With smoking tires and impressive driving maneuvers, the sport of drifting has become one of the fastest growing realms of modern day motorsport. Though the the act of racing through corners sideways is often synonymous with “The Fast and the Furious” films, drifting as a sport has a long history. We summarized everything you need to know about drifting here.
Watch The Red Bull Driftbrothers build the ultimate drift cars in Sideways at Full Throttle.
The clock is ticking
The Driftbrothers are up against the clock to transform their new stock cars into drift-ready machines.
All vehicles are capable of drifting. However, cars equipped with rear wheel drive are most effective. An ideal drift car should have a manual gear ratio in order to maximize drift potential.
“In drift sport, each driver constructs their car in a way that best suits their personal style,” explained Johannes Hountondji, a veteran drift racer from Germany. “This customization is unique to our sport.”
Professional drift cars typically rely on a special differential that distributes and balances power between the front and rear axles. Additionally, professionals remove all driving aids such as ABS (anti-lock braking system) and TCS (traction control) in order to maintain full control of the car.
Follow Red Bull Driftbrothers Johannes and Elias Hountondji as they compete in the 2018 Drift Masters European Championship.
A battle between brothers
Watch as the two Driftbrothers go head-to-head in Poland for a tight race.
A high number of tire sets is key, as drifting demands a lot of rubber.
Rear tires are heavily strained when drifting, so cheap, run-in tires are sufficient. However, professionals use tires with more grip and traction in the front to maintain control in the corners. Tire pressure is also adaptable to each car, and personal preference.
The early days of drifting
The origins of drift racing go back to the 1980s. But as a driving technique in other motorsport categories, drifting has existed since the 1950s.
Japanese racer Kunimitsu Takahashi is often considered the “father of drifting.” The former motorcycle racer, and ex Formula 1 racer, made a name for himself in Japanese touring car racing, where he incorporated drifting maneuvers into his race strategy.
Drifting is like an extreme ballet on four wheels. It feels crazy in the cockpit.
While most drivers feared oversteering their cars, Takahashi took advantage of his car’s behaviour to drift through corners at high speeds, earning his many national titles.
However, the sport of drifting is closely tired with Keiichi Tsuchiya, otherwise known as the “Drift King.” He became popularized through the “Plupsy” videos published in 1987, where he drifted his Toyota Corolla through the public streets of Japan.
The wave of drift enthusiasm spilled over into the Western world in 1996 when the first drift event outside of Japan took place at the Will Springs Raceway in California, USA.
Over a decade later, the inaugural drifting world championship took place at Long Beach, California, and New Zealand’s Rhys Millen became the world’s first Drift World Champion.
In contrast to lengthy, classic race circuits, drifting tracks are much shorter — usually measuring only a few hundred meters long, and packed with as many corners as the possible. The straights in between allow the cars to pick up speed in order to slide through the corners at the highest possible drift angle.
Unlike other motorsport disciplines, neither ranking, stage times, nor placement on the track play a role in the rating system. Scoring is thus defined by a group of so-called judges who evaluate qualifying and final runs based on four criteria:
Speed and fluidity: the faster and more graceful a drift run, the more points you earn.
Drift angle: the larger the angle, the more point.id a drift runs, the more points you get.
Line: before each event, judges inform the drivers about the ideal line through the track. The more precisely you stick to this line, the higher a driver will score.
The style: the most important criterion when drifting. How precisely is the drift initiated? How many corrections are made? Does a driver use full throttle? All of these factors go into the score.
The infamous Twin Battles
In twin battles — the supreme discipline of drift sports —two drivers race on a single track at the same time. Two laps are driven, in of which one vehicle is in the lead (leader) and one behind (chaser).
During these races, evaluation is based on the four criteria mentioned above. However, an additional proximity rating is added for the chaser. Here, the judges award racers who can stay as close as possible to the leader without touch them.
Watch: Can professional drifter Abdo Ferghali take on forerunner Mohammed Al Attar in a car? Find out in this unusual dual.
Abdo Feghali vs freerunner
What's faster: a drift racer or a freerunner?
Drifting in public
Drifting in public is completely illegal. It’s an exciting sport that belongs on the track.
Learning to drift
Canada hosts a number of drifting academies across the country. Check out Drift Academy Canada and Ontario’s Drift School for more information. Here you can familiarize yourself with the basics with an organized driver safety training course.
Good coordination helps, as does a certain level of basic fitness and a healthy level of responsiveness. You can train all of that.