What Is Japanese Drift Racing?

Drift competitions are popular around the world today, and have particularly taken off in the US over the last couple of decades, but they definitely have their origins and natural home in Japan. In this sport you’re awarded points for the way you drift around a corner, dependant on the line you take and how you make use of the apex (the best possible slide around that particular bend) as well as for style and speed. A drift basically means pushing your car beyond its traction and forcing it into a slide while over steering through a corner.

It Began In the 1930s

The origins of this technique go way back to at least 1930s motor racing, when Grande Prix demonstrators could push their vehicles into a four-wheeled slide while keeping their line around a corner to wow the crowds. But the place where drifting really took off as a technique was Japan, specifically in the work of Kunimitsu Takahashi through the 1970s. Kunimitsu was a touring car driver who earned himself several championship titles and a legion of fans by using the slippery rear wheel drive attributes of his car to drift around corners and make a faster exit.

Faster Overall Speed

Drifting really shouldn’t make for a faster cornering technique. If you have a grip car, especially a four wheel drive racer, you should be able to achieve a faster corner because you wheels are able to accelerate through the whole turn. What drifting allows for is a change to lose less speed overall, especially in unconventional conditions where a driver can’t hold the ideal line when going into a corner. Having said that, you won’t see drifting being used in conventional track races anymore – barring a god-like technique on the driver’s part it simply can’t keep up.

Hail ‘The Drifting King’

But where drifting moved into a sport in its own right was with the work of Keiichi Tsuchiya ‘the drift king’ in the 1980s. Keiichi was a road racer on mountain passes in Japan – something which is illegal, but has a respected status in the racing world over there. When car magazines took note of his incredible drift skills a new generation of admirers were born, and events became tailored around showing off this technique as much as achieving the fastest time possible.

There’s No Wonder the Sport Is So Popular

When you see the smoke-spewing corners that these drivers’ can achieve, and the even scarier spectacle of what’s going on from the drivers’ perspectives, it’s easy to see why it has such a massive following.

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Thanks to Craig Williams for this post. Craig is a used cars salesman from the UK and a huge car fan.