Drifting and Its Rapid Growth in Popularity

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the November 2011 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

Around the turn of the millennium, the U.S. motorsports scene went bonkers for what was deemed the hottest thing ever: drifting. It wasn’t really new, as rear-wheel-drive cars had been kicking their tails out since they were invented, but drifting was relegated to fringe interest in the States until 2003, when the U.S.’s first professional drifting event took place in June at Irwindale Speedway in California.

Slipstream Global Marketing and Japanese video magazine, Video Option, hosted the open-call event. Drivers from all corners of the globe, including professional drift teams from Japan, came for the spectacle. It was a rousing success, and the big players in the North American scene lost their ever-loving minds and decided drifting was the next big thing.

Proof of this insanity came at industry trade gatherings like SEMA and PRI, which are always a good barometer of what’s going to be hot in the coming year. Typically, the highlight of these shows is a particular new car model, like a new Mustang or Corvette, or maybe a fringe technology that’s hitting the mainstream, like onboard cameras or carbon brakes. The 2003 industry shows, however, saw the invasion of the drift.

Purpose-built drifting cars were on display from one end of the show floor to the other, and everyone was trying to get in on the excitement. There were drift demonstrations and ride-alongs in the parking lot. Show-goers joked that the sport had been invented by tire companies looking for a way to dramatically increase profits. The real fuel for this craze, however, was demographic in nature.

Drifting was seen as an adrenalized expressway to the youth market, and its brink-of-control drama made for terrific photo stills and video to spice up any advertisement. ESPN’s X Games had graduated to live TV coverage just a year earlier with great success, and the motorsports world was looking to bottle some of that youth-market lightning with its own flavor of extreme sport.

Sponsors seemed eager to write big checks to secure a chunk of this newly discovered drift world, and the influx of money piqued the interest of drivers looking to become part of the phenomenon. Japanese aftermarket companies and tire manufacturers found themselves with a leg up on the competition, as they could simply import their D1 Grand Prix pro drivers and cars to our shores for high-profile events.

GRM couldn’t ignore the craze, either. Our February 2004 issue featured a sliding Mazda RX-7 on the cover with the headline “Is Drifting the Future of Motorsports in the U.S.?” 

Thankfully, we had a low-tech time machine at our disposal to answer this question: waiting. It has catapulted us 10 years forward at the incredible rate of one year per year. The future is upon us, and while drifting didn’t turn out to be bigger than NASCAR, it’s still alive, evolving and thriving in some unexpected places.

Photography Credit: Antonio Alvendia

Cut Loose

Drifting got big in a hurry, and several organizations arose hoping to provide structure to the hobby. Most of them realized that for drift to have a viable future, the ladder between newcomer and professional needed some clearly defined rungs.

A number of smaller groups, including USDrift and DGTrials, emerged to fill out the amateur rungs. Slipstream Global announced the Formula DRIFT series–usually just shortened to Formula D–at the SEMA Show in 2003, and they held their first four-event North American championship series the following year.

There was a Wild West element to the start of professional drifting in the U.S., as a fairly large and well-sponsored series had been created nearly out of the blue. Imagine if NASCAR one day sprang from nothing and announced 60 wide-open spots for the Daytona 500. Drivers of all stripes had a chance to take a stab at glory regardless of actual drift competition experience. A number of now-famous personalities heeded the call and found glory with Formula D in the early years, including Rhys Millen, Chris Forsberg, Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Tanner Foust.

Foust, who scored back-to-back Formula D championships in the 2007 and 2008 seasons driving an AEM/Rockstar-sponsored Nissan 350Z, got his start in SCCA road racing. “I quickly realized, as many racers have, that it’s an expensive thing to do,” he says. “If I wanted to spend enough time in race cars to get any good, I’d have to find someone to pay the bills.”

Foust’s initial instinct was to try rally, which was a smaller sport that still welcomed grassroots-level participants. He quickly noticed there wasn’t a ton of growth in stage rally in the U.S. 

He tried a drift event around the same time, and it opened his eyes. “I could see that there was more support,” he recalls, “not on a motorsport side but a marketing side because of the young demographic. That makes drifting one of the best places to start a motorsports career.

“My first drifting competition was Laguna Seca; it was a Yokohama invitational,” continues Foust. He had spent a few years as an instructor at an ice driving school, so the art of sliding came naturally enough. “[Drifting] didn’t have the same black-and-white definition that motorsports has when you’re racing against a clock,” he notes, “but it was incredibly fun, the cars were cool, and the sponsors were begging to get involved, so we stuck with it.”

“My business plan has been to get involved in something that was growing, get on top of the pyramid while it’s a small pyramid, and then when it’s a craze,” Foust says, “allow others to invest.” He notes that as drift has grown and matured in the U.S., the gap between the ground floor and the top of the pyramid has grown as well. “It’s still a great opportunity for drivers with the right stuff,” he adds.

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

View From the Pyramid’s Peak

Formula D remains the top tier of drift competition in the States, and the quality of the show may surprise anyone who hasn’t been paying attention. “The talent has progressed pretty fast,” explains Brian Eggert, who got his own start drifting with NASA Mid-Atlantic’s HyperFest back in 2002. Eggert became a judge for Formula D in 2012 and serves as the event director for USDrift, one of the largest feeder organizations for Formula D.

“This is the 11th season,” continues Eggert, “and [compared to] even five years ago the skill level is insane. We’re asking drivers to be within inches of each other around the course. Japanese drifting is very high-speed but usually two or three turns, tops. Irwindale is so long that the tires can barely take it. It’s neat to see how long our guys can stay on someone’s door. I’d love to see another world championship; Formula D did one with Red Bull about five years ago.” Eggert is sure the U.S. talent would fare well against the world’s best.

The machines that allow drivers to hang it out in such proximity are serious pieces of racing hardware. Specially constructed and highly tuned, Formula D cars can cost well above a quarter-million dollars apiece. More than 800 horsepower is the norm, whether from displacement, turbocharging, nitrous or all three. 

These cars are rolling, fire-breathing showcases of their sponsors’ hardware and their teams’ ingenuity. Most cars run custom suspension and steering geometry to allow for extreme angles of attack.

Tire manufacturers are heavily involved, as these beasts burn rubber more quickly than fuel. Professional drifting isn’t about skinny tires and minimizing grip to encourage easy sliding, either: Formula D cars run the same super-sticky, ultra-high-performance summer compounds that autocrossers favor for the Street Touring classes, and rear widths of 265 to 305mm are common. These provide considerable grip even when they’re being tortured into clouds of smoke at very high speeds.

As Foust explains, “There’s very little hoon or showoff factor in drifting at the top level. They’re very fast cars with very high grip levels. Their drift setup isn’t that different from what it would be for outright road racing.”

When a car is tail-out in a dramatic drift, there are some interesting side effects, including an increase in the effective width of the car relative to its direction of travel. That makes a more stable footprint for cornering. “A drift car coming in at 30 degrees is beyond the slip angle of the tire,” notes Foust, “but you’re still at 0.85 or 0.9g around the corner.” As a result, apex speeds aren’t too far off from what they would be on a conventional road racing line.

Foust also shared a technical nugget that will surprise many spectators who think drifting is simply the act of getting the tail end to break loose: “Drift cars are set up for understeer. They have a softer rear spring rate and they battle constantly for rear grip. The goal of a drift car is to create rear traction, because you want to be faster than the other guy. They have plenty of horsepower to overcome even 305 tires on the back, but [the rear grip level means] you can go into the corner nearly backwards and still have the front end wash out.”

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

Prepare to Be Judged

Most forms of motorsport depend on stopwatches, lap counters or speed traps to determine a winner, but drifting is judged like diving or ice skating. To minimize controversy, most organizations publish their criteria to let drivers and fans know exactly how a run is scored. 

Measured speed used to be a standalone factor, as Formula D’s Brian Eggert explains: “We’ve eliminated that, since most of the drivers are so fast they were starting to race.” 

Formula D rotates its panel of judges to ensure fairness and prevent any predictable patterns from emerging. “Sponsors want to know why their driver lost,” continues Eggert, “so we got super technical and simplified: style, line and angle.” Their goal is to make drifting just as intuitive for first-time spectators as any other popular sport. The current Formula DRIFT judging criteria are:

  • Line: The judges’ predetermined optimal route through a judging zone. This is often the same as the racing line, but sometimes alternate entries or exits will be specified, or straightaways will become mandatory slaloms to keep the cars drifting and to fill dead zones.
  • Angle: All other things being equal, the car that maintains a steeper slip angle while maintaining control will emerge victorious.
  • Style: This is the most subjective category, and the one where audience reaction still holds some sway. A dynamic run showcasing outright speed, proximity to walls or the lead car, and rapid flicks from one drift angle to the other will usually generate more cheers from the crowd, which can coax more points from the judges.

Drifting is all about the show, so sometimes organizers and judges will specify tricky touch-and-go situations to up the excitement: Get as close as possible to this wall, for example, or run a particular corner along the outside edge near the dirt. “We sometimes get criticism from race fans for not running the line,” notes Eggert, “but we want what looks best.” 

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

Going Up

Today’s path to the professional ranks of drifting in the U.S. is well defined. Several organizations throughout the country support the ladder, and they work to educate and graduate interested drivers from their first controlled slides to the high-speed tandem action of Formula D through the organization’s Pro/Am Licensing Series. Groups like Golden Gate Drift, Vegas Drift, Midwest Drift Union and USDrift all provide a structured path of access to the Formula D ranks.

As Eggert explains, the Pro/Am format brings together the top local guys and the lower tier of professionals to help both groups see how they’re stacking up as they vie for a top seat.

“Formula D uses eight series in the U.S. to do this,” says Eggert. “The minimum is four competitions, and the top three drivers can get a license for Formula Drift.” There’s more to the equation than just talent, however. “Just because we can give out three licenses doesn’t mean we will give out three,” he notes. “I’ve seen too many drivers in the past take up credit card debt thinking they can compete at [the Formula D] level. We’ve tried to cut back on that.” USDrift judges and organizers try to evaluate a driver as a total package–considering factors like wheel talent, sponsorship viability and budget savvy–before granting access to the deep end of Formula D and its potential financial ruin.

The Nissan 240SX with a Japanese-spec turbo SR20DET is the easy choice for drivers on a budget at this level, as they can generate plenty of power for the money. Running a turbo car near the redline at relatively low speeds and less-than-optimal airflow angles for the radiator can be troublesome, however, so quite a few drivers make the swap to domestic V8s. 

A Chevy LS-series V8 generates gobs of tire-liquefying torque without working too hard, and it has ample junkyard availability. Plus, replacement parts are easy to find at most local parts stores. Used examples of the Ford Mustang and BMW 3 Series are also becoming more common in the amateur ranks.

Even at the intermediate level, there’s some clever engineering at work on the cars, particularly the steering. Modified steering knuckles allow for more severe steering angles without messing up the caster and Ackermann geometry of the front wheels. Many drivers space their front wheels to create more clearance over the frame in the wheelwell. 

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

Forget the Ladder, Let’s Drift

As with any motorsport, the high end gets most of the spotlight, but drifting isn’t really about money or insane horsepower or huge crowds. Getting a car to go where you want it to go while the tail hangs out in a smoky slide is seriously, infectiously fun. 

For every high-profile drift pro with glossy PR cards for autographs, there are dozens of drivers who just want to hoon around in a car and socialize with their buddies. Skate and BMX aesthetics heavily influence their culture, as many of today’s just-for-fun drifters grew up with constantly skinned elbows and scarred shins. They’ve simply traded their decks and bikes for beat-up Nissans and Mustangs.

Although they could be seen as the first rung of the drifting ladder, casual drifting clubs are full of folks who don’t particularly care about competitions, judging, scores or formalities. The pros are still welcome to come play, however, and they often do: You can’t beat these local events for sheer track time.

Club Loose II runs events at Midvale Raceway in Ohio and Pittsburgh International Race Complex (formerly BeaveRun). Its schedule boasted more than a dozen events this year, with anywhere from 25 to 35 drivers per event. It’s an offshoot of Club Loose, a New Jersey organization that draws even bigger crowds to Englishtown Raceway Park over 16 calendar dates. Their headline event in May, the East Coast Bash, drew around 170 drivers–so many that they impeded track time and made organizers realize they needed to cap the registration for next year.

John Wagner, who organizes the Club Loose II events, spent a while on the formal drifting ladder before deciding he cared more about drifting than competing. He found some great results with USDrift and even spent a couple of years competing with Formula D, but he found himself spending every spare penny on tires and towing for his increasingly fragile, highly turbocharged Nissan 240SX. Then he checked out, built a beater 240SX on 15-inch wheels for less than $5000, and started having a lot more fun.

“We don’t want to steer kids away from competition,” says Wagner, “but [a similar thing] happened in skateboarding and BMX: The X Games became a thing. You didn’t start skateboarding to get a sponsor. Now, you skateboard for six months and say, ‘Where’s my sponsorship?’ Kids started drifting and wanted to go pro immediately.”

A Club Loose II event has three groups. Beginners prep as they would for an autocross, taking similar safety precautions, and learn how to flick their cars around the track one driver at a time. Intermediate-group drivers can typically slide their way through the whole course without pause, but it’s still a solo outing. At the top tier, full cages and more robust safety gear are required as drivers hone their skills, drifting inches from one another in tandem.

“We get a lot of drivers who just want to have fun, and we get a bunch of top Formula D drivers that still show up at every event. These kids look up to them and can drift with them,” Wagner notes. Your typical Formula 1 fan doesn’t get to go wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton, so accessibility is a nice perk of the tightly knit drift community.

Even at the Club Loose II level, tires are the main expense. The entry fee may be just $75, but you’ll only get 10 to 14 laps from a set of tires. Wagner figures the average tandem drifter goes through as many as 10 tires in a day, so on 15-inch budget performance tires, that’s $400 or more per day. Still, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than shoeing a drift car with flashy 17s or 18s. “Local tire shops have been helping us out with tires at cost and group buys. You can buy through Club Loose at wholesale,” Wagner adds.

While professional drifting enjoys a high level of polish and packaging, the local clubs embrace their skate-punk roots with some entertaining results. On a lark, Wagner and some drift buddies formed the Bloodmasters, a tongue-in-cheek denim vest gang with Nissans instead of motorcycles. They even have a video–approaching 1 million views on YouTube–called “Bloodbath Part 1.” It will make you shake your head at the questionable sanity of the participants, but there’s no doubt they had fun making it, and it showcases some pretty cool drifting stunts. Watch if you dare at tinyurl.com/m2wmahy for a taste of drifting’s gritty underground.

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

Future Pending

Drifting’s crystal ball is difficult to read, as it’s obscured by tire smoke and covered in rubber clag. Formula D has shown ample business savvy in creating a top tier for the sport in the U.S. They’ve marketed it successfully to keep sponsor dollars coming in, and they fill the grandstands at events across the country. 

Feeder organizations do a great job of grooming fresh talent by giving drivers a safe, controlled venue to explore their addiction. And at the grassroots level, a dash of organization can get dozens of drifters to show up and have some fun for a weekend.

There’s no denying that the sport has matured in the U.S., and driver talent has come a long way in the last decade. There’s plenty of hope for the future, too, as the kid getting his driver’s license today grew up in a country where drifting was both a sport and a pop culture phenomenon–Ken Block’s “Gymkhana” video series has attracted plenty of eyeballs in the past five years.

Eggert believes a simple passenger-seat demonstration can turn anyone into a diehard fan: “We do ride-alongs for Johns Hopkins for our Wounded Warriors, things like that. We line up two to six cars and send ’em all at once. We did one in Baltimore–a blind girl went in and came out giggling. She went back out four times in a row. She had the biggest grin on her face. Most people get out of the car and say, ‘That’s the best ever.’”

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

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Comments
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fanfoy
fanfoy SuperDork
8/5/20 10:00 a.m.

Is drifting still a thing?

It seems I haven't heard of it in years....

NickD
NickD UltimaDork
8/5/20 10:08 a.m.

In reply to fanfoy :

Very much so. Formula Drift is entering its 16th season with bigger crowds every year. And I see grassroots events popping up here there and everywhere. I've been going to FD for the past 6 years and its a blast, its the only motorsports event I religiously attend as a spectator.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/5/20 10:11 a.m.

I went to last year's Orlando FD and, yeah, totally packed--lots of families, lots of people. Big-buck efforts and amateurs. 

Duke
Duke MegaDork
8/5/20 10:14 a.m.
fanfoy said:

Is drifting still a thing?

It seems I haven't heard of it in years....

My car club (or, rather, our affiliate "club") just ran a drift event in the parking lots at Dover Speedway.  We help them put on 2-3 events per year.

They had somewhere between 50-60 cars come, from stock stuff to serious homebuilt drift killers.  Burned through a lot of tires and put a lot of rubber down on the pavement.

 

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
8/5/20 10:17 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

agreed, drifting is alive and well.

Gridlife is one of the few places where you see core GRM content happening and you will also find drifting. Drifting is THE spectator sport of the Gridlife Festival events.

Seeing it up close in 2018 at Gridlife Midwest festival gave me a new appreciation for drifting after following it pretty closely in the 05-08 timeframe before I went off to college and it became harder to follow.  

the crazy setup work and engineering needed to build the top level drift cars combined with the car control needed is something to behold when you see it up close.

 

JesseWolfe
JesseWolfe Reader
8/5/20 10:23 a.m.

I find drifting to be the new age monster trucks.  Yes it takes talent, yes it takes engineering skill.  But at the end of the day, to me it's just a pageant show.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/5/20 10:28 a.m.

It's hard for me to view drifting as a sport, in the traditional view of motorsports.  It's more of an automotive culture or scene.  That said, I can't deny its popularity or entertainment value.  With motorsports losing popularity each year due either to expense or "car guys" aging out, it's great to see something that the younger crowd engages with and can get involved with on a reasonable budget.  I will also freely admit that it's a very difficult skill to master, and that the really good drivers and cars are very impressive.

NickD
NickD UltimaDork
8/5/20 10:38 a.m.
JesseWolfe said:

I find drifting to be the new age monster trucks.  Yes it takes talent, yes it takes engineering skill.  But at the end of the day, to me it's just a pageant show.

So stop analyzing it so closely. Take a step back and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is. 1000hp cars inches away from each others doors entering a corner at a 75 degree angle and 90+mph is a hell of a show.

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
8/5/20 10:41 a.m.

In reply to JesseWolfe :

It's the automotive version of the "ribbon onna stick" event in the Olympics.

I don't get it, some folks do.

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
8/5/20 10:43 a.m.

In reply to ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) :

Drifting is a motorsport in the same way that Gymnastics or Figure Skating are Olympic sports

It's a judged competition based upon a display of skill.

Just because Speed skating and Formula 1 exist, they don't take away from the judged events.

JesseWolfe
JesseWolfe Reader
8/5/20 10:45 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

If two racing events were being held on the same day, one being a national level drift event with umbrella girls and all, the other event being an SCCA Rallycross event in some farmers back field.  I know which one I'd choose.  

NickD
NickD UltimaDork
8/5/20 10:45 a.m.

While Formula Drift is great for accessibility (its here in the US, they have them all over the country, they livestream on Youtube), if you want to see the absolute best, you need to watch Drift Masters European Championship. They air it on the Red Bull TV app. It's invitation-only and they only pick the absolute best (with local wild cards being added to each venue to mix it up), the lack of competition time outs and a 2 minute limit between crossing the finish and being back at the starting line keeps the action rolling, and the draconian judging and rule of only allowing one One More Time means that the action is all top quality, plus the courses are pretty long, very challenging and a bit on the sketchy side. It's raw, it's brutal, it's fast and the match-ups are usually pretty bloodthirsty. Oh, and they race in all weather, no delays, the mindset essentially being "you're the best of the best, rain shouldn't bother you, so get out there."

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
8/5/20 10:46 a.m.

My B-I-Laws nephew is into 240SX's and just cut out the firewall in his car and is replacing it to make it RHD.  

I'm impressed at the work a 23 year old kid is tackling in his home garage.  I'm excited to see the youngsters carrying on the car hobby.  
 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/5/20 10:57 a.m.

Yes, lotta engineering. It's one of the few places left that allows innovation as it doesn't feature homologated cars. Last year we met up with Dai Yoshihara and checked out his BRZ.

 

yupididit
yupididit PowerDork
8/5/20 11:04 a.m.

Drifting is my favorite motorsport to watch or attend. F1 being second and Rally being third.  It's rather hard for me to watch autocross, it's boring to watch or attend as a spectator.  But I ain't knocking it

BarryNorman
BarryNorman New Reader
8/5/20 11:07 a.m.

For me drifting is the Ice Dancing of motorsports.

Anytime a person declares the winner. The results are suspect. Take any "ball" sports referee\player scandle and what that did to "sport".

Also, when is a sport considered a sport and when is it entertainment?

And the perceived "outlaw" lifestyle? Really? (a decade on; HBO presents "Drifters of Anarchy")

No Time
No Time Dork
8/5/20 12:21 p.m.

In reply to BarryNorman :

What pro sport isn't for entertainment?

Take away the spectators and the sponsors and money go away. 

The grassroots/amateur level is where the competition is more pure and done for a love of the game. 

Most motorsport events have been regulated to the point of boredom. Drifting is a tiny beacon of excitement and tire smoke in a haze of mediocrity. 

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/5/20 1:11 p.m.

To me, drifting is like a skatepark comp. 

Vajingo
Vajingo New Reader
8/5/20 1:44 p.m.

The sport really needs revamped. The high levels have bastardized and monetized everything. The fun is gone. Needs to be 200hp, four cylinders. No tube frames at all. Stock pickup points. No aero. Street tires. Bring back to a grass roots level. Gee... this sounds like a rant about nascar...

NickD
NickD UltimaDork
8/5/20 2:15 p.m.
Vajingo said:

The sport really needs revamped. The high levels have bastardized and monetized everything. The fun is gone. Needs to be 200hp, four cylinders. No tube frames at all. Stock pickup points. No aero. Street tires. Bring back to a grass roots level. Gee... this sounds like a rant about nascar...

Why does it need a revamp? At a pro level, it has higher attendance counts than ever, its not sliding into obscurity like NASCAR is. And most of your "revamps" are already long-standing existing rules. They may have tubular bash bars front and rear for ease of repair/replacement in crashes, as well as safety, and rollcages but they are not tube chassis cars. They also have stock suspension pickup points (in fact, Vaughn Gittin Jr got penalized for a relocated suspension pickup point 2 or 3 years back). Also, aero really seems to just be a stylistic thing. James Deane's S15 Silvia has won 3 championships in a row and does not have a huge front splitter, nor does it have a huge rear wing (just a Rocket Bunny ducktail). Same with Fredric Aasbo's Scions, which won a championship, nor did Chris Forsberg's two-time championship winning 370Z. Same with Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea Denofa's Mustangs. Mike Essa's championship-winning E46 was literally a stock-body E46. And most of them are running street tires. There are tons of people running Nitto NT05s and Falken RT-615K+ and Nexen N Fera SUR4Gs and Hankook RS-4s on the street (the SCCA even calls them street tires and they are legal in Street class), and those currently are all tires that most competitors are running.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/5/20 3:17 p.m.

Approved tires for Formula D Pro class: 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
8/5/20 4:02 p.m.
NickD said:

While Formula Drift is great for accessibility (its here in the US, they have them all over the country, they livestream on Youtube), if you want to see the absolute best, you need to watch Drift Masters European Championship. They air it on the Red Bull TV app. It's invitation-only and they only pick the absolute best (with local wild cards being added to each venue to mix it up), the lack of competition time outs and a 2 minute limit between crossing the finish and being back at the starting line keeps the action rolling, and the draconian judging and rule of only allowing one One More Time means that the action is all top quality, plus the courses are pretty long, very challenging and a bit on the sketchy side. It's raw, it's brutal, it's fast and the match-ups are usually pretty bloodthirsty. Oh, and they race in all weather, no delays, the mindset essentially being "you're the best of the best, rain shouldn't bother you, so get out there."

Is the app free to use or subscription? The way you described that series has me interested!

NickD
NickD UltimaDork
8/5/20 4:04 p.m.
z31maniac said:
NickD said:

While Formula Drift is great for accessibility (its here in the US, they have them all over the country, they livestream on Youtube), if you want to see the absolute best, you need to watch Drift Masters European Championship. They air it on the Red Bull TV app. It's invitation-only and they only pick the absolute best (with local wild cards being added to each venue to mix it up), the lack of competition time outs and a 2 minute limit between crossing the finish and being back at the starting line keeps the action rolling, and the draconian judging and rule of only allowing one One More Time means that the action is all top quality, plus the courses are pretty long, very challenging and a bit on the sketchy side. It's raw, it's brutal, it's fast and the match-ups are usually pretty bloodthirsty. Oh, and they race in all weather, no delays, the mindset essentially being "you're the best of the best, rain shouldn't bother you, so get out there."

Is the app free to use or subscription? The way you described that series has me interested!

Yep. Its a little hard to navigate, but it works pretty well.

https://www.redbull.com/int-en/channels/best-of-red-bull-stream

Its an amazing series. The 2020 season is about to start (August 14th-15th at Riga) and you can go back and watch previous seasons on there as well. The Japanese may have invented drifting, but in my mind, the Europeans have perfected it. The Irish and Polish drivers are unstoppable forces of nature.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
8/5/20 4:12 p.m.
BarryNorman said:

And the perceived "outlaw" lifestyle? Really? (a decade on; HBO presents "Drifters of Anarchy")

Insert any Street Racers of X Town cable show title here.  That's even dumber and trades just as heavily on the "Oooh, we won't go to the drag strip because we're sooooo badass" mentality.

 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
8/5/20 4:16 p.m.

I think a key to it's popularity, at least on a lower level is that it's more about action than it is about competition. There's less need to do latest widget for competitive speed and it's more have fun hooning

LopRacer
LopRacer Dork
8/5/20 8:14 p.m.
ShawnG said:

In reply to JesseWolfe :

It's the automotive version of the "ribbon onna stick" event in the Olympics.

I don't get it, some folks do.

I always equated it to automotive "figure skating", but I can see the:" ribbon on a stick". That being said if it keeps the car "hobby" alive for another generation... I am all for it. I think it's fun to watch, I can't do it myself being a FWD junkie, but I can dig it.

AaronT
AaronT New Reader
8/5/20 9:11 p.m.

It's not my jam, but I'm happy other people enjoy it, mostly.

 

The problem with drifting is that it chews up cheap rwd cars faster than anything else, including Miata rocker rust. The drift tax has claimed all of the 240SXs in the US and has started putting pressure on the bottom of the Miata market.

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
8/5/20 9:14 p.m.
AaronT said:

It's not my jam, but I'm happy other people enjoy it, mostly.

 

The problem with drifting is that it chews up cheap rwd cars faster than anything else, including Miata rocker rust. The drift tax has claimed all of the 240SXs in the US and has started putting pressure on the bottom of the Miata market.

Please, please, please use up all the Mustangs so nobody will ever bring them to me to fix.

aw614
aw614 Reader
8/6/20 12:25 a.m.

The one thing that bothered me about drifting events near me was how they were mostly held on figure 8 circle tracks, it just didn't look interesting to watch from the facebook videos posted. However, on a work trip to OK, I was able to spectate an event on a go kart type track and it was far more exciting to watch. But like with autocross and the lack of available sites, they probably face similar issues and take what they can get. 

Also noticed with drifting events was how more casual loose feeling it was vs autocross. Might be due to the younger attendees and demographics participating and watching, but some safety rules that seem frowned upon at autocross was allowed like driving with a selfie stick or cell phone out the window of a car to photographers being able to stand right in front of the action to take close up shots. 

 

 

 

BarryNorman
BarryNorman New Reader
8/6/20 5:14 p.m.

In reply to No Time :

I feel there is a difference between being entertaining and for entertainment.

Does a bear E36 M3 in the woods?

I wouldn't bet on its purity.

Raze (Forum Supporter)
Raze (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
8/6/20 7:21 p.m.

Everytime I'm up at Road Atlanta there's a drift event at Lanier speedway across the street and down the hill, fun to eat lunch between runs and watch the madness.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s HalfDork
8/6/20 8:32 p.m.

How does aero even help a drift car? I thought they had those fiberglass front and rear ends cause they're cheap to replace when you tap the wall. I can see maybe wanting aero in the front, but at those angles can it do anything? I figured any rear spoilers were just there to look cool. 

 

I'm not exactly an expert on drifting

G_Body_Man (Forum Supporter)
G_Body_Man (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
8/7/20 12:31 p.m.

Remember the grin on your face the first time you intentionally induced oversteer? Now imagine being able to do that for an entire day for $20-$50 plus gas and a few sets of outdated tires with no judging, no competition and a social, feel-good atmosphere. If you have a RWD hooptie, amateur drifting is awesome.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
8/7/20 1:07 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

Looks. It's about looks. Looks get sponsors, and sponsors bring money.  I think it looks rad, despite knowing it's useless when you're sideways.

No Time
No Time Dork
8/7/20 1:11 p.m.

I'm taking my 16yo to NH tomorrow to watch drifting. 

He is excited about it and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to spend time doing something with him that is he wants to do. 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
8/7/20 1:36 p.m.

The one thing as relates to autocross is that it can cause challenges with site retention.

 

 

Our club has a site that allowed a drift club to have an event. Well the neighborhood next door doesnt really discriminate about which club's event it is filling it with the stench of tire smoke/etc or discern that its only the drifters allowed cars that (at least sounded like) had no mufflers. They started clamoring against ALL car events. Lot was also used as a commuter lot during the week, the tire marks from the drifters make the parking space lines non-visible (yes, there was THAT much coverage) and left scraps of torn up tire all over the lot that remained for at least a month. The site wound up resealing the lot as a result and with having had to do that the rental price went up and there was due to be a town hall with the neighborhood concerning noise complaints surrounding automotive events before covid canceled it...  

 

I think the site may have mentioned to us that the drift group wouldnt be welcome back, but we are concerned that its too little too late and another group might have cost us the site. 

Vajingo
Vajingo New Reader
8/7/20 2:53 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

Interesting. Thanks for the heads up. I stopped watching when it became about "four corners and were done". Miss having it on an actual mountain road. Would be next level like that. 

No Time
No Time Dork
8/8/20 8:07 p.m.
G_Body_Man (Forum Supporter) said:

Remember the grin on your face the first time you intentionally induced oversteer? Now imagine being able to do that for an entire day for $20-$50 plus gas and a few sets of outdated tires with no judging, no competition and a social, feel-good atmosphere. If you have a RWD hooptie, amateur drifting is awesome.

After spending today watching drifting and seeing th smile on my sons face face I can see the appeal. 

There was no judging, just line up, take your run, and get back in line to do it again. They split it up by skill level, beginners were grouped together and and team one at a time, intermediates ran one car at a time, and then the advanced ran single, double, triples, and quad. 

The paddock was a very friendly place, and people were happy to talk about their cars, answer questions, and just be good people. 

The majority of the cars were nissans and BMWs. There were a lot of 240sx, 350/370z cars, a variety of BMWs, a Genesis, a couple Infinities, two mustangs, two RX7s, a Miata, and a P71 with a manual swap. 

My some wants to build a drift car, and to be honest, I'm thinking it could be a lot of fun to help build and co-drive. 

No Time
No Time Dork
8/8/20 8:12 p.m.

Oh yeah, if you want to see enthusiasm for drifting at the grassroots level check out the YouTube channel for our friend that helped make it a great day for my son:

ZBruhzchannel

Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
8/9/20 1:46 a.m.

The one part I don't get is putting so much effort into building a car (engine swap, paint, sometimes importing a car from japan, nice wheel, etc) to take it out and demolish it so fast.  It seems like if it's a car intended to be quickly trashed it would make more sense to use cheaper cars and not put so much work into them, but who knows.

Raze (Forum Supporter)
Raze (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
8/9/20 5:54 p.m.
Tk8398 said:

The one part I don't get is putting so much effort into building a car (engine swap, paint, sometimes importing a car from japan, nice wheel, etc) to take it out and demolish it so fast.  It seems like if it's a car intended to be quickly trashed it would make more sense to use cheaper cars and not put so much work into them, but who knows.

I'd say this applies to many forms of racing, drag racing, road racing, I know I don't take my car to the track and wail on it for the economic and preservation part of it.  To each their own.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
8/9/20 6:31 p.m.
Tk8398 said:

The one part I don't get is putting so much effort into building a car (engine swap, paint, sometimes importing a car from japan, nice wheel, etc) to take it out and demolish it so fast.  It seems like if it's a car intended to be quickly trashed it would make more sense to use cheaper cars and not put so much work into them, but who knows.

Other than their tires (or unless they crash), drift cars don't get demolished any more quickly than any other competition car. 

When I was a kid, the first thing we'd do when winter arrived was find a snow covered parking lot somewhere and practice going sideways.   Drifting isn't really all that much different.

No Time
No Time Dork
8/9/20 8:53 p.m.

In reply to Tk8398 :

Over the course of the day we only saw a couple cars contact the barriers.

One contacted the plastic barriers that were the style that get filled with water. They were just marking the edge of the pavement so they were empty. That one had no damage. 

The second one hit the concrete barriers, leading with the front corner. It was a hard hit and move the barriers 12-16" and squashed the front end. The driver was fine, I'm sure he'll be sore, but the bigger hit will be to his wallet since he was driving someone else's car. 

You could see that some of the cars had preexisting damage, and most were not cosmetically perfect. They used zip ties to hold bumper covers on, or had them removed.

The focus seemed to be on having a good time.  

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