Swindon's magic roundabout - yes, the five-roundabouts-in-one affair - is much easier to negotiate sideways, reckons drift star Mike Whiddett
Matt Burt
2 October 2016

Drift superstar ‘Mad’ Mike Whiddett is a regular fixture at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where he wows the crowds with lurid, tyre-smoking sideways runs up the hill in his collection of rear-wheel-drive Mazdas.

After this year’s event, however, his appetite for fun wasn’t completely sated and so, armed with an 800bhp Mazda RX-8 christened ‘Badbul’, and with the support of Swindon Borough Council, the Red Bull athlete decided to take on one of the UK’s most controversial road layouts in an unconventional manner. Here’s how it all happened.

He’d never seen the Magic Roundabout before…

“When Red Bull in the UK told me about this roundabout in Swindon, I straight away searched for it on Google Maps and thought it was absolutely crazy, so I wanted to attack it.”

The 35-year-old Kiwi didn’t get the chance to practise his attempt…

“It was a case of looking at it while the traffic was trying to get around. The hardest part was trying to have a look at what is on the ground – because there are manhole covers and the road surface is quite rough – while there was traffic going around. There were people who have never really tackled that roundabout before getting lost and car horns sounding at them; you could definitely tell which were the local drivers.”

He got a run-up on County Road, at the north-west corner…

“Initially the guys just blocked off the roundabout, but looking at the layout of the surrounding roads, with the English town houses, I thought the perfect start was to come firing down County Road. So we had 300 metres down each of the roads blocked and had a run-up to make a really exciting entry to the roundabout. I was in fourth gear by the time I reached it.”

Avoiding road furniture while going sideways at speed was a challenge…

“In your typical drift competition, you walk the track and get a lot of practice attempts. With the Magic Roundabout it was a little tricky, because the kerbs and traffic islands are hard to see. All that stuff can damage the car quite easily; the surface changes and even the manhole covers can be really harsh on the drivetrain.

“We actually snapped an axle on our second lap. We had already used our spare, so we literally filmed that whole video in two laps. That’s a testament to the amazing video crew that captured it.”

The Mazda was set up to get as sideways as possible…

“We ran the car exactly the same as we did at the Festival of Speed. In competition drifting, as much as it looks like we want the car to be quite slippery to slide around the place, we’re actually trying to find as much grip as possible, but that much grip and power is really hard on the drivetrain, so when we’re doing demonstration stuff we do take grip out of the car. The shocks, tyre pressures and wheel alignment are the main three factors where we can really change the car’s attitude and just free it up a little bit.”

The attempt took place at 4am, but he didn’t annoy the neighbours…

“The council had arranged for the roads to be closed, and we did a flyer drop [to local houses] beforehand, as we do when we’re doing a street event. We made a little viewing area so that anyone who came out because we woke them up with the noise could watch; it wasn’t like we told them they had to go back inside. A big thank you to the people who live near the roundabout. Hopefully I didn’t disturb their peace too much.”

He’s already found an even better roundabout to attack next year…

“When we visited Red Bull Racing’s Formula 1 factory, we found another roundabout near Milton Keynes. It looks like it has a perfect surface and is even bigger, so I could go even faster.” 

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Comments
5

2 October 2016
Oh dear.... What exactly was the point of this ? Can't understand the local Council giving their support. This will encourage the 'boy racers ' to 'have a go'. I can see No merit in this exercise.

2 October 2016
Totally agree with you. A council endorsing this on the public highway will only encourage less 'skilled' boy-racers to copy with predictable results. I have seen and heard copy-cats on the roads near us. It will end in tears.
And Autocar shouldn't be fanning the flames by reporting it.

2 October 2016
"Hopefully I didn’t disturb their peace too much"
And what do you think are the chances of this? Zero percent.
Utterly disgraceful behaviour. Should be an instant dismissal for whoever in the council sanctioned it. Autocar should be ashamed of themselves.

2 October 2016
Admittedly the exercise is pointless but I wouldn't condemn it to such an extent. It is an interesting read and the fact that it may encourage some morons to do the same is not a reason to limit free journalism or avoid anything that may give someone a wrong idea. 0 to 60 and top speed figures are also irrelevant to the same extent.

ofir

2 October 2016
Swindon council is celebrating 175 years of engineering in the town, starting with the GWR railway and locomotive works and moving on to the town's reliance on the motor industry.

To celebrate, there have been a number of car focused events, of which this was one - a great bit of PR for the town IMHO

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