Drifting: The Japanese Origins Behind the High-speed Sport

  • INNOVATION
  • CULTURE
  • Drifting is a special technique used when driving which involves loss of traction of the wheels to the road. This sounds quite dangerous, but the key to drifting is to keep control of the car. This exhilarating form of driving is said to originate in Japan!

    Origins

    Drifting intro

    No one truly knows when drifting started, but most are in agreements about the where. Japan is heralded as the birthplace of drifting. One individual in particular, Kunimitsu Takahashi, is said to be its creator. Takahashi was a motorcycle legend who began using drifting techniques in the 1970’s. His newly developed skills won him many championships and spawned a whole new type of racing. Keiichi Tsuchiya, called the King of Drifting, began using the techniques on the roads in Japan. Being such a mountainous country, the roads of Japan lent themselves well to this sport. With hairpin bends and sharp turns, Tsuchiya honed his skills. Tsuchiya was filmed doing what he does best and his popularity grew. Tsuchiya is also responsible for the popularity of drifting outside of Japan. In 1996 Tsuchiya and Kenji Okazaki held an event in California which showcased drifting to America.

    Drifting

    Drifting rising sun car

    In order to drift you must stop the car from doing what a car does best; sticking to the road. In most cars, the tires are designed to give good traction to enhance the power and also to stay on the road. However in drifting, you want either the back wheels or all the wheels, to lose traction. In this way, you can drift, or slide across the surface of the road, while still travelling in the intended direction. This often means that the front wheels point in the opposite direction to the car and the car is in opposite lock.

    Drifting in Japan

    Drifting Osaka plates

    Underground drifting in Japan is a big sport. As mentioned before, the roads of Japan lend themselves perfectly to the loss of traction and travelling in opposite lock around tight bends. In the dead of night, the drifters come out to hone their skills on the roads. In groups of two or three they race up or down the mountains at very high speeds, sometimes more than 130 kilometers an hour! Check out the video below to get a taste of real underground drifting:

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