It’s a mad, mad, world for drivers who drift. Whether practicing the sport in official competitions or just playing around in less organized events, drifters like nothing more than sliding around corners sideways. On a really good day, the cars sometimes can even catch some (sidways) air.
Drift competitions are held worldwide, but the motorsport originated in Japan in the 1970s. One of the first competitions outside Japan was in 1996 at the Willow Springs Raceway in California.
Drifting occurs when a car slides sideways through corners after the driver intentionally oversteers to lose rear wheel traction. In competitions, drivers are judged on the line maintained through corners, angle, speed, style, and show factor. The bottom line is the crazier it looks, the better — as long as the driver maintains control.
While you can theoretically drift any car, the most auspicious setup is a rear wheel drive vehicle with a manual shift and clutch, a handbrake, and a limited slip differential. The car doesn’t have to have a huge amount of power, but it is important to have a supportive seat to help you stay in position while subjected to fierce lateral forces constantly shifting from side to side. The Nissan 200SX is a popular drift car, but if you try, you can get a Ferrari to drift.
The current Guinness World Record for the fastest drift was set in 2016 by a Nissan GTR-X at 189.5 mph.
There are plenty of drifting videos from racers, enthusiasts, and occasionally from the keyboards and CPUs of people who know their way around computer-generated imagery (CGI). Let us know if you think the M4 in the video below is really drifting where it appears to be.
The best advice is not to try drifting with your daily driver. If you want to learn drifting, there are plenty of drift schools in the U.S. including U-Drift, DriftSchoolUSA, and Drift101. According to Car and Driver, even the famed Bob Bondurant Racing School has drifting classes.