Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
May 7, 2014
Photos By: Michael Johnson, Amie Williams

There’s nothing like being behind the wheel of a great handling Mustang with plenty of power and braking to match with an open road course in front of you. Over the years we've had our share of seat time, from stock to rock, at tracks all across the country. The sound, the feel, and the experience you get with track time are second to none and are a great way to find not only your car’s limits, but yours as well. So when Ford took a long, hard look at the sport of drifting, a sport well known for its Japanese origins, and started a drift program of course we took notice and wanted to know more about the sport.

Fast forward a good chunk of a decade and not only has Mustang been a prominent and aggressive competitor, but the cars themselves have changed dramatically. From a naturally aspirated modular engine to one with a supercharger, and now a Ford Racing/Roush/Yates NASCAR-spec pushrod V-8 means these cars are putting out over 800 hp! The crowds at drift events are three-to-five people deep at the fence line just hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite brand or driver. Much like F1, the Formula Drift experience includes pre-race festivities, autograph sessions, and yes, even umbrella girls for the drivers!

Vaughn Gittin Jr. grew up in Maryland and has had performance cars and racing in his life since he was four years old (when he raced his first go-cart!). Growing up and participating in several forms of motorsports it was the world of drifting that caught his eye and made his heart skip a beat. He was hooked and had to get involved. His early days of drifting involved the typical rear-wheel-drive Japanese cars, but it was in 2004 when Vaughn, like many of us, fell in love with the retro lines of the ’05 Mustang. Up and coming in the sport of drifting, Vaughn scored the major support of a tire company in ’05 and again in ’07 with Ford Racing to bring the domestic muscle of the Mustang to the sport. Today he has several top finishes and a couple of championships under his belt, but more importantly he has become THE face of the sport domestically. From his appearances at Mustang events across the nation to launching his own Mustang brand, the Mustang RTR, there’s no turning back for Vaughn when it comes to the Mustang and it’s legacy that has helped him become a household name. Of course Ford’s Octane Academy TV show certainly helps too!

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Having known “JR” (as he is called by many) for several years we’ve been able to get the inside scoop on just what is drifting, and while we’ve explained it before on our print pages and on our website, we’ll give you the Cliff Notes version here for first time readers. Essentially, drifting is about style, angle of the drift, and keeping the drift on the drift line, which is the ideal path through the course. These three things are all judged by a panel. There’s no finish line, it’s simply a drifter and his car competing against another, including wild side-by-side tandem drifts, which judges then allot points for. Frankly, if you’ve never been to a drift event you should check it out, or at the very least check out event videos online. The amount of control (it’s not simply doing a burnout/slide) that each driver must have is incredible to be out “on the edge” and not completely spin.

We hooked up with Vaughn recently at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Mustang 50th Anniversary celebration and with the help of his wife Abby, who handles the team’s PR as well as PR for Mustang RTR and Vaughn’s appearances, we were able to get strapped into Vaughn’s 2014 Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR drifter for an exhibition session on Saturday. While just 45 degrees out and raining at the time (sadly not a lot of Vaughn’s traditional hard-charging smoke show) it was certainly a ride I won’t soon forget. And by the looks of the bystanders as we idled back to his race trailer I think we made a few spectators jealous that day. Bucket list item-Checked! Enjoy the pics from the event and be sure to check out the video of the ride as well right here on Mustang-360.com!