Drifting gains popularity in the USA
Drifting is the latest import from Japan, but it’s not a car or a truck. Drifting is a type of racing, and it’s arguably the most exciting form of motorsports around.
Ford Racing Performance Parts continues to be in on the action, entering its second season in drifting competition with driver Ken Gushi behind the wheel of a 2006 Mustang GT. And with the recent opening of "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" in theaters across the country, the sport is poised to explode in popularity.
It has also created new opportunities for Ford, and Andy Slankard, engineering supervisor, Ford Racing, says the company is working to take advantage of them.
"Initially, the company wanted to be more involved with the 20-something crowd," he said. "We have a good partnership with Toyo (tires), and we do a lot of events with them. It’s a way to get into areas we might not normally be in."
Drifting has also inspired Ford to create new items for the aftermarket. Aftermarket parts are a profitable business because they are parts currently being produced on the assembly line. They are production-based parts, and so command a premium on the store shelves.
So what is drifting all about?
The name comes from the actual technique that is employed to make a car "drift" around the racecourse. To observers, drifting appears as if the rear end of the car is trying to swap ends with the front. The goal is for the driver to balance steering and throttle to control the car’s drift and direction in a four-wheeled slide.
Although racing drivers have been using controlled drifts as a technique since the 1930s, drifting as its own form of motorsport began in Japan more than 20 years ago. Drifting in the United States officially began in 1996 in California and has become extremely popular with younger fans here and in Europe and Australia.
Today, drifting is an organized competition, with drivers piloting rear-wheel-drive cars to see who can keep sliding sideways the longest. Winners in drifting competitions are judged on the angle, line, speed and show factor of the drift.
"Angle" is the angle the car takes around the track; the more the rear end hangs out, the better. "Line" refers to taking the correct line around the track and is usually determined beforehand by the judges. "Speed" consists of the car’s speed entering, going through and exiting a turn. "Show factor" actually is judged by a variety of factors, such as the amount of tire smoke, closeness of the car to the wall and reaction of the crowd.
Gushi’s Ford Racing Mustang, sponsored by Toyo Tires and the Gushi Auto team, competes in the Need for Speed Formula D (for "drift") Championship, and looks to improve on the driver’s third-place finish in 2005. The 2006 Mustang GT Toyo Tires/Ford Racing drift car is powered by a 600-horsepower, supercharged, 4.6-liter V-8 from the Ford Racing Performance Parts crate-engine catalog. The engine teams up with a T-56 six-speed transmission, which is also available in the catalog.
"Rear-wheel drive and a powerful V-8 make the Mustang a great car for competing in drifting events," says Slankard.
At the most recent Formula D competition — June 10 at Soldier Field in Chicago — Gushi drove the 2006 Mustang GT drift car to a sixth-place finish.
"There are four more events, and we are still in a position to do well," says Slankard. "We continue to dial in the car, and we are confident we’ll be on the podium at the finals in Irwindale, California, in October."