Fast & Furious

The Fast & Furious Guide To Powerslide Drifting For Dummies

Words: Josh Rakic
Photography: YouTube/Universal Pictures UK

Drifting expert and stunt driver Rhys Millen gives us the 101. 

Rhys Millen is the man responsible for building and driving some of the most recognizable big screen performance cars, from Fast & Furious to Transformers and beyond. And as the final Fast installment approaches, we caught up with the champion rally and drift driver to pick his brain on dynamics of race drifting and the basics for even a novice to look like a pro at an official track day.

What you’ll need

For powerslide drifting, you have to start with a production car that is rear-wheel drive. And second to that, the rear differential must have some sort of limited slip clutch plate unit. Or a locking rear differential. How do you tell? If you go into a vacant parking lot and turn a hard left or hard right and drive a full circle then stomp on the gas and it only spins the inside tire, that means you have an open differential. It’s physically impossible to drift with an open differential because it doesn’t push the rear of the car around to try and push past the front wheels. There is one trick but I won’t go into detail …

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Auto or Stick?

You can drift both. It’s far more controlled with a manual transmission because with the clutch you can free-rev the engine and spin the tires at any point to 20 percent quicker than the vehicle speed. In an auto, you have to do a standing burn out with your foot on the break to get the wheels spinning faster than the vehicle speed and then release the left foot brake. 

Steering Modifications 

Transitioning from a counter steer left to counter steer right slide comes down to the adequate amount of factory steering angle and or turning radius. If you’re driving a regular car and your wheels only turn 20 degrees to the left or right, then when you start to slide you only have that much correction angle before the rear spins out and loops out on you. So one of the first points of modification would be increasing the angle to give you more countersteer slide control. That’s why you see flared guards on modified cars.

How to whip your moving car into a powerslide drift

If you’re going down a straight and approaching a 90-degree corner with decreasing radius, you’re going to set the car into a slide by using the handbrake. You accelerate to the corner, then you go clutch in with your left foot, then pull the handbrake to set the car sideways — at that point your terminal speed hasn’t slowed down much. So then you’re off the throttle and your right foot is dragging the foot brake ever so slightly to slow the forward speed of the car down, while your hand is overriding that front brake pressure by locking the rear brakes 75 percent more to keep the car sideways. 

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Drifting out of the corner and into the next turn

And at that perfect sweet spot of vehicle speed and angle, there will be a release of the handbrake, a release of the cutch — and then your right foot comes off the brake back to power to keep the slide going around the corner. Traditional road racing or rallying could have a slide effect also called drifting from the apex of the corner to the exit. Drifting as a sport has evolved to setting the car sideways before the turn and far before the apex, then showing the high skill level to manipulate all of those mechanical aids.

How to prevent over-correction and spinning out

You have to be very well positioned in the car as a driver. This is wear seatbelts become more than a safety object, but a performance enhancement. You need to be strapped in really tight so your hands are light on the steering wheel and your hand pressure is very very loose. Because if you pull on the steering wheel to keep yourself in the seat or forcefully hold the steering wheel, you’re manipulating the rear end of the car. You can force the car to go wider or into a spin or tailwag wiggle.

The simple secret to good drifting

If you have the front shock set at negative caster rake, the wheel will self-correct to zero as you drive away. You just have to have the confidence to release your hand pressure off the steering wheel and let the wheels self-center, then drive away straight. But that’s all based on having the vehicle in that sweet spot. Then you’re effectively steering the car with the throttle. You can see all that in interior video of drifting drivers.

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