Tuesday, October 19, 2010


John Marine | 10/19/2010 08:07:00 PM | | | | | |
(UPDATED: May 27, 2012)

Slide your car out, attack the corners HARD, and pick up some style points along the way! So is the method of drifting. This style of driving is mostly foreign to most non-Japanese or non-Asian (as in along the Pacific Rim) countries, but it has been a style that has been either loved or loathed. Those who love drifting love it because of the great tsuiso (or "tandem" or "twin") battles that go on as well as aggressive attacks on corners. Those who hate drifting hate it for a number of reasons. Among others... it's not racing, it's just two cars in tsuiso battle going sideways into corners with no real competitive edge, the cars are ugly (to them), and any other negative reasons that come to mind. Even on the Speed Channel mini-series, "Forza Motorsport Showdown," one person called (because most Americans love taking credit for everything) drifting as Saturday night at the dirt oval track (or perhaps even the short oval track). You know, like what we call drifting is a glorified term for sliding out in the corners on a dirt track. Again- some Americans take credit for everything that we didn't technically create or invent. Whether you love or hate drifting, this blog entry offers up my own thoughts on drifting.


MAR 12 2012 - made various edits

Thanks to everyone who keep reading this blog post! I will try to either add more content or simply update material in this very old blog post. I hope you are able to find what you are looking for when you parked your browser on my blog. Have a good (long) read! :)

--- Drifting at a Glance ---

Pontiac Solstice drifting
^ from: blog.niot.net - Rhys Millen's Pontiac Solstice drifting on the streets of Long Beach, California, USA on Long Beach GP weekend.

"The art of masterfully sliding a car into corners with controlled frenzy" is how I would define drifting. Drifting, in its purest sense, isn't technically racing. It is a deal where two cars negotiate a set of corners. The key to winning is to attack the clipping points and drive as aggressively as possible without overdoing it. Things such as hitting walls, forcing the other driver to spin out, taking out clipping points, crashing, spinning out, or anything like this are grounds for making you lose. One driver will lead while another will give chase. It is that chaser's job to try to match or better the pace of the leading driver. After one run is complete, the other drifter will take the lead and will try to put on a better show than his/her opponent. If the judges are torn as to who put on the better drift run, they can call for "One More Time" or "Sudden Death" (I kind of like "ONE MORE TIME" better personally). This extra frame of drifting will allow for the two drifters to battle again to win over the judges.

Qualifying runs help set up the brackets for each drifting competition. There is usually a group of 16 that makes the show. Just like in the collegiate basketball tournaments, 16 becomes 8, 8 becomes 4, 4 becomes 2, and the final two survivors will contend for the win. Who can put on the best show and last longer than the competition? That's why we play the game.

If there was ever a video game series that has made a big deal of drifting, it is the Ridge Racer series. The series has been around since the first game in 1993-1994. Almost every true Ridge Racer game has featured insane drifts.

Initial D Influence.

Toyota AE86 driven by Takumi Fujiwara
^ from: driftjapan.com - What'cha gonna do (brother/sister) when Takumi Fujiwara's AE86 runs wild on you?

Initial D is perhaps the most popular anime series looking at the no-holds-barred realm of drifting. Drifting on Mt. Akina (Akagi in reality) at night makes for some of the most intense battles in touge battle. I've seen one DVD featuring various episodes of Initial D. It is a great anime. Initial D is also the only anime series that I have anime books for. Haven't read through all of them, but it is surely one of the finest anime of any kind and of any genre.

Influence from "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift."

^ from: anze.info - "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," and this impressive tuned Mazda RX-7.

An American attempt at capturing the extreme appeal of drifting was in "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift." The movie actually involves going to Tokyo to get sideways on the streets and in many other points. Perhaps something I think would tick off most American car purists would be a 1967 Ford Mustang powered by a VERY popular Nissan engine. Then too, hardly anyone complains about Japanese cars with American car engines (like a Nissan 240SX with a Chevrolet motor). I loved Tokyo Drift personally, even though there are many that just don't like the Fast and Furious movies.

--- Drifting Perceptions ---

drift battle
^ from: images114.fotki.com - Everyone has their own perceptions about drifting, be it good, bad, or indifferent.

Drifting is commonly looked on as just a lifestyle show and not as any real racing. Therefore, a lot of people question drifting as a legitimate motorsport. I think drifting is PERFECTLY a legitimate motorsport. Note that I didn't call drifting as racing because it isn't exactly racing. And usually, it's rare to see a trailing drifter make a pass on the his/her opponent. I've seen passes made in tsuiso runs, but you got to really work for it (or hope the other drifter just drifts terribly).

People talk about drifting like it's not a real motorsport. Yet, I don't hear people questioning monster truck events or tractor pulling as motorsports. There's no racing in tractor pulling, but it's loved (and I like tractor pulling myself). I've just never really been into monster trucks, but that is a legit motorsport as well. Monster trucks do have some one-on-one races. I'm just not really into monster trucks too much. All I'm saying here is that drifting is a perfectly legitimate motorsport. You think these drifters do this stuff for fun and couldn't give a crap about actual driving technique? You'd be dead wrong because there IS technique that goes into drifting. The same skill of properly attacking corners and setting yourself up for corners is as big of factors in drifting as almost any form of circuit racing. That even includes pushing a car (and yourself) to the limit. It takes great skill to slide a car into corners while aggressively attacking corners. If anything, drifting should be better respected as a legitimate motorsport than a glorified sideshow.

If drifting teaches us anything about cars, it is in how cars respond when pushed to the limit in such extreme drifts. One of my old AOL chatting buddies on AOL mentioned the impact of drifting to the chassis of cars. Cars with stronger chassis are able to better withstand the pressure put on them when pushed to the limit in drifts. Drifts truly test the rigidity of a car and its chassis. The rigidity of a car is about as important in drifting as almost any other performance figures for any car.

Also, there is the perception that drifting is for "fanboys/fangirls" and people who own "rice rockets." Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, and even Vipers have been drifted in Formula Drift. Are THEY rice rockets too? The respective sport compact and import (non-American) booms have delved into drifting since drifting caught on in the States. In addition, many just see drift cars as cars that trade actual performance for the ability to attack corners aggressively. But again- the same people would complain about drag racing and cars that have outstanding acceleration. So there's a love-hate relationship from both drifters and anti-drifters.

--- Drifting Series ---

Though there are a number of different drifting leagues and series, only two come to mind for me- the D1 Grand Prix or D1GP) and Formula Drift. I'll share both of these with you all here. Click on any headings or hypertext to visit official websites for each personality featured. Hover over certain links to find out more information on any posted link.

D1 Grand Prix.

D1GP at Suzuka 2007
^ from: origin-lab.com - a D1GP battle at Suzuka in 2007.

What began decades ago in Japan got professional starting in 1999 and 2000 with the arrival of the D1 Grand Prix. The D1 Grand Prix is the premier series in drifting. It provides great excitement with very talented racers looking to immortalize themselves as the best in the business. It is where you see certain cars sold in Japan, and then some not sold in Japan all take on a set of corners in trying to become the best drifter on the scene. And of course, you take on some of Japan's finest courses in tsuiso battle. All of this has been provided by the likes of Daijiro Inada (Tokyo Auto Salon founder) and the drifting deity known only as Keiichi Tsuchiya. Among some of the many stars that compete or have competed in the D1GP include (but not limited to) Ken Nomura, Nobuteru Taniguchi (or NOB Taniguchi, with the NOB meaning "No One Better"), Ryuji Miki, Nobushige Kumakubo, and Youichi Imamura among many others. Maybe my all-time favorite drift car in this series is the Team Orange Subaru Impreza STi. I also like the Blitz Skyline (as seen in Gran Turismo 4) as well as the HKS Drift Silvia S15 from Gran Turismo 4.

Formula Drift (or Formula D).

Viper drifting
^ from: worlddrifting.com - Ever seen a Viper go sideways? You have if you follow Formula D!

I'm going to speak more about Formula D because I know more about Formula Drift than the D1 Grand Prix.

America's highest form of drifting is in Formula D. The popularity of drifting has prompted the United States to have some of its own unique drifting action. America's answer was Formula Drift founded back in 2004. This championship has rounds contested all or mostly in the United States. These races have taken place either at certain sections of a track and even some parking lots and other places. While Formula D is a domestic series, it is a domestic series with international talent. There are even some cars not sold in the United States that compete in this series. This was where I got to see the talents of many drifting stars in Formula D like Ken Gushi, Vaughn Gittin Jr., Tyler McQuarrie, Darren McNamara, and many more. When a Japanese native drifter commented about Formula D, one thing this drifter said was that the difference between our drifting and Japan's drifting is that the Americans focus too much on power. The most famous drift car for me is Bubba Drift, a Chevrolet El Camino drifted car. One of my other favorite drift cars in Formula D is the red and white Scion tC drift car Ken Gushi drifted. I also love the Pontiac Solstice drift car Rhys Millen drifted, including the Pontiac GTO he drifted before.

One of the first drivers I got to become a fan of was Samuel Hübinette. "The Crazy Swede" is perhaps best famous for drifting a 21st Century Dodge Viper in the series. I truly respect his ability on the race track and feel sad when he's knocked out of a competition. Maybe my favorite Formula D moment ever was in seeing Samuel Hübinette take on Taka Aono at Road Atlanta in three different One More Time battles! Aono's Toyota was overheating compared to Hübinette's Viper. The Crazy Swede would end up winning that Road Atlanta round back in the mid-2000s.

I later began to appreciate Tanner Foust. Tanner Foust is a great drifter and a great racer. The one thing I equate to Tanner's drifting ability is how he's able to get up to speed quickly heading into the first turning point. Getting up to speed quickly is always a good ability as a drifter. While speed is a good aspect, you still have to control the car in the corners. He doesn't disappoint in this department. You want to know what good drifting is from an American drifter? Watch Tanner Foust.

Tyler McQuarrie is someone who I admire because he's one of the most consistent drifters in Formula D. He has never won the series championship, but I think he is well overdue for a championship because of his great drifting ability.

Ken Gushi is a young fellow, but a great drifter. I think he's such a cool guy. Those who may have seen the Speed Channel mini-series, "Forza Motorsports Showdown," saw him basically dominate the Drift competition at Road Atlanta. This guy has some immense talent. I usually know him for drifting Mustangs.

I MUST mention Rhys "Mad Skills" Millen. The Kiwi has drifted some lovely cars. I know him best for the new-age Pontiac GTO (or America's version of the Holden Monaro). Rhys Millen is just someone I appreciate not only in drifting, but in almost any form of motorsport. He is just so doggone cool. I greatly admire him in drifting and in almost any other form of motorsport he takes part in.

Finally, I must mention Verena Mei as Honorable Mention. She has run in a number of Formula D events. You may remember I mentioned Verena Mei in my "Women in Motorsport" blog post. I wanted to shout out to the beautiful Verena Mei in honorable mention.

In addition to various Formula D drifters, there are also some Japanese natives who compete in the sport. Some even from the D1GP series that take on Formula D's courses and cars. One of them I can immediately recall is championship-winning drifter Ryuji Miki.

If I had to compare the two series, I usually strongly regard the D1GP. The Japanese invented drifting, and D1GP has a solid series with solid drifters. Formula Drift is great as well. If you're talking teams, I'd say Team Orange is the best (or most popular) team in the D1GP. Formula Drift's equal to Team Orange is Team Falken Tire.

And as I mentioned earlier, there are many other different drifting series and leagues. These two come to mind for me. So if you represent a certain lesser or little-known drifting series, much love and respect to all of you.

--- Of Drifting and Cars ---

I've never owned or tuned a car in my life, so I am going solely on video games here.

Drifting: By Drivetrain.

Rear-wheel drive cars are pretty much required for the total best in drifting. A well-equipped front-engine/RWD car is basically the de facto standard to go drifting. The most important thing to have is a limited-slip differential (or LSD). A car with a fairly decent length wheelbase will be able to drift precisely. To me, I've always looked for proper sport coupes as great drift cars. Two that come to mind for me are the Miata and the S2000. Many more people regard cars like the Nissan Silvia cars, but I think most Japanese sport coupes make great cars. Sometimes, you even see some great luxury-type cars make good drifting machines. A front/RWD car is the best- power up front as the rear drives the car. You can't have any more perfect balance than this.

While a mid-engine design offers easier drifts, I'm fearful of mid-engine and rear-engine cars because handling them after a drift is much more challenging than trying to drift with a front/RWD car. Most of the weight at the rear of the car just makes it even more challenging to try to get a mid-engine or rear-engine car to drift properly. Maybe one of the more popular mid-engine drift cars is the old Toyota MR2. It is a great choice if you're wanting to test the limits of mid-engine drifting. In Formula Drift, a Porsche 993 was drifted by Tyler McQuarrie. It was something different and unique to see a Porsche drift.

Four-wheel drive cars are better for sliding out in rally racing. They are also a touch heavier, making them not as efficient to drift efficiently. You can still very much slide out a 4WD car as effectively as any RWD car. I think in drifting, RWD gives you much more control and allows you to become more aggressive in the corners.

Front-wheel drive (or "wrong-wheel drive" for many performance types) is purely NOT for drifting. While it is possible to drift a front-wheel drive car, it takes a great deal of tuning and driving skill to slide a FWD car out. Then too, it's not as fun as drifting out a proper front/RWD car. All the weight at the front doesn't make for solid drifts. You have to have some kind of rear tuning to make them work, and it isn't at all possible with a front-drive car.

Drifting: The Cars Themselves.

Drifting is one of few motorsports that allows for creativity to run wild. Cars have any number of touches to make them stand out. Some prefer the old sleepy eyes look. The sleepy eyes look is usually for cars that have retractable headlights (like the Nissan 240SX) halfway up. Some cars have blinker headlights where the headlights blink a bit like strobe lights. Cars may even have enhancements like neon lighting. I think I've even seen one drift cars that had a bunch of foam fingers to resemble a rear wing. Some cars have rear wings to help weigh down the rear while at speed and while sideways.

Sometimes, drift cars are to be as attention-grabbing as the sexiest go-go dancers. More important than having a solid drift car is injecting your car with some personality. Have some fun while getting sideways!

These are some of the various cars I've seen in drifting competition. Use this as a list of cars to think about if considering entering drift competition:
• Toyota Soarer
• Toyota Chaser
• Toyota Corolla Levin (several models)
• Toyota Altezza
• Toyota Supra
• Nissan Silvia (several models)
• Nissan Skyline (several models; especially those with RWD)
• Honda S2000
• Mazda RX-7 (several models)
• Mazda RX-8
• Pontiac GTO (our version of the Holden Monaro)
• Hyundai Genesis
• Toyota MR2
• Porsche 993
• Chevrolet Camaro Z28
• Chevrolet Corvette C5
• Chevrolet El Camino
• Ford Mustang (several models)
• Scion tC (converted to RWD)
• Dodge Viper
• Dodge Charger (21st Century Charger)
• Pontiac Solstice

These are some of many drift cars I've seen in drifting competitions.

--- To Any Drifters Out There Who May Be Reading This... ---

I want to say that all of you drifters the world over are awesome! You all are the masters of controlled frenzy. You incorporate a driving style that is both aggressive and stylish at the same time. It is this on-the-edge style of driving that makes drifting as much a fun-to-watch form of motorsport.

If any of the pro drifters read this, I want to say that I appreciate your skill in drifting and think you all are great. Keep pushing your cars and yourselves to the limit while offering up style points. You all are the reason why we love drifting and wish we can slide out our cars to the limit.

--- One Final Note... ---

Drifting is very fun. However, if you want to drift proper, it's best to do it on the track or at certain sponsored events rather than do it on the streets. It is very dangerous and illegal to drift on the streets where you put yourself and others in danger. You are better suited to drift on tracks and at drifting events rather than do it on the streets illegally.

Thank you for reading my blog post on drifting! Let me post some material in case you're interested in visiting Amazon... Have a look at these widgets if you want to get some drifting stuff on Amazon:

Drifting DVDs on Amazon.

Initial D on Amazon (in General).

Initial D Books on Amazon.

Thank you for reading!

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