Published on November 9th, 2012 | by Jos Roder1
Changing Hats – A V8 Supercar driver goes Drifting
One of the great age old questions for motor sport nerds the world over is how drivers of various motor sport disciplines would cross over into another discipline.
There have been countless examples of motorcycle riders moving into four wheel racing, rally drivers going into circuit racing and rally drivers moving into circuit racing. Kimi Raikkonen is a former F1 world champion and a perfect example of a famous driver crossing over (without John Edwards). Kimi joined the World Rally Championship with Citroen in a widely publicised move in 2010. Although at times displaying raw speed, Kimi struggled with integrating pace notes in a career previously void of interactions and instructions on where the road would go next (pacenotes at a track would provide comedy after lap 2) and how to apply and trust the co-drivers calls. Gaining consistency and that final evolution of pace was only something that would come with years of rallying behind him, something he did not possess.
Drifting is a relatively new sport and has only recently allowed motoring enthusiasts to start asking the same fundamental questions but with a new discipline as a variable. How well would a Michael Schumacher or Sebastien Loeb perform if they went drifting and how well would a drifter go at another discipline were debates raging over internet forums and Facebook far and wide.
Two of the first high profile Australian Drivers from other disciplines to give Drifting a go were Warren Luff (V8 Supercar Driver) and Rick Bates(Rally Driver). Warren Luff had an unfortunate and brief foray into the sport (above)and Rick Bates campaigned a rear wheel drive Subaru WRX in a couple of Toyo Drift Nationals rounds in 2005.
There has been relatively little interest from high profile drivers of other disciplines since the initial drifting wave of popularity had plateaued and I didn’t hold much hope for another high profile figure becoming involved in Australasia until I saw Shane Van Gisbergen give an indication of his willingness and ability to slide at his second V8 Supercar race win ever up at Hidden Valley in Darwin, 2010.
The crowd went bananas and I think shows a perfect illustration of the appeal that drifting deserves in Australia but somehow is still not achieving. Furthermore it shows Shane’s talent and was also a taste of things to come. Some grumbled this clip wasn’t proper drifting but with a car with no lock and setup differently than a drift car, it was an impressive effort and a memorable celebration. As I watched that performance, I hoped he would have an official go at drifting at some stage, as it would be fascinating to watch.
Well my prayers were answered when I heard Van Gisbergen would be taking part in Round 1 of the D1NZ event.
Van Gisbergen has no issues with proximity considering his V8 day job racing bumper to bumper and speed is no concern as he also drives at much higher average speeds than the drift fraternity so that ticks two big boxes straight away. The only thing he has to overcome is his natural tendency to want to bring the car straight and over correct to bring the car back into line quickly.
This is the on board clip of him drifting a properly setup Ford Falcon with big power known as ‘Rattla’ (more info about the car is here) in Round 1 of the D1NZ series. Props to the guys for letting him have a steer of the car!
I wanted to let you watch the clip once and just enjoy it before I started analyzing it with you.
OK, now I want you to watch it again and focus on his steering wheel work. As with rally drivers, circuit drivers are predominantly always holding on to the wheel in comparison to many drift drivers. Rally drivers do this due to the bumps and ruts and road surfaces that can snap the wheel direction to different angle if they are not holding firmly, where as circuit drivers often operate with quick rack steering systems that mean they are always holding on to the steering wheel in a single position at all times, with no need to let go of the wheel.
You will notice Van Gisbergen is never letting go of the steering wheel and is always manually steering and controlling what the front wheels are doing through his grip on the wheel. The end result is not going to be overly different in the majority of cases to that of a large caster setup vehicle where the driver just releases the wheel as the car transitions. In some cases it actually provides benefits but that discussion is for another time. However in high end drifting, manually steering and doing just a little more than the car automatically does for you, can make the difference between being a consistent average drifter and a world class drifter.
With a bit more practice, Van Gisbergen is in a great position as far as overall driving ability to be a strong force in the sport should he continue to drift as a hobby on his ‘off’ weekends.
Most importantly, having Van Gisbergen involved in the sport is one of the biggest gifts the drift fraternity could have received for the New Zealand and Australian scenes and the impact should not be underestimated. It will expose a whole new motorsport demographic base to drifting and should garner it with a new found level of respect.
Thanks Shane for becoming involved and all the best in the V8’s and your new Drifting career.
You can find out more about Shane and his exploits in V8 Supercars and Drifting at his official website
Yours in Drift