Kid Turbo - Drifting (Part II)
Welcome back, drifter-wannabes!
In Part 1 of my article on drifting, I covered the basics of drifting: what it is, why it's done, and several techniques for throwing your car into a freaky skid. Now it's time to get down to business.
Some rides are more popular with drifters than others, and for good reason! Generally speaking, there are 4 things that you should look for when purchasing a car to be used for drifting. First and foremost, look for a vehicle with a front engine/rear wheel drive configuration. Having the engine up front is optimal for weight transfer. If you need to ask why RWD, please slap yourself (no, harder) and re-read Part 1 of this article. You with me now? Good. The second thing to look for is a manual transmission. You can drift with an automatic, but the feel just ain't there. Number three is a lightweight, well balanced design. The more agile a car is in normal operating conditions, the better it will perform on the race track. Number four is decent power production. Horsepower is great, but be sure to check the torque rating as well—that's what will get those tires moving in those pesky lower RPMs. If you can fill all four of these requirements, you're headed in the right direction. Here are some of the more popular drift rides out there:
|The Ultimate Drift Machine|
- Nissan 240SX, 350Z, and Sylvia
- Toyota Corolla (GTS, AE86) and Supra
- Honda S2000
- Mazda RX-7 and RX-8
- Lexus IS300
- Ford Mustang
- Pontiac GTO
- Chevrolet Corvette
Don't cry if your ride didn't make the list, because there are many others great drifting cars. If it works for you, then it's your perfect drift car.
With enough practice, there will come a time that your skill level will exceed your car's performance limitations. There are countless mods you can install that will strengthen the weaknesses, which will, in turn, expose others. The trick is to have a basic list of modifications to perform that will give you the most usable performance for the dough. However, before you add performance, please be sure you're ride is in good running shape to begin with. Basic, but I had to say it! Ok, let's go over some of the must-have parts when you're ready to step it up.
Your suspension is one of the more important areas to improve. There are a few options for you, depending on your budget. The best (and most expensive) option is an adjustable dampening system because it allows for ride height, spring rate, and damping force adjustments to suit your driving style and track conditions. A set of lowering springs are a much less expensive alternative and perform quite well when paired with a good set of shocks/struts (available with adjustable or non-adjustable dampening force). Another good suspension mod to invest in is chassis bracing, such as strut tower bars, sway bars, and lower tie bars/braces. These will greatly reduce body roll and flex, making steering and handling tighter and more responsive. Another suspension component to seriously consider, especially for cars up there in age, is a good set of replacement bushings. Over time, factory rubber bushings dry out and crack, making the suspension loose and slow to respond. Swapping out your old, worn bushings with high quality polyurethane bushings greatly improves drivability and suspension response. Bushings are available as master sets (full car replacement), or as component sets (specific replacements) to suit your needs. While you're at it, check out your engine and transmission mounts. With all of the action through the driveline, they'll be banging around under the hood a great deal. An engine damper is also a great idea to help limit movement. Check out the SCO Suspension Shop for more detailed information, FAQ's, and special deals.
Keeping yourself firmly planted in your seat is another biggie. You need to dedicate your whole body to operating your vehicle. Just as your car's weight transfers through the curves, so will yours! You can't be bothered with holding yourself in your weak factory seat. A racing seat and 5-point harness will keep you focused on the track and free your arms and legs to do their real jobs. Some other areas you'll want to improve in the cockpit are the steering wheel, shift knob, and pedals. These are parts that you'll be using constantly while drifting.
A limited slip differential (LSD) is an expensive upgrade, but is extremely important in a drifting application. An LSD allows the power to be used by both of the rear wheels evenly by locking them together. An open differential, or non-LSD, allows the drive wheels to rotate independently based on the load placed on them. In other words, if you're cornering and the majority of the vehicle's weight is on the right rear tire, the left rear tire will spin freely. A slide (or drift) can't be sustained in these conditions. Some cars are equipped from the factory with an LSD, but not many. The most popular LSD in the drifting community is the 2-way, clutch type LSD. Its aggressive, constant lockup behavior in all conditions is preferred by most drifters. You can go cheap by welding the side gears on the differential, but it's very tough on the driveline and greatly reduces drivability. Depending on the condition of your factory clutch, a high performance clutch can also be a beneficial. After all, you've got to get the power to the wheels to use it!
Speaking of power, more is good, but too much can be bad. To get you started, a simple upgrade of the air intake system and cat-back exhaust will provide a nice horsepower boost without breaking the bank. Actually, a cold air intake has one of the best dollar-to-horsepower ratios out there! Upgrading to some performance wheels and tires is also a good idea, but try to keep the wheel diameter smaller: as tires go lower in profile, they get higher in cost! You're going to go through a lot of them, so keep that in mind. Oh, one more thing: anything inside your car while racing is more weight to tow around the track. If it's not essential, get rid of it! Outside the car is a different story. Some weight is OK to carry if there's a benefit to it. I'm talkin' 'bout body mods, baby! I'm not the biggest fan, but in drifting, show is definitely part of the game. Full body kits, carbon fiber hoods, and spoilers are just a few of the popular body mods you'll find all over today's drift courses. Check out the SCO Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift Kits for big savings.
The only other things to consider are the items required by your local track to enter the course, and the fees required to race. This typically includes a helmet, clothing, and various other equipment and charges that depend on specific class requirements. Normal wear and tear are part of the game and should be expected (brakes, tires, alignment now and then, etc.). Keeping from sliding into objects like walls, tire barriers, and other cars will also keep your expenses down. Also, inspect your ride after each session and make note of small issues while on the track and try to catch them before they become big ones!
One last thing. Please, please, PLEASE keep in mind that drifting can be dangerous. I don't want to preach (believe me!), but practicing your drifting skills in local neighborhoods and on city streets is NOT advised. Not only could you be ticketed, have your license suspended, and so on, but even worse, you could hurt yourself and/or other innocent people. Don't be a jackass! Find a secluded, wide open parking lot somewhere to mess around in if you can't get to the track. Be sure there aren't any potholes, speed bumps, or light poles.
|Chicks dig drifting!|
If done properly, you can have more fun in your ride drifting than doing anything else (with one obvious exception). For more information and for rules and regulations for competition drifting, check out the official D1 Grand Prix USA website at http://www.d1gp.com. Also, be sure to check out the SCO Drift Shop for more information and special deals that will blow you doors off!