What is Drifting?

Drifting is a driving style in which the driver uses throttle, brakes, clutch, gear shifting and steering input to keep the car in a condition of oversteer while manoeuvring from turn to turn. Drifters emphasize car control by coordinating the amount of counter steer (or opposite lock) with the simultaneous modulation of the throttle and brakes to shift the weight balance of the car back and forth through the turns. Furthermore, they strive to achieve this while adhering to the standard racing lines and maintaining extreme slip angles.

Phil Morrison Drifting

So why Drifting?

Track traditionalists are often quick to point out that drifting is not the fastest way around a racetrack – and they’re right. But so what? When drifters drive on the racetrack or on a twisty mountain road, what usually matters the most is having fun! There is something inherently exciting about driving on a road course, negotiating turns with the car completely sideways to the course, quickly counter-steering in the direction of the slide while delicately modulating pressure on the throttle to balance the car. Not enough throttle and the car will lose momentum, too much and the car will spin.

Some drivers really like the fact that drifting practice events teaches them how to control a car at it’s limits. It allows them to safely lose control of the car, and then regain the control. Others just enjoy the thrill and the adrenaline rush involved in the sideways momentum of a high-speed tire shredding drift. In it’s simplest sense, drifting translates to pure driving enjoyment and fun.

What do I need to start Drifting?

You need a rear wheel drive car, preferably fitted with a limited slip differential or a welded differential. Those are the only ingredients you need to get started. Having a manual gearbox car, with a good working handbrake, coilover suspension and a supportive seat will make it much easier again. The next level is to make steering geometry changes to increase steering lock, fit strong clutches, and increase the cars engine power.

You can compensate not having a lot of power by increasing the pressure in the rear tyres. It is a myth that drift cars should run poor quality / gripless rear tyres to drift. Drift cars need as much lateral grip as a track car to attain the huge speeds and huge angles, hence why a lot of top level cars run cut slick track tyres. However, learning on cheap / used tyres is a perfectly normal and good way to learn throttle control.

There are specialist garages that can advise you on setting up, building and modifying drift cars including Garage-D based in Watford.

What sort of cars make good drift cars?

Essentially, anything rear wheel drive is capable of drifting, and if it has a limited slip differential or a locked differential then this will make it far easier. Good starter cars are:

  • > Nissan 200SX’s, Silvias
  • > Nissan Skylines (the GTS is rear wheel drive)
  • > BMW 3 Series
  • > Toyota Supras
  • > Ford Sierras
  • You can convert fairly simply 4WD cars to rear wheel drive by locking centre differentials and removing the drive to the front wheels, but bear in mind this usually causes a lot of stress on components that would normally have power spread across 4 wheels. Front wheel drive drifting is at best a loose imitation of of a RWD cars movements and paths, but it isn’t drifting.

Where can I go to practice Drifting?

Drifting is such a globally spread sport, you can pretty much guarantee that there is a practice day somewhere in your country. In the UK, Europe and the United States, practice days happen in all sorts of places including tracks, large open tarmac areas and purpose built road courses. Drifting can be done pretty much anywhere where you can drive a car, although we do not condone doing it anywhere where any members of the public are being unwittingly involved or endangered.
Driftworks’ Drifting Forum has hundreds of specifically organised and professionally run practice days listed  for all skill levels.

Popular places to learn in the UK include ‘Drift What Ya Brung’ at Santa Pod, Mallory Park Practice days and ‘Drift One’ at Oulton Park’s drift stage.

Drifting competitions

It has been said that being a spectator at a drifting competition is like capturing the most exhilarating moments of the most exciting road racing event you’ve ever watch in your life, and then seeing it take place live, over and over again. Drifters aim to complete a set course as close to a judged criteria as possible, not to try and get round the fastest like traditional racing. Drivers drift around a predefined series of corners and points are awarded by judges for speed, angle of the drift, the line taken around the track and the style or flair of the run. After individual qualification runs, drivers are paired up and drive against an opponent on a knockout basis in ‘Tsuisou‘ or Drift Battles. These battles are the real highlight of competitive drifting and the best drivers are able to literally drive door handle to door handle without touching each other. There are several of championships, but the main championships include:

D1 (Jpn), MSC (Jpn), Formula Drift (USA), Drift Allstars (UK), IDS (Europe), British Drift Championship (UK)

So what does Drifting look like?

A Toyota Corolla AE86 Drifting in Japan

Competition Drifting: JDM Allstars, Wembley 2009