What is drifting?
Drifting is a driving style or technique that involves maneuvering the steering wheel, clutch, brakes, and gears in such a way that the car reaches a state of oversteer, which is characterized by traction loss in some or all of the tires, but still keeping the vehicle in control.
When drifting, a car’s front slip angle is lesser than its rear slip angle, and its wheels are often in a counter-steering or opposite lock position, meaning the wheels point to the left when the vehicle is turning right, and vice versa.
When did drifting start in Japan?
Drifting in Japan started back in the 1960s, when a racing group known as the Rolling Zoku raced on the winding mountain roads of the country to set various record times travelling from point A to point B. After several trials, the racers were able to improve their lap times and found efficient ways to still be able to control their vehicles despite exceeding the grip limits.
Eventually though, they concluded that the difference in lap times between normal driving and drifting were not very significant. But this did not stop them from continuing to use the adrenaline-pumping driving technique to enhance and show off their proficiency and expertise in car control.
Are there drifting competitions in Japan?
In the 1970s, a competition known as the All Japan Touring Car Championship was held. It consisted of racers from all over the country who want to work on their drifting skills and better their lap times. It was a showcase of great speed and amazing car control that was well-received by many.
One notable participant in the said competition was Kunimitsu Takahashi, who used to be a motorcycle driver. He stood out among the rest because of his unparalleled drifting technique, being able to oversteer his vehicle and hit the corners even at such high speeds. With a Nissan Skyline KPGC10, also known as Hakosuka, he took home over 50 consecutive top prizes and championships trophies through the years.
The competition has now become a racing organization with the name of Japan Grand Touring Championship (JGTC), or Super GT, with Takahashi as the chairman.
Who is Keiichi Tsuchiya?
Keiichi Tsuchiya is a Japanese professional race car driver known for his unmatched drifting prowess.
Born on January 30, 1956 in Nagano, he is dubbed as the Drift King, winning many titles and trophies since he started his drifting career in the 1970s. His resume includes various national championships (Japanese Touring Car Championship, Japanese Formula Three Championship) and Le Mans (8th place in 1995, 2nd place in 1999), and participation in NASCAR-sanctioned races in 1998 and 1999 at the Suzuka Circuit and the Twin Ring Motegi Superspeedway.
Even after his retirement, he remained involved in the racing industry — served as a team director for GT300 Class of ARTA JGTC Team and GT500, hosted a video magazine on motoring, became an editorial supervisor for some anime series, and guest commentated for televised races. He had a cameo (appeared as a fisherman) in the 2006 movie, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and was also a stunt man and stunt coordinator.
He drives the Hachi-Roku, which is a Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno.
What are some must-watch drifting competitions in Japan today?
There are many local drifting contests all over Japan today, but the most popular of them all is the D1 Grand Prix, or D1GP, which is held every year. Its inaugural season began in October 2000 and ended in November 2001, with Nobuteru Taniguchi and his Nissan Silvia S15 taking home the top prize. Its most recent winner (2014-2015 season) is Masato Kawabata (of Team TOYO TIRES DRIFT TRUST RACING), who drove a Nissan GT-R.