Even if you aren't a fan of drifting, there's a good chance you've heard of Vaughn Gittin Jr. With a big personality and even bigger skills, Vaughn has become a fan favorite on the Formula Drift circuit. Likewise, he has become a poster boy for a new generation of Mustang fans by fusing his love for tire-frying slides with America's pony car. Of course, Vaughn is also an entrepreneur with his own line of tuner Mustangs. To say he's successful is an understatement, but he had to work to achieve this level.
Vaughn started out as an information technology pro with a serious drifting hobby on the side. "I made a name for myself on the East Coast and was invited to an event in California in 2003. I maxed out my credit card at the time to get my car there and buy tires. That's where I met the Falken Tire family. A few days later, they called me and told me they liked what they saw and wanted me on Team Falken for the inaugural 2004 Formula Drift season," Vaughn said. "I was beside myself. I mean, Falken pretty much brought drifting to the USA and they wanted me on their team! For that year, I received 10 tires per event, and the rest of the program was self-funded by my IT job. I trailered my car all over the country to run the events."
Obviously the pairing of Vaughn and Falken has prospered. Now a fully supported member of the Falken Team, run by Autosport Dynamics (www.asdmotorsports.com) of Huntersville, North Carolina, Vaughn is a professional drifter. Last season, he took the car you see on these pages to six podiums in seven events and ran away with the '10 Formula Drift championship. It was an impressive feat, no doubt, but perhaps even more impressive is that he was only the second pure-drifter to take the title. Vaughn didn't come from another form of motorsports. He started drifting and worked his way up to the top of the heap.
"I'm 100-percent self-taught. In hindsight, nights playing around in industrial parks behind the wheel of a car, racing motorcross, skateboarding, and BMX gave me the necessary hand-eye coordination and understanding of vehicle dynamics required for drifting," Vaughn explained. "I have always been a fan of action sports. Drifting is the action sport of motorsports, as it allows you to show style, personality, and skill from behind the wheel of a car. It's just a lot more fun to me than following a racing line and conserving tires. You get to go flat-out 100 percent of the time. Aside from the actual driving, the lifestyle just suited me. The camaraderie and the fun surrounding the sport is amazing, and the parties aren't too bad either!"
All the carbon fiber you see...
All the carbon fiber you see on Vaughn’s competition car is the real deal, including the featherweight doors and body panels. Sure it looks cool, but these lightweight panels allow ASD to put the required 3,000 pounds where they need it.
It wasn’t success alone that...
It wasn’t success alone that breeds this level of sponsorship support. Vaughn not only performed on the track, but he worked tirelessly for years to garner the support of major sponsors like Ford Racing and Monster Energy. It also doesn’t hurt that drifting is steadily growing in popularity and resonates with the younger crowd that marketers strive to reach.
Vaughn’s excitement and passion...
Vaughn’s excitement and passion is infectious. Spend any time around “JR” and you’ll come away with renewed appreciation for motorsports. If you’d like to hang with Vaughn, get some driving tips, and even win a Mustang, Ford is offering you a chance to do just that. “Ford’s Octane Academy is an initiative in which myself and the other drivers will create a fantasy camp of sorts, where we test your mind, body, and, of course, some driving skills. Sign up at octaneacademy.com,” Vaughn said. “Get creative with your video if you really want it! The winner of my camp is going to get a sweet new Mustang!”
It was fortunate that Ford and Vaughn came together in time-due to Vaughn's persistence-for his dominating run last year. However, Vaughn wasn't always a Mustang fanboy until the dawn of the S197 era. "I was not a fan of Mustang growing up. I think it was more about being a teenager going against the grain rather than not respecting the car. However, when I first drove the S197, that was all over. I immediately fell in love with the Mustang. The more I got involved, the more I fell in love with the scene and the people in it. The Mustang family worldwide is simply epic!" Vaughn raved.
"In late 2004, I saw the rendering of the S197 and that's when we decided to bring some American muscle into the sport of drifting. Everyone thought we were crazy until we won in USA versus Japan our first year out and blew everyone's mind. Through my travels I met a couple of guys from Ford," Vaughn said. "From 2005 to 2007, they received emails and calls from me persistently requesting a partnership. In late 2007, they came on board in a minor way, and here we are in 2011 and the relationship has grown substantially..."
The fruits of that partnership brought forth the championship ride you see on these pages. Vaughn dominated Formula Drift last year with a supercharged 4.6 combo. However, this season, it was time to revamp the obviously successful combo. To that end, Vaughn and ASD turned to engine builder Huffaker Engineering (www.huffakerengineering.com) for more cubes.
"Bigger is better in this application. That being said, this year, the F Drift series also allowed 410ci pushrod engines (sprint-car engines) and the jury is still out on which one might be the one to use. It's nice to know that our 360ci engine is looked at to equal or possibly better that combination," Joe Huffaker said. "I like to think that the purist that comes in to look under the hood at the '11 Mustangs likes to see a true modular Ford V-8 under the hood that can run up front. I think that Ford might like that as well."
While he wouldn’t overlook...
While he wouldn’t overlook an opportunity, Vaughn is obviously where he’s meant to be. “Drifting is my passion, it is not a means to another avenue, however. I love driving and am interested to get behind the wheel anywhere I can. Rallycross is on my radar for sure,” Vaughn said. “I also want to mention that all the Mustang owners that read your book need to get there asses to a local drift event and get crazy. Go buy a set of $50 used tires and see what it’s all about. I just about guarantee you will fall in love!”
Photo Credit: HPI Racing
It’s all business in Vaughn’s...
It’s all business in Vaughn’s office. Of course, when your office chair is a Sparco race seat bolted to a 749hp drift car, business is good. In addition to the usual throttle, steering, and shifting inputs, the art of drifting relies on the tactical engagement of the e-brake. The ASD Motorsports e-brake in Vaughn’s car features its own master cylinder to support the rear calipers, and an extended ergonomic handle that allows Vaughn to artfully engage a slide.
Sticking with a modern modular underhood is the kind of thing that attracted our attention, and considering the new 6.0-liter engine produces 749 hp and revs to 8,000 rpm, it is beyond impressive. The engine starts out as an aluminum 5.4 block, and is heavily worked over by Joe Huffaker, Jim Lerch, Aaron Manion, and Joe Huffaker IV to become a naturally aspirated 6.0-liter hammer. Only the block, heads, cam covers, and a few small bits are from Ford. The rest of the gear comes from Huffaker and its suppliers.
In total, the combination seems to hold its own with the much bigger pushrod engines. Moreover, Vaughn likes the new combo.
"We dropped about 150 pounds from the front of the car, and were able to sit the motor a bit lower and back further, so the weight distribution is very noticeable with regards to traction and nimbleness," Vaughn explained. "A lot of people don't realize how important traction is in drifting, but our cars have more forward bite and side bite than some road race cars. We are almost always pulling well over 1 g in drift. Drifting has gotten so crazy, I sometimes pull a front corner off the ground."
Yes, there is definitely some technology in these drift cars. The team at ASD has experience from worlds as diverse as SCORE in the off-road world, to the peak of road racing in Indy car and NASCAR. They bring that experience to bear in drifting with a four-car team. From the suspension and chassis work at ASD, to the engine building from Huffaker, the technology is impressive. Sure, drifting is a show, but behind that show is hardcore tech and performance.
Each venue on the Formula...
Each venue on the Formula Drift (www.formula d.com) circuit presents its own challenges, and the fully adjustable Tein suspension is just one variable used to dial in Vaughn’s Mustang.
The ASD team prides itself...
The ASD team prides itself on running the fastest corner entry speeds and average speeds on the drift course. However, the speed is only one portion of the measurables. The rest of the score is decided by judges who watch the driver’s adherence through to the line, the angle of the car, and the overall impression of the run. It’s hard to grasp without seeing in person, but live it all makes sense.
"For one thing, in Formula Drift, there is some severe punishment expected with the valvetrain, and I believe the team came to us for not only the horsepower, but also because we had fixed all of the inherent problems regarding that area. I believe we were the first to do that on these types of engines for competition," Joe explained. "The other freedom and differences compared to our restrictive SCCA World-Challenge Championship-winning engines are the intake manifold, cams, compression, valve sizes, port sizes, port shapes, fuel, and general tuning. Much more freedom in rules equates into much more power."
However, despite last year's success and this year's revved-up combo, the hard analyticals are only part of the competition. While speed is measured at two points during a drift run, that is only part of the scoring. Most of the points are awarded via subjective judging, which can make the outcomes a surprise to even the driver.
"Here is the thing-in drifting, you're driving so hard all the time, so unless you make an obvious mistake or you're off line, you usually feel like you killed it, so sometimes you definitely question the calls," Vaughn added. "However, they are the ones outside the car, and I have signed up for a judged motorsport so you have to take the good with the bad. I'm hopeful to have some more data brought into the sport soon to help with human error and speculation."
Along those lines, the '11 season has been a challenge for Vaughn. Still, he has a Monster-ous last season to reflect on. "For me, it was like being on the top of Mount Everest standing on a ladder-beyond the top of the world! We have worked so hard over the years, won some epic events, but nothing compares to winning the championship in the world's premier drift series."
"I started this season off with a stupid mistake that really messed us up in the championship chase right off the start. While it sucked, I kept my head up and I'm taking it one event at a time," Vaughn added. "While I can't control results, I am very happy with my team's and my performance behind the wheel, and that is all I can ask for. I plan to fight my ass off to get my championship back in 2012!" 5.0
Horse Sense: Obviously Vaughn Gittin Jr. has a passion for burning up Falken tires, but he also has a love for Mustangs. Regular readers will know that in 2010, Vaughn launched his own tuner Mustang dubbed the RTR (www.mustangrtr.com), which stands for Ready To Rock. You can purchase the Mustang RTR at select Ford dealers across the land. "The RTR is here to stay. This is not some quick, moneymaking scheme for me. It is a passion. We plan to introduce a V-6 in the near future and we will also offer a serious step up to the V-8 performance package in the future," Vaughn said. "I am not in any rush as everything needs to be perfect before it goes to market. That means a lot of time personally beating the shit out of what we're going to put out in the future."
Few will ever get the experience of wheeling Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s competition drifter. However, if you want to pretend like you're driving it, HPI Racing (www.hpiracing.com
) offers a fully licensed, remote-control replica of the Monster Energy/Falken Tire 2011 Ford Mustang E10 Drift RTR. This all-wheel-drive, electric RC RTR is detailed right down to the Falken Azenis RT-615 T-Drift tires and HRE Wheels. The HPI version of the RTR even allows you to move the motor and radio to bias the car for drifting or for traditional maneuvering. How cool is that?
The fruits of that partnership brought forth the championship ride you see on these pages. Vaughn dominated Formula Drift last year with a supercharged 4.6 combo.
A lot of people don't realize how important traction is in drifting, but our cars have more forward bite and side bite than some road race cars
Apparently it wasn’t a big...
Apparently it wasn’t a big deal to make 749 hp and 594 lb-ft of torque from this 8,000-rpm 6.0-liter, which started life as a Ford GT 5.4. “It’s a natural-born horsepower and torque maker. Much like a Cosworth DFV, the higher you rev it, the more power it makes. It’s an efficient basic design. Just like any other competition engine, you have to cam it correctly to garnish all the torque and horsepower you can get in an rpm range that makes sense before getting into piston speeds that could hurt it. The air intake system configuration goes hand-in-hand with that,” Joe Huffaker explained. “There actually is more power available if we squeezed it some more and spun it higher. That would still need to be tested. We know our current combination will go the distance, and most likely could even run an entire season without a rebuild. That, too, was important to this team.”
“The front cover, which is...
“The front cover, which is carefully designed to incorporate many benefits to the engine, inside and out, is CNC’d from a 180-pound chunk of aluminum with a finished weight of 6 pounds,” Joe explained. “All internal components are carefully designed and changed from factory spec for endurance and control. All internal parts are aftermarket, and only from the best—Carrillo Rods, JE Pistons, Jesel solid-pivot valvetrain (we were one of the first to develop that with Jesel). Proprietary cams, CNC port and polish, and crank designs are also employed.”
5.0 tech specs
'11 Mustang RTR
Engine and Drivetrain
Ford Racing Ford GT aluminum 5.4
Huffaker Engineering custom w/Jesel solid-pivot valvetrain
Huffaker Engineering CNC-ported Ford GT four-valve
Weldon fuel pump w/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions lines and Bosch fuel injectors
Kooks Custom Headers w/ASD custom H-pipe, Burns stainless mufflers, and ASD custom tailpipes
Dog Box four-speed w/Exedy clutch and Driveshaft Shop driveshaft
ASD-modified Winters Quick Change w/Winters axles
Motec w/Ford Racing coil-on plug
Chassis and Suspension
Stock '11 Mustang
Stock '11 Mustang
Custom-valved Tein coilovers
18x9-in HRE C21
Falken Azenus RT-615K
Shocks Custom-valved Tein coilovers
Control Arms ASD Motorsports
Brakes Wilwood Engineering w/custom ASD caliper brackets
Wheels 18x9.5-in HRE C21
Tires Falken Azenus RT-615K