Pete Epple Technical Editor
May 26, 2010
Photos By: Peter S. Linney

When you talk about smokey burnouts, donuts, and powerslides, most Mustang enthusiast's hearts beat a little faster. For many of us, our horsepower addiction started with burnouts or powerslides around a corner somewhere. Today, however, throwing a car sideways into a turn has turned into an all-out motorsport of sorts. For Mustang drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr., being sideways is just another day at the office.

Gittin Jr. hails from Joppa, Maryland, and pilots the Team Falken Tires, Ford Racing-sponsored 2010 drift Mustang. Now before you turn the page 'cause you think drifting is for the ricer crowd, keep reading-you might learn something.

Drifting is quickly growing into one of the most popular forms of motorsports. Executing controlled slides with a rear-wheel-drive car requires a lot of skill, and it's a lot of fun, too. Although the sport is heavily populated with Japanese iron, American hot rods like the Mustang are quickly gaining popularity. "We need to get over the stereotype that drifting is a Japanese sport," says Vaughn. "The S197 Mustang was made for drifting. It's so cool to see skeptics check out their first Formula D event-9 out of 10 are blown away by a drift competition and are instantly hooked."

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The familiar blue and teal hues of Vaughn's '10 Mustang first became popular on his '05 GT. After numerous Formula D round wins and winning the D1 Grand Prix USA All-Star World Championship in 2007, Vaughn decided it was time to build a new Stang, and the 2010 model was a perfect fit.

"In drifting, there are two different driving styles," says Vaughn. "One is calculated-conservative and the other is flat-out aggressive. I definitely consider myself the latter of the two. My right foot rarely comes off the floor." As plans for the new car started to come together, it was important that Vaughn's new ride be strong enough to handle the abuse of racing. To do so, he enlisted Autosport Dynamics (ASD) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The heart and soul of this slick tire smoker is a Ford Racing 4.6L Aluminator crate engine, topped with a Ford Racing/Whipple supercharger, cranking out 18 psi of boost.

Running any engine at or near the limit for extended periods of time creates extreme temperatures-especially with a supercharger hard at work. To ensure the powerplant would survive, a Fluidyne heat exchanger was installed to keep the air charge cool. The off-the-shelf crate engine has also been outfitted with a Moroso high-capacity oil pan and windage tray to ensure the mill never runs out of lube.

Air is fed to the hungry FRPP/Whipple supercharger through an Accufab throttle body. Racing through a cloud of tire smoke and track debris can be hazardous for any engine, so a K&N filter keeps the incoming air clean, protecting the FRPP bullet from damage. Fuel is introduced to the party through an octet of 72-lb/hr Bosch injectors fed by a Bosch 044 Motorsport fuel pump; an Aeromotive rising rate regulator keeps the pressure in check. Bosch Platinum Plus spark plugs ignite the air/fuel mixture with Bosch Ignitors supplying the spark.

After combustion, spent exhaust gases exit via a set of American Racing Headers, which flow into a custom ASD exhaust. Four-inch Burns Stainless Race mufflers finish the exhaust and give this GT a super-aggressive growl as it makes its way around the track.

Controlling the ECM is extremely important while operating at the top of the rpm range, especially as much as Vaughn does. To allow complete tunability, the stock computer was replaced with a full sequential Motec M800 ECM fuel injection system. The system was custom built by Motec and ASD, and gives Vaughn tuning capabilities from the driver's seat. When all is said and done, the engine combination produces a tire-frying 680 rwhp and 650 lb-ft of torque, which is about 100 more hp than the '05 car.

Power is transferred through a twin-disc clutch from Exedy Racing Clutch. Vaughn handles gear selection with a custom shifter made by ASD, which attaches to a NASCAR-style four-speed manual gearbox.

The transmission spins an aluminum driveshaft from the Driveshaft Shop, which is connected to the Winters Performance quick-change rearend. The quick-change rearend allows Vaughn and his team to easily change rearend gears depending on track size and conditions. This also gives them another way to control wheel speed.

Once rearend gears are selected, a set of Winters Performance axles transfer power to the 18x10.5-inch HRE C21 Competition wheels. Falken Azenis RT-615 tires sit in all four corners-but they don't last long. The rears check in at 295/40R18 and get swapped after every session.

After buttoning up the drivetrain, ASD's attention shifted to the suspension. Ford Racing control arms locate the front wheels, and custom-valved dampers and springs from Tein help keep the front tires planted. The stock sway bar has been replaced with a larger bar from Ford Racing, and the OEM steering system has been modified for maximum steering angle, which is a must for drifting. Out back, custom control arms from ASD locate the rearend under the car, and custom Tein springs and dampers control compression and rebound. A custom sway bar from Speedway Engineering has been modified by ASD and controls bodyroll in the rear. All of these components are dialed in to ensure maximum forward and side grip for drift competition.

As with any racecar, stopping is very important. In drifting, the rear brakes help Vaughn set the car into a slide and are a custom setup from ASD. The twin-piston Wilwood calipers allow Vaughn to engage the rear brakes with a lever mounted next to the shifter, similar to an emergency brake. The front brakes are Wilwood SL6R six-piston calipers on 14-inch GT72 rotors.

Vaughn's '05 weighed in at 3,150 pounds (hefty for a drift car). With weight transfer and quick transitioning being extremely important, the new Mustang needed to be light and nimble. The stock body panels have been replaced with a dry-carbon body from ASD. Vaughn's office was then outfitted with a Formula D-spec rollcage, as well as seats, steering wheel, and safety equipment from Sparco. Once ASD was finished, the '10 GT weighed in at a mere 2,550 pounds. "The reduction in weight is huge," Vaughn explains. "Changes in direction are fast and you can throw the car into a slide harder without fear of over rotating. The car is way more responsive and the traction is even better."

"A lot of people still have the misconception that we're out there with extremely stiff cars that are set up to oversteer, burning up rock-hard tires with a lot of horsepower," Vaughn explains. "However when most people check out how a pro drift car is engineered, they realize it's not what they thought." When starting out in drifting, driving a car set up to oversteer is a great way to practice car control. At the professional level, the cars are set up for maximum grip with as much forward and side bite as possible.

"We run relatively soft springs and soft, sticky Falken Azenis RT615 tires," Vaughn adds about his setup. "The combination keeps us glued to the track, even when the rear tires are spinning and the car is holding extremely deep angles. We use in-dash adjustable damping, adjustable sway bars, and some other secret tricks to dial the car in at each track. This ensures we have the speed and angle required to be competitive. This setup also requires you to be one step ahead of the car at all times as well. You need to be completely committed to each turn. If you hesitate, the car will bite you back real hard."

"Driving the Falken Tire Ford Mustang is like being in control of the best roller coaster you can imagine." We had a chance to be a passenger for a few laps with Vaughn at the Mustang 45th Anniversary last year. The ride was amazing! Mechanical grip was exceptional, even when the car was in full slide at speed.

"Drifting is one of the fastest growing motorsports, and it's an honor to be partnered up with Ford and Falken Tires." With Ford power and Falken tires, the competition is about to get smoked!

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