Often when you think of a professional driver, some forms of competitive racing come to mind, such as F1, WRC, GT, or Nascar. A relatively new form of competitive driving has been developing over the past 50 or so years called drifting. Drifting began on the underground scene on Japanese mountain roads during the 70s and was relatively popular there by the mid-90s. It also gained popularity through the Japanese cartoon anime series, Initial-D, in which the main character was heavily involved in drifting his Toyota Corolla AE86 around Japan's mountain roads. The first-ever official drifting series was held in 1988 in Japan called the D1 Grand Prix, organized almost entirely by Kunimitsu Takahashi, a pivotal part in the development of the underground and professional drifting scene. The sport began to spread globally and is now one of the most popular driver's sports today. Competitive drifting is a sport in which a single car or multiple cars go around a track while going sideways around corners. The competitors will often be in tandem (two or more cars drifting simultaneously) and are scored by a panel of judges who base their score on multiple criteria such as entry angle, style, and speed.
To score well in competitive drifting, the driver's car has to be modified specifically for drifting, as an everyday setup will not cut it in this sport. A Limited Slip Differential (LSD) is a must in this sport, as the rear wheels have to be spinning at the same rate for the car to have both break traction. The car also has to have enough power to break the rear wheels from traction, so more powerful engines are often swapped into the car unless the existing engine is modified. The most common swaps are the General Motors' LS series, the Nissan's RB series, and Toyota's JZ series. The suspension is also an important component for a drift setup, as the car has to be controlled to stay in a sideswipe or drift. The suspension is lowered with adjustable coil-overs (easily tuned and honed suspension dynamics). The front wheels often have an increased negative camber (bottom of the wheel further out than the top wheel) and a wider, almost 90-degree wheel turning angle. The rear wheels mostly stay the same with increased rear chassis stiffness. Although this sounds like a lot of money, almost anyone with the right car and some extra cash lying around can do the minimum and participate in some entry-level drifting.
The most common drift cars are BMW E36/E46's, Nissan Sylvia's, Nissan 350Z/370Z's, Ford Mustang's, Chevy Corvette's, and Mazda RX7's. The most desired component of a drift build is lightness which most of these cars have. Even if they are slightly heavier than normal, weight stripping will almost always do the trick in getting the perfect build. Lightness, especially over the rear tires, decreases traction, which is what most drifters want. Drifting can do a lot of damage to a car, so reliability and workability are key, as most of this work is done by the drifting team or solo drifters. If something does go wrong on track day, then an easy workaround to a problem is best achieved with a reliable and easy to work on vehicle.
Drifting is an exciting sport to watch and participate in, and it is probably one of the most entertaining driver's sports to watch. Although I have not been to any pro-driving events yet, I plan on going to one soon, and drifting seems like the best option for me right now. Maybe someday, I might get into drifting.