I recently met up with a few friends right after the Goodyear Formula Drift Malaysia. Some Malaysian bloke named Tengku Djan won the event in an 180sx with a S15 front end. It was during this conversation that one of us actually asked ‘what goes on during a drift competition’. Answers were given and I later went home and did some googling. I found out that some of our ideas on what a drift competition were correct and we did agree on one thing. A drift competition consists of 2 blokes in rear wheel drive cars trying to go round at least two corners, one left and one right, the fastest and in the most stylish way. It also came to our conclusion that it is the shortest form of car racing there is and it isn’t a real race anyway as you don’t even need to overtake your opponent. One has to lead in the first heat and the other in the second.
In Formula Drift, the drivers are judged on speed (the faster the better), line (the car must come as close as possible to the designated front and rear clip points; the car must change direction at pre-determined transition point), the angle of rear slip (bigger is better) and overall impression (or showboating) , which is a subjective criteria that includes drama and excitement. The competitors are then judged by some judges and a winner is the one that wins the round and then the event.
Now after reading the above, I surmised that drifting is like ballet or gymnastics, or even diving. Other people judge your performance instead of an actual victory by coming number one or something like that. Car control would be paramount as you’ve only two corners to prove your worth although some would then say “Only two corners? So few? How hard could it be?”. And that’s the million dollar question.
Two corners means that you cannot make a mistake hence a mistake means losing. It could also mean that how can two or three or four corners be enough to actually make this a sport? If you compare to Rallying, the drivers there drift through hundreds of corners. So does that make drifting less a sport than rallying?
Maybe drifting is an urban sport for the more sophisticated motorsports enthusiast or the enthusiasts who think they’re sophisticated but they’re not. Whatever the answer is, it’s too simple a sport in my opinion. Watching a drift competition from start to finish isn’t that interesting. You do get to see nice cars but you’re only watching two cars going head to head at a time. Compare this to a proper race and you may get 20 cars on track at a time. Compare this to rallying and you know that they are competing against the clock and against each other. Drifting is like watching the Wimbledon. It takes a while to find out who’s the champion.
I think it is because of people like me there is now such a drifting completion called the team drift competition. The good thing about this is that there’ll be a bigger chance of a ‘team accident’. Like NASCAR, accidents make good spectator viewing. I hope someone organises a team event in this region soon. More cars make better racing.
(above - a team drift event - more cars = more fun)
Now on the point whether the writer ever ‘drifted’ a car in his life or not the answer is ‘yes’. Drifting means the car slides sideways or oversteers through a corner as if the tail wants to swap ends with the front. I’ve done it a considerable number of times. Whether I wanted to or not. Drifting in a All Wheel Drive is easy. Drifting a rear wheel drive (RWD) car is not as in an all wheel drive the front wheels assist you out of the corner and the power channeled through the front wheels can (if you have the guts or enough road) to power your way through the corner. In a RWD car, try brutally pinning the throttle to the floor before you point the steering wheel where you’re supposed to and you won’t see a drift but a spin. The front wheels in a RWD car only steers a car. I vividly remember oversteering and countersteering my dad’s old Fiat 131 sometime in the 1990s in the wet due to stomping on the throttle at a junction with concrete curbs a few inches away from the car. It was easy to tail out in the wet with that old car. White knuckles, cold sweat and that nearly piss in your pants feeling are not fond first memories of oversteer or ‘drifting’ as one calls it today. I've learned my lesson on car control since then but the experience makes great reading nonetheless.