Adrifting in Carolina

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It was a hot and sunny Sunday at the Metrolina Expo just on the outskirts of Charlotte, NC where drifting was coming into its own on the east coast. 

Drifting has not been considered in terms of a motorsport in this part of the US, but is considered so on the west coast for a few years and well over a decade in Japan.  Mention drifting in the context of motorsports and you will get a wide range of reactions.  Some will be reactions of anticipation and excitement while others will consider it with distain.

On the surface it appears to be a contest, not of car control, but of smoking tires and losing control.  Just the opposite of what a track junkie desires to achieve.  The reality is that it is all about control and the challenges of car setup are no less than you find in NASCAR, NASA or SCCA events.

Yes we are late to the party on the east coast, but the party has started and like the early days of autocrossing it is a fantastic opportunity for contestants to get in on some real fun before the big boys with deep pocket change the game.

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This Sunday in Charlotte the event was full of participants.  At least fifty cars and drivers were competing and there was a car show as well.  The facility at Metrolina was just about perfect for the combination as the car show was held in a large parking area with a roof so that spectators could get relief from the sun, yet they could also step out into the viewing area overlooking the drifting course. 

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While the Nissan 240SX was a popular choice there were plenty of other makes and models out there ready to compete.

The car show was not the big budget variety that you see at major events, instead it offered some unique and eclectic cars that you wouldn’t otherwise get to see.  There were two right-hand-drive cars.  One was a Subaru whose owner had grafted on a front clip from a JDM car and the other was a very unique total car, a Honda Civic that was not only right-hand-drive, but was all wheel drive as well.   It is one of only three in the country.

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Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the better drifters at this contest. 

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As you watched it became clear that execution was not easy and it was all about car control as things went beyond the edge.

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4 Responses to Adrifting in Carolina

  1. Pingback: Adrifting in Carolina « Honda

  2. Noel says:

    Obviously they have to break the car loose and keep it that way, so….
    How fast are these guys going?
    Anything special about their tires? Like hard, low-adhesion compounds?
    Do they do something different with suspension settings?
    What kind of course do they run on? Is it an autocross-type setup with cones, or what? Have never seen it here in New England.

    When I see a form of motorsport like this I wonder how the driving skills transfer to other forms. How would these guys be at autocrossing or rally. Or on a track?

  3. Doug Moseley says:

    The entry speeds at this event were 50mph or less of which most speeds were 30ish. The previous event offered a much larger course layout so the top speed seen on the course was the very first section before initiating their first slide.

    Tires can run all over the place depending on what the driver is able to score at the used tire source. Many of these guys pick up used tires from just about anywhere because it’s still very new on the East Coast and so sponsorship is a bit more difficult to find.

    Suspensions are similar in that you want as much adjustability as you can get, spring rates and sway bar dimensions are upgraded to prevent body roll and consistency in body behavior. Obviously you want to encourage oversteer so camber in the rear is closer to zero then you’d see for someone who wants to adhere to the pavement.

    The course layout would be closer to road course than autocross as you will not see Chicago boxes, slaloms, or other tight obstacles. Road courses have hair pin turns and sweepers which is why you will see some drift events held at VIR, Road Atlanta and the like where portions of the venue can be sectioned off.

    Autocross and road courses really are not spectator motorsports like drifting is. Drift tends to be packed in to a smaller area where spectators can see the entire course, taste the burning rubber and smell the exhaust as the cars go by. The crowd eats up the controlled loss of traction and constant popping off of blow off valves and revving engines to the point of rev-limiting.

    While Drift is not a timed motorsport nor a point-a to point-b before the next guy type of event it still requires a tremendous amount of skill. The transitioning of a car from oversteer in one direction to oversteer in the next requires a lot of skill in car control to prevent completely spinning around.

    The idea is pretty simple that the front wheels are taking the car down the course all be it while the rest of the car is sideways. In the event that a car “straightens out” and actually gains a good bit of momentum the driver ceases to gain points needed to win the event. In addition to not straightening the car out, the driver must also pay attention to apexes and outer limits of the designated course. “Sticking a line” occurs when the car stays as close to a preferred line as possible without spinning, straightening or clipping cones marking the course.

    While loss of control is pretty easy to do in most any car, control of a loss of friction is not which is why so many safety features such as stability, traction, and yaw control have all started showing up on cars as standard safety equipment.

    Much like taking to an autocross and developing “car control” these drivers are developing “car control” by running a course but also learning how to handle a car when the car is sideways. Just think of how many fewer accidents there would be if we all just learned how to control a car going sideways.
    Doug

  4. Dakota Plona says:

    Thank you for this good site. !

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