Lets's Go Drifting!

Let's Go Drifting!


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First Time Drifting - From Zero to Hero

Like any new skill, we all have to start somewhere. We've all been there at the start of a new learning adventure. Sometimes we forget what it was like because that learning experience is so far removed from our immediate memory. As someone in the teaching world (although its just drifting but I imagine its the same in mostly all teaching scenarios), I find the quality of your teaching ability is hugely determined by your ability to look back on your experience when you were first learning that skill. Teachers chime in! Am I right or wrong here? 

I've had my fair share of first hand teaching experience in the real world before trying it out in drifting. Growing up I had a job teaching sailing for several years to both children and adults. I would go on to teach skiing the same way for a few years. As someone who struggled massively in the education system the entire way through, I find it funny that I've found solace in the teaching realm. Being passionate about teaching the sport, I wanted to see how quickly I could progress someone's drifting skills from basically nothing. It makes sense to try this out, I need to be able to market this drift school somehow! How quickly will you learn to drift with us? I didn't know the answer to that question. So off I went to find out.

To make the test fair, I wanted someone with absolutely zero minutes spent on the simulator, and no time spent drifting. Sure, some lapping days are fine, and being confident behind the wheel of a car was a must. Manual transmission experience would help, but being a manual transmission expert wasn't necessary. It was March 2022, who on earth could I find for this experiment? I looked at my 20 year old (part time) employee at the time, Alex, and asked him:

"Hey have you ever drifted before?" 


"Have you drifted on sim?"

"Not even once"

"Do you want to learn how to drift?"


Well that was easy. Alex also had a couple lapping days under his belt which is a great bonus. He also daily drove a manual transmission Ford Focus so I wasn't concerned about him having to learn how a clutch works. 

"Ok, you're drifting next month. But there's one condition, you can't play any sim to practice, I want to see you learn from nothing"


And that was that, now it was up to me to plan how I was going to get Alex from Zero to Hero in one day of drifting. I figured it wouldn't be too hard, but what do I know, I've been drifting for the better part of a decade. I don't really remember what it was like at the beginning. And I also had 3 years of drifting simulator experience before I even got my first car! My only point of reference was Tyra Gney (@takumifuji_01 on instagram) and his 8 years of sim with no real life driving experience until he came to drive our 240SX in 2020. I watched a guy who had less than an hour of "in real life" manual transmission seat-time pick up drifting in less than 10 minutes. Pretty incredible. 3 sessions out (about 15-20 minutes of actual driving) and he looked like he had been driving for at years. I was dumbfounded, and so was everyone else at the event who was well aware of his prior experience. 

With only this one data point in mind, April rolled around, and I found myself at the good-old Shannonville SkidPad at a private event. I was set on getting Alex to feel confident behind the wheel of the 240SX rental car within the day, but I had my uncertainties, and so did he. As a teacher, I was confident in the tools (aka the 240SX in this case, it's set up to be very easy to drive, but not overly easy). I had never seen Alex drive in any form other than to and from the local Tim Hortons on our coffee breaks. This was the first time I would ever see him do any form of performance driving. 

April 8th, 2022, we arrived at the private event "Slay Cold" hosted by Stu Belanger, unloaded our car off the trailer, set tire pressure, warmed up the engine and a I took it out for a couple laps of the pylon course that the organizers had set up. The car was feeling good. This was the 240's first outing after sitting under a pile of snow all winter, so it's important to do a few easy laps to see if any problems had developed. As it never ceases to amaze me, there were no issues with the car, we reviewed a couple of driving techniques while I was in the drivers seat, emphasizing that I wanted him to get used to driving the car normally before trying anything drifting related.

My teaching philosophy for drifting is the following, and this is what we went over while Alex was sitting in the driver's seat:

1. Drive the car normally around the course, get used to the controls.

2. Start to increase your speed around the course as you get comfortable, make sure to use full throttle, and use the foot-brake to slow the car down into the corners instead of coasting.

3. At some amount of speed, the car will eventually start to exhibit small rear end slides (oversteer) as you enter the corners or on the corner exit as you get more confident with the throttle. This is drifting at its core fundamental. 

4. Using small counter-steering movements to correct the car from continuing to slide, you are well underway to learning the proper technique to drift. 

5. By using more throttle as the car continues to oversteer, you can hold onto the oversteer state for longer, and eventually hold it through the entire corner. 

6. As a side note, I would like to point out that donuts have nothing to do with the first steps of learning to drift (in my opinion). Not only are donuts very hard on the car (lots of revs with no vehicle speed, and maximum torque multiplication to the rear end because of 1st gear), donuts also require a lot of driver skill all at once (advanced clutch manipulation work, and very heavy on the throttle manipulation and lots of countersteer action). I never learned donuts when I started, and I still don't think they're too useful until later on. Good skill to learn, but a little bit too complex when starting out. Again this is just my opinion. 

With these steps in mind, we went out for our first laps which were simply just 10 minutes of driving the car around the course, increasing speed every lap. When Alex hit the limit of grip driving around the course, we had one minimal moment of entry oversteer that was corrected quickly by adding slight countersteer and then moving the steering wheel back to the direction of travel. We did one last lap and went back into the pits. 

"How did the car feel?"

"Good, I feel comfortable driving around the course too"

"Are you using full throttle on the straights?"

"Yes, I just got there at the end"

"Great, you have to know that full throttle is available to you because you'll need it later"

"How did that small oversteer moment feel?"

"It felt fine, I corrected it pretty easily"

We let the car chill for a moment before lining back up at the entrance to skidpad. This time I was going to let Alex increase his speed past the level of grip of the tires and see how he would handle it.

Out onto the skidpad we went, and after a couple laps, Alex was back up to speed. The third lap was fast, and we spun out entering the fastest corner.

"You need to add in more countersteer sooner, lets try again"

The next time around was better but a similar driver problem occurred. 

"Good job getting more countersteer in sooner, but your hands are locked up. Let go of the steering wheel if you can't turn the wheel any more"

"OK I didn't know I could do that"

"Oops sorry I should have told you that"

And the next time we went into that corner it was like something just clicked for him. Overspeeding into the corner, the rear end naturally stepped out because of the overinflated tires I set beginners up with. Alex got to countersteer right away, and let go of the wheel when he realized needed to countersteer more than his grip on the steering wheel would allow him. Perfect. It was a sloppy drift with lots of hand action but it was still a drift! His very first one!

"That was great! Just keep doing that, let go of the wheel earlier this time"

And so we did a few more laps, totalling another 10 minutes of driving, eventually getting to the point where I felt he needed a break and a debrief on what he had just experienced.

"That was amazing! I was actually drifting!"

*clapping and fist bumping ensues

"Next time I want you to add more throttle in the drift once you've got your countersteer done. When the car is stable in drift, you can lean on the throttle hard without it spinning out, you just have to be gentle on the throttle in the moments when you're getting the car set up in drift" (when you're initially adding in the countersteer)

I will conclude by saying the next two sessions were a thing of beauty. Just what I expected and I couldn't have been any happier. A total 30 minutes of seat time and Alex was already learning how to transition the car to opposite drift. 

There's no better way to explain the remainder of this story than to watch our documentation of this day on YouTube. I will provide a link here once I have the video up!


Till next time fellow drifters!



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