Figure of 8
So you’re sideways… now what? Once you’ve initiated a drift, your attention needs to be drawn to your trajectory. This is very much a seat-of-the-pants vibe and tied to the same technique you deployed in the doughnut to control your arc.
Having made it through one corner without biting the dust, the next goal is to link two corners together. It requires the most careful execution and this is where the figure of 8 comes in.
The figure of 8 is really a pair of opposing doughnuts with a switchback in the middle. It’s the best way to develop a feel at comparatively low speed for how the car copes with a sudden switch of direction while sliding. We call this switch the ‘transition turn’, and it is the hardest part to control as well as the most satisfying.
As you circle the first doughnut in a clockwise direction, you select a pivot point around which to switch directions and point yourself towards a new arc that takes you anti-clockwise around the second doughnut.
You widen your arc out of the initial doughnut and, on approaching that pivot point, you create a moment of grip in the rear tyres by over-correcting the slide with additional counter-steering and by releasing some throttle.
The car obeys the steering and suddenly the tail swishes across the other way. All the counter-steering has to be passed into the opposite direction in order to catch this new slide and balance your new trajectory.
Professional drifters are judged by their angle of attack, speed and the aggression of their transition from one direction to the other as they link two corners. Ideally, you anticipate the turn so that you have enough space and time to really whip the rear across, jump back on the gas and be lined up nicely for the next corner.
With the engine hammering off the rev limiter and your fists banging the wheel into the bump stops, you couldn’t be any more sideways if you tried. You release some gas and the tail twitches across faster than an Exocet missile.
You spin the steering wheel like an LP record to catch the opposing slide. It naturally finds its home for the new angle and you vaporize the scene with smoke as you carve away into the horizon.
This is really making fun of an ordeal that catches so many people out on the road: the tank slapper. If you can learn to handle this, there’s really not much left to teach you.
I guess the only part I left out about drifting is the tandem drift: two cars battling door handle to door handle to see which can hold it the most sideways for the longest and at the highest speed. It’s a messy business, and if you spin, you lose, so maybe it’s not the best pastime. But then again…