Love it or hate it, everyone wants to drift. It really doesn't matter if you're a pro race driver and wouldn't be caught dead going around a corner the slow way or a 16-year-old fan boy with the keys to your first hand-me-down car. Drifting is the motorsport of the masses and is also the fastest way to make a grown man giggle with joy. The cool factor and car-control bragging rights don't hurt either, because deep down we all know that being able to drift your ride is a badge of honor and actually teaches you better car control.
That said, there's big difference between real drifting and what your dad thought he was doing as a kid on some frozen backroad in the Midwest. That's just power-on-oversteer, with a sprinkle of too-much-throttle and a healthy pinch of panic thrown in. Drifting is calculated, executed and followed through with finesse and control like a choreographed dance, while the ordinary man's backroad tank-slapper antics are just a result of circumstance and coincidence, much like a club-footed ape underneath a disco ball.
Even for those of us who know the difference and have yapped and ranted about the techniques, there's still a huge gap between knowing and doing. We wanted to be taught how to drift, not be fan boys, so we enrolled in Drift Association's Drift 101 and 102 schools, which promised to make even the most club-footed of apes capable of planning, initiating and maintaining a slide.
Drift Association is one of the first and longest-running organizations in the U.S. that caters to beginner, amateur and pro drifters. Accompanying their standard open-track Drift Day events where beginners and pros practice side by side, Drift Association also provides one-on-one instruction through its Drift 101 and 102 schools. Ran by one of the founding fathers of American drifting, Naoki Kobayashi, and taught by pro drifters like Taka Aono, Hiro Sumida and Yoshie Shuyama, the Drift 101 and 102 instruction sessions are meant to introduce the complete novice into drifting and ensure that he graduates with a strong foundation in how to drift. The concept is to teach drifting with proper form and do it in a safe and enjoyable environment. More importantly, Drift 101 and 102's primary goals are to teach students the skills to evaluate their own mistakes so they can teach themselves as they progress beyond the classes.
While Jay and I have both spent plenty of time on track trying to clock fast laps or riding along in competition drift cars, neither of us had really drifted before. Most efforts have ended in spins, flying cones or destroyed drivetrains. We were perhaps the least ideal candidates because all of our driving habits have been built on track with the goal of avoiding getting sideways. We were going to need all the help we could get. Knowing that we would probably show up in cars way over our skill level, Naoki graciously loaned us two of the many rentable instruction cars built specifically for teaching drifting at either the 101 or the 102 levels. Along with that, Nexen Tires also threw in a set of rubber for each of us to burn through in the process of the day.
What often looks simple is actually difficult to master. Drift 101 teaches the basic techniques and solid fundamentals needed to become a good drifter. Forget fancy high-speed entries or e-brake-induced drifts, 101 is all about developing the right habits and building upon them. You have to walk before you can run.