What You Should Know Before You Start Drifting

Have you exhausted all the thrills of the speedway? Do you feel ready to be the next Ken Block?
Here are a few basics you need to know before you think about customising a car and preparing yourself for drifting.

First of all, drifting is not something you should try with the car you drive to work. The modifications would of course allow you to still go to work, but your modified car would be less safe (more about this later), while an unmodified car would drift poorly.

In short: your drifting car should be customised for drifting only.

The second most important thing is that you need to have access to dedicated tracks. It can be tempting to find deserted parking lots late at night but remember that a parking lot of a mall is private property. Out of opening hours, you could end up being charged for trespassing. Keep in mind that malls have security cameras or private security and that drifting is noisy.

Drifting is an expensive hobby because typically you need to customise a dedicated car, change tyres pretty much all the time, and rent the track.

Choosing the right car

First and foremost, you need a rear-wheel-drive, which should be fairly light. Remember that drifting is all about weight transfer, transforming the momentum to rotate the car. A heavier car will be more difficult to use for drifting. Typically cars customised for drifting are sedans or coupes.

The Hudson Hornet has now become a legend in itself. Popular models these days include old BMW’s, Volvo 300 series and Ford Sierras. MW V8 were able to provide 300-400 horsepower output and BMW ruled for many years, but the German giant is losing ground to even more powerful American V8 engines.

Whatever your final choice is, power is key to achieving the wow effect you need. After all, drifting involves showmanship, emotions, and skills.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Good drifting requires …  LSD. LSD stands for Limited Slip Differential, probably the most essential part from the technical point of view. In a nutshell, it is a mechanical device that allows you to keep moving if, say, your car was stuck with one wheel on a slab of ice. Without an LSD, the wheel on the ice would get all the torque and your car would not move. 

Tyre selection

Using commercial tyres for drifting is possible, but bear in mind that drifting uses up the tyre exceptionally quickly. A lot of drifters buy cheap new tyres which, in most cases, are not intended to last more than one drifting session.

DOT treadwear measures how quickly your tyres will wear out, and they will resist the specific conditions of drifting. Proper tyres for drifting, such as the Falken Azenis RT615K, or Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08R will have very high DOT (about 200) but also the corresponding price tag.

Steering and the hand brake

In most production cars, Ackermann steering geometry allows the wheels to have a different angle when the car is turning. It is of course essential for the car to be able to handle road turns without losing control. The differential completes this mechanism as it allows the wheels to have a different speed.

Drifting is about losing control without losing control so to speak, so you need to get rid of your Ackermann. This is also why a car tuned for drifting could become dangerous in the hands of a careless or inexperienced driver.

The hand brake should be modified too. Commercial hand brakes lock when pulled. In drifting pulling the hand brake should not force you to unlock it before disabling it. And this is just another reason why your drifting car is not intended for everyday use.

For the driver

Just like speedway, motocross, rally racing or Formula 1, drifting is a motoring discipline which puts a lot of stress on machines and the people who drive them.

Safety comes first so always wear a helmet – not exactly because your car may hit another car but mostly because you can bump your head inside your car. Your body should obviously be secured within a racing seat with a harness.

Drifting involves strong centrifugal forces and you need to be able to concentrate on driving. Without a harness you would also find it harder to make the right move at the right moment.

It is also recommended that you change your steering wheel for a smaller one so that it can spin freely when you release it.

If you are taking your first steps in drifting, keep the above tips in mind and prepare everything you need. If you plan this adventure carefully and ahead of time and remain focused behind the wheel you’re bound to have a wonderful drifting experience.

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