After a successful drifting campaign in China, Vaughn Gittin Jr. brings his talent back home to the states to kick off the 2014 Formula DRIFT Pro Championship this weekend in Long Beach, California. Last year Vaughn finished a disappointing 5th but hopes to improve upon it this year to bring home his second Formula D championship.
The first round of the Formula D is going on right now and as of Friday night Vaughn qualified 2nd overall for the main bracket challenge.
According to the Chinese calendar, 2014 is the year of the horse, and drivers there are eagerly anticipating the arrival for the first time ever of the all-new pony car in the world’s largest car market. To help pave the way, champion drifter Gittin has put in extra seat time behind the wheel of his custom-built 2013 Ford Mustang RTR D-spec racer in China, where he has thrilled crowds at World Drift Series events.
With the close quarters, high energy and big personalities involved in the action, it should come as no surprise that competitive drifting is one of the fastest-growing forms of motorsport in China. As a race winner and global ambassador for the sport, Gittin is leading that explosion in popularity, while the sight and sound of his iconic black and green Ford Mustang serves as the perfect fit for drifting.
“Over the last three years, the Mustang and I have become a crowd favorite,” said Gittin. “The fans are amazing, they know me, and I feel like they’re totally embracing the sport. Of course, the roar of a 650-horsepower racing V8 echoing inside that stadium helps a lot. People’s eyes light up and they point as if I was riding a unicorn around.”
Gittin competed in and won two consecutive 2013 World Drift Series events in China. Events are held on paved tracks inside some of the stadiums that were constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
With up to 60,000 people attending each round of the series, the sport has developed a cult-like following in China. “It’s like the Super Bowl of drifting,” said Gittin. “It’s been pretty amazing to see the growth of the sport here, especially over the last three years.”
Gittin’s popularity has grown so rapidly that the RTR team built a special Mustang for World Drift Series events that stays in China for use in future races. Despite being custom-built, the car must be tuned for each track and race-day conditions. “We get in after a 20-hour flight and it’s straight to business,” said Gittin. “That means unpacking the car, tools and tires and getting set up for competition.”
At least a day is spent prepping and testing the car prior to each event, and then it’s on to qualifying and the race. It’s a five-day travel commitment each time, with the team on the ground for all three days of an event.
All the long hours and hard work have been worth the effort. Gittin and his Mustang have taken home three consecutive World Drift Series championships.
Gittin intends to continue his winning ways when the 2014 Formula DRIFT Pro Championship kicks off in Long Beach, Calif., April 4-5.