WHEN YOU DRIFT, YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO CONTROL CHAOS. MINIMIZING UNDER-STEER AND INDUCING OVER-STEER
Drifting is not always the fastest way to drive around a corner or curve, but it is the most exciting way!
For a beginning drifter, hp is your enemy. The more hp that you’ve got, the more willpower and self-restraint that it will take to avoid spinning out instead of maintaining a long slide. Just like with the donuts, you will find that maintaining a long, tire-spinning drift line requires throttle modulation; goldilocks. Not too much power, and not too little. In fact, most drifters like to blip the throttle while in gear such that the car gets power to spin the tires, then let the rpms drop, then blip the throttle again and again in a modulation dance that repeats as long as the desired slide needs to continue.
That being said, if a non-lsd “open-diff” car simply won’t spin its tires at some points due to lack of power, then weld the rear differential. This is an almost free mod that makes up for a lack of hp. Weld the diff before paying for any hp upgrades.
The beginning of a “drift” is known as the “initiation.” There are six basic initiation techniques: e-brake, clutch kick, power-over, feint, down-shift, and braking drift.
Drive forward and turn the steering wheel hard into your first turn, press the clutch down (for automatic cars: shift into and then out of “N”), yank and release the e-brake quickly (get the rear wheels to lock, don’t hold the e-brake any longer than your first sensing of the rear wheels stopping their individual spins), now release the clutch, floor the gas pedal, and let go of the steering wheel just enough to cause the rear of your car to slide. Clutch pedal down, e-brake on then off, clutch pedal released, floor the gas. Let steering wheel naturally return toward center. Easy.
As you drive up to your turn-in point, press the clutch all the way down, floor the gas, turn the wheel into the turn, and release the clutch quickly. You are staying in the same gear this entire time, by the way! Just press and release the clutch pedal quickly (hence the name: “clutch kick”) while staying on the gas. The clutch kick is particularly useful in a long slide when you detect that you don’t have enough power to keep the car from understeering. If you have the gas floored and the car wants to grip out of the slide, clutch kick! Repeat with more clutch kicks to maintain the slide!
Floor the gas and turn the steering wheel. This is a useful way to begin drifts on wet tracks, and works well for high hp cars on dry tracks, too.
Think about weight transfer and body roll side to side (e.g. left to right or right to left). Use both to your advantage by feinting in the wrong direction, then turning in the correct direction just as if you were a pro running back juking out a linebacker. So if you are driving toward a left turn, then you first swing the car a little to the right, next turn the steering wheel quickly back to the left into the turn while standing on the gas pedal. You’ve feinted. The large, sudden weight transfer and body roll from your suspension will overcome traction in the rear wheels and cause your car to begin to drift. The faster that you swing hard right and then back left, the more severe that your slide will go. Works in all directions, of course!
This is a Clutch Kick where you change gears. Drive into a corner and clutch kick while quickly down-shifting (e.g. from 3rd gear down into 2nd gear) to shock the rear wheels and drivetrain (back off of the gas if you need to slow your wheels or stand on the gas pedal to speed them up, as needed). This is especially useful for a new drift line after a hairpin corner (or driver mistake) has slowed down your car’s overall forward velocity.
Think weight transfer again, but this time from rear to front instead of from side to side. Weight transfer to the front wheels makes your rear wheels easy to slide. This technique is useful for when you are driving too fast to ordinarily make a turn.
Tap your brake pedal lightly as you turn in to said corner.
*The correct amount of braking takes practice. Too much braking and you’ll get oversteer that could loop (spin out) your entire car. Dangerous! Too little braking and the weight transfer won’t happen sufficiently, giving you understeer that will swing you wide enough to leave the track (never a good or safe idea).
Now down-shift, but instead flooring the gas stay lightly on the brake pedal for an extra moment to insure that the drift begins. Once you feel that the slide has initiated then floor the gas and maintain the drift with throttle power modulation or clutch kicks (see below)
Maintaining The Drifting Slide:
Getting a slide started is one thing, but it will be short-lived unless you maintain the drift. Counter-Steer, plus the Power-Over, Clutch Kick, and Down-Shift initiation techniques are also useful in maintaining a slide.
To begin a RIGHT hand turn, you first turn the steering wheel clockwise so that your front wheels turn to the right. As your back wheels begin to slide too far out of your turn (e.g. heading for a spin-out loop), you can turn the steering wheel counter-clockwise to turn the front wheels LEFT to either hold your right-turn slide (prevent the car from looping), straighten the car back so that the nose and tail are in your same direction of travel (end the slide), or slide the rear of your car back around the other way (an over-correction).
To hold your slide as you go forward over long distance curves, use all 4 of the above techniques as your car tries to recover from the initial slide that you put it into. For instance, applying additional throttle will keep you sliding at first. Thus, the Power-Over technique of continuing to turn your steering wheel into the turn while pressing down harder on the gas pedal will work briefly to extend the slide that you initiated.
If you have applied too much power (or turned your front wheels too far) at that point, then you can counter-steer to hold your slide. However, power will probably run out on you at some point, which is where the clutch kick technique will get your wheels spinning again. If your car is swinging wide of the drift course, it’s time for you to Power-Over, or failing that to Clutch-Kick, or if you are still going wide, Down-Shift.
In a long slide, you will typically feel each Clutch Kick last for less and less time/distance. At some slower point you will need to Down-Shift to maintain that slide any further. Down-shifting may even start the whole process over, where you are applying more power at first, then clutch-kicking again to keep extending the drift out longer.
With both down-shifting and power-over techniques, you will need to be careful to modulate your throttle pedal. Too much power/gas and you will spin out (loop your car) instead of sliding along your desired path.
Work on applying, then releasing, the gas pedal in your slides. Modulation. If you are constantly looping your car as you try to slide around a curve, it is because you applied too much power for too long. Back off of the throttle! Gas on, gas off. It is a cycle. This lets you feel the slide. This lets you feel the car try to grip (which is when you apply more power, clutch kick, or downshift again).
You’ll never become a skilled drifter if you can’t master flooring and releasing the gas pedal multiple times around a drift course. Mastering throttle modulation is key. You will *always* need to modulate your throttle in every drift course.
Fishtailing: To swing the rear of your car side to side like the tail of a fast-moving fish, first Feint left, nowback off of the throttle, then Feint right. Repeat as desired.
Your drift car’s suspension is designed to catch and redirect energy. In a normal daily commute, you feel this energy “catch and release” in the form of bumps from driving over potholes. But drifting isn’t ordinary driving! In drifting, your suspension will absorb energy as you enter a slide, typically in the form of half or all of your car changing its momentary ride height. The change in height stores energy in your springs and shocks by compressing them. Then the springs bounce back! This “bounce back” is a release of energy that can change the direction in which your car is sliding. Body roll “bounce back” can also decrease whatever grip you had during the energy storage phase.
Body roll is quite powerful. It will easily overwhelm your steering; however, with a combination of steering input, throttle control, and body roll anticipation, an advanced drifter can use body roll to drift where and when lesser drivers would fail. In general, body roll will be most pronounced after your drift car has initially pointed its nose 90 degrees away from the line of forward momentum. Keep in mind that your suspension can also store “bounce back” energy after a change in elevation. Not all drift parks are level! A good drifter will be lighter on the throttle and steering input in that brief moment when the stored suspension energy is expected to bounce back from the shocks/springs so as to not spin out (loop around) the car. Stiffer suspensions reduce body roll, by the way.
Most race transmissions and almost all synchromesh road-going manual transmissions can be shifted without using the clutch pedal if the engine speed rpms are precisely matched to the designed speed of the desired gear. In practice, however, rev-matching is generally less precise than the designed gear speed rpms. In practical use, rev-matching typically just amounts to little more than blipping the throttle *and* using the clutch pedal. Rev-matching results in less gear grinding transmission wear.
Generally regarded as the most respected skill of advanced drivers, heel-toe-shifting is the art of pressing down the clutch pedal with the left foot while pressing down on the brake *and* gas pedal with the right foot, simultanesouly, shifting down 1 gear (e.g. from 2nd gear into 1st gear), and releasing the clutch and brake pedals while still holding down the gas pedal.
Some drivers use the heel of their right foot to hold down the brake pedal for the above technique, and then press on the gas pedal with the toes of their right foot. This requires some twisting of the right foot/leg. Other drivers, especially those with wide feet, simply move their right foot in between a closely-placed brake and gas pedal arrangement such that when they press down their right foot, the left half of their foot presses the brake pedal while the right half of their foot presses down the gas pedal.
Heel-Toe Shifting is the fastest, most advanced way to manually downshift a transmission. Proper heel-toe shifting also results in less gear grinding transmission wear.