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Trackdays Tutorial - How to Drift

21 July 2017
Trackdays Driving Tips & Tutorials - How to Drift | Track Days


Welcome to our latest Trackdays tutorial on drifting. Learning how to drift has fast become one of the most popular car experiences out there and for good reason, it's thrilling to do, and looks amazing!

In this tutorial, we will look at the main technique that can be employed to drift as well as giving advice on drifting with a modestly powered unmodified car. We will look for advice from the experts and provide some simple illustrations to help you learn to drift.

But, safety first! Drifting is not something to practice on public roads, ever. We recommend you go on a track day, drifting experience or arrange to hire a section of the circuit.

Scott Mansell of Driver61 thinks you should be sensible:

"Let me start by saying you should never drift on the public road… be sensible with this. The best thing to do is to hire an area of tarmac, which you can do at many race circuits or airfields and lay out some cones, then try to drift around them. That way you are safe, everyone else is safe, and there shouldn’t be anything close by to hit… while drifting is great fun; it’s relatively difficult, and you’ll not get it right straight away."

What is drifting?

Drifting is a driving technique that can be achieved in a number of different ways depending on the vehicle and situation and enables the rear of the car to slide with an element of control. The technique is often thrilling for both the driver and spectators. The technique is however difficult, especially if you are driving an unmodified road car but we will run through the technique and where to start as far as practising.

What does a standard road car not have to make drifting more difficult? Obviously, you will have a lot less power than a custom built drift car and you will also find that drift machines have a modified differential and an e-brake to get the drift going. Road cars are also much softer and more liable to understeer. So to get your drift going in a road car you will need to be aggressive with your throttle and steering to make the rear of the car more lively.

So what are the basics of drifting?

You will need:

  • Rear Wheel Drive
  • Power
  • Manual transmission
  • The ability to disable traction and stability control

The four stages of drifting

Step 1 - Starting the drift
Unlike with custom drift machines you are going to need more than just power to unsettle the rear of the car to get the drift going. Approach the corner at speed and then brake on approach. This will cause the front of the car to dip, putting more grip on the front tyres whilst causing the rear of the car to lift. You then need to make an aggressive flick with the wheel into the corner to unsettle the rear and start the car sliding. The aim of the technique is to affect the balance of the car by putting more weight and thus grip into the front of the car and making the rear of the car loose and start rotating.

how to drift

As has been stated earlier this is a difficult technique to get right and there is the risk of both understeer and oversteer whilst you get a feel for the right steering inputs.

Step 2 - Maintaining the drift
During this phase, the car should be sliding at a nice sideways angle and be relatively stable. The car will be sensitive to how much power you put through the accelerator pedal. Applying more power will further increase your angle whilst reducing the throttle will make the car straighten out. Power is important to maintain the drift and you will find it is a real balancing act to maintain a drift with steering and throttle inputs. Whip the steering wheel into the corner and then applying opposite lock to maintain the drift and stop the car over-rotating.

Step 3 - Transitioning the drift
Transitioning can happen quite quickly and is tricky to time right. The aim is to manoeuvre the cars drifting angle from one direction to another as you move from one turn to the next. Go too hard here and the car could spin, too soft and the car could understeer. This is going to take practice but be aware of the inputs you make so you are able to correct mistakes on your next transition.

The method of transitioning is to almost put so much angle in that you could over-rotate and spin before lifting on the power and forcing the front of the car to dip onto the front tyres. The front tyres will grip-up and start the car rotating in the opposite direction and into the next corner.

At this point, you will need to allow the steering wheel to spin to get that opposite lock on and enable you to continue the drift maintenance if the circuit is configured to allow that.

Step 4 - Exiting the drift
At some point, be it a long straight or if you have run out of rubber you will need to exit the drift. Exiting is achieved by gradually allowing the drift to run out while smoothly correcting your steering.

Here ends our tutorial on drifting. Please check back for more expert tips to help you get more out of your time on the track.

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