Revenge of the Nerd, Drifting is Not Ghey!
By Mike Kojima, photos by Jeff Naeyaert
As of late when I am not working here, I have been helping out at Falken Motorsports as an engineering consultant for their drift team. My role has been to help sort out the chassis on a few of their cars. I have greatly enjoyed this new set of challenges and have found that working with a drift cars unique dynamics to be very difficult. I have found that some of my colleagues in the realm of pro road racing, when they found out what I was doing lately, chuckled at the idea of drifting being a real motorsport. When I polled some of our readership if they would like more drift coverage, I got some push back. Despite this, I am going to take MotoIQ into the realm of drifting and will start to cover drifting editorially, especially the technical side.
If you can remember how we were at SCC, you probably know that we catered mainly to the hardcore enthusiast and that we were not much into trends or lifestyle stuff. Hence SCC did not cover drifting very much editorially wise. Drifting seemed to us at the time to have too much of an F&F element to it and seemed, well for the lack of a better word ricey, something that would appeal more to the lifestyle crowd and less to those of us who like to push the envelope of performance.
Drifting isn't about beating someone head to head like in wheel to wheel racing, it's more by style and scoring points. Because of this some racers I know snicker and compare it to some feminine oriented sports like ice skating or rhythmic dancing. I would like to remind these narrow minded sorts that UFC fighting and boxing matches are also scored on points as well. Drifting requires the driver to risk it all in daring moves with high consequences. This is a lot more tough than ice skating or running around an arena with a long ribbon!
Well, things at MotoIQ are going to be a little different. I consider drifting to be the real deal and here's why. Drifting has solidified into a legitimate motorsport with both a professional and grassroots organizational infrastructure. It is no longer necessary for drifting practice to be done on the streets and there are regional meets for drifters of all skill levels to be able to hone their skills, just like any autocrosser or track day enthusiast. This is enough for us to recognize drifting as a sport and embrace it.
Modern drifting requires a vast amount of driver skill. The sport has advanced from just being able to get the car sideways to being able to drive a completely sideways car with pinpoint precision with fast snappy rotation. A driver has to be able to accelerate and brake hard with the creation of a lot of tire smoke, all at once while sliding sideways. Tandem drifting requires a driver to place his car within inches of his opponent and match their every move, sometimes at speeds exceeding 90 mph while sliding sideways. This sort of car control is probably beyond any other level of motorsport.
|Us at work on the car, the thing in my hands is a computerized data logging pressure gauge so I can judge the change in tire pressure run per run.|
A pro drift car is not the stereotypical beat S13 that you see driving around dragging stuffed animals with a sideways Option Mag sticker on the rear bumper. It is just as sophisticated as any World Challenge or BTCC Touring car. I do the chassis engineering for the Lexus IS that Daijiro Yoshihara drives for Falken and Discount Tire in Formula Drift. This car packs more than 600 hp from a Hasselgren Engineering built small block Chevy, that’s right a Chevy. The engine is all aluminum and features a carbon fiber ITB induction system, a dry sump lubrication system and Motec engine management.
The chassis is fully adjustable with all spherical bearings. The suspension is adjustable for caster, ride height, camber, toe, roll center, kingpin inclination, scrub and pneumatic trail. The dampers are KW 3-way with high and low speed compression damping and low speed rebound damping highly adjustable over a wide range. The dampers are specifically valved for the spring rate range we run and some of the unique dynamics encountered in drifting. The cage fully integrates and stiffens the unibody while not going through the firewall which is against Formula Drifts rules. The Unibody in accordance to the rules is totally stock.
The braking system uses a racing dual master cylinder system with a balance bar for full brake bias control with an additional rally style turning brake. The driver is set back as is the radiator, relocated to the rear of the car for better weight distribution and damage protection. Even the battery is sunk low into the chassis for better CG. Since drifting often ends up being a sport where the car crashes, the car is designed to be quickly repairable in the field, many of the cars parts are designed to be sacrificial, meaning an easy to replace component is designed to bend to save a harder to repair part. This is not a hard parker, it is a seriously engineered competition machine built to do battle in a gladiator arena. This is what MotoIQ is all about. If you come to a Formula Drift event, come by the pits and if I am not busy, I’ll give you a tour around the car. If we appear to be busy, please don’t bother us, we are under a lot of pressure.
Dai isn’t some street racing kid, although like most of us, he probably started out that way. He is a highly skilled professional athlete. His car control skills are amazing and he can endure extreme pressure to perform and the boredom of having to sit in a car that is 150 degrees inside for 30 minutes then come storming out of the gates. It is awesome to see him place the car within inches of another sideways sliding car at high speed and then do it over and over without a mistake.
|Man my new haircut is short! No wonder my wife doesn't like it. Being able to communicate with the driver is important so you can set up the car to his preference. The box I am holding is my data logging pyrometer that I use to see how the set up is affecting the tires.|
Most importantly with the advent of local drift day organizations, and the driver search events for the pro sanctioning bodies, there is a way for the average person to compete and a system where the exceptionally talented can rise to the top. These sorts of people are the kind of readers we hope to attract. We will cover the tech side of drifting, from chassis set up to how to drive in the future. We will also bring some unique editorial perspectives from some of the top people in the drifting world. For the uptight road racers out there that might think this is dumb, hey give it a chance, you will probably find this stuff interesting!
Until Next Time
PS, for opposing viewpoints or letter to the editor stuff contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org