History of Drifting
Drifting is a relatively new form in the world of motorsports when compared with traditional motorsports such as stock car or drag racing. The technique is rooted into Japanese culture where it originated. The creation is attributed to Kunimitsu Takahashi a former professional motorcyclist who would integrate the technique into races to throw off his opponents and block their racing line. Although Takahashi was known for using this technique during the 70s, it did not gain prominence until the last 80s when a young man by the name of Keiichi Tsuchiya began developing Takahashi's technique into what we know as drifting today. Unlike many other professional racers, Tsuchiya did not come from a wealthy background and instead made himself known in the underground street racing circuit in Japan. It is his determination and talent that lead to him being known as "The Drift King" (or Dorikin / ドリキン) . In 1988 Tsuchiya created D1 Grand Prix, one of the first drift specific events which still continues on today as one of the largest drift competitions in the world. Other competitions around the world include Formula D in the United States, Drift Mania in Canada and New Zealand and Drift Australia Series in Australia.
The popularity of Drifting outside of Japan can be partially attributed to the success of the Japanese cartoon "Initial D" which is based upon Tsuchiya's career. Popularity in the United States in particular stems from Tokyo Drift's widespread appeal. Early video games such as Sega Rally and Mario Kart familiarized audiences with drifting, albeit through the use of the power slide.
Drifting as a technique is often ambiguous as it can be initiated by more than one technique and what is and isn't considered a drift is often a topic of discussion among serious enthusiasts. Technically a drift is when a car's rear slip angle exceeds the slip angle of the front of the car (oversteer) and is controlled by steering in the opposite direction (corrective steering). This allows the driver to "drive sideways" and control his slide. This is done to decrease lap times by taking tight corners faster than they would usually be able to or more commonly as an exhibition which is then professionally judged.
A similar technique called power sliding is often incorrectly called Drifting both in and out of video games. The key difference between a power slide and a drift is that a power slide is initiated with brute force and kinetic energy, where as a drift is initiated with varying techniques involving the shift of weight in the car and the shift of power between the wheels. This is one of the reasons why a LSD (limited slip differential) and a RWD (Rear Wheel Drift) car are essential to drifting.
The different techniques are identified by Tsuchiya in "The Drift Bible" an instructional video in which he demonstrates the techniques. They are as follows:
- Side - throwing the cars weight into the corner
- Shift Lock - locking the rear wheels by down shifting
- Power Over - turning into a corner slowing and maximizing the throttle at the last second
- Braking - causing the weight of the car to shift to the front by braking
- Feint - taken from the famous "Scandinavian Flick" which throws the momentum of the car into a corner like a pendulum
- Lift-Off - reducing throttle into the corner causing the front wheels to grip and rear wheels to slip
Additional techniques include the use of the E-brake (handbrake) and clutch kicking. The use of the E-brake is sometimes looked down upon as an improper technique. However many professionals advocate its use, particularly for those who are beginning. Because of the simplicity of games the E-brake is often the primary tool for initiating drifts.
All the techniques essentially achieve the same motion which is controlled oversteer. They are often used together in small combinations. For example braking can be used if more control is required.
Many of the cars used are of Japanese make due to its local popularity. Most cars with adequate power and a RWD transmission can be drifted, some requiring more skill than others. Although many professional cars are heavily modified, there are many cars which are popular due to being able to be drifted with limited or no modification. A partial list of common makes and models is below:
- Nissan - Silvia, Skyline, Fairlady Z, 180sx/200sx, Cefiro
- Toyota - Supra, Levin/Trueno, Chaser, Soarer
- Mazda - RX7, RX8, MX5
- Honda - S2000
Drifting in Video Games
Drifting was first seen in video games in the form of power slides, most popularly in games like Sega Rally and Mario Kart. Newer games such as the Burnout series and the Need For Speed Series also included drifting as a primary mechanic despite being fairly limited in terms of simulation.
There are very few games that focus solely on Drifting, but many games include it as a now mainstay feature. Games that have a stronger simulation focus were able to allow the user to drift despite it not being an intended feature. Games such as Forza 2 and Gran Turismo which did not originally intend for drifting to be part of the games now have Drifting as their own modes and include mechanics unique to the form. Newer games such as Live for Speed and Race Driver Grid have a strong focus on drifting and partly draw their popularity from its inclusion.
Groups of more serious fans often form specific drift teams or groups, similar in concept to the existence of clans. Teams will often specialize in performing tandem runs with a high precision of mirroring, that is, performing almost the exact same maneuvers
Drifting competitions come in two main forms. Circuit drifting and Touge.
Circuiting Drifting is done on circuits designed for racing and is usually professionally judged on a number of factors. These factors commonly include:
- Line - the cleanliness of the line
- Angle - the angle of the drift, the more angle, the more sideways the car becomes, the better
- Speed - the speed at which the drift is executed, the more the better
- Duration - how long they maintain the drift, the longer the better
- Showmanship - general crowd pleasing
Circuit drifting can be done in solo runs in which each person runs separately and in tandem which involves two or more cars drifting side by side. If it is a tandem event, points are given for how well the following driver can mirror the leading driver. If they manage to overtake the leading driver this is seen as a particularly impressive feat and usually means the following driver wins the round or gets considerable bonus points.
Touge drifting originates from illegal mountain racing in Japan and involves two cars going either up or down hill with the following cars aim being to overtake the leader before the bottom. This is particularly difficult as the mountain roads are often winding and narrow. Touge does not always involve drifting however.