Japanese Street Drifting
A group of young Japanese cheer "Sugoi Yo" (yo, that's
cool!) as the Nissan 350Z slides round the corner at a 45 degree slant, deep
in the industrial sector of Yokohama - Japan's third largest city. As the
smoke from the burning tires clears, the spider web of black marks on the
gray concrete surface become visible, proof of the popularity of this
circuit. Welcome to the world of the drifters; a subculture of Japanese who
meet to test their driving skills, show off their souped up hot rods and
burn a lot of rubber.
The word 'Drifting' describes a cornering technique where the front wheels of the car point in the opposite direction to the turn, resulting in the car sliding round the corner almost at right angles to the turn - effectively a controlled skid. The practice has long been used in various forms of motor spot racing, such as rallying and early Grand Prix, but it was a young Japanese boy racer, Keiichi Tsuchiya who is credited with popularizing drifting. Tsuchiya later went on to win several major motor sport titles and become a drifting legend despite having his race license suspended during his early career, due to his continuing participation in street racing.
Tsuchiya has now retired from both professional and street racing, but is revered internationally for his drifting skills, and his contribution to drifting was recently honored by his cameo performance in the street racing movie "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift".
Today, drifting is still very popular with the Japanese and the DI Grand Prix is a major fixture in the motor sport calendar, but it is the culture of street drifting that has captured the imagination of many car fans across the world, and has for a large part been popularized through drifting videos that have been posted on the internet by drivers and their fans.
The flamboyant, crowd pleasing and rebellious nature of street Drifting has spawned several Japanese manga (comic books) that are based on the practice. Keiichi Tsuchiya is an editorial supervisor of the title "Initial D" which focuses on the world of drifting and Touge (pronounced Toe-gay). Touge literally means "pass" and has come to describe a form of racing in Japan, where drivers use narrow, winding mountain roads to test their driving skills against each other.
Street drifting has since spread around the world, and is popular in the USA, UK, Europe and the drifting craze has even reached the Middle East.
About the Author
Paul McIndoe is an online, freelance journalist and keen hillwalker. He lives in Edinburgh with his two dogs
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