Everyday Racers - The Art of Drifting
Around 4 p.m. drivers begin to arrive. Some are towing their race cars, mostly modified Subaru’s and sports cars, while others will be testing the limits of their everyday vehicles. One line of cars is sent to the paddock while another is sent to the open asphalt area, referred to as a skidpad, located behind and to the right of the grandstands. These are the cars we will focus on. These drivers are here, not to drag race one another, but to practice pushing their cars and their driving ability to the extreme. They are here to drift.
Every Wednesday night the hills of Sonoma are filled with the sounds of engines revving and tires squealing. Starting March 2 and running through Nov. 14 Sonoma Raceway, previously Infineon Raceway, in Sonoma, Calif. holds the Wednesday Night Drags and Sonoma Drift. These events provide a safe and controlled environment for amateur (and some not so amateur) drivers to showcase their personal vehicles and skills by either drag racing other drivers or practicing drifting.
Drifting, as defined by FormulaD.com, the official North American drifting champion series, is a “high-skilled, high-powered motor sport where drivers intentionally maneuver their cars into well executed, controlled sideways slides at high speeds through a marked course.”
It is one such Wednesday night. The excitement that swirls through the exhaust filled air is almost tangible. As more and more attendees arrive it becomes apparent this is quite the community. Eight or nine years ago this may have been a few kids learning a new way to race, but today it is a full blown community. There are male and female drivers of all ages. There are at minimum 15 different types of cars here. A rear wheeled drive car is all that is required. Most have vehicles purchased entirely for drifting, older Nissan 240’s or older Toyota Corollas. But there are a few who are either brave enough, skilled enough or simply dumb enough to drift their newer vehicles such as Mustangs or Nissan 370z’s. No matter what they drive, how old they are, or how skilled, they all have one thing in common, a love for drifting.
The drifting commences around 4:45 p.m. There are roughly 20 drivers in attendance tonight. As the cars line up in anticipation, the flocks of bystanders and onlookers prepare to see what each driver has to offer. The first driver gets the go-ahead. The roar of the engine fills the air and he is off.
Drifting is all about control. It is a high speed and chaotic, yet exquisite version of the waltz. This is the art of the sport. The driver must have complete control over a sliding automobile while inching as close to, yet avoiding another driver or the wall. It truly is something to behold. The skill, the excitement, the daringness, it is all intoxicating. Many drivers, like Robert Sherod, actually relate the feeling to a drug.