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To Drift, or Not to Drift, That is the Question

Davide Nativo

Columnist for RaceDepartment
Furidashi Drift Cyber Sport.jpg

Going sideways isn't always the fastest way around a track, but often it's the most fun. Today we explore the world of drifting in sim racing...

The latest sim-racing titles have all been following the route of the jack-of-all trades kinda sims. Meaning that, they all more or less try to replicate as many car classes and motorsport disciplines as possible. Therefore, you could find anything, from a Fiat Nuova 500 to a Red Bull X2010 prototype, inside the same game. This led to a number of problems, to which now developers seem to be reacting by specialising their titles around just one class or category.

Anyhow, what got my interest is that many sims as of late, because they feature also some road cars in their selection, have been promoting also a specific challenge, which is drifting. I have never been a fan of drifting myself, even though I loved, as much as any, “Fast and Furious 4: Tokyo Drift”! Jokes aside, while the feeling of drifting feels nice, that is true, and it requires you to specialise in a very specific technique, which, let’s be honest, requires skill to be fully mastered, I always kind of questioned its presence in sims.

Not that it is a bad thing that it’s actually featured in them, careful! I am not saying that drifting is not worthy of attention by sim developers. I mean that I was rather astonished by the amount of attention it got from studios in recent titles.

At first, I noticed Live for Speed. This simulator, which admittedly I have never tried, was famous for its drifting contests. There were even guides and manuals written about how to proficiently drift your vehicle in the game, and events and competitions organised just to prove who was able to drift better. Then there were the likes of Assetto Corsa, which included drifting as one of the main branches in the sim. Being one of the people working in Kunos, Luca Sodano, a now recognized instructor at Drivemotive, which is also (but not only) a drifting school, I thought it made very much sense. It was also a good chance to show the flexibility of their tyre model, while including something that was not specifically there in other successful sims. Over time, it seemed to get so much attention, that Kunos released a series of cars in later updates and DLCs specifically meant for drifting, and not suitable to track racing.

In the meantime, also a small hard-core title like World Racing Series by Piboso seemed to provide some fun to the drifting enthusiasts. Then it came Project Cars 2, which I believe we all remember how it launched a promoted event, organised in Sorsele in northern Sweden, where they showed how the sim was able to replicate in a believable way an icy surface. You could drive the real car, a Mercedes Benz C63 AMG, on the track, and then try the same combo on the virtual screen in the sim. While it is true that skating on ice cannot really be considered proper drifting, it is also true at the same time that the developers were just trying to prove how their new and revised tyre model was now capable to adapt to all sorts of conditions. Drifting, or in general regaining or maintaining control of the car in over the limit situations was indeed part of the game features.

AMS Drift 1.jpg

Finally, we got the latest AMS update, which included drifting as now part of the core experience in the title. Including three new tracks specifically meant for drifting, and modifications to some of the existing cars to suit the discipline better, the Brazilian title is the last in line that gives proper support to this school.

However, is drifting that much diffused in the simracers community? What I mean is that if you look at Assetto Corsa for example, drifting support seemed to have lost momentum shortly after the release of the Japanese DLC, which means mid-2016. Other titles, which support drifting, seem not to meet that much attention to this specific feature. When you look online on videos, you usually find the same people drifting around with their same friends. Overall, it looks like a very, very, small niche. In a market where sims developers go only where the profits are (which is obviously understandable since it is their job) and that means big numbers, it is something that surprises me. For the most part, it looks like, apart from a few dedicated people, who probably do this also in real life, the majority of simracers try drifting for fun, for some time, and then forget about it.

At the same time, I understand how drifting could effectively be a very resourceful skill to get, and a useful technique to master. It could actually get you out of nasty situations in real life. Rain, tyre burst, slipping on slimy surfaces, etc. There is a plethora of situations when driving where things can go really bad, very quickly. Knowing how to retain control of the car in the most extreme situations, or just try to limit the disaster by maintaining cold blood because of training, could very well save yours and other people’s lives. It could make the difference.

Project Cars MadMike.jpg

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In the end, I ask you, what do you think of drifting? Has it helped you in some way in the past? Are you into this discipline also in real life? Alternatively, did you just try it out for fun? Vote in the poll and Share your experience with us!
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UMC 22

Drifting looks pretty cool, and when you manage to pull it off yourself it can feel pretty cool too. That said, I'm not sure that it has a place in racing simulators and I would rather developers put the time into making more racing cars than drifting cars. While some people really get into their drifting and practice for hours, I think that community is fairly small. The majority of us might do it for a bit of a laugh to kill some time, but we play sims for the racing.

That's my opinion anyway.
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I am not 100% sure if the question is "is it useful for improving driver skills" or "is it a good thing to have in racing sims". I'd probably answer yes to both, despite wishing that LFS and to some extent AC weren't swamped by drift servers as it doesn't interest me at all.

Regardless of that though, my own feeling is that skid-pan training would be hugely useful for training normal drivers for coping with loss of grip, but I see drifting as something else entirely - it's all about keeping the right foot down and spinning the rear wheels more or less continuously. Perhaps not quite what we want people to do if they start to lose the rear end on a wet dual carriageway :D
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Drifting is a way of life,is a culture in Japan and my main reason to modding,since im not a rich guy to spend money in a car exclusive for track days,but i love my W201 in wet hehe,and a lot of drifts uses sims to train,i know a few ones :)

Mike Smith

SimRacing 604
If the question is "does drifting have a place in sim racing", then I'd say yes. Why not? I don't drift, but that doesn't mean others shouldn't. I'm not a fan of Adele, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't be on the radio.
I really think drifting helps DEVELOPERS to improve the tire behavior in and over the limit of grip, so it improves the simracing experience in general.

You may like it or not (I from time to time like to do some stupid drifting laps. Stupid because I am not good at it...).

In conclusion: why not? It’s cars, they have wheels, it revs the motors, and it’s fun.
Drifting isn’t really “added” though in a proper sim is it? As long as the physics are right then it will be possible to drift and those that want to drift will.
Drifting is something I personally respect, despite the fact I've also never really cared for it.

But then again, I'm an American who likes powerful stuff that handles questionably. Sure, going sideways is easy, but the beauty of drifting is seeing how much control you can lose and still be capable of bringing it back.

Plus, who doesn't love the smoke show it produces?
When I was a youth, some of my friends used to steal cars so they could do "handbrake turns", as it was called then, in them. To this day I associate it with stolen cars and cheap thrills from getting a police chase. So maybe leave it in GTA.
i can say for certain, that drifting in assetto has translated directly to having a solid feel for it in real life. ive only ever practiced sliding around in real life ONCE, for about 10 minutes. thats my extent of IRL drifting practice. once i got into sim racing with assetto and started practicing the art virtually. i eventually got good enough to try it on the occasional on/off ramp or wide intersection (in the rain of course, miata problems, am i right?). i have never once looped it or made a mistake irl, even when i encountered an unintended oversteer situation. the first time i did it after lots of assetto practice it felt 100% natural and i was in full control and i was actually amazed that i knew exactly what to input to give to get certain reactions from the car.

anyway, my point is, making sure a sim reacts to sustained oversteer the way a real life car would is crucial. if not (cough*pcars cough*forza*cough) then you cant really call it a sim.
It's a different way of enjoying car control.
So my answer is why not :thumbsup:

And I just forgot the fact that my nickname explains everything..
"Useful" - no, don't think so, not when it comes to racing anyway. Drifting in the full-oppo sense is a monumental waste of energy which is pretty much the antithesis of circuit racing, and even in rallying that sort of wild slip angle is only useful for slowing down - again for the same reason that it's burning energy. For car control training... maybe? I think you can probably train racing car control fine without learning to drift like that. A four-wheel drift is an entirely different thing.

My first ever real car would lose the back end just going round a roundabout on a dry sunny day, and don't get me started on what a wild ride it was in the wet. That probably helped me control a real car ( at least I got over any worry about losing control of one end of a car! ) but I doubt it's ever helped me go quickly.

I don't understand the fascination with drifting at all, but I guess I did grow up with rallying ( my grandfather had a cabinet full of trophies ), so that sort of thing just looks like poor control to me. I'm not knocking anyone else for having fun though, why would I? it's just not my thing.
A proper drifting sim will cater to the social element more than any racing sim currently does (or possibly should). Performance add-ons and style points just aren't where simracers want to go since the competition rules for fairplay are tossed out the window.

All forms of racing already have the "unexpected conditions" and "car control" required to be a safer driver. Drifting is not unique in that respect.

Drifting is, however, an awesome display of car control. A well-designed game could take the genre to a whole new level.
I would probably favor & enjoy watching drifting into esport rather than actual racing,

Drifting work a lot your 3d spatial awareness & track knowledge.

All forms of racing already have the "unexpected conditions" and "car control" required to be a safer driver. Drifting is not unique in that respect.
Being a safer driver is about paying attention, high level car control is not a requirement. People who crash on the road has high level of ego & usually want to prove something.

Although, I don't support broken drifting. You know... the no handbrake thing & drifting outside the edge.
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Bram Hengeveld

RaceDepartment Founder
I lack all skills to drift, but it certainly looks very cool. Not sure if drifting
A proper drifting sim will cater to the social element more than any racing sim currently does (or possibly should). Performance add-ons and style points just aren't where simracers want to go since the competition rules for fairplay are tossed out the window.

All forms of racing already have the "unexpected conditions" and "car control" required to be a safer driver. Drifting is not unique in that respect.

Drifting is, however, an awesome display of car control. A well-designed game could take the genre to a whole new level.
Instead we get game after game trying to simulate the same type of cars the same type of racing year in year out.

I am not much of a drifting talent myself but I would certainly welcome a dedicated game as you say. Would be original and niche that is more than big enough to have decent sales as well.
I love it. Not my thing to compete in, but between serious driving i love drifting and Learning to do it better, and if physics is properly made the drifting is there. Add modding and tracks + cars will follow.

With AMS after all the racing content they have added i thought it was really cool they added the drift content. Nothing to complain about there.
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