If you have dreams of getting extremely sideways but don’t quite have the courage to try and slide your car inches from a wall, believe it or not you can start by doing donuts. And luckily for you, Formula D pro drifter Ken Gushi has some tips for us on how to make a sweet tire-slaying circle. Pay attention to him and you’ll be burning rubber beautifully in no time.
(Full disclosure: Toyota’s motorsports PR agency Golin invited us to Irwindale Speedway to do donuts in stock 86s. When they assured me that actual donuts would be provided at a free breakfast buffet, we packed up and headed straight over.)
But for real, mastering the donut is a key building block to car control. At least, the kind of control that’s supposed to look out of control.
What’s basically happening is that the tires on the drive wheels are being overwhelmed with power. The right combination of steering input and throttle can keep the prime movers spinning just fast enough to move both forward and laterally at a rate that keeps the whole car moving around in a consistent circle.
Practically speaking, that means cutting the wheel and giving the car too much gas. But it’s a little more complicated than that.
When you’re driving and turn aggressively, and hear tire screeching but don’t feel enough turning, that’s not drifting. That’s just understeer. When you boot the throttle too hard in a turn, that can evolve into a spin. Or, essentially, the most extreme result of oversteer. Remarkably easy to do in a Toyota 86, by the way.
What you want to do is find a balance. But you don’t have to take my word for it, Mr. Gushi explains it a whole lot better in the video.
Now at the risk of being called a fun-hating hippie, I have to confess that I don’t really love donuts, burnouts or drifting. Not the way the hardcore drift crowd does. Maybe that’s why I got my ass kicked in our informal donut contest at Irwindale.
Tires are so important to a car’s performance, and so expensive, that using them up for a short spectacle just feels... a little painful to me. But I guess we could argue about the wastefulness of motorsports all day, and that seems like a sad way to send off Irwindale Speedway, where we shot this video.
As you’ve probably heard, Irwindale will be closing soon. So I’m sorry to say you won’t be able to drift there for much longer. But when you do get ambitious enough to try your sliding skills in a car of your own, please start by finding a safe and legal spot before you try to find the limits of your driving abilities.