Despite owning a Volvo 340 with a Clio RSi engine that was built for drifting, it’s hardly been drifted. I have had a play once in a while like everyone with a RWD car but have not entertained it past that. However, it definitely did put me in good stead for a day at drift school with the Drift Elite guys.
I’ve always thought I’d take my Volvo to Drift What Ya Brung at Santa Pod but never got round to it. Also being open diff, it seems like a waste of time. Really to hold long smoking drifts in any RWD car you need a LSD or a Welded diff, otherwise the inside wheel just spins the power away, as a result of this, a Drift day has never happened! Until the Drift Elite offer popped up on Groupon.
It was only £65, that’s generally what I would spend over a weekend socialising with my friends so I thought, what the hey! And I am glad I did it. It reminded me why I loved drifting so much.
We left Swindon quite early expecting it to take a few hours to get to Throckmorton Airfield where it was held. Surprisingly we made it in just over an hour, I actually arrived just before The Drift Elite Guys arrived. This was my first introduction to Matt Denham, one of the organisers and Pro Drivers/instructors, and a bit later, his parents.
They were all very welcoming and hospitable and clearly shared the passion for drifting that we did! It was amazing to spend some time talking to all these guys. I fast realised how small the drifting community is! They knew people I knew, and Matt, being a fellow PC sim racer, knew all the gear and games I knew. I also found it very inspiring that Matt learnt his trade in the sim racing world and he’s now at the top of his game in the real world.
I have spent countless hours drifting and driving on sim racing games. This was a not to subtle reminder that it is possible to take what you learned in the virtual world and apply it effectively in the real world, you hear the stories, but you very rarely meet the people.
Since we arrived so early, we needed to kill a bit of time, so headed off into the town for breakfast to find nowhere was open. By the time we established this, enough time had passed, so we made it back to the airfield where we would wait a bit longer for things to begin.
The day started With a lairy R33 Skyline with no bonnet entering the top of the airfield, turbo on song, straight six screaming, roaring towards us! This then led to an impromptu, impressive one man drift display that none of us was expecting! This was our first introduction to Martin Richards. Martin was another one of the Pro Drivers/ instructors there to advise and instruct us.
What a way to start the day!
The plan for the day was pretty basic and simplistic, but effective in giving us a good grounding of car control and having a good play around in the cars. First we’d be learning controlled Donuts, so steering out and balancing the throttle round the cones. Once we were comfortable with this we’d then do figure 8’s. We then moved on to a “kidney” shaped track which allowed us to attempt multiple transitions, So maintaining a slide while switching directions. This then prepared us for a high speed left, right in a 200sx.
My first ride was with Martin Richards, and he was great. He was just chilling casually drifting round the cones without thinking about it in the MX5. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could do it with his eyes closed. It was amazing to see how effortless it was for a experienced driver. From the outside drifting always looks, scary, lairy and out of control. The truth is, it’s a balancing act between the throttle and steering. It’s about working both together to maintain a slide. The counter intuitive part is letting the steering wheel go and roll through your hands. The car will do most of the steering for you if you let it, you just need to be there to guide it. Getting over this initial hurdle is quite hard though.
Unfortunately, when it came to my turn, the mx5 over heated, but I managed to go out in a 316 touring instead, which I think was easier to skid anyway than a mx5. I managed to pick it up quite quickly so was doing the odd figure 8 then maintaining the donut. I would of like to of done a series of figure 8’s one after the other, but I wasn’t that confident and I was still getting used to the car.
It was interesting to watch everyone else as well. You could tell they were enjoying it since It’s not every day you’re asked to donuts in someone else’s car! It was smiles all round. I think it touched the mischievous side in all of us. Everyone got into and out of the cars with massive grins on their faces. It was great, everyone was having a laugh and enjoying themselves. I think the instructors were on edge sometimes.. but then thats all part of the fun, we’ve all got to learn somehow!
After the figure 8’s it was the kidney track. This is where I found things got trickier. The courses were wetted before we went on to make it easier to break traction in the cars, without a doubt, this was beneficial and helpful. However I found it made it a bit harder for me aswell.
As I got the car into a slide, it would be going sideways nicely, then I’d slip off the wetline on to a dry bit of tarmac. All of a sudden, the car would grip and throw me straight. This is where you see the good and bad of a welded diff. When the car is sideways and traction is broken it will stay sideways and be fantastically controllable, but when it’s straight, or you steer to much into the corner, the car would then under steer massively, as the welded diff tries to keep pushing you forward. This was very hard to get used to. This is where I felt it would of been great if it was raining, so everywhere was wet, or completely dry so there isn’t the contrast of the different grip levels.
Once we all had a go at this the final stage was a fast S drift in a 200sx. The aim was to get a high speed drift initiated at around 60-80 mph, in theory it was simple and effortless for the pro’s.. but alas us mere mortals didn’t quite make it.
This was my first time driving a 200sx aswell. I’ve been out in a lot of my friends’ 200’s and experienced turbo lag. But not tried driving one myself till this day! Wow, it was bad, but when it was on boost it felt great, well worth the build up.
The idea was, go 1st, 2nd and floor it towards the corner, as you got to the corner the car was just getting on boost, so you quickly throw the clutch in and release it to unsettle the car. A simple “clutch kick” this worked a treat, the back end flew out, now the hardest part was maintaining the slide in such a small area at that kind of speed. We only had 3 attempts unfortunately. I felt that if I had another 3, I would of had it down.
For me it went like this, first attempt, spin, but had an idea of the car. Second attempt went to far and powered over massively into a spin. Third attempt, the Line, speed and power was about right, but I struggled to get the back end to break out nicely. I shall be uploading a video shortly showing all this, it should give you a good feel for the day aswell.
After we all had a go and caused much carnage and took out a few more cones and track scenery, we were then taken out in a passenger ride with the pro’s. As you can imagine, this was pretty intense! They were on each others doors, getting as close as possible to each other, absolutely hammering the cars. Even got the occasional tap in, it was definitely an awesome adrenaline rush.
There was also points when you wondered how they maintained the slides. I guess thats the difference from someone who has an interest and someone who is actually doing it. Their experience, skill and talent was hard to ignore.
I even talked my parents into going out in the cars. Safe to say they loved it! It was nice to get them to get a taster aswell. Gave them a glimpse into why I love this sport so much.
It was a great day, a great experience, and I also met some great people to share the experience with. some fantastic memories were made that day! I plan to go back again soon aswell.
Drift Elite Drift Experience Days, If you’re thinking about it, Do it, I’m raring to go back at some point and have another go! Be sure to check out the Drift Elite Website and Facebook Links below