Pete Epple Technical Editor
August 20, 2012

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.

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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.

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