What Is Drifting, How Can I Start, And Where Can I Watch It?

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Drifting has become incredibly popular over the last few years with the Formula Drift Championship earning itself over 40 million viewers on its livestreams alone. The motorsport is high action, has a large variety of cars and drivers, and unlike other sports, usually results in some kind of spectacle as cars collide and plastic bumpers are thrown across the tarmac.

But for those of you who don’t quite know what this rapidly growing sport is, we’re here to give you the lowdown on what drifting is and how it’s done.

What Is Drifting?

Drifting consists of a car, or multiple cars, cornering using oversteer. The driver uses a mixture of techniques including a clutch kick, Scandinavian flick, counter-steering, and simply using power to spin up the wheels and balance the car where the car is oversteering, but not enough to spin out.

Experienced drivers will be able to modulate the throttle and amount of countersteering to adjust the speed and angle of the drift, and will be able to link drifts between corners to allow for one long uninterrupted run.

In a competition, the judges will also be watching the line the car follows as it takes a corner. The preferred line will be identified by “clipping points”, and usually follows the standard racing line of the track or road course being used.

Why Do People Love Drifting So Much?

Let’s face it: drifting isn’t fast. But is it fun? Stupid question.

Drifting isn’t about going as fast as possible around a track, it’s more about specific and calculated movements that allows a car to, quite frankly, do something it shouldn’t quite to. It’s exciting not only to experience, but to watch, as cars pepper tarmac with rubber, throw tyre smoke into the air, and rev the s**t out of their engines. It’s dramatic and thrilling and reflects what us gearheads love most about driving on the edge of our seats.

Where Formula 1 cars stick to the road like they’re on some sort of Scalelectrix, there’s plenty of movement in drifting which only adds to the gripping motorsport.

It’s equally as intoxicating while behind the wheel as you balance the car in a state of limbo between in and out of control. There are few things in life that make your adrenaline pump like drifting. And unlike other motorsports, it’s easy to get into at a grassroots level.

Across the US and UK, there are plenty of cheap and accessible places to start drifting. All you need is a RWD car and a spare set of rear tyres.

Where Did Drifting Start?

There are lots of stories and versions of how drifting began, but drifting has actually been around in a slightly different form long before the craze started in the ’90s. Kunimitsu Takahashi, a racing driver from Japan would fight against the low levels of grip in his Nissan Skyline KPGC10 during the All Japan Touring Car Championship. He realised that he could induce oversteer before the apex of the corner, and by powering out of the corner sideways, he actually improved his lap times. 

This was a form of late-braking, which pushed the weight to the front of the car, meaning the front tyres would grip more but the rear tyres would grip less. It’s a technique that’s still used today to improve cornering speeds as a small amount of oversteer pushes the car around the corner.

In the ’90s, Japanese drivers started drifting on mountain roads, and eventually, in 2000, the D1GP began, cementing the sport into history.

What Drifting Can I Watch This Year?

There’s plenty of drifting to watch, so here are our favourites:

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