How Drifting Works

Tandem Drifting

Once the solo runs narrow the field, the competition moves to tandem runs. At this stage, two cars are on the course at the same time, taking turns as the lead car and the chasing car. This is an offensive/defensive setup designed to find out who can drift best under pressure. The lead car must avoid the chasing car and at the same time execute an ideal drift; meanwhile, the chasing car is trying to mess up the lead car by getting in its way and is also trying to achieve its own ideal drift. A driver who spins out or causes contact automatically loses the tandem run. In this run, judges award points comparatively, so one driver always comes out on top.

Photo courtesy Fred Chang,

Photo courtesy Fred Chang,

Photos courtesy Fred Chang,

If you're interested in getting involved in the sport of drifting, you basically follow the same kind of path you would for any other motor sport. You start by learning the ropes, and the best way to learn drifting is to attend a learning event offered by one of the drift leagues. Don't try to learn to drift on public roads or empty parking lots -- it's unsafe for everyone, including the driver. In an empty parking lot, there's no help around if you crash your car, which is a distinct possibility in a sport based on the premise of losing control.

Photo courtesy Fred Chang,

Once you've learned the basics, you can go to drift raceways when they're having practice events and drift to your heart's content -- you have to pay for time, but safety personnel are on hand in case there's an accident, and it also gives you a chance to connect with other drifters and register for driver search events and amateur qualifying rounds. Winners from search events make it to the qualifying competitions, and winners from the qualifying competitions keep moving up until they reach the professional drift circuit.

To look for an event in your area where you can drift, learn to drift or watch other people drift, check out some of these Web sites:

For more information on drifting and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • "Drift Techniques." Drift Session.
  • "FAQ." D1 Grand Prix USA.
  • "How to Drift." Drifting 2.0.
  • Kiesler, Sara. "New racing competition allows drivers to go with the flow." Daytona Beach News-Journal. May 31, 2006.
  • Moto-P. "The Proper Drift…?"
  • Romans, Brent. "Heel and Toe Downshift."
  • Stevens, Ryan. "Drifting Explained!" SRO Magazine.
  • "Track Layout." Drift Session.
  • "What is Drifting?" Drift Academy.