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What and how to drift - A guide ahead of Formula Drift Singapore 2011

By BenCee on 30 May 2011

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I'm sure some of you would know by now that Formula Drift is coming back to Singapore, on the 11 and 12 of June. If not, then you might want to keep yourself up to date by clicking here for the full, detailed lowdown.

Before we get all excited by all the rubber-burning action, let us acknowledge that there might be some people who are new to the art of drifiting, and might want to pick up some knowledge and information about this drifting business.

Luckily, the organisers of Formula Drift Singapore 2011 has sent us a very handy basic guide to this automotive art form.

Take it away guys.


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Drifting started in Japan more than a decade and a half ago. Drifting is a high-skilled, high-powered motorsport that calls for drivers to control a 200bhp to 600hp (or more) car while it slides sideways at high speeds through a marked course.

The drifter's goal is to put the car into controlled slides, maintaining speed and angle of attack through the curves. While drifting is similar to rally racing, it is done on a closed course and judged on execution and style rather than who finishes the course fastest. Drifting takes all the thrilling moments of traditional motorsports and packs it together into non-stop competition.

Formula Drift takes the excitement one step further by being the premier drifting competition that features aggressive side-by-side action as drivers burn up the course two-at-a-time, often only inches apart. Drifting pros finesse their cars into spectacular power slides around a series of corners of a set course as powerful engines roar and tyres bellow smoke.

The driver controls engine power, shifts gears and feathers the brake pedal, while at the same time spinning the steering wheel in a precise fashion from left to right, linking corners with pinpoint accuracy. The driver is controlling and manoeuvring the car beyond the limits of the tyres' traction.


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Drift - Intentionally causing a vehicle to exceed its tyres' limits of adhesion, exhibiting a lateral slip, resulting in an oversteered condition.

Counter Steer - Corrective steering used to balance and maintain an oversteered condition. (Turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the turn once the vehicle starts to oversteer.)

Donut - Allowing the rear wheels of a vehicle to burn rubber, causing the car to rotate around the front tyre.

Exhibition Drift - The purpose of drifting at the Drift Session is to cause maximum oversteer in a vehicle while maintaining speed. Vehicles are not judged based on time trials or speed, but rather on the completion of clean and exaggerated drifts, that maintain a reasonable rate of speed. Exhibition Drifting also includes techniques such as one-hand driftin, or trying to open the door while drifting. We often see exhibition techniques being used during demo sessions.

Oversteer - Over rotating a car while cornering. This may cause a vehicle to be on the verge of spinning out.

Understeer - Loss of traction in a vehicle's front tyres, caused by excessive speed in relation to a cornering angle, making a vehicle slide outwards during a turn.


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Benjamin Khoo, Technical Director for Formula Drift Asia who will be sitting on the judging panel this season as well, tells you the basics of a drift car and what you need to get started.

"It is always exciting to welcome new fans to the sport. Drifting, ultimately, like all motorsports is great fun and the basics can be mastered by most with the right equipment at a safe venue (keep it off the streets guys!).

So, here is my breakdown of what is required:

A rear wheel drive car is essential to the sport of drifting. A rear wheel drive means that all the power in the vehicle is funnelled to the rear wheels, allowing the tail of your vehicle to 'hang out' and eventually go sideways.

It is best to enter the sport using a rear wheel drive machine that is affordable and has tons of spare parts available in the open-market. Drifting like all motorsports involves seat time and track time. Also, as you progress through the sport, crashes and accidents will naturally occur as you push yourself and your vehicle to the limit.

The essential performance modifications for drifting focus on the differential. Of course, weight reduction, suspension set-up and increasing the power output would be helpful at some point, but at this early stage, all the focus should be on car control. From the outside, drifting seems very chaotic and intense, but inside the cockpit of the drift car, the driver is fully aware of his or her vehicle's attributes and the surroundings.

Next, let us examine in more detail what the Limited Slip Differential (LSD) is and what it does for your car. The LSD essentially forces both your rear wheels to spin at the same rate. Imagine your vehicle axle with two wheels attached to it. While your vehicle is travelling in a straight line, both the wheels turn at the same revolution. However, while you are turning, the wheel on the inner curve rotates less than the wheel on the outer curve. The wheel on the outer curve has to cover a great distance. The LSD regulates the revolutions of both wheels, so that both rotate proportionally at the same rate. This equal rotation allows the driver to 'hang' the tail of his car out, hence initiating the drift and the giant cloud of tyre smoke synonymous with Formula Drift.

The other important area of focus is vehicle and driver safety. Regardless of the level of drifting involved, all drivers should suit up with a fireproof race helmet and fireproof race suit. The addition of a roll cage in the event of collisions with barricades or other vehicles is mandatory as well.

Before we forget, I also wanted to get to the topic of tyres for drift. Unlike other motorsports, the tyres used in drifting are all commercially available in your retail store round the corner. These high performance tyres have been produced by leading manufacturers to cater to the increasing segment of performance-oriented drivers. Imagine what your tyres can do for you under normal circumstances when it can withstand the extreme conditions during drift. It is common for drifters to go through a few sets of tyres a day during both practice and actual competition. So, make sure you become buddies with your local tyre retailer!"

So there you have it. The basic whys and hows of drifting. So when you see these guys in action on the 11 and 12 of June at the F1 Pit Building, you have a better understanding to this sublime skill of car control.

Text and pictures courtesy of Driftpac Pte Ltd. Thanks guys!

One last thing. If you're a member of MyCarForum, we're having a meetup with free tickets to the event. All you need to do is pay $10 for an exclusive MCF polo-tee on the day and you'll get the free tickets as well.

Full details here. Hurry, only 30 slots available!

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Written by BenCee
A petrolhead from young, Ben is living the dream, writing about cars...

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