.
His partnership with Ford even allowed him to create his own branded Mustang dealer performance kit called the “RTR” (Ready To Rock) which has been selling well and is looking to expand even more in the future.
So why would Falken Tire allow someone with so much market potential to walk away? Well, that is pretty much impossible to answer unless you are Vaughn Gittin Jr himself or on the inside of Falken Tire. Although, some have speculated that it may have something to do with the fact that ASD (Autosports Dynamics) the shop that has built pretty much all of Vaughn’s highly competitive cars, announced they were parting ways with Falken towards the end of last season. It is possible that Vaughn didn’t want to deal with the growing pains of a new mechanic crew who would likely be unfamiliar with the Mustang platform. Again, this is just speculation on my part.
Whatever the case, this move has a lot of possible implications for both Falken and Nitto. Without Gittin on the payroll will Falken use the extra dollars to back a fresh face? Or, on the other side of that coin, with Ford and Monster Energy moving their money away from Falken, will that mean they will have to cut corners for their remaining drivers? Then there is the question of what Nitto Tire will do. Will they pull backing from smaller teams like Matt Powers and Burgenholtz racing to help fund an all-in effort for Vaughn Gittin?
Time will tell! For the official word from Vaughn check out his press release below.
BALTIMORE, Md. (January 8, 2013) – Formula Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. is excited to announce that he has joined forces with Nitto Tire. Fueled by passion and innovation, Nitto Tire is a perfect match for Vaughn and his always forward-thinking team. Vaughn, who is undeniably one of drifting’s most iconic drivers, will represent Nitto Tire and showcase their max-performance tire’s superior performance and capability through competing in the Formula Drift Championship and China’s WDS Series. He will also be performing exhibitions and experiential events all over the world, where many will have the opportunity to ride shotgun in his Monster Energy Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR.
From Vaughn: “I am pumped to be working with Nitto Tire! As I enter this new chapter of my career, it feels great to be aligned with a brand that is committed to winning and progression, just as I am. I have always been focused on working just as hard off the track as I do on it, and Nitto’s innovative marketing efforts and awesome tires will compliment that well. It is very clear that our overall passion and future goals align perfectly, and I could not be happier with what the future has to offer surrounding this partnership.”
In 2013 Vaughn will continue to be supported by the Autosport Dynamics (ASD) crew – the team behind his 2007 World Championship, 2010 Formula Drift Championship, and 2011 WDS Championship. During the off-season, Vaughn and ASD have thoroughly tested the Nitto NT05 max-performance tire and they are very confident in the competitive edge they will have entering the 2013 season.
Harry Kong, Marketing & Social Media Strategist for Nitto Tire: “Vaughn has proven himself to be an incredible driver and Champion, and Nitto Tire is looking forward to partnering with him for the upcoming 2013 drifting season. The Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR running NT05 tires should be an exciting combination.”
“Through testing, we found the Nitto NT05 offers a high level of consistent grip through all temperature ranges, and that the high quality construction of the tire allows it to handle excessive abuse – both qualities of which are crucial for drifting,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn’s first public event drifting on Nitto’s NT05’s will be January 24-27 at the St. Louis Auto Show where he will be performing demos and hanging out with his fans. Find out how you can win a ride-along by visiting Saintlouisautoshow.com
Stay tuned for more details about the 2013 season, as well as the upcoming release of the fresh look of Vaughn’s brand new Monster Energy Nitto Tire Mustang RTR! For more information, please visit VaughnGittin.com or Facebook.com/OfficialVaughnGittinJr
ABOUT VAUGHN GITTIN JR.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. has become one of drifting’s most iconic figures and his machine, the Monster Energy Nitto Tire Tire Ford Racing Mustang, one of the sport’s most identifiable cars. Vaughn is known best by his aggressive, foot to the floor, big smoke driving style. Being such a fierce competitor, Vaughn is known as the only American to win a D1 Grand Prix event, not once – but twice. In 2005 Vaughn stunned the world when he won the D1GP USA vs. Japan. In 2007, he brought America the gold once more by winning the D1GP World Championship.
In 2010, Vaughn earned his first Formula Drift Championship, becoming the second-ever Champion with a strictly-drifting background. In 2011, Vaughn competed in China’s premier drift series, WDS, and took home the Championship. In 2012, Vaughn was shy just one spot of the Championship, taking second place overall. He has achieved five wins and multiple podiums throughout his Formula Drift career.
ABOUT NITTO TIRE:
Nitto Tire develops performance tires for all uses, including racing, off-road and street. Using state-of-the-art manufacturing and testing facilities in both Japan and the United States – Nitto provides innovative and high-quality performance tires for the most demanding automotive enthusiasts. For more information about Nitto or its products, visit the company’s web site or contact the company directly. Nitto is a registered trademark of Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc., located at 5665 Plaza Drive, Ste. 250, Cypress, Calif., 90630.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. nearly pulled the comeback of all comebacks this year in Formula Drift and nearly won the championship. However, things did not go his way at the final battle in Irwindale and Daigo Saito took advantage to get win the title. Ever since the announcement that Falken and ASD (the engineering team that built nearly all of Vaughn’s Ford Mustang drift cars) were parting ways there have been rumors of Vaughn’s future with the massive Falken Tire team. Would he stay with Falken Tire? Or would he go where ASD goes since he knows they can build him a winning car? That buzz swelled even more when Vaughn’s name was left off FalkenTire’s 2013 drift team roster in a press release sent out during SEMA 2012. This was pretty shocking to most as Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Falken Tire go together like shake ‘n bake.
Vaughn brought major attention to Falken and to Ford when he was the first American to win a D1 event and the first driver to win in an American car at a D1 event when he captured the victory at the D1: Japan vs USA event in Irwindale several years ago. He then brought a huge shot of sponsorship dollars to the team when he signed a personal sponsorship deal with Monster Energy drink who also sponsored his car and crew. The same year that Monster Energy came on board he brought Falken Tire their first Formula Drift championship. Vaughn and Falken Tire’s relationship is one of the longest in Formula Drift as Falken is the only team Vaughn has ever driven for since becoming a professional drifter. Could they really be “breaking up”?
Well yesterday I heard from a few personal sources that Vaughn has signed a deal with Nitto Tire. Later that same day, Wrecked Magazine reported rumors that Vaughn was spotted with the ASD team testing on Nitto tires at an unknown location.
So far there has been no “official” word from Vaughn, Falken Tire, or Nitto Tire so for now this story remains in the “rumor” category; However, think we will hear from one of the parties involved soon.
I realize I am a little late to the party when it comes to this but better late than never right!? Ok, I apologize! Forgiveness please! Anyhow let us get to business. Just like the year before, the final round of Formula Drift at Irwindale Speedway AKA “The House Of Drift” was the most intense due to a very close points battle. Things were so tense and close that just about every drift fan in the tri-county area wanted to see how it played out. Not only did the event sell out, but it sold out before the gates even opened which is a first for Irwindale Speedway and Formula Drift. A crowd of nearly 20,000 packed Irwindale to see how things were going to play out at the ”Final Fight”. Falken driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. was on top of the points coming into the weekend but mathematically speaking had 6 drivers who could have taken the title away from him at Irwindale. Realistically speaking there were only two drivers who posed a threat to Vaughn: Daigo Saito and Rhys Millen who were second and third in points respectively.
To hold off most of the mathematical points contenders Vaughn simply needed to qualify well and make it past the “Top 16″. Unfortunately he kind of stumbled on one and completely botched the other. Vaughn qualified 9th, which seemed decent at first but then lost its luster when Ryan Tuerck, Justin Pawlak, and Rhys Millen all qualified ahead of him. In fact Rhys Millenwas the #1 qualifier with a nearly perfect run at 97 points. Pawlak and Tuerck did not gain much ground because of this but now Rhys was in serious striking distance. Vaughn out-qualified Saito but only by a few places as Saito qualified 13thdue to troubles with his car.
All the necessary players made it past the Top 32 but after that is when things got interesting. Vaughn Gittin was paired up against Pat Mordaunt in the Top 16 and when Vaughn was on his chase run against Pat he spun out on the infamous transition on the front straight, thus handing the win to Mordaunt and gleaming, glittering, golden opportunities to Millen and Saito.
There was potiential for two great stories. For Millen, winning the championship would mean the ultimate redemption after Hyundai announced they would not be backing his program in 2013. For Daigo Saito it would mean solidifying himself as the current world’s greatest drifter after winning a D1 championship and Formula Drift Asia. He would have also been the first person in Formula Drift history to win the title in their “rookie” season.
To make things even more dramatic Millen and Saito were on the same side of the bracket. So, it would literally come down to a battle between the two to decide the 2012 championship. Rhys had been at the top of his game all night and Daigo was killing it as always so the capacity crowd knew that once the two met in tandem it would be an epic battle. “Epic” turned out to be the correct word as the two drivers drove as hard as they could but Rhys unfortunately drove a little too hard and during his chase run he over cooked it coming into the hairpin and slapped his Hyundai Genesis coupe against the wall right in front of the judges. His car was done for the night which gave the Championship to Daigo Saito. Rhys’ DNF also handed an automatic third place podium finish to Ryan Tuerck.
The final battle of the night came down to the new 2012 champion Daigo Saito and Justin “JTP” Pawlak. These two may not have been close to each other in the points but they do have a history with each other as Pawlak once got very angry with Saito after he felt that Saito brake checked him in the Florida round. Many wondered what would happen if Saitodid anything that might look like a brake check this time with such high stakes. However things did not quite get that far as JTP pretty much made the same mistake Rhys did while chasing Saito and hit the wall HARD in front of the judges at the hairpin.
With that it was over. Daigo Saito was not only the 2012 champion but he was also the winner of the “Final Fight” at Irwindale Speedway. As I mentioned before Daigo is the first driver in Formula Drift history to win the championship in their rookie year. He is also only the second ever Japanese born champion (Dai Yoshihara was the first). He is also the first Formula Drift USA champion to have already won a D1 championship. And he did all of this on one of the lowest funded teams on the grid, without a V8. The last person to win a Formula Drift championship without a V8 was Tanner Foust who won back-to-back titles in his V6 Nissan 350Z.
With this championship Daigo is arguably the best drifter in the world right now. What a season! What a champion! What a final round! If you did not make it out to Irwindale because tickets got sold out or you just were unable to make the trip then I highly recommend trying again next year and being very proactive. The good news is that tickets for the opening around of Formula Drift’s 2013 season at Long Beach are already on sale. Pick yours up ASAP and go on another ride!
For our full gallery of Formula Drift “Final Fight” Irwindale 2012 check out our Facebook gallery.
I can’t believe I actually have to remind you of this since the banner has been at the top of this website for weeks now but the final round of Formula Drift is this weekend! Technically it is going on right now at Irwindale Speedway. Today is qualifying and tomorrow is the big show. This being the final round, the championship will be decided tomorrow! Will it be Vaughn Gittin Jr.? Will Daigo Saito be the first driver to win the title in their “rookie” season? Can Rhys Millen give one last gift to Hyundai before they part ways? All is being answered, like right now! So get your arse to mahs! err I mean to Irwindale!
WHAT: Final Round Of Formula Drift
WHEN: October 12th & 13th
WHERE: Irwindale Speedway: 500 Speedway Drive Irwindale, California 91706
WHY: Because Drift Car
HOW MUCH: $28 for general admission, $38 for two day reserved seats, $33 for Saturday reserved seats, Parking $10-$15
WARNING: Tickets are selling fast so get yours NOW, also try to car pool if at all possible!
In a sudden and somewhat shocking turn of events, Rhys Millen Racing (RMR) hasannounced that Hyundai North America will no longer be their official manufacturer for their motorsports programs. In a statement from RMR, the reason for the split is cited by Hyundai’s desire to explore “new marketing strategies.” While Rhys’ results in Formula Drift and Rallycross have not been spectacular as of late his organization has done a lot for Hyundai relative to other motorsport teams that Hyundai backs. Rhys broke a pikes peak record with his Genesis and has built all of their high profile SEMA cars for the last few years.
By just looking at the headline it appears that it isn’t really Rhys specifically that Hyundai is disillusioned with but motorsports in North America all together as according to the statement from RMR, Hyundai is ending all “North American motorsport programs”.
I am not exactly sure what exploring “new marketing strategies” will mean for Hyundai but for Rhys and other motorsport teams who had Hyundai as a backer it means they will have to search for new rides come the 2013 season.