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A Toyota Supra in drifting exhibition in Commerce, Georgia in 2005.

Drifting refers to a driving technique and to a motorsport where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels through turns, while maintaining vehicle control and a high exit speed. A car is said to be drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle prior to the corner apex, and the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn (e.g. car is turning left, wheels are pointed right or vice versa), and the driver is controlling these factors. As a motor sport, professional drifting competitions are held across the world.

Contents

History

Modern drifting as a sport started out as a racing technique popular in the All Japan Touring Car Championship races over 30 years ago. Motorcycling legend turned driver, Kunimitsu Takahashi, was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. He is noted for hitting the apex (the point where the car is closest to the inside of a turn) at high speed and then drifting through the corner, preserving a high exit speed. This earned him several championships and a legion of fans who enjoyed the spectacle of smoking tires. The bias ply racing tires of the 1960s-1980s lent themselves to driving styles with a high slip angle. As professional racers in Japan drove this way, so did the street racers.

Keiichi Tsuchiya (known as the Dorikin/Drift King) became particularly interested by Takahashi's drift techniques. Tsuchiya began practicing his drifting skills on the mountain roads of Japan, and quickly gained a reputation amongst the racing crowd. In 1987, several popular car magazines and tuning garages agreed to produce a video of Tsuchiya's drifting skills. The video, known as Pluspy, became a hit and inspired many of the professional drifting drivers on the circuits today. In 1988, alongside Option magazine founder and chief editor Daijiro Inada, he would help to organize one of the first events specifically for drifting called the D1 Grand Prix. He also drifted every turn in Tsukuba Circuit in Japan.

One of the earliest recorded drift events outside Japan was in 1996, held at Willow Springs Raceway in Willow Springs, California hosted by the Japanese drifting magazine and organization Option. Inada, founder of the D1 Grand Prix in Japan, the NHRA Funny Car drag racer Kenji Okazaki and Keiichi Tsuchiya, who also gave demonstrations in a Nissan 180SX that the magazine brought over from Japan, judged the event with Rhys Millen and Bryan Norris being two of the entrants.[1] Drifting has since exploded into a massively popular form of motorsport in North America, Australasia, and Europe. One of the first drifting competitions in Europe was hosted in 2002 by the OPT drift club at Turweston, run by a tuning business called Option Motorsport. The club held a championship called D1UK, then later became the Autoglym Drift Championship. For legal reasons, the business was forced to drop the Option and D1 name. The club has since been absorbed into the D1 Grand Prix franchise as a national series.

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Present day

Drifting has evolved into a competitive sport where drivers compete in rear wheel drive cars, and occasionally all wheel drive cars, to earn points from judges based on various factors. At the top levels of competition, the D1 Grand Prix from Japan and now with a full series in the US have pioneered the sport. Others in Malaysia[citation needed], Australia, Pro-drift in Europe, BDC in the United Kingdom,URC (United Racers Club) in Bangladesh, SUPERDRIFT in Italy, Formula-D in the United States, King of Europe Drift Series in Europe, Drift Mania in Canada, and the NZ Drift Series in New Zealand have also come along to further expand the sport into a legitimate motor sport worldwide. The drivers within these series were originally influenced by the pioneers from D1 Japan and are able to keep their cars sliding for extended periods of time, often linking several turns. Drifting with decades of race history and its relatively recent fame in the United States (the first official drift points race of D1 Grand Prix was held in the summer of 2003) has become its own authority yet Formula D remains as the largest and most prestigious championship in North America with an international field of professionally supported drivers.

Amateur "Tafheet" or "Hjwalah" drifting on public roads is a significant problem in Saudi Arabia.[2] .[3]

Drift competition

Drifting competitions are judged based on line, angle, speed, and show factor. Line involves taking the correct line, which is usually announced beforehand by judges. The show factor is based on multiple things, such as the amount of smoke, how close the car is to the wall, and the crowd's reaction. Angle is the angle of a car in a drift, speed is the speed entering a turn, the speed through a turn, and the speed exiting the turn; faster is better.

Team Drift Competition in Melbourne.

The judging takes place on just a small part of the circuit, a few linking corners that provide good viewing, and opportunities for drifting. The rest of the circuit is irrelevant, except as it pertains to controlling the temperature of the tires and setting the car up for the first judged corner. In the tandem passes, the lead driver often feints his or her entry to the first corner to upset the chase driver.

There are typically two sessions, a qualifying/practice session, and a final session. In the qualifying sessions, referred as Tansou (speed run), drifters get individual passes in front of judges (who may or may not be the final judges) to try and make the final 16. This is often on the day preceding the final.

The finals are tandem passes, referred as Tsuiso (chase attack). Drivers are paired off, and each heat comprises two passes, with each driver taking a turn to lead. The best of the 8 heats go to the next 4, to the next 2, to the final. The passes are judged as explained above, however there are some provisos such as:

  • Overtaking the lead car under drift conditions almost always wins that pass.
  • Overtaking the lead car under grip conditions automatically forfeits that pass.
  • Spinning forfeits that pass, unless the other driver also spins.
  • Increasing the lead under drift conditions helps to win that pass.
  • Maintaining a close gap while chasing under drift conditions helps to win that pass.

Points are awarded for each pass, and usually one driver prevails. Sometimes the judges cannot agree, or cannot decide, or a crowd vocally disagrees with the judge's decision.[citation needed] In such cases more passes may be run until a winner is produced. Sometimes mechanical failure determines the battle's outcome, either during or preceding a heat. If a car cannot enter a tandem battle, the remaining entrant (who automatically advances) will give a solo demonstration pass. In the event of apparently close or tied runs, crowds often demonstrate their desire for another run with chants of 'one more time'.[4]

There is some regional variation. For example in Australia, the chase car is judged on how accurately it emulates the drift of the lead car, as opposed to being judged on its own merit, this is only taken into consideration by the judges if the lead car is on the appropriate racing line. Other variations of the tansou/tsuiso and the tansou only method is the multi-car group judging, seen in the Drift Tengoku videos where the four car team is judged in groups.[citation needed]

Cars

Drifting Toyota AE86

Usually, drift cars are light to moderate weight rear-wheel-drive coupes and sedans over a large range of power levels. In Japan and worldwide, the most common drift vehicles are the Nissan Silvia/180SX/200SX, Toyota AE86, Mazda RX-7, Mazda RX-8, Infiniti G35 Coupe, Nissan A31 Cefiro, Nissan C33 Laurel, Nissan Skyline (AWD versions are developed into a RWD platform), Nissan 350Z, Toyota Altezza, Toyota Chaser, Toyota Mark II, Toyota MZ20 Soarer, Honda S2000, Toyota Supra (MKIV), Ford Mustang and Mazda Miata/MX-5. US drift competitions usually use the same cars, plus Chrysler LLC's Dodge Charger, and Dodge Viper SRT-10, and General Motors's Chevrolet Corvette, and Pontiac Solstice . Drifters in other countries often use local favorites, such as the Vauxhall Omega in the UK and Ireland, BMW 3 Series, Ford Sierra, Volvo 240, Volvo 340 (other parts of Europe), Mercedes-Benz cars, Porsche cars, and Alfa Romeo 75. As an example, the top 15 cars in the 2003 D1GP,[5] top 10 in the 2004 D1GP,[6] and top 10 in the 2005 D1GP[7] were:

Nissan Silvia S15 drifting
Car Model 2003 2004 2005
Nissan Silvia S15 6 cars 5 cars 3 cars
Toyota Levin/Trueno AE86 3 cars 3 cars 2 cars
Mazda RX-7 FD3S 2 cars 1 car 2 cars
Nissan Skyline ER34 1 car 1 car 1 car
Nissan Silvia S13 2 cars
Toyota Chaser JZX100 1 car
Subaru Impreza GD (RWD) 1 car
Toyota Altezza SXE10 1 car

The Top cars in the Red Bull Drifting Championship:

Driver Make Model
Vaughn Gittin JR. Ford Mustang
Tanner Foust Nissan 350Z
Jeffary Rodriguez Mazda RX7
Issac Yakuza Infiniti Q45
Hiro Sumida Lexus IS350
Casper Canul Nissan 240SX
Ken Gushi Scion tC
Kevin Huynh Mopar Viper SRT10
Dai Yoshihara Lexus IS350
Calvin Wan Infiniti G35
Rhys Millen Pontiac Solstice GXP
Vanessa Ozawa Dodge Magnum SRT8
Robbie Nishida Nissan 350Z
Sam Hubinette Dodge Charger
Chris Forsberg Nissan 350Z
Ross Petty Nissan Silvia
Nathan Jones BMW M3

In the 2008 Formula D series, the most frequent nameplate in the top rankings is Pontiac, but at the grassroots level, the Nissan 240SX still dominates in popularity.[citation needed]

FWD cars do qualify for entrance into D1GP events, but are rarely used due to the drivetrain's inability to allow the car to accelerate out of a drift. They are not eligible for Formula D events.

AWD vehicles, such as the Nissan Skyline GTR Subaru Impreza WRX STi, and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution can drift but usually require different suspension tuning (when compared to RWD), higher amounts of power, and, in some cases, an adjustable center differential. In D1 Grand Prix, these cars are modified to RWD specification.

Drift tuning

Drive train

A proper mechanical limited slip differential (LSD) is almost considered essential for drifting. Attempting to drift with an open or viscous differential in a sustained slide generally yields relatively less impressive results. All other modifications are secondary to the LSD.[8] Two popular LSD brands amongst drifters are OS Giken & Cusco.

The most preferred form of LSD for drifting is the clutch type, in "2-way" form, for its consistent and aggressive lockup behavior under all conditions (acceleration and deceleration). Some drift cars use a spool "differential", which actually has no differential action at all - the wheels are locked to each other. Budget-minded drifters may use a welded differential, where the side gears are welded to give the same effect as a spool. This makes it easier to break rear traction because it reduces maximum traction in all situations except traveling in a straight line. Welded differentials have an inherent risk involved, due to the tremendous amounts of internal stress the welds may fail and the differential completely locks up leaving the rear wheels immobilized. Helical torque sensing types such as the Torsen or Quaife (available on cars in certain stock trims such as S15, FD3S, MX-5, JZA8x, UZZ3x) differentials are also adequate.

The clutches on drift cars tend to be very tough ceramic brass button or multiple-plate varieties, for durability, as well as to allow rapid "clutch kick" techniques to upset the balance of the car. Gearbox and engine mounts are often replaced with urethane mounts, and dampers added, to control the violent motion of the engine/gearbox under these conditions.

Gearsets may be replaced with closer ratios to keep the engine in the power band. (Japanese drifters confuse the "L" and call these "cross-mission"[citation needed].) These may be coarser dog engagement straight cut gears instead of synchronised helical gears, for durability and faster shifting at the expense of noise and refinement. Wealthier drifters may use sequential gearboxes to make gear selection easier/faster, while sequential shift lever adapters can be used to make shifts easier without increasing shift time.

Suspension

The suspension in a drift car tends to have very high spring and damper rates. Sway bars are upgraded, particularly on the rear. Caster is often increased to improve the car's controllability during a slide. Most cars use an integrated coilover/shock (MacPherson strut) combination. This type of suspension allows the ride height to be adjusted independently of the suspension travel. There is no perfect height setting or spring/shock combo for any car, but each driver will have their own personal preference. Many suspension manufacturers offer suspension tuned specifically for drifting, allowing many people to enter the sport competitively.

Bushings can be upgraded with urethane parts. Most Nissan vehicles have a floating rear subframe which is usually fixed in position with billet aluminum or urethane "drift pineapples", to prevent the frame moving during drift.

Positive camber is never desired. There is such a thing as too much negative camber. By making the wheel/tire go into static negative camber on a vehicle with a MacPherson strut front suspension, you are going to be counteracting the positive camber change. However, there is a level at which you over-counteract and thus the tire is always in a negative-camber situation. This is not wanted because it will both wear the tires prematurely and decrease contact patch and thus decreasing overall grip. In the rear, less negative camber (if any) is often used and, if it is used, it is usually to tweak the balance of the car. The old-school Japanese drifters used to run oni-kyan ("demon camber") so they could get their tires to spin easily even though they had very little power.[9] It has thus fallen out of favor as a serious performance-minded suspension setup. However, many cars built for show (such as those driven by bōsōzoku) still use this style of suspension setup for its aggressive look. A few degrees of toe-out on the rear wheels (leading edges angled outward) can reduce rear stability, and make setting up a drift a little easier.

Cockpit

Because of the large centripetal force encountered during drifting, drivers find it preferable to be retained firmly by a bucket seat, and harness. This allows the hands to merely turn the wheel, as opposed to bracing oneself against the wheel. The steering wheel should be relatively small, dished, and perfectly round, so that it can be released and allowed to spin through the hands as the caster returns the front wheels to center. The locking knob on the hand brake is usually replaced with a spin turn knob, this stops the hand brake locking on when pulled. Some drivers move the hand brake location or add an extra hydraulic hand brake actuator for greater braking force. Many drivers make use of additional gauges to monitor such things as boost levels, oil, intake and coolant temperatures.

Engine

S13 Silvia bay with modifications for drifting.

Engine power does not need to be high, and in fact if a car has too much power, it can be very hard to handle during a drift. Each driver has their own preference, and drift cars can be found with anything from 100 bhp (74 kW) to 1000 bhp (745 kW). Typically, engine tuning is oriented towards achieving linear response rather than maximum power output. Engines also must be equipped with upgraded cooling systems. Not only are the engines pushed very hard, creating lots of heat, but being driven at an angle reduces the airflow through the radiator. For turbocharged engines, intercooler efficiency is similarly reduced. Oil coolers are almost essential. V-mounting the intercooler and radiator improves flow through these components, and keeps the expensive intercooler out of harm's way in the case of a minor accident.

Steering

With increased steering angle it is possible to achieve greater angle with the vehicle, also aiding in spin recovery. This is often done with spacers on the steering rack, custom steering racks, custom tierod ends, or machining the spindles. In extreme cases increasing the steering angle may come to a point where the tire or wheel comes into contact with other suspension pieces or the inner/outer fenders; in which case additional modifications are required if such contacts are to be avoided.

Body

Cleaning up severed bumpers during drift meet.

Chassis preparation is similar to a road racing car. Roll cages are sometimes employed for safety, and to improve the torsional rigidity of the car's frame, but are compulsory in events that involves the 2+ cars' tsuiso runs in the event of a side collision. Front and rear strut tower braces, B-pillar braces, lower arm braces, and master cylinder braces are all used to stiffen the chassis. The interior is stripped of extraneous seating, trim, carpet, sound deadening; anything that is not essential is removed to reduce weight.

Body kits are often attached with cable ties. When the body kit meets the wall or curb, the cable ties snap, releasing the part, as opposed to breaking it. Aero also helps for cooling while the car is sideways.

As drift cars are pushed faster, aerodynamic tuning becomes more important as well. Rear spoilers and wings usually are useful only in large, open tracks where the cars develop enough speed to create a need for more downforce. Wheel arches are often rolled or flared to allow the fitment of larger tires. Airflow to the engine is critical, so the hood is often vented.

Due to the nature of the hobby, drift cars are typically involved in many minor accidents. Thus, those involved with the sport tend to avoid expensive or easily damaged body kits and custom paintwork.

Tires

S13 Silvia - tire stretched over a wide rim, increasing sidewall rigidity. The rim has a low offset to increase track.

The cars quite often have different tires on the front and back, and the owner may have quite a few sets. This is because a single afternoon of drifting can destroy several new sets of tires. As a rule, good tires go on the front for good steering. On the back, hard-compound tires are used, quite often second-hand ones tend to end up in a cloud of smoke. 15" wheels are common on the rear, as 15" tires are cheap. As a driver gets better, they will most likely want to upgrade the tires used in the rear for a higher grip compound. Although cheap/hard tires are fun purely for their slipperiness and ease of drifting, they quickly become a hazard for high-speed drifts. More advanced drivers require the most grip possible from all 4 tires, so as to retain control adequately during high speed drifts. Competitive drifters often run DOT-approved tires closer to racing tires, which is permitted, with the exception of some major championships including D1GP which only permits commercially available tires that are approved by them. The grip is required for control, speed, and a fast snap on the initial entry. Generally drifting consumes tires rapidly and multiple sets may be necessary for a single professional event.

Some companies, such as Kumho Tires, created tires with special effects for drifting. These tires produce colored smoke instead of regular grey smoke when drifted. Lavender-scented tires have also been developed.[9] They are not permitted in many competitions, as they are seen as giving an unfair advantage to teams with the funding to use them.

R/C drifting

R/C drifting refers to the act of drifting with a radio-controlled car. R/C cars are equipped with special low grip tires, usually made from PVC or ABS piping. Some manufacturers make radial drift tires that are made of actual rubber compounds. The car setup is usually changed to allow the car to drift more easily. R/C drifting is most successful on 4WD (Four wheel drive) R/C cars. Companies such as Tamiya, Yokomo, Team Associated and Hobby Products International[10] have made drift cars and supported the hobby.[11]

Drifting in games

Console and PC-based games

Drifting’s popularity in computer games extends back to early arcade racers where the techniques for games such as Sega Rally involved drifting. As this was a by-product of the techniques used in rallying, it cannot be considered the birth of drifting as a standalone sport in the gaming world.

Namco released the first game in the Ridge Racer series in 1993 as an arcade game that has been ported to many game consoles. The game series has drifting as the main technique for controlling cars.

The Mario Kart series have featured drifting since Super Mario Kart, but unlike realistic racers, drifting during a period of time allows for small turbo boosting. This technique, known as snaking, has become a popular (though considered unfair or even cheating by some) method for outracing opponents.

In-game communities have developed in games such as Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, made up of teams who battle in user-created tournaments.

Online games

Online games written in Adobe Flash, Adobe Shockwave and Java language are also popular and include Marshal Tyres’ Online World Drifting Championships, NZ Performance Car’s Drift Legends (the first online game to feature real drifting racetracks, initially from New Zealand), and Mercedes-AMG’s Wintersport Drift Competition (the first manufacturer-backed drifting game).

Corporate support behind such games demonstrates the increased value advertisers are putting on drifting’s reach into key demographics.

Mobile-based games

GT Drift Untouchable from Korean-based GAMEVIL features 16 courses in 8 countries and was released in 2007.

References

  1. ^ Super Street, Issue 4, December 1996
  2. ^ Riyadh Cracking Down on ‘Drifting Shababs’
  3. ^ Robert F. Worth. "On dark Saudi streets, boredom leads to speed". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/world/africa/08iht-saudi.1.20669707.html. 
  4. ^ Drift Mania! Inaugural D1 Grand Prix presented by Yokohama August 31, 2003, Turbo Magazine, Retrieved August 25, 2007
  5. ^ Ellis, Ben et al. (2004). Drift Battle 1. Express Motoring Publications. p. 24. 
  6. ^ Ellis, Ben et al. (2004). Drift Battle 4. Express Motoring Publications. p. 22. 
  7. ^ Ellis, Ben et al. (2005). Drift Battle 12. Express Motoring Publications. p. 77. 
  8. ^ Ellis, Ben et al. (2004). Drift Battle 1. Express Motoring Publications. pp. 53–56. "It might surprise some people to see this listed first, but a proper mechanical limited-slip diff is absolutely essential for drift." 
  9. ^ a b "Truths about negative camber". http://www.drifting.com/forums/tech-discussion-forum/6073-steering-and-alignment.html. 
  10. ^ HPI R/C Drift Videos and Guide to R/C drifting
  11. ^ 1/10 R/C Nismo Coppermix Silvia (TT-01D) Drift Spec

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