Making a Car Drift


Photo courtesy Fred Chang, www.jtuned.com

The first drifting technique a driver needs to master is actually a regular racing technique. Heel-and-toe shifting lets a race car driver downshift smoothly and quickly (to increase rpm) while simultaneously braking (to shift the car's weight forward). The goal of this shifting technique is to maintain equilibrium between engine speed and wheel speed so the drivetrain doesn't jolt while downshifting. To heel-and-toe downshift while your right foot is on the brake, you depress the clutch with your left foot, shift to neutral and release the clutch. Then, keeping the ball of your right foot on the brake, you move your right heel to the gas pedal and rev the engine until the rpm matches up with wheel speed (usually an increase of about 1,500 rpm per one-gear downshift). Once you reach the proper rpm, you get off the gas pedal, still applying the brake, push in the clutch again and downshift. Once a driver can execute proper race-style shifting, she's ready to master some drifting techniques.

Clutch-based techniques

  • Clutch-kick drift - Approaching the turn, the driver holds in the clutch, increases rpm and downshifts. She then releases the clutch, causing a power surge that makes the back wheels lose traction. This is a basic drifting technique.
  • Shift-lock drift - Approaching the turn, the driver downshifts and drops the rpm to slow down the drivetrain. She then releases the clutch, causing the back wheels to immediately slow down and lock up so they lose traction.

Brake-based techniques

  • E-brake drift - The driver enters the turn and pulls the emergency brake to lock the back wheels. She steers into the turn, and the back end swings out into a drift. This is a basic drifting technique.
  • Braking drift - The driver enters the turn and applies the brakes to push the car's weight to the front wheels, causing the back wheels to rise and lose traction. She then uses a combination of braking and shifting to hold the drift without the back wheels locking up.
  • Long-slide drift - On a long straightaway approaching a turn, at high speed (up to 100 mph / 161 kph), the driver pulls the emergency brake to initiate a long drift and maintains it into the turn.