Drifting is the latest import from Japan, but it’s not a car or a truck. Drifting is a type of racing, and it’s (arguably) the most exciting form of motorsports around. The name comes from the actual technique that is employed to make a car “drift” around the racecourse. To observers, drifting appears as if the rear end of the car is trying to swap ends with the front. The goal is for the driver to balance steering and throttle to control the car’s drift and direction in a four-wheeled slide.
Although racing drivers have been using controlled drifts as a technique since the 1930s, drifting as its own form of motorsport began in Japan more than 20 years ago. Drifting in the United States officially began in 1996 in California and has become extremely popular with younger fans here and in Europe and Australia.
Today, drifting is an organized competition, with drivers piloting rear-wheel-drive cars to see who can keep sliding sideways the longest. Winners in drifting competitions are judged on the angle, line, speed and show factor of the drift.
“Angle” is the angle the car takes around the track; the more the rear end hangs out, the better. “Line” refers to taking the correct line around the track and is usually determined beforehand by the judges. “Speed” consists of the car’s speed entering, going through and exiting a turn. “Show factor” actually is judged by a variety of factors, such as the amount of tire smoke, closeness of the car to the wall and reaction of the crowd.
Ford’s In On The Action
Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) continues to be in on the action, entering its second season in drifting competition with driver Ken Gushi behind the wheel of a 2006 Mustang GT. And with the recent opening of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” in theaters across the country, the sport is poised to explode in popularity.
Drifting has also created new opportunities for Ford, and Andy Slankard, engineering supervisor, Ford Racing, says the company is working to take advantage of them.
“Initially, the company wanted to be more involved with the 20-something crowd,” he said. “We have a good partnership with Toyo (tires), and we do a lot of events with them. It’s a way to get into areas we might not normally be in.”
Drifting has also inspired Ford to create new items for the aftermarket. Aftermarket parts are a profitable business because they are parts currently being produced on the assembly line. They are production-based parts, and so command a premium on the store shelves.
In the seat of the 2006 Ford Mustang GT drift car is Ken Gushi. Gushi was born in Okinawa, Japan, although he’s spent much of his life in the U.S. His father taught him how to drift in a Corolla when he was 13 and began competing using a friend’s driver’s license at just 15 years old. By age 16 he was the youngest person compete in the D1 Grand Prix of Japan and the Formula Drift Championships in the United States.
Gushi’s GT-R themed body kit that includes front and rear fascias, rocker cover, quarters, a rear wing and blue competition stripes. The tire smoking horsepower comes from a Whipple powered 600 horsepower 4.6-liter 4-valve V8 Supercharged Cobra “Terminator” engine. Upgrades include a Cobra Air Meter and Clean Air Tube and a Magna Flow Cat-back Performance Exhaust System. Additional components include a 4.10 Ring & Pinion Upgrade Kit, Custom 2-piece Driveshaft and a Cobra “Terminator” 6-speed T-56 Manual Transmission. A full suspension treatment was given. Interior components include Cobra R Recaro Racing Seats and a full complement of Ford Racing Gauges.
Gushi’s Ford Racing Mustang, sponsored by Toyo Tires and the Gushi Auto team, currently competes in the Need for Speed Formula D (for “drift”) Championship, and looks to improve on the driver’s third-place finish in 2005.