When Vaughn Gittin Jr. calls, I always pick up enthusiastically. Usually, it’s because he’s planning another one of his ‘fun having’ projects, and of course I always do my best to tag along for the ride. This time was no exception.
The concept was actually very simple: two drivers drifting a pair of cars on a touge mountain road in Japan; the hook, however, was something a little more special, and the video below will show you why…
I present to you Battle Drift, ‘A symphony from hell!’ Or at least, tire-burning hell.
The guys at Monster Energy are friends of ours, and they were kind enough to invite me out to Japan to cover the antics of these two lunatics.
While I’ve been embedded in plenty of special video projects before, this was different. It was a much smaller and tighter crew, and for once my name was going to be in the credits. How awesome is that?
I wanted to take you guys behind the scenes as well as give you a little more insight into the production process other than what you’re able to pick up from just watching the video.
Monster Energy has become pretty big in Japan in recent years, so it was only fitting for them to sponsor Daigo Saito and kick things off with an epic video.
And why not debut the most badass drift car on the planet with some serious style. It’s most definitely the Lamborghini from hell…
The backdrop for this video was reminiscent of something you’d expect to see in a disaster or horror movie.
Situated in the Niigata Prefecture of Japan, it’s actually an abandoned golf resort and spa dressed up to look like an old Russian village. There were still thousands of golf balls lying around, and a few clubs to hit them with too.
The place has been abandoned for at least 20 years, and the locals think it’s haunted. It’s not hard to see why either.
The inside was badly burned, setting the perfect scene for a zombie apocalypse movie. Here’s my buddy Edward Khoma cheesing it up.
Dean, Vaughn’s head mechanic, found an awesome sign. It says ‘Welcome’, but it’s missing ‘to hell’ right below…
The brainchild of this production was none other than Luke Huxham. He was biting his fist at this point, because he was going to be in a world of hurt real soon.
Getting two drivers from completely different worlds into one epic drift video was never going to be an easy task.
But while Vaughn and Daigo are from opposite sides of the globe, they are not actually all that dissimilar.
Both have been drifters from the get-go; they were born to drift and they’re damn good at it.
And that’s why Monster brought them together for this project.
Mapping every detail out took months of planning, but given the nature of the video numerous changes needed to be made on site. Shooting a viral video is not as easy as it looks.
The hours were long and the light was limited. After all, it was late fall and the days are very short.
The entire crew basically shot day to night for two days, each one comprising of straight shooting for 2o hours. Insane right? Well, that’s what it took.
It was tough on the entire crew as well as the mechanics. Tires needed to be changed and broken parts required replacing; at times it seemed endless.
Vaughn brought out his 2015 Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5 demo car for the video shoot. While he had just competed in D1GP Tokyo Drift the previous week, he was using the previous generation Mustang.
While I know Vaughn would have loved to bring out his full-on competition car, at the time it was still being built and prepped for the SEMA Show.
But even though a number of parts on this particular car were factory, it was more than enough to get the job done on the mountain pass.
Daigo’s Lamborghini Murciélago was fresh from competition and demos at D1GP, which had provided a perfect place to shakedown the drift-spec supercar.
I’ll admit that I was sceptical when I first heard about what Daigo was going to build, but after seeing the Lamborghini in person and then watching it drift, I have to say that he’s done an excellent job.
Who would have known that a rear-engined supercar would make such an awesome sideways tire-eater?
And a really good looking one at that. And how about the sound? The way the 12 cylinders sing is the way to my heart! Keep an eye out for a feature very soon!
Kato-san from Liberty Walk was kind enough to lend a few of his cars for the shoot too. As far as drift obstacles go, it doesn’t get much better than this in my opinion.
The mountain pass was actually the road leading up to the Russian village resort. It started on the street and basically went uphill from there.
Straight away, the tree-lined road had a very Japanese touge feel to it. Initial D gutter technique, anyone?
Then you pass through a gate, which was left open to extend the course a bit.
From that point it’s just a blast up the hill through a few tight sections.
Here’s a great shot of the Murciélago sliding uphill through the gate.
And this is the view a few corners up from the bottom, which turned out to be my favorite part of the course.
The way the two engines collectively sounded bouncing off their rev limiters was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before in drifting.
There was a brief moment in the late morning when the sun was shining perfectly though the trees near the top section of the course. Just beautiful.
The beauty of this mountain road was in the fact that the guys could easily flip around and drift downhill. Although, given he had no e-brake in his Lamborghini, this was much more difficult for Daigo.
It was a fine balance, as it was very easy for Daigo to straighten out and lose his drift if he wasn’t going fast enough, but at the same time it was dangerous to go too fast as there’s very limited vision out of the cockpit.
The Mustang, however, worked perfectly. It just looked so at home on a mountain pass.
I’m not entirely certain how long the course was from beginning to end, but if I had to guess I would say it was almost a mile.
Just as we thought things were going according to plan, the skies opened up and dumped some torrential rain right in the middle of production.
While this would normally pose a big problem given that drifting in the rain is pretty boring to watch, on this road it actually made things a little more exciting.
The Monster drifters decided to push even harder and tandem even closer.
It also allowed the camera car to be used to its full potential. When it was dry it was very hard for both drivers to drift at a slower pace, but once the road was slippery it became much easier for them to modulate their sideways speed, both behind and in front of the camera vehicle.
From this point on in the shoot, the remainder of the video was pretty much shot in the wet. It was tough, but it was the cards that were dealt, and therefore the perfect opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.
Weeks before production, crews of workers had to come out to clear away debris so that the cars had a clear path to drift though.
Drifting around clipping points or trash piles, it’s all the same anyways, right?
In terms of timing and movement, one of the hardest shots to capture was the day to night transition sequence.
It was like choreographing a delicate ballet featuring three drivers, so it took a bit of time.
One of my other favorite shots was when Vaughn blasted at full-tilt through a building.
Even though the ground surface was wet, it was still an awesome sight to see.
After every single take, the cars had to be rinsed off and cleaned due to the amount of mud that was present all around the shooting location.
When the sun dipped below the horizon it was time to get into the night filming.
As far as I know, Dekotora trucks only exist in Japan, so the guys figured it would be a good idea to use one as a drift obstacle.
The inside was just as crazy as the outside too, and every single surface had been modified in one way or another.
It was awesome to see how many shots using the truck made it into the final cut of the short film.
Just when we thought we were getting a break in the weather, this would happen, drenching everything in sight.
But a little rain wasn’t going to stop Daigo from burning his tires down to their steel belts.
I was amazed by how much smoke this machine produced, and in the wet no less!
Talk about some fancy clipping points! Who would have known that the Liberty Walk craze would get so big.
At this year’s SEMA Show there were no less than 26 LB cars on the Las Vegas Convention Center floor. That is insane.
At the rate Kato-san builds these things, you’d think that they would almost be a common sight in Japan by now.
I thought it was really cool how close Daigo got to Vaughn; at times he would even give the Mustang a little bit of a love tap.
For one of the tricks, Daigo drifted through some fluorescent lights.
He thought it would be a great idea, but having seen Ken Block do it before, he wanted to one-up him by destroying two sets of tubes with the front and rear of his car at the same time.
The margin of error was super tight, but Daigo was up to the challenge.
In just one try he nailed the trick perfectly – and with great style I might add. I love how Kato was showing how much room he had on both sides.
Here’s one of my favorite shots from the shoot. You can still see the gas escaping from the tube as it shatters into a million pieces.
Set life is not for everyone, and the nights were very long and cold. In between the two days of shooting we all had about three hours of sleep in total, if that.
There are just so many moving parts in a production. Often everyone is just waiting on one camera position, or one part of the set that needs to be dressed.
Either way, we all found ways to pass the time. Vaughn figured it would be a good idea to see what it was like to drift the Lamborghini, and we both agreed that you can’t see much out of the heavily raked windscreen and short door windows. In fact, given that I’m a little taller than Daigo, I’m amazed he can see anything at all!
After two long days of shooting, it was time to get the final shot. That of course meant we all needed to climb on huge mountains of rubble to find the perfect angle.
Pedal to the metal and rubber to the rim. The two drifters did tandem donuts till their tires could take no more.
As for the two drifters from hell, in the real world they are enemies. In competition, they are always out for each other’s throats. When they join forces however, they can create something absolutely amazing. Of course, a little added production value doesn’t seem to hurt either…