The Subtle Art of Drifting

With the automotive world racing headlong into battery driven mobility vehicles (or at least it seems that way), we thought we’d take a moment to embrace the raw, over-powered, tyre squealing, smoke-pluming world that is drift car racing, aka Drifting.

Technically speaking, Drifting is where the driver intentionally ‘oversteers’ the vehicle in order to navigate around a corner. The combination of loss of traction to the rear wheels and front wheel counter-steering results in smooth, balanced, controlled cornering – ideally. Visually, the car corners sideways with clouds of burning rubber spewing from the rear tyres, giving a truly dramatic spectacle for all manner of petrolheads.

Although effectively first ‘discovered’ on any street in the world (and probably more by accident), Drifting as an actual sport originated in Japan in the 1970s, thanks, in the most part to driver Kunimitsu Takahashi and the resulting drifting skills being showcased at the All Japan Touring Car Championships. However, despite its local popularity, the earliest recorded drift event held outside of Japan was in California, around a couple of decades or so later.

Now an FIA recognised motorsport, Drifting has its own set of rules and a wide-ranging audience that spans from the seemingly fresh out of nappies to the young at heart. The rules vary slightly between events but generally, there are Qualifying rounds and Battle finals. Points are awarded for Speed, Style, Angle and Line, with deductions or zero scores for the likes of Spins, Going off-track, Collisions or Unsporting Behaviour.

Then there are the cars. Aside from the obvious motorsport safety requirements, just like the audience, vehicles range from the very old RWD classics to new production cars with drift mode settings. Virtually any car has the ability to drift (apparently), but low-end torque with increased power and a strong clutch seems to be the key, oh and tyres, plenty of tyres. Most competitive drift cars boast HP and Torque numbers that exceed 500 while Formula D and top-flight drift cars leave 1,000bhp way back in their rearview mirrors – now that’s impressive.

Nationally here, the D1NZ is both a motorsport and an entertainment event. It brings you up close to some of our incredibly talented drivers as they artfully wrestle with their near uncontrollable beasts, plus there are Pyrotechnics, Music, Good Food and some Showboating, which results in some great all-round family entertainment (it’s not just a bunch of hoons lighting up their tyres).

As appears to be the case in virtually all areas of Motorsport, we are punching well above our weight when it comes to drifting. Higham, Lee, Bainbridge, Puckey, Fanga Dan and “Mad” Mike Whiddett to name but a few, are hellbent on putting New Zealand firmly on the Global Drifting map.