What is Drifting?
Drifting is a driving technique. Drifting is an “extreme” sport. Drifting is the fastest growing form of motorsport in the world. A car is said to be drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle, and the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn (e.g. car is turning left, wheels are pointed right), and the driver is controlling these factors. You may think that drifting is the same thing to a power sliding, but drifting is more complex than that. Instead of a drifter causing a drift and then countering to straighten out, he will over-counter so his car goes into another drift. A good drifter has the ability to take five or six opposing turns without having traction at any point in time.
First time when I heard of drifting was a couple of years ago when I played one of the "Need For Speed" series video game. And I remember that I hated that type of racing because I had to restart a couple of times the race before I could win it. Here is a video of a drift race from one of the NFS games.
Drifting started as an underground activity on the mountain roads of Japan, has developed into a high profile professional sport in that country and over the last 2 years it has exploded in popularity throughout the world.
In 2006 the movie “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” offers a view of the underground drift races held in Japan. I enjoyed it, and I found a video with some of the best moments from the movie o you could remember it.
Ok, let’s return to drifting the motor sport. Drifting is not just about who is fastest or who crosses the line first, the winner is picked up by a judge. A drift competition consists of a series of elimination rounds in which two drivers at a time slide their cars, side-by-side through a short course of just 3 or 4 corners. A tandem "drift battle" consists of two runs with each car taking a turn to lead. A panel of judges assesses the relative car control demonstrated by each driver by awarding points for criteria such as speed, angle, line, ability to emulate the other driver, proximity between the cars, etc. and choose a winner who progresses to the next round of eliminations.
There are three places where drift races are organized: in the mountains – those S turns really test the driver’s ability - in isolated parking lots – where the drift drivers prepare for the mountain races – and, recently, on the circuits – this is the most “legal” way of drifting.
Modern drifting started out as a racing technique popular in the All Japan Touring Car Championship races over 30 years ago. Motorcycling legend turned driver, Kunimitsu Takahashi, was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. A street racer named Keiichi Tsuchiya became particularly interested by Takahashi’s drift techniques. Tsuchiya began practicing his drifting skills on the mountain roads of Japan, and quickly gained a reputation amongst the racing crowd. One of the earliest recorded drift events outside Japan was in 1996, held at Willow Springs raceway in California hosted by a Japanese drifting magazine and organization.
Today you can find drifting events all over the world but is still not recognized by the motorsport’s governing body – FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) as a professional form of motorsport. Some of the top levels of competition are: the D1 Grand Prix from Japan and others in Malaysia, Australia, Canada,the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Formula-D in the United States, and New Zealand.
Drifting competitions are judged based on line, angle, speed, and show factor. Line involves taking the correct line, which is usually announced beforehand by judges. The show factor is based on multiple things, such as the amount of smoke, how close the car is to the wall, and the crowd’s reaction. Angle is the angle of a car in a drift, Speed is the speed entering a turn, the speed through a turn, and the speed exiting the turn; faster is better.
The judging takes place on just a small part of the circuit, a few linking corners that provide good viewing, and opportunities for drifting. The rest of the circuit is irrelevant, except as it pertains to setting up the car for the first judged corner. In the tandem passes, the lead driver often feints his or her entry to the first corner to upset the chase driver.
There are typically two sessions, a qualifying/practice session, and a final session. In the qualifying sessions, referred as Tansou (speed run), drifters get individual passes in front of judges to try and make the final 16. This is often on the day preceding the final.
The finals are tandem passes, referred as Tsuiso (chase attack). Drivers are paired off, and each heat comprises two passes, with each driver taking a turn to lead. The best of the 8 heats go to the next 4, to the next 2, to the final. The passes are judged as explained above, however there are some provisos such as:
- Overtaking the lead car under drift conditions almost always wins that pass.
- Overtaking the lead car under grip conditions automatically forfeits that pass.
- Spinning forfeits that pass, unless the other driver also spins.
- Increasing the lead under drift conditions helps to win that pass.
- Maintaining a close gap while chasing under drift conditions helps to win that pass.
Points are awarded for each pass, and usually one driver prevails. Sometimes the judges cannot agree, or cannot decide, or a crowd vocally disagrees with the judge’s decision. In such cases more passes may be run until a winner is produced. Sometimes mechanical failure determines the battle’s outcome, either during or preceding a heat. If a car cannot enter a tandem battle, the remaining will give a solo demonstration pass. In the event of apparently close or tied runs, crowds often demonstrate their desire for another run with chants of “one more time”.
The next video presents the circuit drift races.
Street drifting races is not legal and causes problems in many countries especially when they are done in public places. So keep drifting, but do it on circuits, it’s more fun and safe, and there is more public who will really appreciate what are you doing.