5 “Clutch” Drifting Techniques
Pike’s Peak rally and drifting champ Rhys Millen knows a thing or two about getting sideways (on and off the track). And while he may compete in some of the world’s most badass cars and be responsible for building your favorite machines from Fast & Furious and Transformers to boot, he is also the main man behind the wheel in most of the Lexus driving demo commercials you’ve seen over the past 10 years.
He likes a challenge, and most recently teamed up with the Lexus high performance line to take on a room full of expensive crystal, including some Baccarat vases that cost more than $1,600 each!
We caught up with Millen to find how we could get sideways — safely, of course — in an abandoned parking lot in an everyday rear-wheel drive car. We’re talking a big drifting donut, with no obstacles in the way.
Before I even put my hands on the wheel, I take some time to look around me. My biggest saving grace and my biggest tool is my eyes. I keep my head and eyes up, and keep them moving. They’re the most important thing so not to have target fixation, which is how people crash or spin. I visualize where I’m pointed and where I want to go, and then I have a better perspective of scanning when I have the car set sideways. Once moving, if I’m sliding counterclockwise to the right, I sample my eyes forward where the front of the car is going to make sure I’m online. And then I sample them back to the right to make sure no objects are approaching. Eyes on course.
You can drift in an automatic, but you’ve got more control with a stick. I put it in first gear, then release the clutch until I just feel the engine RPM start to drop or exhaust note start to change, then depress the clutch a little more — about a quarter of an inch — so I’m just off bite of the clutch. I rev the engine up based on where the torque and powerband is — typically above 6,000 RPM.
And then it’s a quick drop of the clutch. And then as the clutch bites, I increase the throttle that extra 25 percent to get the tires spinning really quickly. Once my left foot is off the clutch, I quickly transfer it to the brake and apply about 10 percent brake pressure on the front wheels — big toe brake pressure. I’m still full throttle, though I can back out a little bit if I’m bouncing on the rev limiter. And at that point I can physically walk the car around wherever I want.
Next, my technique is the underslung whip of the steering wheel. Where my hands would typically be at 10 and 2, I pull down on the steering wheel with kind of a flicking motion and that will set the car sideways.
I release brake pressure and start to slide the car. If the car’s already spinning well, then as I feel the momentum of the car shift sideways, I lift off the throttle to balance the amount of push with the rear wheels. If I stay on full throttle, I’d loop out in a 180. If I didn’t get it enough, the car would choke up, slow down and go straight again.
Now that I’m moving and sliding, it’s all about balance between the throttle and brake pressure. I want to keep the revs at between 5,000 and 6,000 RPM, and I try to hold the slide in a very fluid and smooth-like fashion. It’s just that easy! [laughs].