Pete Epple Technical Editor
August 20, 2012

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.

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"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."

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