The action of drifting, when the rear slip angle of a car is greater that the front slip angle and a loss of traction occurs between tires and track, can occur in different types of auto racing. This may be unintentional, with drivers either spinning off the track or being able to rectify the over-steering that caused the drift, or intentionally, with drivers using the technique to gain an advantage. In recent years, drifting has developed into a recognized motorsport in its own right, with drivers intentionally over-steering to get their cars to slide sideways while still being in control. Drifting competitions are held in many countries around the world, where competitors are judged by a set of criteria which may include speed and angle, as well as adherence to the line through corners which is set for each competition and amount of smoke created. In some competitions audience response and driver showmanship are taken into account when selecting a winner.
Drifting as a sport is believed to have originated in Japan, with motorcycle and car racing champion Kunimitsu Takahashi being considered to be the “father of drifting” as, in the 1970s, he created many of the original drifting techniques still used today. Takahashi’s drift techniques were picked up by Keiichi Tsuchiya who took to practicing his moves on mountainous passes. He was given the nickname of “Drift King” for the part he played in establishing drifting as a motorsport, and for his use of drifting in standard racing events. The video (Pluspy) focusing on Tsuchiya’s drifting skills continues to inspire today’s drivers.
Sponsored by the Japanese drifting magazine Option, one of the first drifting events in the United States took place at the Willow Springs Raceway in California. The sport has gone from strength to strength since then with the premier series in the United States being Formula D. This exciting championship series consists of seven events that take place at race tracks across the country. Judges take into account execution and style and so the winner will not necessarily be the competitor who finishes the course in the quickest time.
Tracks in the US that currently host drifting events include the Long Beach GP street circuit; Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA; Palm Beach International Raceway; Wall Speedway, NJ; Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA; Las Vegas Motor Speedway; and the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, CA. Described as the merging of extreme sports with traditional racing, drift racing offers plenty of action and excitement – for both drivers and spectators.