Don Roy
October 1, 2007
Photos By: Mike Maez

Ken Gushi's Drift Mustang
Racing drivers have been using controlled drifts as a driving technique since the 1930s but, more recently, drifting as its own form of motorsport has been evolving steadily. Drifting as a sport began in Japan more than 20 years ago. It migrated to the United States in 1996, in California, and has become extremely popular with fans here, in Europe and Australia.

To the uninitiated, drifting looks and sounds like a lot of fishtailing, parking-lot donuts, plumes of smoke and squealing tires. But to the growing legions of astute observers and participants, there is shape and substance, along with an underlying quality of finesse and agility. The most graceful drifters garner major corporate sponsorships, like California's Japanese American Ken Gushi, who drives a 2007 Ford Racing Mustang Cobra for Ford Racing and Toyo Tires in Formula Drift.

The emerging lifestyle market associated with drifting was attractive to Ford Racing Performance Parts, who saw the potential to draw a portion of the 20-somethings into the domestic performance scene. Gushi is one of the US's most renowned drifters. He learned the sport from his father, Tsukasa 'Papa' Gushi, at one of the many dry lakebeds that dot California's desert interior. He and his father, who learned to drift as a teen in Japan, would set up their own tracks in the desert with orange cones, simulating popular championship drifting courses.

The Mustang immediately became Gushi's favorite vehicle for drifting. "It's an amazing drift car. It has the perfect amount of torque, power, weight distribution, and in-corner stability," explains Gushi. "After I got used to the insane amount of torque, I found that the Mustang had a lot more potential than the average drift car, even though it weighs hundreds of pounds more than my previous car, a Nissan 240SX."

This year is the third season for a team that continues to develop. Ford Racing Engineering Supervisor, Andy Slankard, said, "Ken's a great fit for Ford. He's great with the fans and as courteous as can be. People line up to see him at races, sometimes 50 or 60 people, and he'll meet and talk to each one of them. He's a great fit for us."

More Power
Ford Racing was instrumental in developing the car in virtually every aspect from conception to delivery. It was built by the same people that design, develop, prototype, test and evaluate production Ford cars and trucks on a daily basis. The car was built with Ford parts, by Ford personnel, in Ford facilities. It all started with a Ford Racing 'Aluminator' 4.6-liter, 4-valve modular V8 short block. From there, like MacBeth's witches, the Ford Racing personnel began adding ingredients to create their own unique stew. Instead of eye of newt, or python lips, we're talking about goodies like an SVT Cobra forged 8-bolt crankshaft, Ford Racing high flow 4-valve cylinder heads, including a high lift camshaft kit with stainless steel valves and high lift valve springs. Topping off the assembly is FRPP's twin screw Whipple supercharger upgrade kit, for which a Ford GT intercooler was installed in the trunk's parcel tray area to help keep things cool. With all those additions, the cool factor meter has certainly been pegged.

Having that amount of power available is important to the driver. "With that much horsepower, drifting gets a lot more fun than sliding around with four tiny little cylinders," Gushi says, explaining how he adjusted to drifting an American car. "More horsepower is definitely more fun." Ford Racing's Andy Slankard agrees. "Rear-wheel drive and a powerful V8 make the Mustang a great car for competing in drifting events."