Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
December 7, 2016
Photos By: Vaughn Gittin, Jr.

All of us Mustang fanatics know who Vaughn Gittin Jr. is unless you’ve been living in a third world country with no Internet access. Gittin, JR to his friends has been proudly rocking the Blue Oval banner in Formula Drift for over a decade. His Formula Drift Mustangs have been recreated in remote control hobby cars, diecasts, and even been drivable cars in video games. Besides taking the Formula Drift championship in 2010, JR is known for his three World Drift Series championships (2011, 2012, and 2013). In 2005, he became the first American ever to win a D1 Grand Prix event when he stood atop the podium in the 2005 USA vs Japan competition. He again brought the title home for the USA in the 2007 World Championship. This past season he placed Third on the podium in points in Formula Drift as well.

That all being said JR is far from “just a drifter.” No, he’s actually raced in the Trans-Am series (placing 5th at Road America in 2015) and NASCAR Canada Series (finishing 14th out of 32 drivers in Quebec in 2014), and most recently tackling the off-road world at the annual King of the Hammers off-road race with sponsor Nitto Tire where he had an unprecedented top 10 finish in his first ever running—becoming the first crossover driver ever to do so. For 2017 JR has decided to compete at King of the Hammers off-road race again in the pro level 4500: Rubicon Express Modified Class of the Ultra 4 Racing series in partnership with New Bright for a line of R/C toys (they’ll be producing a radio-controlled 1:8th and 1:15th scale model of the rock crawler to be available at major retailers for sale fourth quarter of 2017).

Gittin partnered with Jimmy’s 4x4, who built a custom Ford Bronco for JR’s race program. The rig, which JR has affectionately named “Brocky,” debuted at the Ford out Front display at the 2016 SEMA show. There, Vaughn took it through some fun laps, donuts, and more to the huge crowd of attendees watching. The hand-built Bronco by Jimmy's 4x4, is running their 4500-IFS chassis, and is powered by a Ford Performance Z427 crate engine, which produces upwards of 600 horsepower. Gittin has chosen Nitto Tire Trail Grapplers, American Racing wheels, and KING Off-Road Racing Shocks to take on the abuse that is endured during Ultra 4 Racing.

“I am a Professional Fun-Haver: I just love driving and challenging myself behind the wheel,” Gittin Jr. explains. “Some of the ultimate challenges in the off-road world is Ultra 4 Racing with the King of the Hammers race being the pinnacle. Last year I worked with my friends at Nitto Tire to afford myself the epic opportunity to race at King of the Hammers. On paper, I was a bit over my head but was confident in my abilities to study, listen, learn, and adapt. With some solid support from the amazing people that make up the off-road community, including tips from fellow drivers Loren Healy, Casey Currie, Shannon Cambell, and Bailey Cole—after a fire-drill lesson and barely an hour of seat time—I was confident enough to dive head first into the world of off-road racing. Thinking back about it now, it was all a bit nuts. I’ll never forget the first vertical climb Loren Healy broke me in on, and my first climb of ‘Chocolate Thunder’. Both were just insane and I really thought it was a joke at first but as soon as I got to the top I understood just how much capability the Jimmy’s 4x4 built race trucks can provide. I quickly learned that Ultra 4 Racing was another sport in which car control and overall understanding of vehicle dynamics that is learned through drifting translates very well to. I am sure it is pretty obvious now that my first Ultra 4 Racing experience gave me the bug. I am pumped to have teamed up with some amazing partners to step up to the pro 4500: Rubicon Express Modified Class and have some more fun with this incredible off-road community!”

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