Drifting is a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing a loss of traction in the rear wheels, while maintaining control from the entry and to exit of a corner. A car is drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle, to such an extent that often the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn (e.g. car is turning left, wheels are pointed right or vice versa).
Drifting as a driving technique is documented as early as the 1930s as being used by drivers of the Grand Prix cars of the day. At least one piece of extant period footage used to promote the sale of a rare Auto Union D-Type racer clearly depicts the driver throwing his vehicle into a controlled drift to navigate a bend in the road racing track.
Modern drifting as a sport started out as a racing technique popular in the All Japan Touring Car Championship races. Motorcycling legend turned driver, Kunimitsu Takahashi, was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. He is noted for hitting the apex of a corner at high speed and then drifting through the remainder of the corner, preserving a high exit speed. This earned him several championships and a legion of fans who enjoyed the spectacle of smoking tires. The bias ply racing tires of the 1960s-1980s lent themselves to driving styles with a high slip angle. As professional racers in Japan drove this way, it soon caught on with the street racers.
Keiichi Tsuchiya (known as the Dorikin/Drift King) 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 street racing crowd. In 1987, a video of Tsuchiya’s drifting skills, known as Pluspy, became a hit and thus inspired many of the professional drifting drivers today. In 1988, alongside Option magazine founder and chief editor Daijiro Inada, he would help to organize one of the first events specifically for drifting called the D1 Grand Prix.
One of the earliest recorded drift events held outside Japan was in 1993, at Willow Springs Raceway in Willow Springs, California hosted by the Japanese drifting magazine and organization Option. Daijiro Inada, founder of the D1 Grand Prix in Japan, the NHRA Funny Car drag racer Kenji Okazaki and Keiichi Tsuchiya, judged the event. As a result of this drifting has since exploded into a massively popular form of motorsport in North America, Australasia, and Europe.
Conrad Grunewald spent a day with the folks from Autoblog to teach them “How to drift” and this is what they learned.
Driftings evolution into a competitive sport means that drivers need to earn points from judges based on various factors of their drifting ability. At the top levels of competition, the D1 Grand Prix in Japan, Formula D in the United States, and the D1 NZ Drift Series in New Zealand have come along to further expand it into a legitimate global motor sport.
In 2010 Will Roegge and Joshua Herron from Keep Drifting Fun crisscrossed the United States and interviewed “drift races” from both the “Pro” events like Formula D and more “Grassroots” drifting events. On why people choose to drift, how they got into the sport, and why the love it. The answer they found is simpler than you might think.
Directed by Will Roegge and Joshua Herron
Edited by Will Roegge, Joshua Herron, and Skylar Smith
Motion Graphics by Andy Sapp
Grassroots Drifting can usually be found in your local area, here in New England Drift Spot is the place to be at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Drift Spot started in 2007, with 2 events and 15 drivers, this year they will be holding 7 events with 35 drivers at each event and plans next year to run a weekend long road course event. The same can be found in Northern California at Sonoma Drift. Every Wednesday at Race Sonoma drivers are allowed to get their cars a little sideways. At Sonoma Drift each week, racers are able compete on a specially-created course in the Raceway paddock area.
Both of these events provide a safe, legal and controlled environment in which professionals and amateurs can hone their drifting skills of course all cars must pass a simple technical inspection before the action begins.
Check out OMGDrift for details on local and International events.