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The History Behind the Drift
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The History Behind the Drift

Everyone seems to remember the film “Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift” and somehow continues to associate drifting with it. However, drifting has been around a lot longer than this film. Anyone who’s a motorsports enthusiast will give you a dirty look when you associate the film with the sport. So next time a person brings up drifting, please don’t mention this film. 

The technique of drifting has been used in motorsports since the 1930s. The technique was used to help drivers take their cars beyond their normal limits and help them accelerate through the turns. In early Grand Prix races the car drivers used this technique during the race. However, at this time nobody associated the driver’s actions with drifting. 

Another fine example of drifting is used in rally racing. The tires on these cars basically have no grip at all. Therefore, the driver drifts his 4-WD machine through the corners to gain speed. However, it has been proven that drifting isn’t the fastest way to race, but can help drivers take curves easier, especially when their tires don’t grip.  

Japan was the first country to recognize drifting as a motorsport. In the 1970s Kunimitsu Takahashi became a legend in the racing world because of his drifting skills. Many racing fans at that time loved the smoking tires and higher slip angle through the turns. At this time, many professional racers in Japan used this driving technique during the race.  

Drifting started as a way for drivers to combat the hard, bias-ply tires that had virtually zero aerodynamics for gripping. These tires were used in high horsepower cars raced in Rally races and Grand Prix races. In the 70s Kunimitsu caught the attention of the street racers around Japan. Kunimitsu knew how to drive a car. He would approach the corner at basically full speed; afterwards he would hit his apex to create a very large slip angle. Then, he used his throttle to control the car and keep it on the slip angle until he made it around the curve towards the straight track. 

In 1996 the first recorded drifting event took place outside of Japan at Willow Springs Raceway in California. The race was hosted by the Japanese drifting magazine. After this event, drifting became popular as a motorsport in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Since then drifting has developed into a competitive sport for rear-wheel drive cars. Each driver competes for points from the judges. The skills of the driver are judged on various factors. 

Today drifting is judged on: 

  1. Line: The judges will announce the line beforehand and the drivers are required to take the correct line.
  2. Angle: This is determined by the turned wheels in a drift and the angle of the car.
  3. Speed: How fast the car enters the turn, the speed of the car during the turn, and the speed after leaving the turn.
  4. Show Factor: This is judged on the amount of smoke from the car, the crowd’s reaction, and how close the car is to the wall.

More about Drifting:

  1. Drifting Street: History of Drifting 
  2. Auto Drifter: Drifting Motorsport 
  3. Gaijin Pot: The Legendary Toyota AE86 and the Origins of Drift Racing

Image: pixabay.com

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Leave a Comment

  1. TMH
    TMH
    Vote #5.....I remember the movie, "Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift."
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  2. Miranda
    What a great article. I love to watch drifting. I guess it is the smoking tires and the roar of the crowd that gets me so into this sport.
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  3. Nita
    Nita
    This is a very interesting article Ann. I have spent many years in Japan and I have seen how completive the racers are over there. This was before the sport came to America. I enjoyed reading your article.
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