LINK Engine Management supports the drift scene. Who are they? Full Story!
Were back again with another amazing company to tell you about. Link Engine Management is one of the biggest supporters of drifting worldwide. Link ECU and Drift Illustrated have forged a new partnership to bring you ongoing stories and articles from LINK ECU Sponsored drivers and events from around the globe. I was able to speak with Andy Millard for a full behind the scenes story on the history of the company and their involvement in the drifting industry.
1. Tell us a little history about LINK ECU, The early days?
Like most New Zealand motor sport companies, Link ECU came from modest beginnings in a workshop in the back blocks of Christchurch, some 25 years ago. A couple of young guys, our founder Philip Royds and an ex-air force engineer, started experimenting and making basic ECUs. They started selling them to their mates and local race drivers but things got a boost when Kiwi WRC rally legend, Possum Bourne, hunted Link down to build a high-end ECU for his stable of Subaru WRX rally cars. PossumLink was born and Link’s ECUs were soon adopted in rally circles around the world. A little later, we built our first generation standalone ECU called the G1, which was a hit with race car builders around the world. Surprisingly, occasionally G1 units are still sold on eBay and we still service a few each month.
Our head office is still in Christchurch, just a ‘stone’s throw’ away from where it all began; however, we have separate manufacturing and warehouse facilities these days plus sales offices in the UK and USA. We also have fulfillment warehouses in the UK, Australia and USA. So, our business is truly global.
2. At what point did you realize that you wanted to get behind the Drift Scene.
As our products evolved and drifting became more serious, drifters realized that Link ECU’s, where the best choice for the popular Japanese cars such as the Skylines, Silvias, RX-7, etc. used in drift. Our products are specifically developed for engines such as LS,1JZ, 2JZ, RBs, SRs and Rotaries, soon all the winners had one thing in common, they were running Link ECUs. As local drift competitions, such as D1NZ in New Zealand and ADGP in Australia gained popularity, the demand for our product skyrocketed.
We also realized some circuit classes and drag racing were losing popularity because it had become very expensive to build a competitive car, more than the average person could afford. We saw drifting as a great grassroots motor sport that welcomed all-comers and the younger motor sport public loved it. Drifting suits Link and our attitude to motor sport. We don’t bow down to convention that you see at the top end circuit racing and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We love the smell of ethanol, hanging out at the track and building shit-hot performance electronics.
3. Who were some of the first sponsored drifters by Link.
Amazingly, ‘Mad’ Mike Whiddett was one of our first sponsored drifters in his early years. We supported him for many years. Unfortunately, when he got more successful other companies offered him deals we couldn’t match. Another of our early sponsored drivers ,who is still with us today, is Mad Mike’s school friend, ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse. Fanga Dan is a veteran New Zealand drifter who has competed around the world in competitions like Red Bull Drift Shifters, Goodyear International Drift Series and two-times D1NZ champion.
We have always made a point of supporting the young semi-pro or pro-am drivers, especially if they show promise. The Link ECU team loves to go to events and shoulder-tap amateur drivers when we see solid talent. Recently, we shoulder-tapped young Alan Hynes after his absolute giant-killing performance in the Irish Drift Championships Round 2 at Dun Laoghaire. You should have seen his face when we offered to kit out his car in some free Link ECU magic!
4. Tell us a bit about the product and how it gives your drivers an advantage?
We can truly say; Link ECU products are specifically engineered with features vital to maximizing drift car performance. Link ECUs have a myriad of motorsport features such as anti-lag, 5D boost control, flex fuel (E85) management, traction control and launch control - all features keenly sort after by drifters. There is plenty of other incredible features in each Link ECU. On top of our standard ‘wire-in’ ECUs, we have a range of ‘plug and play’ ECUs – these are real PnP ECUs that replace the factory ECU and uses the factory wiring. These PnP ECUs are specifically made for that model car and they come preloaded with maps. Our range covers R32-34 Skylines, S13-S15 Silvias, RX-7s, 300ZX/350ZX, Toyota Supra and many more. In fact, we have the largest range of PnP ECUs in the world – too many to mention here.
On top of these features, Link ECU are very easy to install and tune. QuickTime is a feature that offers automated fuel tuning and with a range of standard set-ups for 100s of different engines, Link ECUs are considered the quickest and easiest to tune. Having performance electronics that you can easily install to run your 2JZ or LS2 and tuned ready for the track in a few hours sets us apart from the other ECU companies. Importantly, if you're a tuner, performance garage or race team, remember Link ECU has a 24 hour a day tech support team to help you with installing and tuning all Link gear … telephone, email, use our forums via our website, Facebook PM, live chat on the website, Skype … honestly, there is plenty of ways to get in touch with our tech support team.
5. How many Pro Drifter's does Link Sponsor now and who are they.
Wow, great question. Heaps. We have over 100 sponsored Pro Drifters worldwide. We have two levels of Pro Drifters, guys who are at the top of drifting in their region and international “super” Pro drivers/teams. In the ‘super” Pro category we have, and just to mention a few, Ahmad Daham (Red Bull, King of the Desert), Andy Gray (Formula Drift USA & Japan), Red Bull Drift Brothers, Jo & Eli Hountondji (Drift All stars, King of Europe), Jack & Conor Shanahan (IDC, BDC, Drift All stars), Cole Armstrong (D1NZ, D1GP China), Camo Mote (ADGP Australia), Josh Robinson (Formula Drift USA), Ken Nomura (Formula Drift Japan, D1GP Japan) and Team Orange (Formula Drift Japan, D1GP Japan) … importantly, we have many of the top drift pilots in the world driving Link ECUs but because of their main sponsorship cannot mention Link ECU. Awesome driver like James Deane and Piotr Wiecek from Team Worthouse (Formula Drift USA) and many many more (that we can’t mention).
Our sponsorship's are changing however. We used to be very strong with individual drivers and teams but we realized we need to use our sponsorship's and influence to support the drifting community. That is why in recent times, we have become major sponsors of the Irish Drift Championships, British Drift Championships, ADGP Australia through Jamboree and D1NZ New Zealand… to name a few. We also get into sponsoring and supporting grassroots drifting such as Riverside Drift in Indiana. For us it’s about keeping the drift community alive, making sure there is a viable rewarding competition for drifters to compete in. There is no point in having hundreds of sponsored drifters with no competition to compete in. That's important to Link. 2018 will see more major events sponsored by Link ECU… stay tuned <wink>.
6. Can you tell us how drifting has improved or helped Link ECU Grow as a company
At Link we say, ‘Rally is our heritage but Drift is our passion”. It is humbling to see drivers using Link ECUs standing on the podium - James Deane, Jo & Eli Hountondji, Jack & Conor Shanahan, Ahmad Daham, Andy Gray, James Deane, Nico Reid, Cole Armstrong … I could go on. We owe much of our incredible success to the drift community and this is the reason we give back so much. It is not by accident that our ECUs are considered the best ECUs on the market for drifters and we have hundreds of the world best drifters, some listed above, who would stand by that statement. We work closely with tuners, race teams and these talented drivers to develop new features and products to help drifters do it better.
At Link, our team of R&D engineers work closely with a group of twelve ‘Link Master Tuners’ spread around the world. Most of them are strongly into drift. These Master Tuners are always testing our prototypes, suggesting improvements in conjunction with their customers, the drift pilots, and in some cases, jointly developing new products with our R&D team. Our G4+ Kurofune is a product developed in partnership with our Japanese Master Tuner, Kenji Uchida. Kenji is a world-leading master tuner and works closely with many of the top Japanese drifters like Ken Nomura, Nanami Tsukamoto and Naoto Suenaga. The G4+ Kurofune was developed with the amateur drifter in mind. In the 90s and 00s, HKS F-Con equipped Skylines, Soarers, Silvias, Supras, etc were made for the Japanese market and are still popular today. Unfortunately, most those early model HKS F-Cons were difficult to tune and only a few tuners had the license for the HKS tuning software. So, with Kenji’s valuable input, we developed the Kurofune (it means AGGRESSIVE) to plug straight into the HKS loom and is fully-tuneable on Link’s PCLink tuning software. Not only that, the Kurofune is packed with Link ECUs range of motorsport features. Of course, many of these cars have been exported to UK, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries and are now on the drift tracks around the world.
7. What are your plans to grow within the sport of drifting?
We are very passionate about supporting the drift community, so we will continue to look for opportunities to throw our support behind competitions around the world. We are still very keen to keep close to world-class events like IDC, BDC, Formula Drift, D1GP Japan, D1GP China … so looking for opportunities there is a high priority. And, of course, supporting grassroots drift events. We are probably less interested in individual driver/team sponsorship's these days unless they are Pro drifters.
Of course, like everyone, we are very interested in the direction the FIA takes drifting. They have the power to do wonderful things but also to completely f**k it up with red tape and regulations. We would love to work with FIA and the competition promoters when a competition series is developed.
From a business side, we have a heap of new products in development at the moment that will be of interest to drifters at all levels…. but that’s as much as I am going to say. Our R&D department are flat-out and there is some serious magic happening. Our Lab Rats, the name of our test cars, are very busy and will be for most of this year and next …
8. How does it feel to have one of your drivers in the US leading the Formula Drift Championship.
James Deane is an amazing driver. He was a talented ‘giant-killer’ in the Irish Drift Championships and Drift Allstars so it is no surprise to see him leading Formula Drift USA. Saying that, he is not officially “one of our drivers”. Link does not sponsor James or Piotr or are sponsors of the Worthouse Team but Mike Deans, James’ Brother, is a fantastic drift car builder and those two incredible Worthouse S15s he built are running Link G4+ Thunder ECUs. Mike simply wanted the best, most reliable performance technology running those cars … and that’s what he got in the G4+ Thunder.
Formula Drift USA has two rounds to go, so we have our finger’s crossed for James to win but, as they say, “…it’s not over until the fat lady sings.”
9. And finally, Tell the Drift Illustrated fans how to find your products and videos from you sponsored teams
The first place to go is our Facebook page (@linkecu). There is always heaps of posts, good deals and news on many competitions around the world. Oh, and don’t be a taker … if you have some news about your car, a Link ECU product or competition, post it up and we will make sure it gets to our nearly 50,000 followers. We also have a very active Instagram account and we love pictures of your drift cars. Lastly, you can check out our website for all the details on our products and new product releases. In the near future, we are upgrading our website to feature more of our incredible drivers and their teams. www.linkecu.com
Irish Drifting Championship by Linkecu