As with all niche past times, drifting has its fair share of confusing jargon. What makes it even more difficult for outsiders to decipher is that drift jargon is a complex jumble of Japanese and Western terms that have amalgamated over the sport's relatively short lifespan.
So, to help alleviate any confusion, I thought it best to come up with a 'drift glossary' of sorts, covering most of the popular words that you're like to hear from drifters. Are there any important ones I've missed? Let me know in the comments…
Roughly translates from Japanese into ‘running out of control gang’ – a traditional form Japanese car culture commonly associated with criminal gangs. Also used to describe a style of car made popular by the gangs, featuring bright old school JDM cars with large fender flares, small diameter wheels, motorsport-inspired exaggerated bodykits and huge, ridiculous exhausts pointing into the air.
Smoking the rear tyres from a standing start without moving very far. Like drifting on the spot.
In the west, choku dori is interchanged with manji, but its original use and meaning derives from ‘chokusen dorifuto’, meaning ‘straight line drift’, referring to holding a drift in one direction in a straight line. For example, sliding at one angle while approaching a corner.
A marker set out by judges in competition drifting – drivers have to get the front or rear of the car close to this point to do well. See below for more information on how drift competitions work.
The original competitive drift series in Japan – D1GP.
When a car’s rear wheels leave the track or road but the driver maintains the throttle, kicking up the dirt. Sometimes happens mid-drift, or sometimes is used to initiate the drift by throwing the rear wheels off the grippy tarmac.
Drifting in a tight circle at low speed over and over again, creating a ‘donut’ shape. For tips on how to donut, see below.
Derives from ‘dorifuto’ – quite simply Japanese for ‘drift’.
The name given to Japanese racing driver Keiichi Tsuchiya, one of the founding godfathers of modern drifting. Want to know more about the rise of drifting? The full story is below…
American term for handbrake.
The Japanese term for the Toyota AE86 – hachi-roku translates into ‘eight six’. Find out more about this drift classic here…
Japanese word for ‘street racer’.
To begin a drift. Drifting can be initiated by unsettling the rear grip of the car using any number of techniques.
Short for ‘Japanese Domestic Market’, referring to cars or parts that were originally designed for sale in Japan. In contrast, USDM means United States Domestic Market and EDM refers to European Domestic Market (less common).
Initiating a drift over the crest of a hill or raised corner apex – the loss of traction is caused by the car leaving the ground slightly whilst being thrown sideways. It's an advanced technique with huge consequences if you get it wrong. Here's how you get it right…
Often confused with choku-dori, manji is the Japanese word for the swastika symbol (which long predates any connection with the Nazis). Manji drifting involves swinging the car from one side of the road or track to the other, along a straight section of road, imitating the zig-zagging seen on the now-infamous symbol.
A drift car built for practice and abuse, to be used alongside another competition car. The purpose of a missile car is to allow the driver to practice more dangerous or risky scenarios where their main competition or road car could be easily damaged. Often misused to mean a drift car that’s battered and falling apart.
1.5-way & 2-way
Types of rear differentials. A 1.5-way diff locks the gears under acceleration and a small amount under deceleration. A 2-way diff locks the gears under both acceleration and deceleration.
One tyre fire
Drifting or doing a burnout in a car with an open differential – one wheel will spin considerably faster than the other.
Run the wall
To graze the rear bumper of the car along a wall or guardrail whilst drifting without drastically altering the car’s line. Requires great skill – get it wrong and that’s just called crashing.
Code for illegal street drifting in the UK. Derives from ‘D1’.
Slang for Nissan’s cars with chassis codes beginning with S. Applies from the S10 through to the S15, although commonly used to refer solely to the S13/S14 and S15.
A long, medium to high-speed corner with very little change in radius.
When two drivers drift closely in a non-competitive setting, for example friends or team mates drifting in tandem are trying to get close and match one another rather than force a mistake.
Pronounced toe-gay, this terms refers to winding mountain roads in Japan where early drifters raced and honed their skills. Is now used universally by drifters to describe good, winding driving roads.
When three or more drivers drift closely in a train formation.
Changing direction whilst maintaining a drift. For more on transitioning, click below.
Translates from Japanese into ‘chasing race’ – when two drivers go head-to-head and drift against each other in a competitive setting to determine a winner. Differs from twin drift, or tandem.
An open differential that’s had the spider gears welded together so that both rear wheels spin at the same speed. Often used as a cost-saving way to make a car drift better.
Zenki, chuki & kouki
These are all Japanese words, again, meaning early (zenki), mid (chuki) and late (kouki). Used when referring to cars which keep the same model name over different generations. For example, an early-model Nissan S14 is a zenki S14, while late model is a kouki.