This weekend, sections of Long Beach, California will be shrouded in enough smoke from burning rubber to trigger a smog alert. And enough noise to unhinge a complete set of teeth.
Formula Drift racing comes to the city's street-based Gran Prix track. Should the subject of this wild racing phenomenon come up in polite conversation, here are few key bullet points that could prevent you from sounding like a culturally disconnected dolt.
- Drifting got its start on Japanese mountain roads, where thrill seekers would push their cars into an oversteer condition and then slide through curves.
- It found adherents here in the US, and eventually, a pro racing circuit, Formula D, was organized. The actual rules and scoring are too complex to worry about; basically, drivers get points by maintaining crazy angles while sliding through turns.
- The vehicles are rear wheel drive sedans and coupes (usually small or mid-size) that have been beefed up with engines that produce as much as 700 horsepower. Some are equipped with nitrous tanks that can briefly boost the horsepower even more.
- LSD is a must for a drifter. That's LSD as in limited slip differential. It's considered essential for performing the slips and slides that are at the core of the driving style.
- Drifting got a big boost in popularity after the racing style was featured in the 2006 film, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
If seeing is knowing, this video is worth tens of thousands of words:
Susan Carpenter is auto and motorcycle critic for the OC Register. She joins Take Two each Thursday for The Wheel Thing.