Up to this point in How To Drift we’ve covered methods of initiation – that being, some of the various ways that you can go from not drifting, to drifting. However this week, we’re going to run through a tricky technique that you need to master if you want to change direction whilst drifting – transitioning.
What is it?
Transitioning is when you change direction whilst maintaining the drift by using the car’s weight and momentum. Think of the rear of a car like a pendulum, swinging from side to side in a controlled manner – each time you swing from one direction to the opposite, that’s a transition.
Controlling a transition is all about gaining a feel for how the weight of the car shifts around – it’s a balancing act between steering and throttle, and using weight shift to move the grip from the back to the front wheels and vice versa. It sounds complicated when written down, but with practice, changing the direction of a drift and linking drifts together becomes second nature.
How's it done?
So you’ve initiated the drift and you’re travelling along sideways, balancing the angle of the car by steering into the slide and moderating the throttle. You’re ready to transition the drift to slide in the opposite direction, so how do you start that motion? Well, first you need to over-rotate the car ever so slightly – by applying the throttle and turning into the drift more, before quickly releasing the throttle and starting to turn the wheel the other way, you shift the car’s weight forward and put the grip over the front wheels. Lifting off the throttle will also bring grip back to the rear wheels, propelling the car in the opposite direction.
At this point, you let the steering wheel slip between your hands as the car starts to rotate towards the direction you want to go – this is the part of drifting that many racing drivers struggle with, because letting the wheel spin freely in racing is the last thing that you want to do! As the car reaches the angle that you’re happy with, grab the wheel to stop it from spinning and get back on the throttle before fine-tuning the steering to find the right angle. How do you know when to grab the wheel? That's something that comes with practice and experience.
In some lower power cars, or when drifting at speed, or depending on suspension and steering setup, the start of the transition sometimes involves ‘throwing’ the wheel from one direction to the next, mid-transition. You’re effectively giving the steering a helping hand to rotate across quickly to catch the drift. Too slow and the front wheels aren’t pointing in the right direction and you’ll spin out.
So there you have it. Once you've got a feel for transitioning from one direction to the next, you can link multiple corners and even drift straight sections of track, known as manji drifting.
*Obligatory common sense warning: don’t try this on public roads or in McDonald’s carpark. Stick to organised drift practice days where there’s plenty of room around you to get it wrong – you will at first, several times.