Columnist for RaceDepartment
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.
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.
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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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