Drifting (car driving)

By Xah Lee. Date:

Rented about 7 of Japanese Anime DVDs made in the last few years, just to see what they are like today. These are TV series of cartoons. I was in a hurry in the library, so i picked them rather randomly. At home, i looked up wikip to see about their nature, before i decide whether i'd watch them or which would be of interest. These are:

In the Initial D article, i learned what is Drifting (motorsport).

I have absolutely no interest in motor-car racing. What type of persons in the world would be interested in motor-car “sports”? Basically its those who grew up too rich, never tasted hunger, and who are brought up to have absolutely no regard for resources. It's the same sort of folks where vandalism, or smashing things or wrecking tools, could be fun. And human life, even their own, is not valued much. (therefore the inclination to like reckless, needless, expensive, and dangerous activities as their choice of thrill.)

Drifting, as i learned about what it is, is particularly nasty. You know how sometimes you see automobile races on TV where the cars in a turn skids on the road and smoke coming out of the tires because of the friction-caused tire-burn? Drifting is exactly just that. And, there is a “sport”, where the driver do controlled drifting continuously. For example, in a wide but straight road, the driver drives a S shaped path, and the car goes glide-and-smoke, glide-and-smoke on each turn.

It is not a wonder, that Drifting as a “sport” or activity came from Japan -- a highly technologically advanced and rich country but psychologically severely repressed by their conformal culture. ( This is akin to how Heavy Metal music arose from USA. See 花样年华 (Age Of Blossom) )

But anyway, what prompted me to start to write this is the reading about some technical aspects of drifting. For example, its physics, how it is done. And, my once-again wonderment at the richness of wikipedia. It has many articles related to professional auto-racing. The issue of how to drive a car i've wondered about. Namely, from a mathematician's perspective: what is the optimal strategy to handle a car. In particular, at high speed, what are the relation of the steering wheel and the car's direction, what are the variables involved, the speed, acceleration, turning radius… etc.

One particular and practical question i've wondered about is this: Suppose i'm driving on a wide road, and there's a 90° right turn ahead. Would it be “better”, to first drive to the left lane of the road, then make the turn, and gradually shift to the right lane? Or, would it be better to stick to the right lane and make the turn, and come out on the left lane? Also, i've noticed that some acceleration during the turn seems to increase traction. And, of course, everyone knows that one should slow down first before making the turn.

So, over all, i've been wondered about what are some of the basics for a professional race-car driver.

Look at this article: Understeer, and at the bottom there are several related articles.