Lets's Go Drifting!

Let's Go Drifting!


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Sim Drifting vs IRL - My Sim Drifting Experience Before its Mainstream Acceptance

It seems this is a widely known topic by now in drifting. It's 2023, and no one is surprised anymore that the skills learned while drifting in the virtual world have such a direct impact to the "in real life thing" (IRL = in real life). Just like road racing, there are drifting championships hosted entirely on what the older generation would have typically written off as "video games" Check out the incredibly popular VDC (Virtual Drift Championship) for example which takes place on the most popular drifting simulator game in current day, Assetto Corsa. While it's nowhere near as entertaining as the real thing, from a skill level perspective it looks just like watching a drift competition in real life (the drivers are incredibly good and in-fact there are some real life pros that compete as well). 

So yes, sim drifting has finally been adopted by the mainstream in motorsports, but it wasn't always that way. In the past, sim racing was looked down upon as a cheap alternative for those who couldn't afford to get into the sport. There was little knowledge that the skills learned on the "video games" would actually transfer over to real life. Boy were they wrong.

My motorsports story, like many others, doesn't start with karting. I never grew up karting although I did do a 3 day long camp one time with rental karts and equipment at Cameron Motorsports Park when I was pretty young. It was fun to experience a faster kart but it never really went anywhere from there. Karting is expensive. I purchased my first Sim Rig in Hong Kong at 15 years old (so 13 years ago now) at an electronics market when I was there visiting one of my best friends from high school. It was a Logitech G27 which had already been out for several years. It cost me 300 Canadian dollars, (whatever that was in HKD at the time) and it came back with me in my luggage. Right away I stuck a 50 dollar billet steering wheel adapter on it, and a 30 dollar eBay steering wheel that felt like a basket ball. I bolted it to my desk, chalked my rolling chair casters with old shoes and off I went. I was less than 400 bucks into my sim setup and I had just recycled an old pair of shoes to be given a better life as chair stops. I was feeling good. Unfortunately for me, there was no Assetto Corsa back in the day, at least there was little to no knowledge of what games to play that actually work for drifting. I didn't even have a PC back then. My only option was to use my PS3 and Gran Turismo 5 and pray that they had good drifting physics that would later translate to the real thing. Keep in mind I'm 15 years old at this point and I don't even know what driving a real car feels like, let alone a manual transmission! To my luck Gran Turismo 5 was later recognized for some of the best drifting physics within the entire Gran Turismo series (doesn't say much because all of the other GT games were garbage for drifting). This was later apparent when I finally moved up to Gran Turismo 6 and suddenly lost all my skills that I had developed. I quickly went right back to Gran Turismo 5. I managed to spend close to 1000 hours in my first year with the Logitech G27 sim on GT5 (probably 2-3 hours a night, every single night), and what a painstaking 1000 hours it was. Looking back, I would have to say that drifting in GT5 is surprisingly more difficult than in real life. The game is set up to be dull to oversteer, meaning you have to do a bit more of the work than you would actually have to do in a real car. Other than that, the physics are much the same! It was this lack of sensitivity in GT5 that caused ME to be hypersensitive to oversteer. A great place to be.

It wasn't until my first lapping day when I was 18 years old where I truely understood the translation of skill from sim to real life. The thousands of hours I had spent had finally paid off in a single moment. The track was Shannonville Motorsports Park, it was wet, I had a 2003 Subaru WRX with all season tires, and a massive rear sway bar (also set to full stiff) in hopes of experiencing something similar to what I had been spending so much time on virtually. And then it happened, lifting off into corner 4 with a little too much entry speed, the car was snapped sideways, quickly! And just as it happened in Gran Turismo, my subconscious instinctively told me to release my tight grip on the steering wheel. My subconscious continued to manage the slide perfectly for me, straightened the car smoothly back to center without the classic recentering jerk (that you experience so often when learning), and off I went. After a few moments, I realized what had happened. All that simulator time had paid off! What was a potentially disastrous moment for many beginner drivers at the time, I had completely shrugged off, and all it took was $400 of tools, and multiple thousands of hours of virtual seat time. No sweat. As the years went on, I eventually converted that car to RWD for a total of $200, something fairly uncommon at the time. I welded the rear diff, and installed a hydraulic handbrake, and off I went to several more Shannonville lapping days to slide around in the wet, with a skill level similar to someone who had been drifting for a few years. 

I could write about this forever, but this article is not supposed to be about my drifting story. I'm supposed to be writing about sim vs IRL.

I'll conclude with this because I need to get other work done too and not just write infinitely even thought I want to. My belief is that anyone looking to get into drifting should start on a simulator. Done correctly, you can practically eliminate the entire learning phase of drifting: the spinning out, the smashing into stuff, the breaking of the car. Spinning out is very hard on the car, and every time your spin, you risk crashing into something. In sim drifting, you can crash as often as you like without consequence, you can't break the car, and you're hardly spending any money. Getting into drifting costs a lot, and you're going to hurt the car in your first two years if you're starting from scratch. It's just a fact. When I started the Drift School two years ago, I really wanted to get students into the shop where we would have sims set up to get them up to speed quicker. The learning phase is not fun for the driver, and risk of damage to the car is much higher. The benefit of students learning on sim first was positive for both the students, and the guy renting out his cars to these beginners (thats us haha). Of course, real life gets in the way, and justifying spending money on sim setups worthy of student training is not cheap, and I needed the dedicated space to do so (which I didn't have at the time). Finally, three years later, we have made space, and made the time to pursue this avenue of the drifting school. We have two Logitech Simulator setups at the shop available for student training, one of which is my original Logitech G27 from Hong Kong, and it still kicks ass to this day. The $10,000 sim setups are great, I've used them elsewhere, but you still can't beat the value per dollar of driving on a $400 controller, $1300 computer, and $1000 seat, frame and monitor on a game that doesn't really cost anything other than lots and lots of setup time and mods (Assetto Corsa). Each of our setups is just that. Just under $3000 per sim, and that helps you get your foot in our door for training time vs the place that have $10,000+ simulators who then have to charge astronomical hourly rates. For just $25/hr, we offer drifting sim coaching on our 2 sim rigs. So whats the harm? Drop in for a $5 coffee (yea we sell exceptional coffee too), and spend $50 bucks on a couple hours of sim coaching. Heck, bring a friend too! I can't recommend this enough, especially if you're planning on coming out to do the drift school with us. The value of learning on sim is beyond 10x of what you spend in the drivers seat of a real drift car. I cannot stress this enough. I am a living, breathing experience of this, so if you have any questions, or if you want to learn more about how you can skip the entire learning phase of drifting, shoot me and email and I'd be happy to chat! 





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