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What is Drifting?

Drifting is the act of maneuvering a vehicle through corners at speeds and angles that exceed the vehicle’s grip.  A drift is when a driver performs a controlled slide through corners while adhering to the racing line.

Where it came from and where it is going:

Drifting originated on the mountain passes of Japan approximately 10-15 years ago. Today, this extreme motor sport has evolved from underground racing into a professionally organized series such as the D1 Grand Prix, Formula Drift, and the DM Series.

Drifting events take place in Europe, Australia, Japan, the USA and Canada.  It is an international sport and is growing faster than any other form of motor sport in the world!

Drifting is extremely popular because it brings all the best aspects of motor sports into one package:

  • Speed
  • Street based race cars
  • Cars pushed beyond their limit of adhesion
  • Tire smoke
  • Noise
  • Driver/spectator interacting
  • Spectator involvement
  • Full course visibility
  • Umbrella girls
  • Vendors midway

Highly skilled drivers control a high powered street car past its limit, sideways at high speed, burning rubber, just inches from their competitors.  You can’t get a better visual impact anywhere.

How does a drifting competition work?

Vehicles are not judged based on time trials, running order or speed, but rather are given points based on four main criteria:

  • Corner entry speed
  • Angle (angle of over steer)
  • Exit speed
  • Adherence to the racing line

Usually a field of 32 cars qualifies for the race day.  These 30 cars make 2 solo runs each.  The top 16 cars are then chosen from these 32. The TOP 16 is when the tandem drifting competition begins.

The driver with the best technique wins the round and heads to the next round of top 8.  This then leads to the top 4 and finally the winner!

Tandem Drifting:

Tandem drifting is when 2 cars drift side by side through the course.  This is the most exciting form of drifting as cars drift at high speed just inches from each other!

The same criteria as single drifting are used with the addition of:

  • The leader gains points by maintaining a higher speed, angle and better racing line then the following car.
  • The goal of the following car is to imitate the leader while staying as close to him as possible.
  • Points are given for passing the leader only if done so while drifting and not interfearing with the leaders drift.

ONE MORE TIME is called when the judges deem that both drivers have performed equally.  This is a sudden death match in which only one run is permitted and the winner is chosen.

Commonly-used drift cars:

Rear-wheel drive (RWD) cars are the best cars for drifting, due to their drivetrain layout and weight balance.

Examples of popular drift cars are:

Nissan 240SX


Nissan 350Z


Toyota Corolla GTS


Mazda RX-7


Mazda RX-8


Ford Mustang GT


Pontiac GTO


Infiniti G35 Coupe

Honda S2000

Drifting Techniques:

Kansei Drift is performed at race speeds when, upon entering a high speed corner, a driver lifts his foot off the throttle to induce a mild over steer and then balances the drift through steering and throttle motions. Note that the car used for this style of drift should be a neutral balanced car so that the over steer will induce itself.

Braking drift is performed by late-braking hard into a corner,  which weights the front wheels, and lightens the rears. As the driver steers the car into the corner, while still on the brakes, the car will pivot on the front tires due to the weight unbalance. The resulting loss of grip to the rear tires is then balanced through steering and throttle motions.

Feint Drift or weight tranfser is performed by rocking the car towards the outside of a turn and then using the rebound of grip to throw the car into the normal cornering direction. This is a rally racing technique used to change vehicle attitudes (weight transfer) during cornering, mainly on tight mountain corners.

Clutch Kick is performed by depressing the clutch pedal on approach or during a mild drift, then popping the clutch to give a sudden jolt through the driveline to upset rear traction.

Shift Lock is performed by letting the revs drop on downshift into a corner and then releasing the clutch to put stress on the driveline to slow the rear tires, inducing an over steer. This is similar to pulling the E-brake through a turn and should be performed on wet surfaces to minimize damage to the driveline.

E-Brake Drift is a very basic technique in which the driver pulls the E-Brake (emergency-brake) to induce rear traction loss and balances the drift through steering and throttle play. Note that this can also be used to correct errors or fine tune drift angles.

Long Slide Drift is performed by pulling the E-brake through a straight to start a high angle drift and to holding this to set up for the turn ahead. Note that this can only be done at high speed.

Swaying Drift is a slow side-to-side, feint-like drift where the rear end sways back and forth down a straight.

Power Over is performed when entering a corner and using full throttle to produce heavy over-steer.

What the judges are looking for:

Drifting is a sport that is judged similar to ice skating or Snowboarding. Just like any sport, there is both the artful and the technical side of drifting. There are certain minimum technical requirements that constitute a "good" drift, that each driver must adhere to while drifting. The best drifters will possess the necessary skill to fulfill these requirements, while adding their own personal touch and style.

The judged techniques of drifting are as follows:

Entry speed - This is part of the criteria that will be met very easily with the use of a radar gun with speed display. Entry speed is one of the most important things that judges will look for because it will determine the other parts of a driver's drift.

Line clipping - This is another important part of a drift that the judges will be paying close attention to. The clipping line is often judged by how well the driver follows the proper racing line. The line itself should always involve the vehicle hitting the right entry point, apex, and exit point of a corner. Judges prefer to see a driver take a tight line around a corner, putting the nose of the car as close as possible to the apex of the turn. Getting the back end of the car close to the outside of a turn also demonstrates car control and can score the driver additional points.

Angle and counter steer - Driving angle of the vehicle is the angle of rotation
of the vehicle relative to the direction of its travel. Basically this means that the farther the back end of the car comes around (without losing control), the more points a driver will score in this category. Angle also refers to the length of time a drift is maintained as well as the average angle of the vehicle during the turn. This means that getting the back end to come around for a short period of time won't score the driver many points, even if the angle of rotation was significant. A vehicle that exhibits extreme angles without spinning out will be awarded high points.

Presentation - How a driver combines speed, line and angle will determine how
well he is judged. There is also another factor and that is how the driver presents his or her drift technique. Just like any other form of competition, there will be an individual with a certain spark or energy that makes them stand out during competition. When a competitor puts that extra flare or energy into their run, the judges may pay more attention to the individual. The most universal component of this category is smoke. The more tire smoke generated by a vehicle while drifting the more points a driver will score. This category previously included the driver sticking hands/legs out the window or opening the door in a turn, but Drift Mania now requires windows to be rolled up and prohibits door opening, demonstrating a shift in emphasis to more technical aspects of driving.

How is Tsuiso Battle Judged?

Tsuiso is the Japanese term for Twin Battle Drift.

This head to head style of drifting is judged by the same principles as a solo round. However, there is a high level of strategy behind it that provides for a competitive level and an awesome show for the spectators. The exact judging of this event is difficult to explain because the judges rely on their many years of track experience and knowledge of the vehicle dynamics when issuing the exact points.

Offensive - Generally the chasing driver has the offensive when in the Twin Battle. An easy analogy is Cowboys at a rodeo competing in the round up or two jet pilots engaged in a dogfight. They chase their prey and do whatever they can to get their target into a dead zone where the prey can no longer maneuver properly. This same principle is used in the Tsuiso style. Drivers use their vehicle and its drift to position into a space that minimizes the running drivers ability to keep a good line while staying in a high-speed
drift. The chasing driver MUST at all times demonstrate a superior drift in order to keep the pressure on the lead driver. The chasing driver must attempt to steal and block a line that may allow the lead driver a good opportunity for a drift, which result in higher points for the chaser. If the chasing driver is unable to keep up and maintain pressure on the lead driver, it will be reflected in the points he is awarded at the end of his run.

Defensive - When a driver takes the lead in the Tsuiso battle the ideal strategy is to perform drifts at much higher speeds, following the proper line at a greater angle than the chasing driver. If a lead driver can shake off or intimidate a chasing driver many times the chasing driver will make a mistake when trying to compensate for what seems like erratic actions of the lead car. When a lead driver can pull away with a good angle, following the ideal line while maintaining a controlled drift, the chasing driver has all the pressure to increase performance. The lead driver at this point is winning. Lead drivers many times demonstrate superior skill by suddenly entering a drift at a great angle and going directly to the inside of the corner. To the following driver it appears as though they will T-bone the lead car so they back down and take measures to avoid the lead car. Many times that will cause the chasing car to loose a great amount of speed and not be able to properly execute the corner in a full drift or even worse they may spin out or hit the barriers. This is a ideal outcome for the lead driver in Tsuiso battles.

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