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Recently I was asked about my connection to a certain ProDrift competitor. Since ProDrift Punchestown 2010 I have had a friendship with Mike Fitzgerald or as he is popularly known as “Mike Fitz”. Mike is just one of those great people in drifting that you want to know. If you know Mike, you will know what I mean. Mike has always greeted me with a hug or a handshake and more often than not he is smiling from ear to ear. You will not meet a nicer guy in the Irish drifting community.

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When I first met Mike he was driving a Sileighty, a car that he loved. You know when you have that close connection with an inanimate object, a bond that when you describe it to anyone else it does not make a lot of sense. Mike had this relationship with his Sileighty; a relationship that was not destined to last. During the last round in Fermoy, Co. Cork in 2010 Mike was off line a little during his Top 16 battle with Shane O’Sullivan and he ended up hitting the wall very hard and thus Mike’s love affair with his beloved Sileighty was over.

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During an interview that I did with Mike in 2010 he talked about owning a BN Sports kitted FC RX7 some day, little did we know that that dream was going to be realized so soon. After it was decided to not rebuild the Sileighty it was not long before a white FC with Compomotive 5 Spoke MO’s was spotted in the hands of young Fitz. The initial build process can be seen here on driftireland.com.

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In 2012 Hankook came back into Irish drifting in a big way with Mike and his FC after having pulled out of the sport in 2011. It was great for Mike to grab such a big name tyre sponsor like Hankook but it was also great to see Hankook back in the Irish drifting scene. Having companies like Hankook involved brings an air of professionalism to what is still a very new sport in Ireland.

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MCNSport along with Chambers Performance were heavily involved in this build but as always Mike’s good buddy, Daniel “Holly” O’Halloran, spent an inordinate amount of time preparing the shell on the FC and he is always at events making sure things run smoothly. Mike has always said that without Holly he would not be competing at all. So at a private test day I attended it was great to see Mike repay Holly by letting him take the car for a couple of laps around Mondello Park.

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Mike also joined the OMGdrift team in 2012 along with James Deane and Alan Lenihan . Mike blogs about his drifting escapades from every event with our friends on OMGdrift so keeping up with him over there is essential because if anyone can tell a story it is Mike! In fact if you are interested in drifting full stop, OMGdrift.com is the only place to be to find out the latest drifting news from America, Europe and Japan.

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Mike’s original idea was to stay with his trusty SR20 engine and get it transplanted from the Sil80 into the FC. However, after much debate it was then decided that it would be sacrilege to take the wankel out of the car so a tuned 13BT is in place. A collective sigh of relief from all the purists could be heard across the globe and of course with good reason. The sound this car makes is just amazing. (You’ll have to forgive the lack of engine shots because at this point there was no engine in the car!)

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The engine is fitted with a Hybrid 13BT/13B-REW inlet manifold and a Garret/Owen Developments hybrid Turbo. Some HKS goodies are also lurking in the engine bay in the form of a manifold and an external waste gate. Engine management is handled by an Apex’i Power FC mapped by Hayward Rotary and some final preparation and tweaking was performed by West Coast Performance. The car currently pumps out 450bhp at 9000rpm and it gives me the “ohhhhh” feeling.

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Handcraft Fabrication provided the FC with a custom inlet and Japspeed an intercooler and pipework, again custom made items. A 20 litre MCNsport fuel cell with swirl spot and braided fuel lines carry, along with the Bosch 044 fuel pump, the all important race fuel to the Mazda’s heart.

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The FC rocks, as you would expect, a lot of MCNSport products not just because the car was built by MCNSport but the products are of an extremely high standard and the quality of the build demands such professional grade kit. Mike’s Sil80 was a good car and it was very good to him but this RX7 is on a different level altogether. The car is supported by MCNSport/AVO suspension and MCNSport hubs.

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The FC has also benefited from some Mazdatrix bushes replacing the standard items and also the Mazdatrix extra lock kit so Mike can launch into corners with bags of opposite lock. Mazdatrix also provide camber adjusters and MCNSport toe adjusters. The combination of the MCNSport and Mazdatrix gear seems to have really paid off and the car is a lot more predictable now.

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The MCNSport theme continues on the inside of the FC. Mike is surrounded by a MCNSport developed weld in roll cage providing rigidity and most importantly a safe office from Mike to work from. Mike is kept in place by a DTS competition seat and TRS Harnesses and if your lucky enough, like I was, to get into the car with Mike you will be treated to the same.

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To keep the car on track a Sabelt steering wheel and a ASD Hydraulic Handbrake are there for Mike to throw his hands at. To keep track of the car a MCNSport gauge panel is home to Stack gauges and a Picot tachometer. The dash has also been flocked by Barry’s Motorsport but I simply cannot believe it is because of glare on the dashboard as we simply do not get any sun in Ireland!

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In 2011 the car was in its Bridgestone colours but it was not until we seen the car in its Hankook colours that we could see how truly awesome looking the car was. I remember seeing a sneak peek of the car and I instantly messaged Mike telling how amazing looking the car was and I honestly think that this FC is arguably the best looking drift car in Ireland/Europe/the World.

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The BN Sports kit is a popular choice for the FC and a choice, in my opinion, you simply cannot argue with. It is just so right. The bonnet is a D-Max item and the car has Origin front wings and Final Konnexion rear quarters. Helping to keep the back planted and gain maximum grip is a MCNSport rear wing.

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John Guerin is the man behind the paint job, having painted the car black and white to fit in nicely with Mike’s main sponsor Hankook Tires. The glorious graphics were done by Moose Design and what a top quality job it is. The car could easily sit with any of the other Hankook sponsored competition cars in the world and feel absolutely at home.

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The SSR Vienna front (17×8) and Work Euroline rear (18×10) wheels are shod in, quite unsurprisingly, Hankook rubber. These particular tires are Hankook V12 Evo tyres that Mike continually raves about. The wheels are really fantastic looking as Im sure you will agree.

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Power is delivered to the wheels via an OS Giken twin plated clutch through a standard FC gearbox and Mike has a range of both 2 way and welded differentials depending on the venue here in Ireland.

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This my favorite angle of the FC as it looks so aggressive. This would be a daunting sight in your rear view mirror going into the first corner at Mondello.

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Sponsoring Mike are : Hankook Ireland, MCNSport, John Guerin Crash Repairs, Chambers Performance, Hayward Rotary, West Coast Performance, Japspeed, Drive-N-Style, Moose Design, Japanese Performance, Mrsodablast.ie, Mazdatrix, OMGDrift.com

 
So there you have it, my favorite drift car driven by my favorite driver in Ireland. It was a great pleasure to shoot such an awesome car in such an awesome location in the Co. Cork countryside. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mike for allowing me to shoot the car and for the “craic” we had shooting it on the day. Also special thanks to Martin Cunningham for loaning me a plethora of lens in order for me to complete this shoot. Best of luck to Mike and the Hankook FC in 2013 and I cannot wait to see him competng back in Pro in the new series called the Irish Drift Championship.

 

I’ll leave the last words to the man himself:

“A special thanks goes to Niall, Cormac and all at Hankook Ireland, Darren “DMAC” McNamara and all the crew at MCNSport, Jules at Chambers Performance, my mechanic Holly, John Guerin for the great spray job and completing it in double quick time, all my other great sponsors who make it possible to compete, Felix Wankel (joking!), my Cousin Tom my spotter , my girlfriend Catriona, my buddy Patrick and everyone else who helps with this project!”

Mike
 
Words & Photos: Patrick McCullagh

 

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