High-octane pinball wizard
Professional drifting's biggest names are coming together to tear up Auckland's CBD in the world's first pinball-inspired drift event this weekend.
Red Bull Drift Shifters will see a section of Victoria St West transformed into a life-sized motorsport version of the classic arcade game on Saturday.
World-renowned drifting champion "Mad Mike" Whiddett is the mastermind behind the high-octane action.
Bringing a drift event into the CBD has always been a dream of the Auckland-based star.
"I wanted to create something that New Zealand has never seen before.
"I'm not trying to reinvent drifting I'm just trying to create something else that is explosive and fun and good for the crowd."
Just like its pinball counterpart, the event is a race to create the highest score.
But instead of a stainless-steel ball shooting around the track it's a drift car reaching sideway speeds of more than 120kmh.
Drivers will have 45 seconds to clock up as many points as they can while negotiating a series of tight turns, clipping points and speed tunnel runs.
A winning combination of speed, angle and style are needed to dominate the course.
Proximity sensors and a radar gun measure how fast and close the drivers are to each of the obstacles and, just like a pinball machine, the closer they get the more points they rack up.
Nine New Zealand drifters will be joined by a trio of high-ranked drivers from the United States, Japan and Sweden for the event.
His challengers are going to have to take things up a gear if they want to make it through the course successfully, he says.
They will battle for places in the final face-off and after the smoke and rubber clears one driver will emerge with the title.
The 30-year-old has always preferred performing for the crowd rather than the judges.
"To be honest I've always liked showing off and this is the ultimate sport to do that in."
It was on two wheels that Whiddett first got noticed - he was competing professionally in Freestyle motocross.
But three years of hard knocks took their toll.
"I broke pretty much every bone in my body and was told I would never walk again."
The father-of-one had been racing cars since he was young so it wasn't long before he got back in the driving seat but on four wheels this time.
It's not just petrolheads who can get a kick out of the event, he says.
"It's all about putting on a show. It's fast and action-packed and a great chance to check out what these drivers can really do."
The free event will be held on December 8 from noon till 3pm.
Go to redbull.co.nz.
- Western Leader
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