Drifting is an “extreme” motor sport when it comes to the punishment dealt out to the vehicle however to the uninitiated it can appear to be simply legal tyre burnouts. The sport has spread very quickly around the world and with that growth has come the science of building the perfect drift car.
Garage7, located in the Adelaide Hills, is a leading performance workshop specialising in the development and modification of Japanese imports for drifting and other types of motor sport. Co-owner Declan Walsh, who started the business in 2008 with partner Luciano Notari, explains that drifting is very unique and has its own complexities,
“The drivers perform qualifying runs where they are judged on speed, angle, line and style. The judges have strict criteria about line and clipping points at the start of the event. The required line is not always the racing line and often drivers will be asked to put the car on an awkward line or get as close to a concrete wall as possible. They are given a score and placed into one on one battles. Each pair of cars has two runs in which the drivers take turns leading and chasing. It is the chase car’s job to emulate and improve on what the driver in front is doing. It’s all about a driver’s ability to adapt in a split second to the car in front while both cars are in a complete state of oversteer.”
Drift Australia competitions start with a round of 32 entrants which is cut to 16, then reduced after each face-off from eight to four to two cars to determine the ultimate winner.
Declan says this environment is incredibly harsh on the whole car,
“Engines run at very high temperatures because they are held at peak rev’s and with the car being driven sideways there isn’t good air flow through the radiator. The drive train is constantly changing. Every time the handbrake is used everything from the clutch back to the differential comes to a complete stop then it is put under maximum load when the brake is released, and that is happening numerous times each lap. The non-stop changes of direction create unusual suspension loading. Factory Ackerman angles work against the car during drift and cause the trailing wheel to be in a state of complete scrub out – not following the road. The violent direction changes place a lot of stress on the power steering components which is why power steering fluid coolers are common on drift cars. Add to this the fact that every now and then the car is colliding with the wall or the other car.”
The cars of choice have been high powered Japanese front engined sports cars with rear wheel drive: the Toyota AE86, Nissan Silvia S13 and S14 models, Nissan Skyline R31-34 (non all wheel drive models). More recently the Nissan 350Z and 370Z have appeared on Australia’s circuits with a “Z” winning the 2012 Australian Drift Grand Prix, and a few Toyota FT86’s have started turning up at events. Declan says turbo charging is common in the sport but what is more important than horsepower is reliability and that is where the attention to detail in the build program is so important.