No one really knows when or where the concept of drifting first began but historically, the purpose of drifting was derived from rally cross racing to maintain optimal engine rpms and speeds while entering and exiting turns. Perfecting the “art” of drifting was another concept conceptualized by a group of automotive enthusiasts racing in the Japanese mountain passes other wise known as “Touge.” Those few individuals who first braved the treacherous mountains of Japan used multiple driver techniques to test their skills on who could climb up or down the mountain within the shortest time, as fast as possible. What started out as “Touge racing” where “gripping” was the focal point for each vehicle while minimizing traction loss, high horsepower vehicles regularly began spinning their tires and encountered counter-steering issues at each banking turn. At first, many feared the concept of loosing traction, as a loss of the vehicles control was believed to ultimately lead to certain disaster. But as time progressed, drivers developed a way to use “power sliding,” or more popularly known as “drifting,” as a means of displaying driver control. As racing on the mountain passes became more popular, so was the concept of loosing traction. To many it was considered a great driving skill to lose traction and then re-gain it by counter-steering. The longer a drift was performed, the more respect a driver was given. Today drifting has become an extremely popular among the import market youths of present society. The once underground sport of drifting has come out of the mountains and onto the circuits where competitors today compete at annual events held at various venues, such as the ever-popular D1 Grand Prix in Japan.
Touge disasterThe highly publicized “sub-culture” of drifting has recently taken the U.S. market by storm as manufactures and marketing agents have officially jumped on the bandwagon in hopes of profiting off the newest trend to hit the U.S. For those individuals who have embraced drifting as a “way of life” has come to recognize the once underground and negatively viewed sport of drifting has become the fastest growing automotive craze to hit the industry within the past year, eventually pushing the sport directly into the limelight. With all the excitement and positives of drifting, the negatives were inevitably bound to follow as mainstream drifting has caused an increase in accidents and the attention of law enforcement agencies around the world. Wanting to drift and being able to drift are two completely different scenarios. Contrary to reality, many fans of drifting swear they are indeed the real life “invincible” Takumi from Initial D. Understand if you crash your car, its “game over.” Literally. There’s no reset button or rewind control to magically bring your car back to its original condition nor can you revive yourself or a passenger if the inevitable were to happen.
Because drifting has been receiving more attention as of recent, newcomers to the “drift craze” are excited to partake in the activities by taking to the mountains in their newly acquired vehicles. These same individuals speed up and down the mountain side yanking on the E brakes or pitching the car in precarious angles in hopes of accomplishing the same “drift motion” they see on popular videos such as Drift Tengoku often ending up in a horrific accident or causing danger to others. “Accidents occur when the driver goes past his or her limits. The problem is that beginners are clueless about driving, car control and racing line, but they THINK they know,” states drifter and sanctioned event participant, L. Toguchi. “I admit I used to go touge drifting but I stopped going a year ago when they started having more sanctioned track events. If I were to go up now, I’d fear for my life because of all the little kids up there trying to be Takumi. Those same people don’t realize they’re responsible for not only their lives, but their passenger’s and the other people on the road with them.”
The brighter side of TougeWith all the negatives publicity surrounding drifters who attend and drift at Touge, there are some positive aspects that many are not aware of. During my most recent interview with Katsuhiro Ueo, 2002 D1 champion (see Industry Profile, page 118), Ueo-san brought to attention the positives when drifting Touge.
Touge Drifting – Know Your Limits
“When I first began drifting at Touge, I learned a number of techniques that would have taken months to accomplish if I were to practice on any sanctioned track. For example, at Touge there is no room for error and I believe that is one factor that will force a driver to not only improve his skills but also become aware of his or her surroundings. Drifting at a circuit, you tend to not look ahead at the next turn or bank but rather, most drivers concentrate on the one that is being drifted. Anytime you drive at Touge, if you don’t anticipate or prepare for the next blind turn or banking radius, in most cases you end up panicking or loosing control of the car which will lead to certain disaster. A few things that a driver will most certainly learn when drifting at Touge is the importance of ‘racing line’ that most drifters fail to learn during their early stages of drifting. At any given event you will see makeshift barriers or cones marking each turns not a mountainous cliff.” For others, such as M. Tse, who regularly visits Turnbull Canyon in California, states, “Whether your drifting or racing on the mountain roads, nothing compares to driving on an open road with your car on which you’ve spent your hard-earned money to upgrade suspension components or new tires. You don’t have to go full throttle all the time, just cruising the canyons is something I enjoy doing from time to time, but with all the hype of drifting and Touge becoming more mainstream, it’s become difficult to not be stereotyped because there’s always gonna be some out-of-control lunatic causing problems on the mountain roads.”
Touge BustWith the recent rash of accidents and fatalities occurring on a 13-mile stretch of winding road known as the Glendora Mountain Road, in California, police enforcement in the Glendora area have set up a task force to begin cracking down on illegal drifting. The Glendora Mountain Road, otherwise known as GMR, has been a popular spot among automotive and motorcycle enthusiasts to cruise or test their driving skills to the limits. With over 100 banks and blind turns, accidents occur on a regular basis. San Dimas Sheriffs have stated they will ticket and impound any vehicle that has been modified or found driving recklessly on the mountain pass.
Residential RevoltLocal residents of GMR have addressed the growing number of late night activities in their neighborhood as a nuisance. “It’s become a real scare when I drive on this road to get home every day. You don’t know what kind of maniac is coming around the corner in their car driving out of control,” says Michelle Lawson, resident of Glendora. Local residents of another popular drift location thousands of miles off the shores of Los Angeles have taken matters into their own hands. Tantalus, located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, has been a favorite place to drift for the past few years. The three- to four-mile long stretch of curvy road, leading up to what local drifters call “darkside” has appealed to the drifting masses. “The local residents up there are getting pretty pissed at us. If they know were drifters, they usually throw bottles at the cars,” states B. Lee of Aiea. Lee continues by saying, “The speed limit is 15 miles per hour so you can imagine how pissed residents get when they hear drivers skidding and clutch kicking past their houses in excess speeds of 80mph.”
Lee recalls that the most frightening experience for him and his friend was one Saturday night, when a group of disgruntled residents decided to abandon a Chevy short block on the side of the road. He recalls his friend initially kicking a turn, he eventually came face to face with the massive object blocking the side of the road. Freaked out, the driver of the S13 pit maneuvered to avoid the object, loosing control and skidding down the mountain road into a pile of trees. Besides a few jumbled nerves and a trashed vehicle-luckily-no lives were lost in the accident.
With community meetings targeting drifters up in the mountains, residents, along with local police, have been waging a battle to reduce drifting at Tantalus. Captain Nishi of the Honolulu Police Department states anytime there are movies or material that glorify racing or drifting material, there is an increase in illegal activities, often leading to accidents or reckless driving on the streets. Capt. Nishi states that the accidents seen up on Tantalus or on the streets of Waikiki are no different than accidents that occur on the mainland. “If people drive recklessly, they will pay the price. It’s as simple as that.” Similar to the “busts” that prevail at the local street races in most cities, police are well aware of the illegal activities that have begun popping out at the more popular Touge spots and have been vigorously began cracking down. Handing out tickets like hot cakes to anyone and everyone not living in the mountain areas, setting up road closures, to undercover narcs setting up stings, the chance of getting fined or having your car impounded has increased as drifting has become more mainstream and police have began to pressure drifters. In Kyushu, Japan, the government has begun placing speed bumps and guard rails throughout the more popular Touge areas of Sesubo to deter drifters from participating in nighttime activities.
Touge Drifting – Know Your Limits
But drifting events just cost too much! (Now say that again in the whiniest voice possible)Sure we understand Drifters aren’t the wealthiest of the bunch when it comes to the automotive community and we firmly believe an injustice is being done by being charged $80-$100 bucks for one day’s worth of track time. The false assumption is that coordinators for any given event are only in it to make a quick buck. In most situations, the same people who run the events are also fellow drifters, so it’s most likely your not getting the shaft. To clear up any misconceptions that coordinators for events make and take home enough money to buy a shiny new GT-R Skyline, we asked Alex Chang, drifting enthusiast and event coordinator. Chang has been a longtime coordinator for a number of venues, including the most recent Nissan owner’s event held at the California Speedway in 2003. Chang states, “A hundred per event is considered very cheap, especially considering the amount of track time for the entry fee. A lot of time and effort goes into planning an event to make sure everyone gets enough affordable track time.” Chang continues by saying, “If we were to break down finances of what it takes to run an event, those same people who complain that we are overcharging will realize that most times we end up scraping the bottom of the barrel to get by. For those wondering why we don’t just increase the number of participants to decrease entry costs, be aware that as the number of drivers goes up the usual all-day session of continual driving would become less and essentially a waste of money. Numerous groups, such as Drift Association LLC on the mainland and Drift Session in Hawaii, have increased the number of drift events to as many as two to three every month. Not only are the advantages of attending sanctioned events safer for novice and experienced drifters alike, it is an excellent opportunity for those still wet behind the ears to ask the more seasonal drifters questions and attend seminars pertaining to different drift techniques.
At the end of the day, remember to keep your car and your ego on the track and not on the streets.
How to make fifty bucks, at best.Pop quiz hot shot. How much does it cost to run a typical drift event? With 60 drivers at $100 each your total is $6000 in revenue, which is subtracted from the cost to run the event. Want to see how “close” the money situation is?
1. Track rental depending on location $2500-4000
2. Two EMT’s: $95/hr (required by track) $950
3. Fire Marshall (required) $500
4. Compensation for track volunteers (usually in the form of discounts at future events) $0
5. Port -A-Pottie $200
6. Catered lunch for attendees (depending on the event) $900-1100
7. Insurance (required): minimum coverage is $1,000,000 (not cost) $500
8. Additional items such as cones, tape, barriers $500
TOTAL $6,050 – 7,250
10 essential items when drifting at TougeSo you’re still convinced that touge is the place to be? Well we did a survey on the most important things to bring when going to Touge. Here is the breakdown of items.
Rope: When your car falls in a ditch or breaks down, you need to be able to pull your car out or have someone tow you back down the hill.AAA automobile card (roadsides assistance): Have it or know someone with it. Walkie talkie: One guy on top and one guy on bottom to monitor other cars going up or coming down the hills.Cellular phone: HELP!! I’m stuck in a ditch!First aid kit: Always expect the unexpected.Tools: There is no such thing as a perfect drifter.Coolant, gas, jumper cables: You’re on your own buddy! Don’t expect a local gas station. Map: Just in case your ass gets lost.Pair of brass balls: Suck it up! You’re only testing your fate! Common sense: Self explanatory.
Keep in mind we at 2NR magazine do not condone anyone to try or to think they can drift “Touge” just because they watch drifting videos or blaze Initial D music in their cars at high-rated speeds. Rather, use smart judgment and know your limits when drifting or attempting to drift at Touge. Just because we’re the media doesn’t mean we like watching paramedics scrape your ass off the mountain asphalt. Be smart and keep drifting on the tracks, not on the street.
Courtesy of Import Tuner