(The Long Beach Grand Prix typically runs in April, and Formula D runs the weekend before, but in 2021 it was pushed back until Fall because of concerns about Covid-19)
For those unfamiliar with it, "drifting" is motor art as much as it is a motorsport. Cars and drivers compete to see who can drive around a track not the quickest, but with the best style, sliding the rear of the car with big clouds of tire smoke. Many different cars are used, but all of them have lots of power and rear-wheel-drive.
Modifications for better drifting include more power, of course, but also extended front suspension arms, and special braking. The brakes on a drift car are similar to a race car, but with a powerful, hydraulic hand brake like a rally car. This lever controls the rear brakes only, often through a secondary set of calipers. With this set up the driver can lock up the rear and initiate a slide, then use engine power to spin the wheels and continue sliding.
Drifting started in Japan, and in the United States got its first toehold in the Los Angeles area, which is why Irwindale Speedway is sometimes called the "House of Drift". At the Long Beach Grand Prix street circuit, the week before the IndyCar races, Formula D held an event with not only America's best drifters, but several drivers from Japan and Europe as well. Wilwood was there with our display and technical expertise because so many drift cars are built using Wilwood brake parts.
Here are some shots from around the pits and tuner car show.
Formula D Scoring
Drifting requires more than just a stopwatch to determine who the winner is. Drivers run laps of the course 2 at a time, with one leading the other. The lead car has to hit all the marks at the apexes, and even tag certain spots of the wall with their bumper while sliding, while the following car does all that and stays as close as possible to the leader. No joke, the cars are typically within a few feet of each other as they slide and pivot around corners. A panel of judges then scores them on style, angle (of slide), and line, and penalizes them for not hitting apexes, missing "Touch and Go" spots, being too far behind the leader, or getting passed.
Then the two drivers switch who is the leader and who follows and they go again. If the judges can't decide who was better, they make them do it all over again. A few years ago at the season ending event at Irwindale Speedway they have to go over and over and over until they ran into the noise curfew, because the two top drivers were just so good.
Much like drag racing, events are run heads up, elimination style - the winner advances to the next round, the loser goes home. Because of this, not even teammates are safe from a checkers or wreckers mentality. Former two time champion Vaugh Gittlin Jr. broadsided his teammate Chelsea DeNofa, who was just a few points out of first place, nearly ending both of their days in sadness. Vaughn also eliminated current front runner Matt Field, not by crashing, but by pushing him so hard his suspension collapsed while running a tiebreaking One More Time round.
Here are some shot of the drift action out on the track.
The final round of Formula Drift returns to the House of Drift at Irwindale Speedway October 22-23 - FormulaD.com