Formula Drift @ Road Atlanta

Drifting refers to a driving technique and to a motorsport where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels through turns, while maintaining vehicle control and a high exit speed. A car is said to be drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle prior to the corner apex, and the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn (e.g. car is turning left, wheels are pointed right or vice versa), and the driver is controlling these factors. 

the above is obviously not the stuff that i can type out. pulled it out from Wikipedia.

Formula Drift is a championship which is held nationwide and features some top notch teams and privateers. its very much like INRC that we have. privateers who impress the sponsors get sponsorship deals. Need For Speed did sponsor one such privateer.

enough of digressing.

This event that i went to was held at Road Atlanta which is a motorsports park.

they have a calendar of events covering all types of track races. This is known to be one of the best racetracks too (they claim).

The days events actually started in the noon with free practice for all participants starting at 2pm. I planned my travel such that I’d reach there by 1pm just so i could get to see these cars up close.

I parked up and walked towards the Paddock/Pits area.

passed by these on my way…

and then onto the Paddock Valley

as i was entering the paddock region, my attention fell to the far corner of the area where i saw tyre smoke and rumbling V8’s. it was the dodge stall

oh yes. thats when i realized that the passenger seat was part of the thrill ride on these drifting 425HP V8’s. left the rest of my paddock visit to air and got in line for this ride of a lifetime.

this is where my eyes where stuck on all through the wait for my turn.

actually i know the pix are a lil useless but then, I ain’t gonna tell “i’m sorry for bad pix ” and all that…its really the camera’s fault. it just won’t focus forget zooming in/out.

anyway, i took this video while waiting and then, the moment arrived. it was my turn. the 2nd part of the below video is stunning. must see.

what a ride it turned out to be..phew.Oh btw, my ride was a Challenger (the orange one you see in pix)
well, now the greed came in. went for a 2nd time this time to just sit and feel it and not concentrate on the video. this time around, my ride was a black Challenger. Not that I’m complaining, but then, I’d really wanted to ride in the Charger. This is what the charger did for the video..

The ride in the challenger was fantastic.
you saw the smoking tyre on the car i was riding on? that was frikkin’ awesome.
there was only 1 handbrake move for the 1st initialization and after which, it is only with the power. mind you these are all bone-stock automatic tranny cars.

with the best part of my visit done with, I went on with my paddock stroll. 1st off, the dodge stall itself was impressive what with the record setting (nurburgring record) Viper displayed.

more paddock strolling…

in this NOS stall, they’d got the electronic RC cars not the gas/nitro ones and let everybody have a go at it. I did too. I was horrible at it.

NOS was out there giving out free NOS drinks to all and their lounge was pretty nice too with PYT’s all around.

NFS was out there with a lounge of theirs too with gaming consoles where one could get to play NFS Shift. by the time i got my turn, the competition had begun. So chucked this and went to the track.

and now the participant cars in the pits.

now while i was busy trying to see what makes these cars go oh so sideways, i heard a loud rumble behind me. turned around to see Tanner Foust in his Scion tC from Scion racing team. this car, i am told costs $ 1.5 mn to build.phew.

for the uninitiated, Tanner Foust is one of the presenters of Top Gear USA. the filming has begun already.
got to talk to him for a quick minute. he spoke very briefly about Top Gear but instead spoke more bout his ride and about the TRD Nascar engine its got.

found this video on youtube showing his car.

then, i moved on to the track coz it was competition time !!

i had to squeeze thru the hounds of canopy’s and beer guzzling barbequeing crowd to get to my spot the apex of the horseshoe. the closest one can get to the cars as they drift along.

here came the NOS sponsored 350Z with a V8 (from a nissan Titan truck !!??) doing a recce of sorts.

well, there were calamities. these 2 guys dumped enough debris on the track to shut the event down till the track was cleared of all of it.

now all this sliding around the track is alright ..i mean its entertaining ..thrilling etc..but all has to be under some rules. remember this is a championship.

if you don’t mind, zoom into the pic. you’ll find ,in minute text, annotations on the pic.

this is how it all goes.
the competition begins 2 cars at a time and in 2 runs per set of cars.
the cars line up at the the starting line and then,when flagged off, quickly settle into their formation. it is pre-determined as to who leads and who follows.
the lead car then has to break into a drift at the breakoff point. at this point, the points of judging are-

1. lead car: has to drift with max angle and speed and get close to the checkpoints (also marked on pic). the closer he gets to the checkpoints, the better points he gets.

2. follow car: has to get as close to the lead car with a bumper to bumper, door to door precision. and also mimic the moves of the lead car. additional responsibility is when the lead car transitions, the follow car has to switch rapidly and also not crash into lead car. pretty tricky.
i saw lotsa bumpers flying during practise.

this part is where max angle of drift is achieved. this is called the horseshoe. here, for points, the lead car has to get as close to the inside of the curve as possible. obviously it does not happen due to the velocity carried into the turn. so, they are allowed to hit the outer edge and even one wheel out is acceptable but not more than that. dropping 2+ wheels outside will lead to negative points.

moving on, cars reach the checkpoint 3. here again, the cars have to get as close as possible to the point.

with this momentum, now is the longest drift zone. from 3rd check point till the transition at 1st checkpoint that huge long stretch is up and available for maximising points and then its the transition at 1st checkpoint to finally end at the breakpoint.

now the lead and follow cars switch and the same race continues.
they get averaged out with this.

some are good lead cars but bad follow cars and vice versa.

phew. by far my best explanation of a race. I guess.

I hope this makes it easier to understand the video of the race.

See Gallery below –


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