The 4 Levels of Drift Driving

As usual this is my personal opinion based on over 10 years of drifting and teaching various people with various setups. This article assumes the vehicle is reasonably well setup (locking diff, not blown shocks, properly sized/pressurized tires, decent alignment, etc). With that baseline, a driver should be able to move through these levels at varying speeds. Although, the order in which the inner milestones are accomplished can vary greatly.

Level 1(子): Donuts and Figure 8s

The basics of drifting is learning to start and maintain oversteer. The progression generally starts with learning how to break traction, then maintain the loss of traction, and finally how to control/modulate it.

The progression is generally:

  1. Full lock steering wheel (from a stand still) donuts while holding the wheel at lock
    1. Learning to modulate throttle to keep it going
  2. Full lock donuts (from a stand still) and then modulating steering to tighten and loosen the donut radius
    1. Learning steering inputs
  3. Donut with a running start (clutch kick or ebrake)
    1. Learning initiations
    2. Learning steering on initiation
  4. Figure 8s
    1. Learning weight transfer from side to side
    2. Learning steering in transition

Level 2(小): Linking Corners

Building upon the general concepts, the next steps are to gain new skills and polish what has already been learned.

These include (but are not limited to):

  • General initiations
    • Hand brake, power over, clutch kick, etc
  • Increasing radius corners
    • Line work
    • Hand brake extensions
    • Multiple clutch kicks (or more power)
  • Decreasing radius corners
    • Braking
    • Hand brake pull
    • Off throttle
  • Banks and other cambered corners
    • Left foot braking
    • Multiple hand brake pulls
    • Lots of techniques
  • Straights
    • Manji
    • Hand brake work
    • Multiple clutch kicks
  • Transitions between corners in general
    • Steering technique mid transition
    • Throttle inputs for various situations in transition

Level 3(中): Linking Courses

Once the technique tool bag is full, using all of them to reliably complete an entire course is the next goal. This level is mainly polishing Level 2 skills to the point where they can be reliably performed in succession with minimal corrections. Line work generally isn’t polished. The pinnacle of this is repeatably completing the course with no spins and no straightening.

Level 4(大): Tandem/Competitions

After courses can be linked reliably, the next step is to minimize errors and maximize speed/line/angle throughout the course. Competency can be attained by driving with other drivers and mimicking their techniques and lines. Also by attending competitions.

  • Line
    • In competition. Judges will designate the preferred line
  • Speed
    • The ability to complete the course quickly or catch up to another driver
    • “running away” from the following driver
  • Angle
    • Maximize angle without necessarily sacrificing speed
  • Proximity
    • Ability to get close to the lead driver without hitting them
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