How to Drift: A Guide to the Slide
Understand The Limit
To truly master drifting, you need to be comfortable with a car going from grip to slip and back to grip. This means spending time in your Corvette at autocross events or track days where you can begin to understand where the limit of your tires exists under normal conditions. Being able to do either of these disciplines with some level of competency is strongly recommended before ever learning how to slide. Within these disciplines, high-speed car control is a prerequisite. You will not be good at autocross or track days if you can’t slide a car on the limit and regain control. Spending time here will give you the fundamental confidence needed to move forward.
Initiate With Weight Shift
Corvettes have ample torque to jar the rear end into Formula D worthy skids, but that doesn’t mean you want to rely on power alone. The highest level of car control involves using nothing more than steering input, throttle, and braking to initiate a slide using weight shift. Best illustrated by a technique called the Scandinavian Flick in which steering is used to overload the tires, the fundamental principle of drifting is about nothing more than ramping up the load on rear tires fast enough to cause them to lose grip.
Find the Sweet Spot
Once a driver learns how to initiate a slide, the biggest thing we spend time on from a coaching perspective is calming everything down. Most enthusiasts countersteer too quickly and end up having the front end snap back on them. There is a sweet spot of how much countersteering is required once a car is sideways that depends on the angle and speed you are trying to take the corner at. This is something you have to play around with on your own and find. Every car is slightly different, but you will notice the car “stalls out” and stops rotating at a certain point, holding a fixed angle. This is the sweet spot. Now you’re in “the pocket.”
Keep things Moving
After you can start the drift and hold it in the pocket you will need to make minor adjustments. This is where your senses really heighten and you need tons of seat time or a background in racing. No one masters this part quickly. At this point, it’s all about the feeling of the car and keeping just enough traction to maintain forward momentum while you keep a balance of throttle, steering, and angle. Your eyes should be looking through the corner at this point with some opposite lock, eyeballing your exit out of the corner. Of course, this relies on another crucial element.
Know the Line
Knowing the motorsport line—think time attack—will allow you to find where the absolute limit of grip is. Beyond this line, there is no more speed that can be achieved. A proper drifting line can be seen as a mild alteration of a quick racing line. You are still trying to follow an approximation of what you would be doing under grip driving. Understanding one will help you improve the other and vice versa. This is a critical part of linking corners together, especially if you are competing in an amateur drift series where you get judged on clipping points. It’s no coincidence that many high-level drifters come from a motor racing background.
From the point of car control, drifting is nothing more than knowing how to upset the chassis with steering, throttle, and braking input so the back end steps out. You need to understand where the limit is in the first place to master how to go beyond it in a safe and controllable manner. Everything pro drifters do is to simply make the task of actually drifting the car easier so they can focus on angle, points, getting close to competitors and being consistent from run to run. Beyond that, it’s all about seat time and mastering the basic techniques. Find a good track that hosts drift events, get a roll cage with harnesses and get out there.