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Tips and Tricks on Drifting - Ultimate Driving
Drift king Vaughn Gittin Jr makes it look easy
I'm sitting in a hotel room 20 minutes from Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, and it's finally quiet. I just finished shooting the second stop on the Formula D circuit--it was the first time I ever shot drifting, and it was exciting. My clothes stink from the clouds of tire smoke and race gas that enveloped me, and I'll most likely be picking pieces of rubber out of my hair for weeks. This is fitting because I'm about to piece together MM&FF's first how-to-drift story.
But wait! Don't turn the page, at least not just yet. Of course, you think drifting is the ice dancing of motorsports, but open your mind and read on. Facts: Burning tires is fun. Burnouts are fun. Sliding a car sideways at high speed is fun. Truth be told, there isn't much more fun you can have behind the wheel. No, MM&FF is not going all-drift, but we did explore the craze, and like usual, we jumped in first-hand and tried to do what the pros do.
Drifting is essentially the art of controlling your car, while sliding and switching back and forth, which we found takes serious car control skills. While drifting is scored rather than timed, actually attempting it provides one of the most intense experiences you can have. It requires precise driving skill (errr… amazing seat-of-the-pants feel), car control, and talent.
Editor Evan J. Smith and your humble scribe have experience in drag racing, we've wheeled a fair amount of road race cars, even some circle track cars, and the commonality is that you can simply back it down 15- or 20-pecent and drive to your comfort and skill level. Drifting, on the other hand, is all or nothing--meaning you're either hanging out the tail and sliding on the verge of losing it, or you have lost it, which we did a few times.
Drifting is essentially the practiced art of controlled oversteer, and few do it better than Mustang pilot Vaughn Gittin Jr. He makes it look easy--and that description doesn't do his (or any of the other pro drifters') car control abilities justice. This guy is kick-ass. He's all business behind the wheel, and Smitty and I were lucky enough to get one-on-one training from the 2010 Formula D Champion.
"Drifting is the best rollercoaster you've ever been on--but you're in full control," explained Vaughn. "It's a sport that allows you to show your personality and style, and go out there and be no-holds-barred behind the wheel of a car."
The "no-holds-barred" style of driving is what makes drifting difficult for a beginner. You have to be aggressive and throw the car into a slide, and then keep it there and retain control. If you don't push hard enough, the car may understeer and never rotate. If you get too aggressive or just don't have the feel, all you'll do is spin out (and we spun out a lot at first).
"The three most important components of a solid drift run are good speed, good angle, and being on the proper line," Vaughn said. "You have to hit all of the clipping zones (inner and outer) and clipping areas that the judges define on the course. When it all comes together, it makes for an awesome feeling as a driver and an incredible scene for the spectators."
While these things are important for a pro, we were more concerned with the basics. So after watching some YouTube videos, were to ready to give it a try.
Behind The RTR
We met up with the master at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, ready to get our "how-to" and take a crack at drifting. Vaughn set up a simple course and gave us a quick lesson. Next we received the keys to his '11 Mustang RTR and were in command.
The course consisted of two coned-off circles set side-by-side so we could do donuts and figure-eights--not a bad classroom for the day. Later we would progress to connected turns at high speed.
Vaughn showed us the proper amount of throttle application, steering input, and how to use the combination of both to keep the car in a slide. He had us start by inducing oversteer with the throttle. Once the rear of the car began to rotate, steering and throttle inputs dictated the car's path, and all we had to do was drift in a large circle around the cones.
"Though we made our attempts at relatively low speed, I found it challenging to maintain a big angle and keep the car moving around the circle in a slide. Vaughn told me to open up the circle and it became easier to maintain control," says Smith. "After about 15 minutes, I could do some pretty good donuts. Connecting the circles was a different story. It was really hard at first to go from a slide in one direction to a slide in the other direction without spinning out. I could whip the car from one side to the other, but stabbing the gas at the precise time to continue the second slide took serious feel, concentration, and timing," he added.
I have to admit, the idea of sliding a car in a circle sounded rather remedial to me--I was quickly humbled. Inducing oversteer was as simple as a "kick" of the throttle, as Vaughn put it. Kick too little and the car understeers and pushes forward; kick too much and you're facing the wrong way in a hurry.
After we got the hang of drifting around the cones, we began to transition from one direction to the other, making a figure-eight-style course. Letting off the gas caused the car to snap the opposite direction. Our steering and throttle inputs had to be spot-on to catch it and keep the car from spinning out in the opposite direction. Both Evan and I spun out the first handful of times, which was very frustrating. But when we nailed it, it was an awesome feeling.
"The driving techniques isn't what we're used to compared to making a car grip around turns or launch off the line," says Smith. "But the more time we practiced the technique of inducing a slide, the better we got at it."
For the last part of the day, Vaughn introduced speed into the equation. Smith elaborates: "He rearranged the course into a long straight section with a series of connected sweeping S turns, with the idea being that you enter at high speed, then chuck the car abruptly sideways. Then you drift in one direction and make a switch back, drifting the whole time, and then finally drift back to the original direction. It sounds easy--it was anything but."
We came into the S-section in Second gear approaching 50 mph, then made a quick veer to the right to use the vehicle's weight to help induce the slide in the other direction. Then we cut it left and stabbed the gas. The car's tail shoots out and you do your best to hang it out there. Everything happens quicker when you're carrying more speed, we needed to be prepared to make steering and throttle inputs quickly. Again, Vaughn made this course look simple, but we were eager to get out and try it.
"I don't care if there is nothing to hit, it was really unnatural to throw the car into a full-blown slide at 50 mph," says Smith. "It really gets your heart pumping and takes all your seat-of-the-pants feel to keep the car under you.
"The biggest challenge was being patient and letting the car take a set in its slide before rolling back to the gas. Once I realized how long you need to wait during the transition, I was able to get back to the power and keep the ass out and the tires smoking."
After a bunch of spinouts we connected all the slides and get through the course, it was a great feeling. "Ultimately, whether judged or timed, proper drifting takes amazing skill," says Smith, "and the Ford Mustang is a great tool for throwing it sideways and smoking the tires. Vaughn has mad talent, and I want to thank him for sharing some of this technique with me and Pete. He is a class act."
Drifting proved to be a huge challenge that was mildly frustrating, yet tons of fun. It pushed our car-control skills, and after all, what's better than nailing the gas, smoking the tires, and being sideways all day?
"My suggestion for anyone who wants to start drifting is get into it because you'll love the sport," Vaughn said. "Do it because it's fun to you, because it quenches your need for adrenaline, and because it's challenging. Just go out and have fun! Go to local events and practice. Don't be scared to ask questions--the camaraderie amongst drifters is amazing. It's a really special lifestyle action sport."
2013 Mustang RTR
Are you Ready to Rock? The '13 Mustang RTR is! This dealer-installed post-title package is a great way to take your Mustang GT to the next level. The streetable version of Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s all carbon fiber RTR-C is back for with some new touches for 2013. The body kit has been tweaked to accentuate the slight redesign of the '13 Mustang, and the graphics have been updated with a new black panel between the taillights and the RTR logo. We also hear there is a Spec 2 Mustang RTR package in the works, which could feature a supercharged option.
Want To Drift Like Vaughn?
Now you can, thanks to HPI Racing. The E10 Drift R/C car from HPI Racing can be configured two ways--touring or drifting. This officially licensed 1:10-scale R/C car sports Vaughn's Monster Energy/Falken Tire RTR Mustang, featuring Falken tires on HRE wheels. Every detail of the livery is spot-on, and it drifts just like Vaughn's competition car. The hard compound tires are designed to slide on most surfaces, making this is a blast to play with! It comes ready to run--simply charge the batteries and go! It even comes with batteries for the remote control.
Want to take your R/C drifting to the next level? HPI Racing has a slew of performance parts for the E10 chassis, including adjustable struts and springs, aluminum driveshafts, wheels, and different tire compounds. For more info on HPI Racing's Monster Energy/Falken Tire Mustang RTR R/C car and the rest of its lineup, check out www.hpiracing.com. Also check www.musclemustangfastfords.com for video of the E10 Drift car in action.