In the animated movie Cars, there was a key moment when Doc Hudson (voiced by legendary car enthusiast Paul Newman) realized that in order for Lightning McQueen to win races and climb back on top, he would have to teach his protege how to drift. Commonly thought of as a counter-intuitive maneuver by most drivers, McQueen looked at old man Hudson like he was nuts, as the rusty relic was telling him he had to “turn right to go left.”
It may have sounded odd at the time, but once McQeen realized that this tire-shredding technique would help him take those tough turns like never before, everything suddenly fell into place. Throttle down and rear end sliding sideways, the little red race car pushed onward, changing his technique up like never before, and triumphing at the end thanks to this unorthodox approach to power management.
Pixar may not have put it into so many words, but what Doc Hudson did was describe the fundamentals of drifting to the younger car and in doing so offered the audience a totally different spin on how races can be won with something other than straight-line speed.
Once considered a side-effect of too much power and not enough grip, the act of drifting has gone from being a controlled mistake to a Japanese mountain-pass staple, with millions of curious auto enthusiasts tuning in to see what this point-driven anomaly had to offer outside of gratuitous amounts of tire smoke. Once the Fast & Furious franchise got on the bandwagon back in 2006, the whole concept of drifting had officially hit the mainstream, with throngs of excited teenagers rabidly searching Craigslist for Nissan 240SX shells.
Flash forward almost a decade later and this rear-wheel drive approach to powering around a corner has only grown in popularity, with racing series like Formula Drift leading the way. There is a growing allure for the sport among younger auto enthusiasts, as they grow restless watching NASCAR with their old man on the weekends and see drivers like Lithuanian-born Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis winning top awards for their prowess while making a damn good living in the process.
We got ahold of a video that highlights a few of Bakchis’ top drifting tips, and although his ARK Performance Hyundai Genesis Coupe is way more extreme than the stock R-spec version we drove and reviewed a while back, this crash course on how to properly drift can still be applied to almost any rear-wheel drive vehicle that has a manual gearbox and traditional handbrake. Also, be sure to check out the ARK Performance Genesis Coupe at SEMA booth #34227 this year in Las Vegas, Nevada, because without it these five cheats on how to get sideways properly would not have been nearly as much fun to watch.
Rule No. 1: First there was e-brake, and it was good
Tip numero uno is about as basic as it gets, and remains one of the most effective ways of getting a car to drift. Unfortunately, fewer cars have handbrakes these days, so this move is becoming increasingly rare as manufacturers continue to slowly transition over to electronic e-brakes. Fortunately for us, the Genesis Coupe still remains properly equipped with a traditional handbrake, which Bakchis says can be crucial for attacking a corner properly. “What I like to do is attack a corner at the speed I’m comfortable at, look at where I’m about to start drifting; and then I’m going to turn the car in, anticipating it’s a slide, grab the handbrake, and make the car slide. With the [Hyundai] Genesis Coupe it’s easy. It has good coilovers on it so it’s set up to slide. You come in, jerk the car, and you’re drifting.”
Rule No. 2: And I say unto thee, kick thy clutch!
The next trick utilizes a technique known as a “clutch kick,” and it will likely take a bit of practice on your end before this procedure can be executed properly. “Clutch kicking is essentially pushing in the clutch, letting the RPMs go up on the engine, getting it right on the power band, and then letting go of the clutch rapidly,” Bakchis said. “That lights up the rear wheels and allows you to start sliding the car. I find an area where I want to drift, turn in, then clutch kick the car, and that allows me to keep the car sliding because now it is in the power band. This high-performance Hyundai Genesis is very easy to drift. It’s set up properly and it’s got the power to do it, so both techniques are actually fairly easy to implement in this vehicle.”
Rule No. 3: Thou shalt feather thy throttle
The third tip is when you have the car sideways, allow yourself to modulate the throttle. This requires giving it just enough gas to keep it sliding, while not burying the needle and losing control. “You don’t want to be in the throttle all the way down, because you’re not going to be able to control the angle of the car, the speed, or even the line that you’re drifting at. When you initiate the drift, modulate the throttle [in and out] and [try to] keep the car in control and on the course.”
Rule No. 4: Ye shalt learn to let go
When you feel the car get sideways, you actually want to let go of the steering wheel and let the car countersteer for you. “Sometimes you have to feed it in a little bit to get that initial countersteer going,” Bakchis says. “It is very important to let the car countersteer for itself and just let it drift. If you end up grabbing a hold of the steering wheel and [are] holding it too tight, you’re probably going to spin out. The car [once set up properly like this Genesis Coupe] should countersteer for itself and allow you to put on a really nice and continuous drift.”
Rule No. 5: Countersteer is both thine curse and savior
The final drifting commandment is implemented when the car is almost completely sideways. At that point you’re going to need to countersteer a fair deal to keep the vehicle under control. Don’t countersteer to the maximum degree though, because then you’ll be out of wiggle room when it is time to correct the drift, and if the car starts to suddenly favor a sharper angle, you won’t have enough countersteer left to make sure it’s not going to spin out. When you initiate, always be sure to keep it under control, with just enough play left in the wheel to serve as a “safety net.” Bakchis says that once you initiate an aggressive drift, be sure to “keep it on that edge,” where the car is bordering on spinning out, so when the tail end pushes out you can quickly rotate the wheel, thus mirroring the previous angle in opposite form.