This Incredible Rally Save Shows The Difference With Drifting

Both rely on slides, but compact and twitchy WRC cars don't follow the drift playbook

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Image for article titled This Incredible Rally Save Shows The Difference With Drifting
Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Drifting and rally are often seen as similar disciplines in motorsport. Both rely on high powered, often forced induction cars. Both involve a controlled loss of traction with the intent of forcing the vehicle’s nose in a certain direction. Both involve incredible amounts of precise, almost ballet-like car control.

The differences, however, come in how the slides work. In Formula Drift, the goal is to have long, smooth, uninterrupted drifts. In rally, kicking the tail end out is the natural conclusion of taking a short wheelbase car, sticking 375 horsepower under the hood, and putting it on a loose surface — and nothing shows that better than Gus Greensmith’s save this past weekend at Secto Rally Finland.

Image for article titled This Incredible Rally Save Shows The Difference With Drifting
Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
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The save, posted here on Instagram, comes at the tail end of everyone’s favorite part of rally: a jump. Greensmith piloted his M-Sport Ford Fiesta to some pretty astonishing heights, but a bump in his landing jolted the car off course. With a major correction to the wheel, Greensmith got the car back on track — with barely a second lost on his time. And that is the point, to stay on his line and make it through the stage as quickly as possible. As much fun as it is to watch a rally car slide, generally speaking, they’re not out there trying to do big slides.

That quick correction is the result of an incredibly skilled driver, but a driver practiced in a specific way of handling cars. Greensmith is familiar enough with his Fiesta to know how car’s short wheelbase will flick around in an instant — a necessity on tight, winding rally stages.

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That doesn’t fly in professional drifting. The cars are longer and the the tires are wider. To counteract that, the cars have to bump their horsepower a bit above the 375 of Greensmith’s Fiesta. In Formula Drift, four-digit power figures are the norm.

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Pro drift cars don’t twitch like their rally cousins. While techniques can transfer between the two (watch any FD initiation and tell me there aren’t echoes of a Scandinavian Flick), they have to be modified considerably to be effective. Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea Denofa’s Mustangs in the above image have a wheelbase nearly ten inches longer than a WRC fiesta — meaning a massive change in how the vehicles slide. And here, those big, controlled slides are the point.

We all know Takumi Fujiwara became a rally driver after the events of Initial D, but the skills aren’t as direct a transfer as many would think.