Doughnuts and Burnouts
To pull off the following manoeuvres you will need a car that allows you to turn off the traction control and stability systems, rear-wheel-drive and with a limited slip differential (LSD), or ‘diff’.
The diff connects the driven wheels together and does two jobs. In a corner it allows the outside wheel, which has furthest to travel, to turn faster than the inside wheel. When you accelerate it also divides the amount of drive transmitting through them.
As the car leans into a corner, the weight bearing down on the outside tyres gives them more grip than those on the inside. This makes the inner tyre more prone to losing traction under acceleration, so in most cars all their power slops through the wheel with the least ability to handle it. When the inside wheel spins, no power is transmitted through the other tyre, and you don’t go very far.
An LSD limits the speed differential between the driven tyres and thereby metes out the power more evenly across them, providing better drive and accuracy. This makes life easier when making doughnuts, and I don’t mean the iced variety.
The basic doughnut is as easy as walking out of your front door, as long as you have the space and don’t mind abusing your tyres. It’s easier using a manual transmission, but still possible with an auto if you have enough power to spin the car around by simply flooring the throttle.
From a static position in first gear, keep the clutch fully depressed, floor the throttle and redline the engine. Let the cacophony sing and don’t mind the engine, because the rev limiter will protect your pistons.
Turn the steering hard in your preferred direction and dump the clutch. To ‘dump’ the clutch means lifting your foot off the clutch faster than if you’ve just stepped on molten lava. The common mistake people make is to pull away slowly by easing out the clutch, which just fries the clutch plates and accelerates you forwards when you want to go sideways.
When you dump the clutch pedal, the clutch plates grab hold of the engine and instantly transmit all its power to the rear tyres. This overwhelms their traction and they start spinning, which is good. The act of steering causes the car to pivot around its nose and, as long as you keep your right foot planted to the floorboards, you will rotate in a glorious cloud of burning rubber that will cost you around £5 a second.
Much harder is the Black-belt Edition, which is all about control. With the basic doughnut, all you had to do was tramp the gas and turn right or left to make the car spin as tightly as possible. The controlled doughnut is all about accuracy around a specific mark, which means keeping the beast on course using some fluid hand–eye coordination.
Before going any further, let’s plan some geography. Walk the route sideways to develop your visual reference on the centre mark and rehearse the relationship between your position and the centre mark. That distance and your rate of yaw dictates the handling.
As soon as you turn right, the rear will rotate, and you allow this until the car reaches a 45-degree angle give or take, depending on the model, and takes a ‘set’. Taking a set is when the rear has swung sideways enough that you can put the steering into opposite lock and catch it, then reduce and modulate the throttle to keep the rears spinning.
Once the car reaches 45-degrees, you have to catch it. This is the transition from steering right to create the initial slide, to steering left to maintain a steady ship. The hard part is the rear floats around pretty fast, and the temptation is to over-correct with steering or spin out. The trick is to back off the throttle the moment you reach 45 so that the rears grip for just a moment as you throw in the opposite lock. Then it’s back on with the throttle to maintain the wheelspin and let the car settle onto a knife-edge. Keep your eye on the centre mark to measure the angle.
When you get into the sweet spot, balance the slide with small corrections of opposite lock and throttle. Your aim is to hold your yaw steady and reduce your inputs to the bare minimum. Let the car do the work.
On a wider arc you travel faster, and life is actually a little easier, because you have more time to adjust what the car is doing. The higher speed increases your lateral momentum, making it easier to hang the rear out there.
If your speed drops on a wide arc, the car will grip, so you need to increase the throttle or turn more tightly. On a tighter arc. the car responds more quickly and your inputs need to be crisp.
Steering is not an infinite resource and if you keep winding it into a skid it will eventually thud into the bump stops, proving troublesome when an extra claw of steering is the only thing keeping you from rotating into the boonies. Pro drifters fit exceptionally wide-angle steering to make the job easier and hold their cars super sideways, but you still need to live within your means.
In the drift universe, the brake restricts forward momentum, enabling you to spin up the rear tyres even more and slow the car in general. This involves left-foot braking. With your right foot busily making music, you creep your left foot onto the brake pedal. This mostly binds the front tyres and transfers weight their way, which allows you to accelerate harder to really light up the rears, increase yaw and all that good stuff.