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The Drift Challenge at Holley Intergalactic Ford Fest will see its biggest field yet for the 2023 iteration. Over 40 drivers registered to drive the drift exhibition, nearly double the number from 2022.
Most notably, 3-time Formula DRIFT champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. and teammate Chelsea Denofa will entertain the crowd with their seemingly choreographed antics. Recently-crowned Formula DRIFT ProSPEC champion Ben Hobson will be showcasing his Mustang build (he competes in an LS-swapped Nissan S14, dripping with Holley products), joined by fellow ProSPEC driver Chris Leonard.
David Leffel once again returns with his fan-favorite 1964 Ford F-100, which, with around 1,000 horsepower, is a staple smoke cloud generator at Beech Bend.
You'll likely notice a bunch of cars with a Scotidi decal. Founded by Scotty Dee and owned by Matthew Glasscock, Scotidi Race Development plays a crucial role in developing drift-centered hardware for the Mustang crowd, from angle kits to bash bars.
Other regulars to watch for include Davey Peeples and Justin Bauer in their S550s, Morgan Oldham (Morgan Drifts) in her SN95 and Cash Staub in his '88 Foxbody, who was just 16 when he drove his first Ford Fest event.
Ford Fest 2023 features a large number of stellar Ford products creating clouds of smoke and echoes of excitement. Of course, there are plenty of expert drivers like Chelsea Denofa and Vaughn Gittin Jr., but the field consists of amateur drivers.
Josh Ledoux is a local drifter who is relatively new to the sport. He’s been to Ford Fest before, to autocross his SN95 Cobra. This year, he’s here with his Mustang drift car, a 2002 Mustang GT with a ProCharger supercharger. The car also features a Scotidi Race Development angle kit, hand brake, and locker, along with Godspeed coilovers.
Josh started drifting last year, “just as soon as I started, I blew the engine. So, I had a slow start,” said Josh. “I tried to hit as many events as I could, just make to make sure I didn’t look too new out here [at Ford Fest].” He’s feeling comfortable and having fun at Ford Fest. “I’m having a blast man, I love it, whenever I get to pull up and see Chelsea or Vaughn pull up next to us. That’s awesome.”
Rob McCarter made the trip from Detroit to campaign his 1991 Mustang at Ford Fest for the third time. McCarter bought the car, originally a four-cylinder five-speed car, for $500 in 2011. He used it for SCCA rallycross, so it had a few blemishes from off-track excursions before it made its switch to drifting. Now it rides on Rocket Racing Wheels and is powered by a turbocharged 302 Windsor. The factory block and crank team up with Scat rods and DSS forged pistons with a -13cc dish to prep it for boost. It uses a 70mm On Three Performance turbocharger feeding a Holley Hi-Ram intake on top of aluminum Trick Flow 170cc heads. It’s all tuned by a Terminator X ECU. The combo was dyno tested at 443 horsepower at the wheels on six pounds of boost, but he’s currently running 10psi on the wastegate and can dial that up to 15psi for fun.
The big changes to give the Fox body enough steering angle were Detroit Drifting Company knuckles and Steve Mass control arms. McCarter also made the switch to Feal 441 coilovers.
We asked McCarter how he made the switch from rallycross to drift. It took him about a year's worth of driving, said McCarter, “hitting up all the local events. After that, it was like muscle memory.”
Cameron Griffin from Durham, North Carolina, started drifting, like many people do, with an LS-swapped Nissan S14. He bought this car in November of 2022, so he’s still feeling it out. We asked him what prompted his switch, and he admitted it was his friend, Justin Bauer, who prodded him into the S550 by making the jump first and having a lot of success. “I moved over to this, a Scotidi front suspension added more steering angle and their handbrake gets the drift started. A Drift Dreams Motorsports body kit included a fiberglass widebody and roof panels to both add tire clearance and reduce weight, a big change over Griffin’s lightweight S15. A T-56 Magnum from Silversport Transmissions adds some durability. As for motivation, it’s a stock-bottom-end Coyote with some bolt-ons. It makes about 430hp at the wheels
Compared to his S14, which Griffin said was set up pretty loose, this Mustang is more work to hustle around the track thanks to its electric power steering rack. That’s a minor quibble though, and doesn’t change how he feels about his latest drift car. Griffin reported that there’s no buyer’s remorse after the move from the S14. “It’s been a blast,” Griffin said, “I’m super happy I did it.”