MADMAC: Is Mad Mike’s Rotary McLaren the Craziest Drift Build Ever?

Mad Mike aims to turn a McLaren into the MADMAC rotary drift beast in just 100 days. Will this insane build reach Goodwood on time?

mad mike madmac mclaren rotary drift build

Legendary New Zealand drifter Mad Mike, also known as the “Rotary King” for his extensive history of building the most insane dorito-powered machines the drifting scene has ever witnessed, is taking things to a whole new level with his latest build, dubbed “MADMAC.” If you’re wondering where the name comes from, it’s because his latest rotary-based creation is something we never thought we’d see getting thrown sideways – a McLaren!

As if that’s not exciting enough, Mad Mike and his team set themselves an incredibly tight deadline. They have just 100 days to complete the build before heading to the UK’s prestigious motorsport event, the Goodwood Festival of Speed. This ambitious timeline adds extra intensity to what’s already shaping to be one of his most audacious projects yet (and that’s saying something!)

One of Mad Mike’s most iconic builds is the “MADBUL,” a Mazda RX-7 that started life as a standard FD3S model, which went on to boast a modified rotary engine producing over 800 horsepower. Another notable creation is the “RADBUL,” a Mazda MX-5 Miata transformed from a small roadster into a competitive drift car. It features a turbocharged four-rotor engine and a custom widebody.

mazda miata mad mike

For Formula DRIFT Japan, he also built a twin-turbo, four-rotor FD3S named “HUMBUL.” His most recent Mazda build, “FURSTY,” was for the Japanese D1GP competition. It used a 20B inside an old-school RX-3 wagon.

Just when we thought he’d reached the pinnacle with his builds, he went on to create a custom-built Lamborghini Huracan drift car, “NIMBUL,” and we were sure at that point things couldn’t get any crazier. Turns out, we were wrong.

The Birth Of MADMAC

The MADMAC concept was born at a Goodwood Festival of Speed party, where Mad Mike shared his vision of the ultimate drift hypercar with the owner of British McLaren specialist Lanzante. This conversation sparked a collaboration that would see a McLaren transformed into something the automotive world had never seen before.

With support from luxury car specialist O’Gara Coach, a unique McLaren was created for the project. It combined elements from the track-focused P1 GTR and the race-ready 650S GT3, resulting in a one-of-a-kind machine built specifically for Mad Mike’s ambitious conversion.

The one-off machine was shipped to Mike’s MadLab in New Zealand, where the real magic would begin. The goal? Convert this multi-million dollar hypercar into a tire-shredding drift monster in just 100 days, in time for its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Thankfully, Mike and his team have documented every stage of the journey so far, so we highly recommend buckling up and experiencing this awesome series.

Part 1 – Laying Down The Groundwork

When the McLaren arrived at the MadLab, Mike and his team, including the talented Ed, began dismantling the car. It wasn’t just about stripping parts, the team took the time to understand the complex systems they would need to modify or replace.

Steering Overhaul

One of the first major challenges was the steering system. Designed for racing, the McLaren’s steering doesn’t suit the extreme angles required in drifting. The team needed to increase the steering lock from 35 degrees to around 90 degrees – a task requiring significant re-engineering.

Initially, Mike considered using a steering kit from an RX7, but it quickly became apparent that custom fabrication would be necessary. This involved creating new control arms and modifying the existing suspension components to achieve the desired steering angle.

Brake System Modifications

McLaren’s original brakes are also unsuitable for the quick, responsive braking needed in drifting. The team opted for a Wilwood brake kit, which provides quicker heat-up times and better control.

Suspension Tweaks

mad mike madmac suspension brakes

The double wishbone suspension system, similar to those found in MX5 and RX7 models, required extensive modification. Custom upper control arms were fabricated, and the lower arms were modified to work with the new steering geometry.

MADMAC Joins The Rotary Gang

The most significant decision was the engine choice. Unsurprisingly, the team replaced the McLaren’s V8 with a 20B rotary in true Mad Mike style, similar to what’s currently in the BADBUL RX8. However, this wasn’t just about being different; rotary engines offer several advantages for drifting, including high RPM capabilities and significant horsepower in a compact, lightweight package. Also, let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the sound of a rotary.

It wasn’t a simple engine swap, and the team carefully measured the bay to ensure a rotary would fit. Despite concerns about ground clearance due to the engine’s height, the potential benefits outweighed the risks. At this point, there was no turning back.

Part 2 – Engine Swap, Wiring Overhaul & Styling Decisions

With 75 days left and the clock ticking, the MadLab team dove into the heart of the build – swapping out the McLaren’s V8 for a 20B rotary engine and completely overhauling the electronics.

Fitting The Engine

The team knew it wouldn’t be easy, and fitting the rotary into the chassis required extensive modifications by cutting and modifying significant portions of the car’s rear structure to accommodate the new powerplant.

ECU Challenges

One of the biggest hurdles was replacing the McLaren’s sophisticated ECU. After much deliberation, the team decided to use a Haltech Nexus R5 system. This wasn’t a simple plug-and-play solution; it required completely rewiring the entire car from scratch.

The decision to replace the ECU wasn’t taken lightly, as it meant discarding McLaren’s complex electronic systems in favor of a completely new setup. However, it also offered the opportunity to tailor the car’s systems specifically for drifting.

Gearbox Adaptation

A custom adapter plate was required to mate the rotary to the McLaren gearbox. JWB Engineering created this one-off component, which needed to be incredibly precise and strong enough to handle 1,000 horsepower.

Custom Fabrication

The engine swap required a host of custom parts. The team fabricated new engine mounts and a custom crossmember to secure the rotary engine in its new home. A Radium triple pump fuel setup was installed to feed the rotary, and a custom shifter and hydraulic handbrake were fitted to provide Mike with the perfect setup for drifting.

Body Kit Design

kei miura san rocket bunny mclaren

With the mechanical work underway, Mad Mike collaborated with Rocket Bunny in Japan to design a unique custom body kit for the build. Using full 3D scans of the McLaren, Mike headed to Japan and sat down with legendary builder Miura San. With the clock ticking, his Rocket Bunny team got to work on a kit that would transform the unique hypercar aesthetics to match Mike’s previous builds.

Part 3 – First Start Of The 20B, Dyno Testing & Body Kit Install

As the project approached its halfway point, the team focused on bringing MADMAC’s rotary heart to life.

Precision Engine Assembly

mad mike madmac mclaren rotary

With the final rotor housing arriving, the team could assemble the motor. Grant Munro at RotorSport balanced the rotating assembly components with pinpoint precision. This was Mad Mike’s first Billet engine, adding an extra layer of anticipation and nervousness to the build.

Cooling System Installation

The team installed a custom cooling system from PWR, which is crucial for managing heat during drifting’s sideways action, and the unique demands required careful consideration of airflow and heat management.

Wiring & Electronics

Further work was done on the custom setup built around the new Haltech ECU and PDM modules. This allowed for a customizable digital dashboard tailored to Mad Mike’s preferences and matching the car’s livery.

First Start & Dyno Testing

After careful calibration, the moment of truth arrived – starting the engine for the first time. The successful first start was a major milestone. Following this, the car was put on the dyno, where the 20B rotary produced an astonishing 1,000 horsepower, maxing out the dyno’s capabilities.

Body Kit Installation

The team transformed McLaren’s exterior with the Rocket Bunny kit which had just arrived from Japan. This involved aggressive wheel arch cuts and careful fitment of the custom panels, further distinguishing MADMAC from its hypercar origins.

Part 4 – Shakedowns & Final Prep

With just 25 days left before Goodwood, the team enters the crucial testing and refinement phase.

Initial Shakedown Attempts

The weather initially delayed the first track test, but the team used this time for a quick run around the MadLab. This revealed issues with the engine’s idle speed and temperature readings, so it was back to the shop for diagnosis.

Fixing The Mechanical Gremlins

The team encountered and resolved several critical issues during the testing session. They discovered bent throttle body butterflies caused by backfiring and addressed warping in the intake manifold. To prevent frame twisting, they also reinforced the engine cross member. After that, they installed a new solid engine mount system to improve ground clearance.

At the end of the shakedown, Mike was also left holding the shifter in mid-air, and the e-brake was ready to suffer the same fate, so it was clear the whole team had their work cut out.

Successful Shakedowns

mclaren madmac drift car smoke track

After addressing the issues, the team achieved a successful second shakedown, with Mad Mike managing a brief drift. This was followed by a full shakedown at Hampton Downs, where MADMAC completed its first full-speed sideways lap, stating that he should’ve named the insane creation the “INCREDIBUL.”

Final Hurdles

Just as they were preparing to send the car to the U.K. for Goodwood, the team encountered significant damage to the turbo housing and exhaust manifold in the last days before shipping. With just six days left, they now face the daunting task of pulling the entire car apart before re-engineering and retuning the entire exhaust and turbo system.

As with groundbreaking drift builds like this, it’s no real surprise when things don’t go smoothly for the team. With less than a week until MADMAC ships across the globe, can they fix these substantial gremlins and make it to the Goodwood Festival of Speed?

Part 5 – Final Countdown & Departure

The final video of the build series opens with Mad Mike stating, “What the boys don’t know – I’ve only been going at 80% shakedowns. Now we’re going full one-hundy!” If you weren’t already hyped enough by this build series, it’s about to get even better!

Last-Minute Challenges

As the deadline loomed, the MADMAC team faced several serious obstacles. First, the melted exhaust manifold and damaged turbo threatened to derail the project, and water infiltration also caused corrosion in the gearbox actuator.

The team also discovered that G-forces were affecting the dry sump tank, requiring a complete redesign. Fuel mixture issues were also another headache that they needed to overcome.

Positives Among The Difficulties

Despite the challenges, MADMAC showed impressive performance figures, pushing out 944 horsepower at 19-20 pounds of boost, showcasing the potential of its rotary powerplant.

Wheel speed calculations indicated over 280 km/h on the rear wheels, amusingly destroying the tires after just one lap of what Mad Mike stated was just 80% of its true capabilities.

Critical Repairs & Modifications

The team performed emergency repairs on the gearbox actuator and completely refabricated the exhaust and turbo manifolds. To solve oil pressure problems, a new dry sump tank was designed and installed.

The fuel systemalso underwent significant adjustments, including installing new injectors and fine-tuning the fuel ratio.

Final Testing & Tuning

Dyno testing revealed unusual engine flutter at certain RPMs, requiring further adjustments. Mad Mike unleashed the 100% shakedown runs on the 100th day, finally pushing MADMAC to its true limits.

The team modified the gearing ratios to improve low-speed maneuverability for the Goodwood event and replaced the clutch to complement these changes.

Project Completion & Departure

In the final stretch, the team worked through multiple all-nighters to complete the build, and opting for a later flight to the UK provided some much-needed extra time. Against all odds, MADMAC was successfully loaded onto the plane, ready for its debut in front of the huge crowds of Goodwood.

Mad Mike understandably expresses his delight in the MADMAC McLaren’s performance and appearance, a testament to the team’s hard work.

What Does The Future Have In Store For MADMAC?

As MADMAC prepares to debut on Goodwood’s global stage, Mike is already making plans to bring it back to New Zealand. The project represents a triumph of extensive custom fabrication and problem-solving, pushing the boundaries by combining a successful high-investment collaboration between various specialists and companies, helping to take drifting to the next level.


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Joe is an avid writer and car enthusiast. When he's not cruising the streets alongside his friends in his Nissan Silvia S15, he's drifting on his VR racing simulator.

Joe's passion for cars is always on display. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the automotive industry, he hopes his writing conveys his excitement and knowledge of cars and games.

Joe's work has been featured on many platforms including drivetribe.com, 180sx.club, carthrottle.com, smartdrivinggames.com, smartbikegames.com, databox.com and ceoblognation.com.

When he's not behind the wheel or at his keyboard, he's likely daydreaming of his ultimate ride - the legendary Lexus LFA.

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