Mad Mike Conquers Pikes Peak
Claims 2 x World Record Times
At the 101st Running of the iconic 12.42-mile Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, after steering his way through the 156-turns has seen Mad Mike Whiddett add a further accolade to his well-distinguished career, becoming the fastest Mazda and fastest rotary in the history of the race to the summit.
In a specially-built 1400hp, rear-wheel-drive, four-rotor TwinTurbo Mazda3, Whiddett completed the 14,115 ft hill climb in a time of 10 minutes and 34.980 seconds.
Whiddett's time beats a long-standing record set by another New Zealander, Rod Millen, who Whiddett says he looks up to for his sports achievements.
“It's absolutely incredible,” Whiddett said in his interview following his record-breaking run. “Behind the scenes, I've done so much study since this project came about. A huge inspiration of mine is the Millens, Rod Millen, the fastest Mazda up this hill, the fastest time in a Mazda and a rotary of 11 minutes 51.
“Like I said, I was studying a lot over the past two years when Mazda pitched this project, and never once did they say it's a whole week of practice and testing and qualifying where you're waking up at 2 o'clock in the morning for 3 o'clock at the bottom of the hill. This is all the teams, so massive credibility and respect for all of them here at Pikes Peak. We're on the line at 5 o'clock in the morning, and you're sitting on the line, and the nerves are through the roof.
“I haven't had nerves like this since I flipped a dirt bike onto dirt with no foam pad or anything like that. But this is way, way higher. You're sitting on the line at 5 o'clock in the morning and are surrounded by snow and ice and off to shoot 140mph with the best of the best.
“I'm a car builder myself, and just to see the creations that people build and come together. One hundred and one years at Pikes Peak is a massive achievement for Pikes Peak, so congratulations and thank you for having this mad Kiwi come up here with my Japanese team.
“We've probably got the most multicultural team. We've got Australia, Japan, myself from New Zealand, we've got Brazilian in there, Vietnamese, US, we've got it all, and we get to enjoy motorsport together.”
The car itself comes off the back of a multi-year project to tackle the unforgiving event, with the likes of Mazda and Whiddett's Formula Drift car builders getting in on the action. The RWD conversion meant a high aero package was a necessity to keep the car pointing the right direction, something he is not usually accustomed to.
“Mazda initially pitched this project to do a Production Class, front-wheel drive, four-cylinder Mazda 3, Whiddett adds. “For me, I'm a rotary guy from New Zealand, and I've been doing rotary since I was 13, not because they were cool but because they were cheap, they were loud and just fun. People either love them or hate them.
“We pitched a Mazda and were like, ‘Let's do a rotary'. So we did a front-wheel drive conversion to a rear-wheel drive. We built this thing to Formula Drift rules as well; that's what we know, we've won that championship, and we've used all the parts that we use in our pro drift cars.
“We also showcase how fast drift cars are and how crazy they are now because a lot of people still look at drifters as just a bunch of boy racers, but we represent some of the world's biggest brands, and we've got some amazing drivers. If you look at Rhys Millen, Tanner Foust and Daijiro Yoshihara, they're all kings of the mountains out here and showcasing that drift talent.
“For me, its been a big challenge to just learn the tyre. I'm a rookie, not just on the mountain, but I'm a rookie when it comes to running slicks. I've done a bit of GT3 racing, thanks to Tony Quinn and Hampton Downs, they're a huge partner of ours, and that's the only experience I've had on running a slick, and that's in a GT3 as well, which is like cheating, I feel, after driving this thing.”
“I think I just about lost it over the finish. I was exhausted and had run out of energy, and the car temps were about 127 degrees.”