Photo courtesy Fred Chang, www.jtuned.com
- Power-over drift - The driver accelerates into and through the entire turn to make the back end swing out as the weight shifts on exit. This technique requires a lot of horsepower.
- Feint drift - The driver steers the car to the outside of the turn on the approach, pushing the car's weight to outside wheels. She then quickly steers back into the turn. When the car's suspension kicks back, the weight shifts so quickly that the back end flicks out to initiate a drift.
- Jump drift - Entering a turn, the driver bounces the inside rear tire over the inner curb to shift the car's weight to the outside wheels and induce traction loss, initiating a drift.
- Dynamic drift (Kansei drift) - Entering a turn at high speed, the driver suddenly releases the gas pedal to shift the weight to the front wheels, initiating a drift as the rear tires lose traction.
- Swaying drift - A swaying drift is a lot like a feint drift except that it begins on a long straightaway approach to a turn. Once the car starts drifting, the driver uses steering to maintain the drift in the form of a side-to-side swaying of the car's back end.
- Dirt-drop drift - The driver drops the rear tires off the race course into the dirt. This technique helps initiate a drift, maintain speed to hold a drift through multiple turns or increase the drift angle (see the next section) during a single turn.
For detailed explanations and instructions for each of the techniques mentioned here, check out Drift Session: Drift Techniques.
As you can see from the above techniques, drifting is not the most natural thing for a car to do. To get a car in good shape to drift and to keep it in good shape as a drifting car, there are some additions or modifications that a lot of drivers make. These can include adding horsepower and upgrading the engine's cooling system to handle the increased stress and power needs, tightening the suspension (MacPherson strut is a preferred type) to help with the weight-shifting drift techniques, and installing a limited-slip differential so the driver can control the car while drifting through more than one turn. A limited-slip differential lets the car transfer torque to whichever wheels have traction, whether that's one or all four. (See How Differentials Work to learn more about limited-slip.) The driver will usually disable any traction control and/or anti-lock-brake systems so the tires can more easily lose traction, as well as inflate the tires to about 10 psi above normal pressure to decrease their grip on the road. Since the rear tires on a drifting car can get burned up in just a handful of drifting runs, drivers typically put good tires on the front and cheap tires on the back. Tires are by far the biggest expense in the sport of drifting.
Unless you're buying a whole new car to drift, that is. When considering a good drifting car, you're basically looking for a rear-wheel drive, lightweight car that's relatively inexpensive (cars can get pretty beat up on the drifting circuit). Other qualities that make a nice drifter include a high front-to-rear weight ratio, good horsepower and a light flywheel so the engine revs easier. Some of the more popular drifting cars include the Toyota Corolla AE86 GTS, the Nissan Silvia S13 or S14, the Nissan 180SX, the Nissan Skyline GTS-T, the Nissan Sil-Eighty and the Mazda RX-7 (Japanese cars tend to be lighter in the rear than others).
You'll actually find a pretty wide range of cars at drifting events, including European and American models. Most pros will tell you that with the right level of skill, you can make any car a drifter, and in addition to the common drift cars, you'll see everything from Ford Mustangs to BMWs at competitions.
The judging at a drift competition is very different from any other type of car race. It's more like the judging at an ice skating competition than at a NASCAR event. In the next section, we'll see what goes on at a drift competition.