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It’s a serious adrenaline rush. It’s one of the fastest growing global and cultural phenomenons of the past decade. When it comes to car racing, the thrill is no longer solely about who is crossing the finish line the fastest. With cars that have the horsepower of a thousand plus, tires that can smoke like no other, and drifters with almost superpower skills in sliding cars to their ultimate edge and going sideways, the fiercest allure in current car culture lies in drifting.
Born on the streets of Japan in the 1970’s, competitive and street car drifting is quickly becoming a must-have passenger or viewer experience. From the Formula D circuit to drift battles and the latest high profile films and commercials featuring incredible drifting sequences, car drifting undeniably possesses a unique appeal not found in other aspects of car culture. Rather than focusing on speed and the race to the finish line, car drifting is far more subjective. In the world of drifting, Rich Rutherford, a top drifter and stunt driver in award-winning car commercials and feature films, says it best when he shares that, “Most car racing in general is about whoever crosses the finish line first wins. Drifting is about competing with the other guy but not necessarily trying to cross the finish line quicker than he does. If you’re following him, you’re trying to mimic him. If you’re leading, you’re putting a gap between you. And then after you show what you can do, the judges determine who wins the battle. It’s like a dance off.”
Since the 1990’s when the Japanese organization D1 brought competitive drifting to the US, this vehicular “dance off” has been garnering fans and participants in droves.
Rutherford, who frequently drifts the top cars in the market, captures the art of what makes drifting such a visual feast for the eyes. With drifting, drivers are “taking the car to the limit and you’re right on the edge of spinning out but you don’t. It’s visually awesome to look at drifting versus a smooth car going through a corner quickly… you’re suddenly seeing a car with smoke pouring out and you can hear its engine thundering and everything is connecting perfectly.”
Ultimately, the formula for great car drifting on the streets and on a course is about merging the right tools with a keen sense of balance. Rutherford explains that the key to mastering car drifting starts with selecting a car with manual transmission, a lot of horsepower, and a lot of steering angle which leads to turning the car tires at bigger angles and resulting in bigger slides. In other words, if you can control the steering, you can control the slides. “You’re dancing with the car to the course that you’re driving so you’re connecting it all and being smooth about it but also being on the limit…this means having the biggest angle of slide you could possibly have without sliding out and connecting that through out the whole course. This is the tricky part about drifting because you have right and left turns and you’ll want maximum slide throughout the corner every time,” says Rutherford.
But it’s not all about sliding. To witness the height of tension in drifting sideways, a drift battle is where seeing a car sliding sideways with another car makes crowds mesmerized and shriek from the sidelines. Rutherford points out just how important having impeccable drifting skills are when he says “if you’re trying to slide the car at the biggest angle you can get and you just go slightly over it, you’re going to spin out and if there’s another car behind you, they are going to collect you and you definitely don’t want that!”
So factor in those elements and smoke those tires, rev those engines, and get ready to drift or least appreciate the incredible art of drifting. And if you ever decide to invest in a car with major drifting power or are headed to drift battles, Rutherford shares his top cars to drift in and drivers to be impressed by.
The Wheels To Drift In
Porsche Carrera GT
“Such a great car. Everything about its ergonomics, the power, the sound is just beautiful.”
BMW M3 and M4
“This is more of a driver’s car. Has a big steering angle.”
“So much horsepower and torque. A total ball to drive.”
“A domestic US car with a lot of horsepower and torque.”
In The Drifter’s Seat
“Vaughn has a super aggressive style and he goes for it every run, not leaving anything on that table. He goes flat out.”
“I love the consistency to Fredric’s drifting and the lines that he drives.”
“Chris’s drifting style is close to a combination of Vaughn and Frederick’s. He’s aggressive and very consistent all at once.”