View Full Version : How I got my Drift Licence!

22-02-2009, 11:39 AM
This is just an account of my day on Saturday the 21st of February at the British Drift Championship Licensing day at Llandow - Hopefully to give people an insight who didn't go or want to do it from the perspective of a complete drift n00b in a more or less stock MX-5. :)

Hope you enjoy it.

Friday - 11am

My friend John was due to be driving a brace of top end old classics including a '71 911 RS, an Aston an old Selby Cobra at Goodwood with Mithril racing. I had spent the morning going over the cars fluid levels, making slight adjustments to the handbrake, and was trying to fit the tools, jacks, stands and fluids, and general other gumph that I thought I might need for the Saturdays licensing day.

John arrived in his new Lupo Sport runnaround and we promptly set about turning it into a van. I was going to take 6 wheels extra, 2 R888's for the front incase I wasn't getting enough front end grip, and 4 'Fate-O' ditchfinders strapped to standard 14" rims. They fitted in no problem, and we set off to Goodwood. I love the road to goodwood, and at a few of the roundabouts, my brain was wandering 'how would I drift that?', and then briefly putting my hand on the handbrake and readying my clutch foot, and then thinking the better of it, and just took the racing line instead.

John did his 9 laps in the old classics while I took some snaps and drank luke-cold tea, we said our goodbyes to his relatives and girlfriend who had also turned up, and we both set off, Lupo chasing MX-5 to our overnight stop in Dorset and another friend Andrews house.

A fairly uneventful trip up the M3 and eventually onto the A303 where we saw an Apache, and a hot air baloon. We both were thinkning exactly the same thing, but were dissapointed when the Apache didn't release a heat seeking missile.

We arrived at Andrews, and after some quick drift practice in Grand Theft Auto 4 in a limo with shot out rear tyres we heading out for a curry and some pints.

Andrew's idea of 'going out for a curry' involves headings 100% the wrong direction to take us off road in his RAV4, where we proceeded to to go through 2 foot deep puddles, and down lanes that resembled the Somme. After 20 minutes of getting the car even filthier, we eventually arrived at the pub where we sat and talked about cars inevitably, and the fact that all the kids in the place were Andrew's pupils. We hit the curry house, I had a fairly uninteresting Satkura Chicken, John had a Dansak, and Andrew had a Tikka Massala, although this time he avoided getting any in his Kingfisher. As designated driver, I was given the keys to the Rav and we drove home.

"Is this a kids bed?" I asked Andrew when he presented me with a 4' long pink mattress. "Yes, Johns got the other one". Great. Drift day tomorrow and I'm hanging off both ends of a tiny bed made out of tissues and plastic. Hope I sleep well.

Saturday - 4am.

Andrew's been farting all night, inconsideratley loud. That last one actually vibrated the floor. At least they don't smell. I've been up most of the night worrying - perhaps I should have drunk myself into a coma so I was forced to sleep? Still, Andrew wakes up and sets about making fresh coffee while John and I 'freshen up'. I'm trying not to think about the next 12 hours as we pack the cars up with final bits like tyre compressors and Coca-Colas.

After a short round of SatNav bingo, Andrew's satnav picks up a satellite first, so he's the lead of the convoy. Andrew being Andrew instantly redlines the Rav4 down the road and vanishes down some tiny lane whilst my over-laden MX-5 scraped its way falling behind. Fortunately I catch a glimpse of tail light turning right onto a B-road and can give it some beans and catch up again. John is behind me in the Lupo presumably wondering what the hell I'm upto.

So as dawn breaks, we arrive at Llandow racing circuit. It's about 7.11am and we've made good progress. The pit area is already open, and there is already activity. Two professional drift Skylines are parked up with a team of mechanics making alterations, tweaking suspension settings and eating sausages and drinking tea from their BBQ and support vans.

Around me, the Nissan badge is clearly the dominant force in Drifting. From the first time tuners delight, the 200SX S13 to the powerhouse of the R32 and R33 Skylines its easy to why these are the drift cars of choice. They produce a lot of power easily, cheaply and reliably plus with literally millions of tuning parts available, of which many are drift specific and developed in Japan, America and the UK there are no shortages of 'just the right bits' off the shelves.

BMW's were the only other obvious contender, E36 M3's and E30's with 3.5 litre transplants were also an obvious choice, bullet proof engines and chassis parts and a decent range of track-orientated parts, plus the fact you can pick them up for pennies (a chap I was speaking to on the start grid had picked up his genuine E36 M3 for 2200 with T&T) makes them another obvious choice. A couple of other cars including an epic Toyota Corolla KE70 with a 200SX engine in and a trio of FD RX-7's were the only other cars there.

So, 30 cars, and not only was I the only MX-5 there, I was about 100bhp down the next least powerful car aswell. My nerves started getting worse.

Signing on and briefing was actually informative and delightfully laid back. As a share holder in a trackday company myself I am aware how boring and pointless a long and strict briefing is so first credit to BDC for being completely clear about what was to expected of the drivers and the cars on the day.

The drifting at Llandow was to take place on the bus stop complex, and the following sweeping right hander. You would start on the start line next to the pit entrance, accelerate as fast as possible down the straight, initiate into the left hander on the bus stop, transition right, ignore the first right hand apex but clip the second apex, clip the transitions left apex, then transition right a final time into a huge lairy big angle and big smoke slide where you then cross the finish line, queue up and start all over again.

'We're going to be strict today as we've already filled a large portion of our roster of drivers' organiser Sweeps announced to us.

"Bollocks" I though to myself - not only are they expecting big smoke, but they're going to be stricter than normal too. No chance of a license today, but at least I'll get some good practice in, then try again next year.

I head back over to the car, stomach butterflies really starting to grab a hold. Nick Dougill, my collegue in my trackday business has arrived in his Volvo with 4 new T1-R's and a coule of spare OZ-Superleggeras just incase we need more tyres. Having done a trackday at Llandow before I know it's a tyre killer so I didn't want to find myself half way through the day and no tyres left.

So I start getting the car ready. And by ready, I mean I click the rear shocks from '3' to '4' out of a possible 4. That's all I can do. Jamie Keynon, another keen MX-5 drifter comes over to say hi and we quickly discuss tyre pressures. He wishes me luck, and I get back on with looking at my car for something to do.

I should at this point feel I should mention I have never actually done a proper drift day before as a driver. I have run a couple as an organiser, and taken my own car out many times with a grip-track friendly 29psi in the tyres but never as an actual drifter. Butterflies going into overload.

Jamie mentioned pressures of 50psi - crikey, I've never had more than 32psi in the tyres. I decide to settle on 45psi, and set about filling my Goodyear F1's with just that number. The fronts remain 31psi, my favoured psi for T1-R's.

Everyone else is adjusting coilovers, making tweaks to clutch cylinders, swapping wheels, changing pads and I am sat there, literally wandering 'what else can I do?' I check the oil again. And top up the washer fluid level too. That looked low.

9:30, and we're cueing up ready to go. Just bumbling along the pits I can feel the fully stiffened shocks and balloon like rear tyres. Feels weird, and scary as I have no idea how the cars going to handle.

After a short wait and a couple of sighting laps, I'm 4th in the queue to do a practice run. The 200sx in front of me tears off down the straight, tyres spinning as it struggles to lay down its 380bhp, then all I can see is it suddenly lock the rear tyres up, and disappears behind the control tower. A roof and a huge plume of smoke from a sucessful drift is all I can see infront of me when the start line marshall waves me off.

I boot it as fast as possible. I'm in 2nd at 6000rpm when I reach the point I'd pre-decided on the sighting lap I was going to initiate. I put the cluch in, pull the standard MX-5 handbrake, the back slides round faster than expected, I hit the throttle, release the clutch and spin round gracefully to look at the field behind me. Note to self - car is now tail happy.

No worries, I slap it into 1st, spin up, then second, go into the right hander, kick the clutch and spin round again. Go me.

As I gingerly cross the finish line my mind is racing. What went wrong? How do I fix it? I think back to the wealth of internet knowledge on Driftworks and other MX-5 websites. Only a handful of people drift these things, and everone has a different idea, style and method. No, I'll leave it, I'm just not used to rock hard tyres and shocks yet. I text Nick from the grid to say 'It's all gone slidey'.

4 runs later and I'm still spinning. The car is just not getting any rear grip at all, and I need to do something about it. I could tell the rear suspension wasn't offering any give at all, so I decided to flick it back to '3'. Next run, the car felt one million percent better, she was controlled, gripped well, and really adjustable in the corners. I inited from the rev limiter in 2nd, made it round the track as sideways as the little car could manage, and transitioned into the biggest angle finale I could muster on the MX-5's standard steering lock. The feeling was brilliant, and I punched the air with both fists as I crossed the finish line. I'd fogotten to turn my CD player off, and Ella Fitzgerald was singing 'What a difference a day makes' on the radio. Quite amusing in hind sight.

The next 5 runs went well, and I experimented with lines trying to tighten my line up, and nail the important clipping points. You have to hit the clipping point within a metre to even count, so as I knew I wasn't going to make big smoke, I concentrated on getting my car placement right for the runs instead.

After the 5th, I was trying to work out if I could get more angle and use that to scrub off more speed, allowing for a higher entry speed, so after clicking the rear shocks back to '2', I did two more runs. Span. Span. Back to '3'. My final run of the morning was sucessful, and I was happy I'd found the best settings for the task in hand. Ironically, the settings were identical to the race / grip settings I used normally.

So at lunch time, the plan was to just let the car cool down. I hadn't really used any tyres up, there was load of tread left so rather than alter anything, I left it exactly as it was was. If it ain't broke...

Lunch consisted of Doritos and Jaffa cakes. The 30 minute slot for lunch had over crowed the cafe and I wasn't really hungry anyway as licensing was next. I cought up with Bryn of the Taff.Tune variety who told me he was having some gearbox problems and the car wasn't boosting strong in the lower end, and this was back up with other drivers mentioning severe mechanical problems and dramas. I felt bad mentioning that I had barely used any fuel either.

The licensing works like this. You are judged by 2 experienced drifters, in this case Sweeps who I'd met in a professional circumstance before, and Chunk who had attended a drift day I'd run in Curborough where he drifted his Trooper 'Big Horn' 4 up round a soaking wet track much to the amusement of everyone else.

You are marked on several things, not just your skill.

- Your attitiude is important, be positive, friendly and light hearted.

- Your car should be upto the job. They use the BTCC as an analogy - you wouldn't arrive at a race without a working race car... If you turn up in a standard car, your not only making life hard on yourself, but you can't race it on a drift event can you? Fair enough.

- You should be consistent. Everyone cocks up once in a while, and a spin isn't the end of your day but you should also demonstrate a good run isn't a fluke either.

They also judge your entry speed, initiation skill, ability to hit the clipping points within half a metre, your transition control and finally (and this is actually how they wrote it) EPPPICCCC SMOOOOOKESSS!!!.

Again, I was nearly first out, only 3 cars lead me. I had completely cold tyres, and my butterflies which had breifly vanished towards the end of practice were back with avengace.
1st gear. 2nd. 7200rpm and on the limiter. Handbrake. Throttle. Spin.

I felt seriously disheartended, but instantly I knew why. I'd not given it power fast enough, and the tyres were cold - the combo of which I would correct with a mighty powerslide to get some warmth in them. The second run was great, and the third! The fourth went well until I got greedy with my angle on the final drift and just didn't quite have enough lock to catch a spin. The final judged run on the day did go well though.

Rather than carry on, I pulled into the pits. I was destroyed. Tired, grubby, unwashed, needed a wee, and most importantly of all, a pint.

I had no idea how I'd done, and honestly, I didn't want to know. I'd spun twice during judging so I was sure I wouldn't get a license sadly. I'd tried my best and that was all that mattered.
BonBon came over with Laura to chat and were very kind to me and we chatted a bit about the car and how to develop it further.

I went over to Sweeps to say thanks for a great day and that I was going to leave now as I had a long drive and was ruined. Then he said something I couldn't beleive.

"Congratulations on acheiving your Semi-Pro license!"

I couldn't believe it, and I must have looked like some sort of thicko as I just stood there looking shocked.

"The car obviously isn't going to cut it" he continued "but your consistency and accuracy were spot on, and that's enough".

I realised I'd been shaking his hand for about a minute, and decided I'd better sod off, so I wandered over, nochelant and cool to my pit crew of friends who were waiting expectantly and then announced the news!

I realised Semi-Pro doesn't make me some sort of drift god, but I didn't care at the time, I was just over the moon having driven that car against some seriously awesome machinery and drivers.

A pint has never tasted so good.


22-02-2009, 11:40 AM
I also have some great photos and a nice breif report from my friend Simon:

Well I'm here first so I'll post some nice pics of the time I spent at Llandow freezing by balls off.

As the circuit is only 15mins from my house I thought I'd start the day with a leisurely breakfast of coffee and bacon sarnies, got my two boys dressed and ambled to Llandow for 9am. There were a few people up waaaay before me.

The pitcrew (Andrew, John, and Nick) were all looking as professional as usual ensuring Al's car was tip-top and ready for action :lol: While a slightly nervous Al looked worriedly at all the vastly more powerful tackle surrounding his MX5. He really shouldn't have worried....

It was cold and windy. Typical February in Wales...


Some reasonable stuff in the paddock...




Al kicked off his first run testing carefully what levels of grip were available...


While others started with a flourish...


...and ended in tears.


There were a few impressive runs...



and a few who looked as if they had done this before...


Soon enough, our boy got the hang of things. I gave a little cheer as Al completed his first successful run and it made me smile to see both his arms shoot into the air as he crossed the finish line. I guess he was a bit relieved 8)

He definately got some style points too...






This little Toyota went as well as looked too...




This obviously helped...


Unfortunately my boys were getting a little bored so I had to leave early. So I can't say how the license thing went. If the runs went as well as the practice, I'm sure Al was just fine. Especially with the moral support from the crew....



Nige and his young lady (I'm so sorry but I forgot your name) were also supporting but I couldn't find them for a piccy. Thanks for reading my brief report. :nickd:

22-02-2009, 12:13 PM
Really enjoyed reading that.

Didnt even know 'licences' existed for drifting!!

I found myself feeling all nervous for you reading it!

22-02-2009, 01:08 PM
Great write-up that Al.

Congrats on the Licence :thumb:

What can you use the licence for now then? What competitions does it make you eligable for?

22-02-2009, 01:14 PM
Outstanding mate :thumb:

Really pleased for you that you did so well. More POWER required now ? :whistle:

22-02-2009, 01:30 PM
Thank you very much guys!

The license is the drift equivalent of doing an ARDS license, and allows me to compete in proper drift championships, the British Drift Championship in particular.

The car's going to need a hell of a lot of work to get it competitive, so much so I'm wondering if I ought to be sensible and begin with a different base car. Or, maybe just add coilovers, 100bhp of Nitrous oxide and posh steering rods for more lock.... Very tough.

The cars still in a completely recoverable state that it can be turned into a nice weekend / mile muncher again.

Jim Cameron
22-02-2009, 02:42 PM
Well done mate, congratulations :thumb:

22-02-2009, 02:51 PM
well done Al, enjoyed reading that B)

22-02-2009, 02:53 PM
Well done, Al :thumb: . Really enjoyed reading that.

Chris Ratcliff
22-02-2009, 03:14 PM
Well done Sir! Great write up too.

22-02-2009, 03:55 PM
Originally posted by alclark@Feb 22 2009, 02:30 PM
The car's going to need a hell of a lot of work to get it competitive, so much so I'm wondering if I ought to be sensible and begin with a different base car. Or, maybe just add coilovers, 100bhp of Nitrous oxide and posh steering rods for more lock.... Very tough.
Well done Al, might see you out there then!

Id say balls to more power at the moment, just get a good suspension setup, 50psi in the rears and enter with massive speed. Ask them to give you a bigger run up if needs be! :thumb: :lol: The traction of the MX5 will be your friend in the twin.

22-02-2009, 04:25 PM
Nice one Al on getting the licence,and as for the report..really enjoyed reading that :thumb:

22-02-2009, 06:03 PM
Was a great read Al, nice one B)

22-02-2009, 09:11 PM
Congrats Al. Nice read! :thumb:

23-02-2009, 01:25 AM

23-02-2009, 02:14 AM
Good effort Al :thumb:

23-02-2009, 04:28 AM
Well done Al. Epic report.

23-02-2009, 09:14 AM
Originally posted by Paz@Feb 22 2009, 04:55 PM
Well done Al, might see you out there then!

Id say balls to more power at the moment, just get a good suspension setup, 50psi in the rears and enter with massive speed. Ask them to give you a bigger run up if needs be! :thumb: :lol: The traction of the MX5 will be your friend in the twin.
Cheers chaps!

Paz - What differences in alignment would you put on a car like the MX-5 from a normal race / grip setup?

Bigger run ups sound fun. :D

Darren Langeveld
23-02-2009, 09:38 AM
Well done for this achievement Al, there's been a few on NL getting licenses recently, I applaud you all.

Al, if I need any skidding doing I'll give you a call.

23-02-2009, 10:16 AM
A good read that.... and Congratulations Al !

Steve Gill
23-02-2009, 11:51 AM
Enjoyed reading that Al, well done on getting the license! :thumb:

Ash Mitchell
23-02-2009, 02:22 PM
Great read, where did you stay in Dorset? If the Apache was from work then they dont carry armament on them...sorry. Having said that don't think we had any flying recently.

23-02-2009, 04:48 PM
Originally posted by alclark@Feb 23 2009, 10:14 AM
Paz - What differences in alignment would you put on a car like the MX-5 from a normal race / grip setup?
Geo, the rear is easy enough just go off tread wear, id guess less camber than you run for grip as the forces on the car are less when sideways, but its not like tyre wear is an issue.. Most people run a shade of toe in for bite, just like a grip car.

The front can be trickier but 0 toe is usual. Youre again lookin for a flatter contact patch on opposite lock, the outside wheel on a race car becomes the inside wheel on a drift car, so you can base your setup with that in mind.. If MX5's/race setup runs alot of caster (which i imagine they would), then you need alot of static camber to keep the tyre flatter on opposite lock. Alot of caster also centres the steering faster and allows it to slip through your hands easier.. The other way (my way) is to run less caster in the first instance. This causes the wheels to track with the direction of the corner better, makes the steering lighter, gives you a flatter contact patch and without having to run lots of static camber. If the rack on an car is behind the cross member, lower caster can also help stop the rack from going over centre and locking out...

But i guess the short and long of it is, for now... Get more lock for safety, and go hard.

23-02-2009, 08:18 PM
Awesome advice dude cheers :D

I'm definitely in the camp I'd rather throw the car in the corner backwards to scrub off speed than rely on the power, far more fun! Will work on setup over the next few weeks. Coilovers is definitely on the cards next.

Neil Mac
24-02-2009, 07:43 AM
Wow. :thumb:

24-02-2009, 07:48 AM
Congratulations fella....great write up....really felt the nerves..... :lol: :thumb:

24-02-2009, 10:21 AM
Congrats on getting your licence Al :thumb: Very impressive!
Excellent report also, enjoyed it and really got a sense of what it was like!
Respect :thumb:

Dave G
24-02-2009, 11:36 AM
Nice work Al :thumb:

Drifting neatly under pressure isn't easy!

25-02-2009, 11:04 AM
Cracking read mate, and well done :)