Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
November 3, 2011

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!"

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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."

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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.

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"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."

Junior Jr.

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

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5.0 tech specs

'11 Mustang RTR

Engine and Drivetrain

Block Ford Racing Ford GT aluminum 5.4
Crankshaft Sonny Bryant
Rods Carillo
Pistons JE
Camshafts Huffaker Engineering custom w/Jesel solid-pivot valvetrain
Cylinder heads Huffaker Engineering CNC-ported Ford GT four-valve
Intake manifold Kinsler ITB
Fuel system Weldon fuel pump w/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions lines and Bosch fuel injectors
Exhaust Kooks Custom Headers w/ASD custom H-pipe, Burns stainless mufflers, and ASD custom tailpipes
Transmission Dog Box four-speed w/Exedy clutch and Driveshaft Shop driveshaft
Rearend ASD-modified Winters Quick Change w/Winters axles

Electronics

Engine Management Motec M800
Ignition Motec w/Ford Racing coil-on plug
Gauges Motec SDL

Chassis and Suspension

Front Suspension
K-member Stock '11 Mustang
A-arms Stock '11 Mustang
Struts Custom-valved Tein coilovers
Springs Tein
Brakes Wilwood Engineering
Wheels 18x9-in HRE C21
Tires Falken Azenus RT-615K

Rear suspension
Shocks Custom-valved Tein coilovers
Springs Tein
Control Arms ASD Motorsports
Brakes Wilwood Engineering w/custom ASD caliper brackets
Wheels 18x9.5-in HRE C21
Tires Falken Azenus RT-615K