Drifting 101: Discovery Channel Takes a Look at the Sport

Drifting is not just about sliding a car around and making tons of smoke. It requires skills, style, and plenty of practice. To get some insight on the sport, Discovery Channel attended a Formula Drift event to find out what drifting is really all about.

The Basics of Drifting Competition

It’s not about who crosses the finish line fastest. Drivers are judged on their ability to keep the car in complete control the entire run.

On qualifying day, drivers run the course individually and judges rate their runs and award points. The top 32 drivers qualify for race day. On race day the drivers compete against each other in a head-to-head dogfight. Two drivers take the track at a time. They’ll run two heats, alternating between being the Lead car and being the Chase or Follow car.

Photo credit: Formula Drift

The lead driver is being judged on how well he, attacks the course, his skill and style, and how well he controls the car. The chase driver’s job is to apply pressure to the lead driver, and stay as door-to-door close to him as he can through the entire course.

Judges decide who ruled the runs and the winning driver moves on to the next heat. Heats are run bracket-style until there’s an overall winner.

Like most racing events, there are event winners, points earned at each event, and they’re all competing to be the overall points champion at the end of the season.

Photo credit: Formula Drift

How Drifting is Judged

There are 3 judges and they are looking at 4 main things: Speed, Line, Angle and Overall Impression.

Speed is not about how fast the driver completes the run, but it’s about how fast the driver enters the first drift corner, and how much speed he carries through the entire course. He’ll get maximum points for keeping a consistent speed through the whole run, rather than entering the course fast, slowing down in transition, speeding up again, etc.

Line is similar to the driving line in other racing: How well the driver is negotiating the track, and if he is using the entire track and hitting the “clipping points” set up by judges.

Angle is exactly what you would think it would be in a drift competition: How sideways does the driver get the car.

Overall Impression is the most subjective of the judging criteria, so I asked longtime judge, and former drift competitor, Andy Yen, what he looks for. “The main thing is the ‘wow factor’ and how exciting they make the run look,” he says. He also wants to see that the driver is in complete control of the car and has smooth transitions from drift to drift during the run.

All of these are weighted together to decide a winner, with speed being the least important.

Photo credit: Formula Drift

You can read the full article on Discovery’s website: http://dsc.discovery.com/adventure/drifting-101-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-most-exciting-2-minutes-in-motor-sports.html