Drifting actually is a sport, which may be surprising to some. And if you don’t know what drifting is, just imagine driving around an icy corner. Drifting is when a driving will purposefully loose traction on the rear (or all) tires, and steer the car through a corner. Drifting requires rear-wheel drive to be executed effectively, so only a select number of sports cars will be able to accurately drift.

FIA Intercontinental Drifting Cup
FIA Intercontinental Drifting Cup in Tokyo, image credit Yoshiaki Miura

Kunimitsu Takahashi, a Japanese race car driver, is credited as the “father of drifting” due to his astonishing abilities in the 1970’s. Fans enjoyed the smoking tires, and other drivers noticed the increase in speed when drifting around corners, so the technique stuck. Keiichi Tsuchiya, however, brought drifting as a sport into the mainstream with his wild maneuvers. Soon, professionals and street racers alike where drifting around bends on the track and in the cities.

Custom tire smoke on drift car, image credit Modified Mag

Drift races are judged, rather than based on times. Judges will award points for flashy stunts such as excess tire smoke or near collisions. The main goal for drivers is to come as close as possible to predetermined points marked on the course, ideally clipping the cones/markers without knocking them over. Drifting in straights is also highly encouraged to score more points. In races where multiple cars are on the track at the same time, drivers can drift past other cars to score points as well.

Steve Moore in Nissan S14 at King of Europe Round 3 (2014), image credit Rowan Harrison

Drift cars will be specially tuned to maximize their power and steering. Most will be Japanese, and some tuners will convert AWD cars to RWD. In America, private buyers and racing teams will import Japanese cars (sometimes illegally) to modify and drift. Some of the most popular models include the Nissan Silvia, Nissan Skyline, Mazda RX-7, and the Subaru Impreza, but many racers will take clunky American muscle cars and attempt to drift them.

Nissan Silvia S15, image credit Slava Chemakin

In order to drift, tuners will add or modify a limited slip differential in the car to allow for each drive shaft to rotate at controlled, but different speeds. The clutch and gearboxes will often be modified as well for easier gear changes. Steering angles are widened, and suspension is often stiffened and lowered. The cabin of the vehicle will receive a  roll cage and racing seats, along with an upgraded dashboard and driver controls. Tires will be near-slick, and the cars will often be given stance.

Tuned and stanced Mazda MX-5, image credit Grant McDonnell

Drifting has also made an influence in film, notably in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Many racing video games will include the ability to drift, such as the Forza series. And of course, street racers have picked up the hobby of going around corners sideways.


Vaughn Gittin Jr. drifting the Nurburgring in custom Mustang



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