Drifting Away

Drifting is not for the faint of heartWhen I was young, I used to break the back end free on my old Torino for fun.  As a teenager, I thought I was the king of the street when I would goose the gas going around a corner to get the car sliding sideways before easing off the throttle to snap the car back into a straight line.  I had no idea that a sport would develop based on the excitement of this seeming lack of control—the sport is called drifting.

What is It
Drifting occurs when a driver intentionally slides the rear end of the vehicle sideways.  Drifting is not the skidding that occurs when an entire car slides sideways because too much brake is applied.  As a matter of fact, a key element of drifting is to stay on the gas to keep the rear wheels spinning.  The driver controls the slide through precise throttle, steering and brake control.  Professional drifters are skilled in the art of maintaining a slide for an extended period of time—often through multiple corners.

Where Did It Come From
Drifting techniques evolved on Japanese raceways in the 70’s as a way to transition through corners in the most exciting fashion possible while maintaining a high exit speed.  Street racers began emulating what they saw on the track and soon, they were practicing on mountain roads and city streets.  As drifters worked to “one-up” each other it was natural that formal competitions would evolve.  Popular in Japan for quite some time, in recent years, the United States and other countries have become increasingly involved in what has become a prominent worldwide sport.

How Does Competition Work
Competition drifting is a combination of subjective opinion and objective measurements.  Depending on the specific event, judging criteria may include:  angle of slide and line taken through corners, entry and exit speed through corners, tire spin, smoke, distance from barriers on track and showmanship.  In events where there are multiple cars on the track, a competitor may win a heat because he passed another participant while drifting or lose because he passed another participant while not drifting.  Whatever the rules of the individual event, many people find the sport incredibly exciting to watch.

What Kind of Cars are Used
The best cars for drifting are light-weight, rear wheel drive cars with enough horsepower to keep the tires spinning.  With these requirements, cars like the Nissan 240SX, Nissan 350Z, Mazda RX-7, and Toyota Supra have done very well in drifting competitions.  Although the Japanese cars seem to be the most prevalent at competitions, there are teams that do quite well in cars like the Ford Mustang and Pontiac GTO.

Whatever the cars and wherever the competitions, one thing remains constant for both participants and spectators at drifting events—it is a blast!

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