Initiation – Clutch Kick

Introduction

Clutch kick entries are the bread and butter of the under powered and newbie drifters. It is a very basic but also very versatile technique even at higher levels.  Based on the strength of a kick, entry angles can be greatly modulated. Generally speaking, clutch kick entries are used in a situation where you aren’t going fast enough for the corner and/or can stand to gain speed (ebrake entries are generally for when you’re going too fast). This article will only cover this topic in reference to its use as drift entries.

Here is a video of Masashi Yokoi in Seattle performing this technique (1:00-1:10)

How To

  • Go fast
  • Press in clutch
  • Turn in
  • Rev up motor
  • Dump clutch
  • Modulate gas pedal

This is another one where things seem pretty simple. Turning in and clutching in can happen at the same time. Dumping the clutch can only happen after turning in. This is because pitching the car is required in order to tell the rear end of the car which side to slide out to. Otherwise, you’re doing a rolling burnout.

The usual mistake that happens with inexperienced drivers is either not enough throttle or letting off too gently on the clutch. Both will produce at best a skirp of the tires. Too much throttle will cause a spin. The modulation is in the variable amount of throttle to start the drift. More revs will make the rear hang out more, less revs will make the rear hand out less.

Clutch kick meter

Above is a general idea of what happens based on your clutch kick’s strength. This diagram has no direct correlation with your car’s rpm. The numbers are merely to show a spectrum and not anything to literally go by. Anyway, below a certain threshold, you will get a skirp out of the tires. Too much and the car will immediately spin. The squishy/nougaty center is when the rear comes out. At first, the distance between 20 and 80 on the diagram will feel more like 49 and 51. As driver skill improves, the ability to adjust how much the rear comes out will become simpler and more adjustable.

What’s Going On and Why

The short explanation is that the rear end is trying to pass the front end. When traction is lost in the rear, the side to side frictional force is lessened significantly. This allows it to move left or right depending on the current amount of momentum. With the front wheels pointed in either direction, this will cause the rear end to slide out. At this point, the rear end is still adding forward force to the car but the front isn’t. The rear of the car is now going faster than the front.

Key Concepts

The key assumption here is that the car is setup to even physically be able to do this. 315 width tires on a factory AE86 corolla will not spin tires. Tire pressures also play a large role. The higher the tire pressure, the less force is necessary to kick the rear end out a similar amount (to a point). Similarly, weight transfer into the corner greatly effects how much the rear comes out. You’ll see many FD drivers do a large manji before a corner to get the momentum then clutch kick as an entry. For newbies, the forcefulness of the kick (rpms) is the biggest factor in this technique assuming the clutch is released quickly.

Beginner Level Usage

This is my favorite technique for beginners. For the most basic instruction, you simply sit at a stop, turn the wheel full lock one direction, rev up the motor, and dump the clutch. Once you get that down, drive VERY slowly in a fairly tight circle and try a regular clutch kick. Repeat this until you can hold the circle and bring the car back under control. From there, simply do a larger circle and repeat.

The progression with this exercise is to teach the driver how much/hard to clutch kick and how to catch/modulate the basic drift. All of this is learned while sub 15mph to minimize hitting objects or flying off track into a wall. I’ve successfully used this to teach clutch kicking and how to understand understeer (another article for another time).

Intermediate Level Usage

Intermediate level drivers should learn to use this technique only when needed. I find many beginners use clutch kick entries for every entry because they are too timid to go faster and hand brake. Or they lack the power to go fast enough for the entry. Regardless, clutch kick entries are used when the corner ahead is open and fast. The simplest example is a banked oval. There isn’t enough run up to go fast enough and even if you did, a hand brake with insufficient speed will cause you to get sucked down into the lower rows of the bank.

Here’s Chris Ward at Wall NJ using this technique

On most regular tracks, a hand brake entry will suffice. With pro am levels getting very competitive, early entry regulations may require a clutch kick followed by a hand brake to elongate drifts enough. But at that point, the usage is personal preference.

Higher Level Usage

This is a level I do not have much experience with. I’ve found that pro drivers only use clutch kick entries ~30% of the time. Before tandems, I’ve seen drivers ask each other which entry type they use. This is because clutch kicking behind someone who is hand braking could cause a crash. So if you still want to clutch kick, you’ll want to give the car in front a little space.

Other than that, I find clutch kick entries are mostly used for banked ovals. Long beach is a hand brake entry, Atlanta is a hand brake entry, and Miami was usually a hand brake. On banks like Seattle or Irwindale that have decent run up, I’ve seen a mixture of both types. That isn’t to say that Wall NJ will always be a clutch kick entry.

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