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Drifting a single corner

    Driver level minimum required: Level 1
    Car level minimum required: Stage 1
    Core technique: Weight transfer

    Purpose: This instructional article is for individuals with no first hand drifting experience and cars equipped with open differentials, although those with locking differentials can gain some insight as well. The skills explained will include basic weight transfer, hand brake work, gas pedal modulation, and basic clutch techniques, with the goal of enabling readers to complete a single drift in a controlled manner repeatedly.

    Why Open Differentials? Weight transfer is the core of all drifting. Without a good sense of momentum in a car, a driver will quickly come to the limits of his/her skill. As a result, I personally suggest every driver learn to be able to drift a single corner repeatably and reliably with an open differential (this article). Locking differentials have the ability to give a car increased angle with more power/throttle. For the sake of a single corner, a locking differential would be a crutch in order to make up for the lack of weight transfer.

    Step 1 - Setup

    Initial setup for the corner involves gaining a minimum amount of speed in order to create the momentum needed to slide the car sideways. For a regular 90 degree turn, like the ones found on public roads, a minimum speed of about 25mph will be required. Any less speed would simply spin one tire around the corner or the car will immediately return. This is caused when there isn’t enough momentum to properly break loose both rear tires. Too much speed will cause the car to either over rotate (spin out) or, if performed improperly, understeer out of the corner.

    Now that speed has been applied, weight must be transferred in order to kick out the rear end of the car. The picture above depicts a left hand turn. Simply turning left will create some outside force on the rear tires of the car but more than likely not enough. To overcome this, a slight feint movement should be performed in the opposite direction (turn right).

    The key to the successful setup is to gradually perform the slight right turn. Too quickly and any momentum generated will be too small. Too slowly and no momentum will be generated. A simple analogy is pushing someone on a swing. Instead of pushing from a dead stop, a short pull back then push forward will get the swing much higher.

    Takumi tip - Initial D used a cup of water to depict weight transfer. Harsh movements cause the tofu to break. Instead of using a cup of water, hang a rope with something attached to it from your rear view mirror. As you turn, the rope will move with the momentum of the car. Harsh inputs cause it to bounce around while smooth inputs should make it undulate like a pendulum.

    Step 2 (variation a) - Initiation (clutch kick)

    Once the weight has been transferred right correctly and the car begins to turn left, the potential energy needs to be released. A simple way to do this is a clutch kick. Clutch kicks are performed by pressing the clutch in, revving the car up, and “popping” off the clutch. The amount of RPMs and the force at which the clutch is released will be directly proportional with to how much the car kicks out. This will be trial and error until it becomes muscle memory. Simply put:

    Rate clutch is released + RPMs + Momentum = Angle of drift

    Just as the car begins to drift, the throttle pedal must be left down to the level it was when the clutch was released. Depending on the car, letting off the throttle could cause the vehicle to “snap back” and drift in the opposite direction. In most cases, the car will immediately stop drifting.

    Step 2 (variation b) - Initiation (hand brake)

    A second variation of initiation is using the hand brake. Again, with the clutch depressed, the ebrake handle is then pulled up with reasonable force. The force needed to lock the rear tires will be trial and error. The wheels should remain locked until the amount of angle desired has been achieved. Too long will spin the car out and not enough will cause a shallow drift at best. At this point, the clutch should be released and the throttle applied to finish the corner.

    Step 3 - Follow Through

    Follow through is fairly simple: feather the throttle until the corner is finished and the car (gently) regains full traction. At a beginner’s level, bringing the car back under control without switch backs (continuing the first drift into a second drift of the opposite direction) and/or spinning is the sign of success. This is a sign of having enough throttle control and weight transfer sensing ability to control the car.

    General Tips:

    • Understeer means that momentum exists but the setup to the corner was wrong. Work on feint movements.
    • Not drifting means you either do not have enough momentum or you are not initiating correctly
    • Inability to bring the car under control again is usually related to very harsh initiations or rough throttle inputs.