picture of carAbout Our Track

You may bring your own car. You can rent one of our cars (hey, you can rent more than one!). You can drift our solo course. You can freestyle. You could just spinout, do donuts or burnouts, or practice your technique. ...and our instructors are here for you.

You'll need to pass our technical inspection (if you bring your own car). What more needs to be said?!

The Basics of Drifting

Thanks for wanting to learn a little about drifting!  We love to drift here at U-Drift!  It's fun to slide your car sideways around long curves.

When you drift, you learn to control your car even when your tires are all sliding and spinning instead of gripping.

Drifting is not always the fastest way to drive around a corner or curve, but it is  the most exciting way!

We like it dry.  We like it hot.  We like it cold.  We like it wet.  We like it icy.  We like it in the snow.  We like to drive sideways!

Drifting is an all-weather sport.

To get the most out of your drifting experiences, we have some suggestions below for choosing your own drift vehicle as well as some basic instruction for the core skills that you will have fun trying out on our skidpad.  Pop open an energy drink and enjoy...

Vehicle Platforms

If a small car is rear wheel drive and has a stick shift, then you can probably learn to drift in it!  Due to cost, weight, performance, handling, and durability, most drifters will use cars built from 1990 through 1999 for their first drift vehicle. Broadly speaking, cars built prior to 1990 have reliability issues or performance problems related to drifting stress, and cars built after 2000 are out of the budget range for a car that is going to be abused and thrashed regularly. There are exceptions,  of course, so do your homework if you stumble onto what may be a good price/deal.

Front wheel drive Hondas are probably not a good choice for a first drift car.  Small engines in imports such as Nissans are fine, though.  American muscle generally requires V8 power for reliability; certainly the V6 motors used in Pontiacs and Chevys of that 1990-1999 era are prone to self-destruction, whereas the V8 motors in Fords and Chevys have good reliability and performance reputations.  Again, there are exceptions.

Sit in your prospective car and see if you like the pedal placement/feel. See if the stick shift is where you like it. Ditto for the placement of the emergency brake. You're going to be using it!

You are going to be banging the fenders on cones/barrels, so outward appearance in your first drift vehicle should be a lower priority than the basic mechanics that the car provides for drifting.  Also, smaller wheels/tires are easier for a beginner to spin, an essential component of drifting.

Cheap, rear-wheel-drive, stickshift, plentiful parts, common wheel/tire sizes. Get all of that in your drift car and your wallet will thank you almost as much as your smile rewards your tire-shredding fun!

Also, keep in mind that many tracks have noise limits (measured in deciBels, "dB").  It would be a shame if you spent money on a custom exhaust only to learn that your new exhaust made your car so loud that you were banned from using it on a drift track.  How loud is the exhaust on your prospective car?

You can drift most cars, but since you are *new* to drifting, you should know that the turbo cars are more difficult to keep from spinning out (looping the whole car).  When the turbo kicks in you get very different behavior than what the engine was giving you prior to the turbo boost. This is even more true for older cars that have less sophisticated (or no) computers.  Turbo cars are quieter, however.  Front wheel drive and four wheel drive cars are even more difficult to drift.

If you have no drift car today, have complete freedom to buy anything tomorrow, and are ready to start drifting, then go onto Craigslist and find a cheap but running Nissan 240SX from the early 1990's. Get a non-turbo (AKA naturally aspirated) 240. Get the stick shift. Again, this is if you are looking for your *first* budget drift car.

Vehicle Prepping

Buy a good helmet.  Drifting is unnatural to any production car's design.  Cars are designed to grip, not slide.  You are going to be sliding them, and that means spin outs where you loop you car, various slides into obstacles, and other mistakes that will have your head hitting your side glass window, door, steering wheel, passenger, or roof/T-tops.  Your helmet will mitigate some of that danger and/or damage.

Most drifters strip out rear seats, if any, and pull out rear hatch area interior pieces in order to save weight.  Remove your spare tire and jack and rear carpet, especially from the trunk. Remove your speakers, amp, and radio/CD player. Again, this is to save weight.  The lighter your car, the easier it will be to control in a drift.  If you have T-tops, then take them off before a drift practice.

CLEAN: Remove your spark plugs and examine them. Spark plugs can be "read" to tell you if your motor is running rich or lean, if you have an oil leak, if your plugs are too hot or too cold, etc. Read them, then dip your spark plugs into a glass jar filled with brake cleaner. Clean and dry each spark plug before re-installing. Alternatively, install new spark plugs at this time. Likewise, install a new air filter to let your engine pull in more air, easier.

Now use heavy duct tape to tape down the button on your emergency brake (AKA "e-brake") so that you can raise it to engage, but it will lower and release itself.  This lets you grab, yank, and release the e-brake with fewer hand motions (think: Taylor Scientific Management).

Your drift car should be checked to insure that you have no fuel or oil or clutch/brake fluid leaks, that you have lug nuts safely holding on all wheels, that your tires have tread and not steel belts showing (and that they are aired up and fit your wheels properly), that your wheels and frame and windshield are not cracked/broken, that your brakes (including your e-brake) and seatbelts work, that your steering assembly is tight and safe, that you have no loose objects ready to fly around the cockpit, etc.

If you have money buring a hole in your pocket, then you can do a few smart things upfront that will actually make drifting less expensive (read: less stressful and more fun):

One such thing is to buy a spare set of wheels for your drift tires. Then you can have a street set of wheels/tires as well as your own drifting wheels/tires. Swap out wheels when you arrive at an event or practice course.  Buy cheap rear tires for your early drifting days. In fact, most tire shops have a discard pile of tires that they will let you go sort through for free rubber. You're going to be burning them up; match your budget to your available effort (hey, it's easier to to buy new tires and pay someone to mount them for you, after all) and time.  You don't want to be stuck driving home from an event on slick drift-abused tires, though.  Be smarter than that.

Use a quality race oil for your motor such as ENEOS or Redline's 5w40.  You are going to be revving your motor for extended periods of time at extended rpm's, don't let your poor motor suffer under a standard road-going motor oil like Mobil1 or Castrol or Valvoline that may have quality control issues in production and less sheer protection at high temps and revs.

More important than your motor oil is your transmission gear oil. Absolutely use a race gear oil such as Redline's Lightweight Shockproof.  Not only will this help protect your transmission from the severe shocks and stress that you are going to be giving it, but this blue-colored fluid will quickly let you know from the color of the spots on your garage floor that you have a tranny or differential leak instead of a motor oil, brake fluid, clutch fluid, or gasoline leak.

Flush your coolant and refill with a quality 50/50 premix (e.g. Prestone), then add Redline's Water Wetter (just 1 bottle, more bottles will not help your temps).

Mild Tuning

Most stock import cars in the 1990 to 1995 era have some reasonably inexpensive tuning options.  This is an area where it is easy to spend too much, of course, but here are some mild modifications that are comparitively easy on the budget such as upgrading a stock Nissan 240sx with a larger N60 MAF, tuned computer chips frome-mance, and generic pairs of front wheel spacers (e.g. 1/4" to 10mm in thickness) for 4 lug or 5 lug pattern wheels to give you slightly more steering control. Consider a bottle of Techron fuel injector cleaner, too.  For non-daily driver drift cars used solely on the track, a test pipe makes sense, as well (less fire danger, more hp).  Craigslist.org, e-Bay, and Google Shopping are your friends. Price shop!

Performance Tricks

Sealed bags of ice packed around your air intake just before a drift run, plus clean or new spark plugs can give you a safe (if temporary) performance edge. Slightly less safe performance edges can be obtained from lightly-overpressured air in your tires, removed MAF screens, and removed air filter (not recommended, just noted for the record).

Always warm up your drift car's fluids (coolant, motor oil, and tranny oil in particular) with slow speed driving and shifts into 2nd gear before beginning your drifting practice. Always!  If you don't warm up your fluids before revving and clutching, then you will get extreme mechanical wear and premature failure that will cost you time and money.

Warm-ups reduce wear.

TIP: Higher oil numbers mean longer warm-up times prior to hard driving. If your car needs 5 minutes of slow-speed driving to warm up 5W40, then you might need 10 minutes to warm up 10w40, 20 minutes to warm up 20w40, half an hour to warm up 20w50, etc.

In general, your motor oil will coincidentally be warm about the same time that your cooling fans kick on for your coolant radiator. If you've been doing slow speed driving (not just idling!) during that entire warm-up time, then your transmission gear oil should be warm at that same time, too.

For turbo cars, cool-down time is doubly important, too. This is why turbo-timers exist; they keep your motor idling after you've turned off the car and removed the ignition key. Most turbo timers are programmable so that you can easily set a time such as 10 seconds or 2 minutes, then the motor idles that long after you've left the car. After a hard day of drifting, that cool-down time can make all the difference in the world for helping reduce parts failure from heak-soak.

SKILLS

Always wear your seat belt or race harness.  Beginners should also practice alone, not tandem with another car, and not with a passenger (a drift instructor being a notable exception).  Wear your helmet!

Use your (see above) prepped drift car for basic donuts around a cone or barrel.


See how tight you can *maintain* multiple burnouts around the barrel going counter-clockwise. Then practice those same tire-smoking donuts around the barrel going clockwise.

A "donut" is comprised of "burning out" or spinning your tires to make your drift car itself move in a very tight circle.  You'll gradually notice that your donuts make wider circles around a barrel when you use less throttle power, and that you make very tight circles with your tire-spinning car when you are applying full throttle...you may even "spin out" by looping your car in place (i.e. not going around an obstacle like a barrel at all, just spinning the tires and having the nose of the car chase the trunk like a dog chasing its tail).  Tight donuts around an obstacle require throttle modulation in between either extreme. Not too much throttle; not too little. Goldilocks.

Now water down your test area and repeat the above in the wet.  Do not fear the water!  Water practice makes you a better driver.

Get comfortable with your drift car in the above way. Next do figure 8's between two barrels. Keep the barrels close enough so that you can maintain tire spin through an entire figure 8 path around each barrel.

Repeat in the wet.  Yes, figure 8's through a water-soaked area.

Review the Initiation techniques below.  Now use cones/barrels/points set up in a circuit and begin drifting for real in your car. Dry. Then wet track.

Don't move up to a higher hp car until you can drift around your circuit without looping your car.

For a beginning drifter, hp is your enemy. The more hp that you've got, the more willpower and self-restraint that it will take to avoid spinning out instead of maintaining a long slide.  Just like with the donuts, you will find that maintaining a long, tire-spinning drift line requires throttle modulation; goldilocks. Not too much power, and not too little.  In fact, most drifters like to blip the throttle while in gear such that the car gets power to spin the tires, then let the rpms drop, then blip the throttle again and again in a modulation dance that repeats as long as the desired slide needs to continue.

That being said, if a non-lsd "open-diff"  car simply won't spin its tires at some points due to lack of power, then weld the rear differential. This is an almost free mod that makes up for a lack of hp.  Weld the diff before paying for any hp upgrades.

Initiation techniques:

The beginning of a "drift" is known as the "initiation."  First you "initiate" a drift, then you maintain that slide, and finally you exit the slide/drift to drive straight or park/stop.  There are six basic initiation techniques:  e-brake, clutch kick, power-over, feint, down-shift, and braking drift.

E-brake: 
Drive forward and turn the steering wheel hard into your first turn, press the clutch down (for automatic cars: shift into and then out of "N"), yank and release the e-brake quickly (get the rear wheels to lock, don't hold the e-brake any longer than your first sensing of the rear wheels stopping their individual spins), now release the clutch, floor the gas pedal, and let go of the steering wheel just enough to cause the rear of your car to slide.  Clutch pedal down, e-brake on then off, clutch pedal released, floor the gas. Let steering wheel naturally return toward center. Easy.

Clutch Kick: 
As you drive up to your turn-in point, press the clutch all the way down, floor the gas, turn the wheel into the turn, and release the clutch quickly.  You are staying in the same gear this entire time, by the way!  Just press and release the clutch pedal quickly (hence the name: "clutch kick") while staying on the gas.  The clutch kick is particularly useful in a long slide when you detect that you don't have enough power to keep the car from understeering.  If you have the gas floored and the car wants to grip out of the slide, clutch kick!  Repeat with more clutch kicks to maintain the slide!

Power-Over: 
Floor the gas and turn the steering wheel. This is a useful way to begin drifts on wet tracks, and works well for high hp cars on dry tracks, too.

Feint: 
Think about weight transfer and body roll side to side (e.g. left to right or right to left). Use both to your advantage by feinting in the wrong direction, then turning in the correct direction just as if you were a pro running back juking out a linebacker.  So if you are driving toward a left turn, then you first swing the car a little to the right, next turn the steering wheel quickly back to the left into the turn while standing on the gas pedal. You've feinted.  The large, sudden weight transfer and body roll from your suspension will overcome traction in the rear wheels and cause your car to begin to drift.  The faster that you swing hard right and then back left, the more severe that your slide will go.  Works in all directions, of course!

Down-Shift: 
This is a Clutch Kick where you change gears. Drive into a corner and clutch kick while quickly down-shifting (e.g. from 3rd gear down into 2nd gear) to shock the rear wheels and drivetrain (back off of the gas if you need to slow your wheels or stand on the gas pedal to speed them up, as needed).  This is especially useful for a new drift line after a hairpin corner (or driver mistake) has slowed down your car's overall forward velocity.

Braking Drift: 
Think weight transfer again, but this time from rear to front instead of from side to side.  Weight transfer to the front wheels makes your rear wheels easy to slide.  This technique is useful for when you are driving too fast to ordinarily make a turn.

Tap your brake pedal lightly as you turn in to said corner.

*The correct amount of braking takes practice. Too much braking and you'll get oversteer that could loop (spin out) your entire car. Dangerous!  Too little braking and the weight transfer won't happen sufficiently, giving you understeer that will swing you wide enough to leave the track (never a good or safe idea).

Now down-shift, but instead flooring the gas stay lightly on the brake pedal for an extra moment to insure that the drift begins.  Once you feel that the slide has initiated then floor the gas and maintain the drift with throttle power modulation or clutch kicks (see below)

Maintaining The Drifting Slide:
Getting a slide started is one thing, but it will be short-lived unless you maintain the drift. Counter-Steer, plus the Power-Over, Clutch Kick, and Down-Shift initiation techniques are also useful in maintaining a slide.

COUNTER STEER: 
To begin a RIGHT hand turn, you first turn the steering wheel clockwise so that your front wheels turn to the right. As your back wheels begin to slide too far out of your turn (e.g. heading for a spin-out loop), you can turn the steering wheel counter-clockwise to turn the front wheels LEFT to either hold your right-turn slide (prevent the car from looping), straighten the car back so that the nose and tail are in your same direction of travel (end the slide), or slide the rear of your car back around the other way (an over-correction).

To hold your slide as you go forward over long distance curves, use all 4 of the above techniques as your car tries to recover from the initial slide that you put it into.  For instance, applying additional throttle will keep you sliding at first.  Thus, the Power-Over technique of continuing to turn your steering wheel into the turn while pressing down harder on the gas pedal will work briefly to extend the slide that you initiated.

If you have applied too much power (or turned your front wheels too far) at that point, then you can counter-steer to hold your slide.  However, power will probably run out on you at some point, which is where the clutch kick technique will get your wheels spinning again.  If your car is swinging wide of the drift course, it's time for you to Power-Over, or failing that to Clutch-Kick, or if you are still going wide, Down-Shift.

In a long slide, you will typically feel each Clutch Kick last for less and less time/distance.  At some slower point you will need to Down-Shift to maintain that slide any further. Down-shifting may even start the whole process over, where you are applying more power at first, then clutch-kicking again to keep extending the drift out longer.

With both down-shifting and power-over techniques, you will need to be careful to modulate your throttle pedal.  Too much power/gas and you will spin out (loop your car) instead of sliding along your desired path.

Work on applying, then releasing, the gas pedal in your slides.  Modulation.  If you are constantly looping your car as you try to slide around a curve, it is because you applied too much power for too long.  Back off of the throttle!  Gas on, gas off.  It is a cycle.  This lets you feel the slide.  This lets you feel the car try to grip (which is when you apply more power, clutch kick, or downshift again).

You'll never become a skilled drifter if you can't master flooring and releasing the gas pedal multiple times around a drift course.  Mastering throttle modulation is key.  You will *always* need to modulate your throttle in every drift course.

Advanced Techniques

Fishtailing: To swing the rear of your car side to side like the tail of a fast-moving fish, first Feint left, nowback off of the throttle, then Feint right.  Repeat as desired.

Body Roll:
Your drift car's suspension is designed to catch and redirect energy.  In a normal daily commute, you feel this energy "catch and release" in the form of bumps from driving over potholes.  But drifting isn't ordinary driving!  In drifting, your suspension will absorb energy as you enter a slide, typically in the form of half or all of your car changing its momentary ride height.  The change in height stores energy in your springs and shocks by compressing them.  Then the springs bounce back!  This "bounce back" is a release of energy that can change the direction in which your car is sliding.  Body roll "bounce back" can also decrease whatever grip you had during the energy storage phase.

Body roll is quite powerful.  It will easily overwhelm your steering; however, with a combination of steering input, throttle control, and body roll anticipation, an advanced drifter can use body roll to drift where and when lesser drivers would fail.  In general, body roll will be most pronounced after your drift car has initially pointed its nose 90 degrees away from the line of forward momentum.  Keep in mind that your suspension can also store "bounce back" energy after a change in elevation.  Not all drift parks are level!  A good drifter will be lighter on the throttle and steering input in that brief moment when the stored suspension energy is expected to bounce back from the shocks/springs so as to not spin out (loop around) the car.  Stiffer suspensions reduce body roll, by the way.

Rev Matching:
Most race transmissions and almost all synchromesh road-going manual transmissions can be shifted without using the clutch pedal if the engine speed rpms are precisely matched to the designed speed of the desired gear.  In practice, however, rev-matching is generally less precise than the designed gear speed rpms.  In practical use, rev-matching typically just amounts to little more than blipping the throttle *and* using the clutch pedal.  Rev-matching results in less gear grinding transmission wear.

Heel-Toe Shifting:
Generally regarded as the most respected skill of advanced drivers, heel-toe-shifting is the art of pressing down the clutch pedal with the left foot while pressing down on the brake *and* gas pedal with the right foot, simultanesouly, shifting down 1 gear (e.g. from 2nd gear into 1st gear), and releasing the clutch and brake pedals while still holding down the gas pedal.

Some drivers use the heel of their right foot to hold down the brake pedal for the above technique, and then press on the gas pedal with the toes of their right foot.  This requires some twisting of the right foot/leg. Other drivers, especially those with wide feet, simply move their right foot in between a closely-placed brake and gas pedal arrangement such that when they press down their right foot, the left half of their foot presses the brake pedal while the right half of their foot presses down the gas pedal.

Heel-Toe Shifting is the fastest, most advanced way to manually downshift a transmission.  Proper heel-toe shifting also results in less gear grinding transmission wear.