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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.


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. 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.

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

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.

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. 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'.

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.


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, plusChrysler 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 Omegain 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.

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: "DriftLive".

Driver Make Model
Tanner Foust Nissan 350Z
Vaughn Gittin JR. Ford Mustang
Jeffary Rodriguez Mazda RX7
James Huynh Nissan Supra
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.

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.

Tags: Drifting, guide to Drifting, Drifting lessons, extreme sports, sport, history of Drifting, help, tips, Drifting competitions.