CYPRESS, Calif. (April 8, 2015) — Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc. is uniting two past Formula Drift series champions with an international all-star to round out its roster for the 2015 season.
In addition to returning drivers Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Odi Bakchis, Nitto is backing two-time Formula Drift champion Tanner Foust's return to the sport, along with New Zealander “Mad Mike” Whiddett's return to the U.S. to compete. Nitto said it will provide the drivers with its NT05 tires throughout the season and also will give them on-site technical support.
Harry Kong, Nitto Tire U.S.A.'s brand publishing strategist, said 2015 “marks the 10th year that Nitto Tire has been a sponsor of Formula Drift and we are beyond excited to be working with such a talented team of drivers.
“Tanner Foust was one of the first real drifting stars to come out of the U.S., and everyone is thrilled to see him return to his roots. Similarly, ‘Mad Mike' has garnered international attention behind the wheel of his rotary-powered monsters and everyone is eager to see how he will stack up against the overwhelmingly V8-powerd competition in America.”
Two-time Formula Drift champion and Top Gear USA host Mr. Foust returns to drifting after a six-year hiatus. Though he is only running a partial season this year, Nitto said Mr. Tanner's goal “is to be as competitive as possible for the three events he is attending.”
He will pilot his new V8-powered Volkswagen Passat drift car at the Formula Drift season opener — Streets of Long Beach — in Long Beach, Calif., at the Road to the Championship in Braselton, Ga., and at the Final Fight in Irwindale, Calif.
“I'm excited to be returning to Formula Drift this season with Nitto Tire on the brand new Rockstar Energy Drink Volkswagen Passat,” Mr. Foust said. “My roots are in drifting and I'm happy to be back. There's something special about Formula Drift fans — they're real car enthusiasts and I'm looking forward to the chance to reconnect.”
Mr. Whiddett also is new to the Nitto team. The tire marketer said he “has been burning up the tarmac on the international drift circuits for nearly a decade. Best known for his love of rotary engines and high speed, hard-charging style,” he will be joining the Formula Drift circuit at the series' second event in May taking place at the Road Atlanta racetrack in Braselton. Mr. Whiddett will be driving the new “RADBUL” MX-5, a 1,200hp four-rotor Mazda MX-5.
Mr. Gittin Jr. is returning this season in his Monster Energy/Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR after taking home a third place finish in the 2014 Formula Drift chase and a win at the King of Europe drift competition in Valencia, Spain. Autosport Dynamics will continue to back Mr. Gittin's Ford Mustangs with on-site support at each of the seven rounds. He will begin the season driving his 2014 Mustang “while he finishes dialing in his new 2015 RTR Mustang to debut later in the season,” according to Nitto.
Mr. Bakchis, also returning to the Nitto team, will be behind the wheel of his ARK Performance/Feal Suspension Hyundai Genesis and Nissan S14. He placed fourth in the 2013 Formula Drift season, less than 30 points behind teammate Mr. Gittin Jr.
More information about Formula Drift is available on the series' website.