Slide rules: how to drift a car
Want to master car control? May the g-Force be with you
Rear view of yellow 911 drifting on wet track
For the drivers taking part in the Porsche Track Experience, perfect car control is key. Achieving the perfect drift, they learn, is all about keeping cool, calm and connected
When Porsche Track Experience drivers start their season, the only exercises they undertake initially are how to acquire perfect car control in any situation. There is no racing or no ‘ideal line’ driving. Instead, the thing that really sets the drivers up for the season is g-Force training, in the form of lessons on how to drift a car proficiently. It’s also a valuable exercise in how to handle your car in all conditions and situations – including on normal roads.
Man in Porsche jacket, 911 on wet circuit behind him
Just let it slide: Porsche Experience instructor Robér Philip Romviel
Driving on the edge"Drifting is the sweet spot of driving because you're in that place between control and losing control," says Chezito Fernando Mendez, an instructor at the Porsche Experience. He and his colleagues oversee the drivers at the Boxberg proving ground, around halfway between Mannheim and Nuremberg. It’s something that one of those colleagues, Robér Philip Romviel, definitely agrees with. “When drifting, you can feel the car and understand better when understeer or oversteer is approaching," he says. "It’s a skill.” And developing these skills requires practice, Robér continues. For him, drift training is something that should be done by everybody. It’s essential training for beginners but also acts as a season opener for more experienced drivers to practice in a legal and safe environment.“Some motorcyclists open every season with a session of safety training. For our customers I suggest doing drift training,” says instructor Lars Berg. It’s all about becoming a better racer, adds instructor Thomas Bangma, who describes learning how to drift a car as a balancing act, comparing it to the same kind of skillset required of a tightrope walker at the circus.“If you are track driving, you can always get into a situation where you can be confronted with a bit of oversteering,” Thomas explains. “Your tyres are overheating, you’re slightly off the line or there’s a bit of dirt on the track. It’s great if you can beautifully control the oversteer and not be afraid of it. And sometimes you can even use a bit of oversteer to get an even faster exit out of certain corners.”
Green Porsche 911 splashing through wet handling circuit at speed
Ready, steady… a 911 Carrera S gets set to enter drift mode
Keep it smooth, keep it sidewaysThe focus on day one of how to drift a car is how you induce a drift. On day two it shifts on to holding the drift and finishing it smoothly. “The best success you can have is when you have a drift circuit at the end of a training session and you end up being able to handle it for a complete lap of driving sideways,” says Steve Abold, an instructor supervisor.
Drifting is the sweet spot of driving because you’re in that place between control and losing control
Chezito Fernando Mendez | Porsche Track Experience instructor
Customers from all around the world take part in the g-Force training, each of them driving a 911 Carrera S. “I just want to be a better driver,” explains insurance company manager, Naji Sultanem, who is joining this training session with a bunch of friends from Lebanon. “What I’ve learned on the first day is to be calm, not aggressive, and to wait for the car to respond – to feel the car.” Edgars Pigoznis from Latvia laughs as he admits that perfecting how to drift a car is his Achilles heel. “But when you catch the drift, it’s a fantastic feeling,” he grins. “You just want to do it again and again – but I can’t just yet.” Luckily, the Boxberg proving ground offers a lot of space for practicing and making mistakes.
911 drifts around a bend, armco in the foreground
The Boxberg proving ground in Germany boasts perfect conditions for drifting
Control your car… and your mindInstructor Chezito mentions another prerequisite for effective drifting – the right mental approach. “You have two levels,” he explains. “The level of skill and the level of believing in yourself. You need to manage the two of them, so they are equal. If your belief is higher than your skill, you’re going to over drive and be all over the place. If your skill is higher than your confidence, then you will not be at your best performance – drive too slowly, etc. I’m here to help you get both at the same level.”
Three Porsche instructors observe as light blue 911 passes by
The instructors taking mental notes, ahead of driver feedback sessions
Controlling a drift for the first time is a feeling you won’t forget. But keeping a vehicle stable in unpredictable driving conditions like this water-drenched proving ground? Well, that’s the fine art of how to drift a car and the fascination of the g-Force training. And, as with any type of sport, the more you practice, the better you get."Most drivers struggle at the beginning,” says Robér as another 911 drifts past, performing a textbook parabola. “It’s really nice to see that at the end of day two they can put the car sideways whenever they want.”
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