Feature burningmoney

Published on April 7th, 2015 | by Jos Roder


Drift Sustainability, Budget Tips and the Oxymoron

Drifting is expensive. Find another hobby.

Tennis would be a good choice. A carbon fibre racquet and some Nike’s will set you back, what $400? Ongoing costs are a set of strings every season and a new set of tennis balls every match. Manageable.

If I have failed to convince you to start/move to another sport, fantastic! You have passed the first test. Drifting is amazing and let’s continue. But, we need to cover off a few things first.

Motorsport IS expensive. Don’t delude yourself.  However it doesn’t have to be THAT expensive if you put some thought and process into how you go about drifting.

Drift is different things to different people, however I write this because I simply want to see more people drifting and enjoying it, for longer. I don’t want to see newcomers left with a bitter taste in their mouth after it escalates beyond their financial means or they end up continually breaking down at the track. My hope is that new-comers may take some of the advice and apply it, so they avoid these all too common results.

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Having said that, I should start with a disclaimer. If you can afford it and simply want to do whatever you want (because it’s a free country god dammit!), go nuts, buy every mod, build a crazy car, enter every event and if you can sustain it, then power to you! However the vast majority of readers are not millionaires with unlimited funds to go drifting. As such, if you want to assist the longevity of this hobby (lifestyle/passion), some sacrifices can and should be made.

The 7 areas we need to explore to complete your drift sustainability training are:

1. Real World Examples

2. Physics

3. Psychology

4. Keeping Up With the Jones’s

5. Modifications, Power, Engine Swaps and Setup

6. Reliability, Driving Style and Mechanical Sympathy

7. Events

Real World Examples

Exhibit A:  Yes, your mate’s cousin.  Cousin Ed just spent eleventy billion dollars rebuilding his drift machine with complex aero and a solid gold engine that will destroy 30 semi slick tyres a weekend at $300 a pop. Exhibit A is usually: a) a very short lived foray into drifting b) a nice fat loan or c) Ed earns comfortably more than the average Joe.

Exhibit B: John Citizen comes in with the greatest drift machine the world has ever seen after a 36yr build period, blazes a few events , hits a wall or blows the engine and then disappears. Why is that?  The safe bet would be John just dumped massive funds into a car he can no longer: a) afford the repayments on/afford to run  b) needs to rob a bank to rebuild the blown 15K Holinger or 30K billet blocked, dry sumped SR24VET  c) mum and dad told John he needs to move out of home and get a real job.

Exhibit C: “Wow that S13 silvia shell is extremely cheap, it is only $500! Drifting is cheap! It wont cost much to build with my mates over some beers one Sunday afternoon. I’ll find all my parts on a Drift Sales Facebook page to save money. There will be no problems with anything I do on this build, so I should get out of it for $1,400 all up I reckon!” NEK MINIT! “Engine explodes at the first event or a hundred reliability issues become their drift reality, burning money along the way.

Exhibit D: John Citizen’s friend Joe Blow has spent two years in his garage welding, cursing and slurping Jack Daniels, but has now decided to sell his half finished, 84 point caged and tubbed S13 (no engine,gearbox etc) that he has just ‘got sick’ of. More likely Joe just realised he has spent 10k , is way over budget and has lost two years without a single day of drift.

Exhibit E: Colin’s car drifts fine, but Facebook tells him the decent coil-over’s he uses are no good, so upgrades.  Everyone has more power, so he installs a new ginormous turbo.  Wisefab is how to pull off ‘backies’ so order’s a set. Colin then realises he can’t afford his next day, or the one after.

Exhibit F: Frank enters each track day, but spends 90% of the day under the car, continually sorting issues, before going home having completed one installation lap at 4.30pm.

Identify anyone you know that may fall into one or more of these categories?

moving along…..


First let’s take a trip down physics lane. Newton’s third law.  Boring you yet? Here is a simple diagram to save the day.

OK so now that we have completed physics 101, what the hell does this have to do with drifting and budgets?

I don’t exactly know, but it sounded like a good idea when I first stared writing this segment.

OK, that’s right. The equation is every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Case in point. If your action is having a super dooper engine, if it does blow, it will be cost a super dooper amount to fix . If your action is to add another 400 horses to your engine, the reaction will be that you will need to upgrade ($$$$) the parts around that to handle the extra mumbo italiano. Ie. gearbox, clutch, fuel system etc.

That Big Country Labs wing is the equivalent of two days drifting,? Which way do you want to go?


“To do or to have?” THAT is the question.

Buy more parts and drift less, or buy less parts and drift more?

If you don’t have to choose, great, do both, but just remember the research is clear, it is proven that material possessions will not make you happy like an experience will. If you have to choose, choose a drift day ahead of those new wheels or turbo upgrade, I can guarantee you will enjoy it more than you would have staring at the new wheels in the driveway if you made the purchase choice.

Another amazing thing about drift is you can share it with others! You can’t share your drift wing with others.

Keeping Up With The Jones’s 


Wear Blinkers (literally, so I can laugh at you) and so there is less distractions from that crazy Norwegian 900hp quad turbo VolvaudiW on #icausecarinferioritycomplexhunters page. The blinkers will have to be metaphoric in how you are perceiving and viewing the online drift world, rather than literal, unless you are truly committed,with deep pockets.

Stop worrying about keeping up with the Drift Jones’s. Ask yourself ‘does my car work reliably?’ If so, does it NEED more modifications?

Modifications, Power, Engine Swaps and Setup

“I have 500RWKW’s, why is it so expensive to drift”………….. Next.

If you can genuinely afford huge power and the associated additional costs, good for you. Just remember although it’s enjoyable to put your foot down, having huge power and maintaining it comes at a cost, as per our physics lesson above. Drifting is more enjoyable than just putting your foot down though right??? If not, try drag racing! For those 10 seconds or less you are free, apparently.

If your car already has huge power but you are prepared to save a few dollars as a trade off for a little less smoke, wind out a little power. More power means more strain on everything and more costs required to feed the engine, keep it alive and healthy.

If you are thinking about adding 17,000cc injectors, a cray super computer and a turbo or three the size of small elephants, ask yourself why? Seriously. Why? If your answer is ‘because I can’, or ‘because I want to’ then by all means, go for it, who am I to tell you how to modify your car. However just plan ahead for the implications of doing so and the potential negative affect on your track time, bank balance and ability to keep drifting. Remember, if you are just starting your drifting career, a powerful car can also stunt your growth as a driver.

So you saw a car at Gatebil with a fuel system that would put a NASA rocket booster fuel delivery system to shame and decide you want to install a spaghetti inferno of every lift, surge, fuel, bilge and sewage pump combination that exists. “Because race car” you say. Well sorry to pop your fuel spasm bubble, but you don’t NEED to go crazy on your car’s fuel system unless you are pulling serious g’s and or you are running a huge amount of power over standard.

Do it first time and do it properly still aligns with the above touch point’s though. It just doesn’t mean you have to go overboard with everything for the sake of it or because drift society told you to do so.

Engine Swaps. Why? Why do so many people put themselves through so much pain? I am getting tired just writing this. OK, granted, some simply enjoy the challenge of doing a swap, have the money or want to step up, and full respect to you for that, but you don’t NEED an RB25 in your Silvia, an SR20 in your Skyline or an LS1 in your Supra. If you have a common drift car, your standard SR20, RB, or 1JZ that the car came with should work perfectly fine. WANTS vs NEEDS is a strong statement that rings true here. Less time building, more time drifting!

The never ending questions about setup, particularly from beginners, needs to step down a notch. Woooka shaka. Relax. It doesn’t matter. As long as the wheels are all pointed straight, having the swaybars on vs off, questions around coil over rebound settings or what brand you (don’t) use, DOESN’T MATTER! I truly believe this doesn’t need to be such a ‘thing’. Are you trying for a tenth of a second? Nope. Are you losing half a car length distance to the other 1,000 gigawatt opponent in the final of the Intergalactic Drifting Championship? Yes? OK, fair enough then, in that case, hire some Area 51 engineers and make it happen.

I’m not saying rule out thinking about setup, it can be an interesting discussion, but too many people debilitate themselves online over this subject without even being able to properly comprehend or convey the changes they make in the real drift world through their lack of driving experience.

“That strut brace made a massive difference!” Heard that one before?

Reliability, Driving Style and Mechanical Sympathy

If you want to maximise your drift track time and longevity in the sport, reliability should be the number one aim. Not a power up, suspension up or anything else up.

Instead of that huge wing that is all the rage, get an engine tune for the same price or probably cheaper! At minimum get a dyno health check. It could save your engine.

Keep your car cool, with a good radiator and an aftermarket water temperature gauge if you don’t own one already. It is safe, cheap insurance. No, your factory gauge is not accurate enough in most cases and should not be relied upon.

The way you ‘treat’ the car has a major effect on component reliability and importantly, tyre usage.

Get off the limiter. No car loves limiter. The videographer and your mates might, but your mates aren’t paying the bills.

If you have big power, you can still control the right foot. Trust me, you can. It can be as simple as just easing out of the throttle a little earlier as you finish exiting the corner, rather than holding it pinned for 35 seconds while limiter bashing fourth because you saw a guy filming from montageslowmo.com. Granted, holding it pinned provides an intense compression session of bulk carcinogens, but apart from that bonus, the actual experience is not that much different if you wind out of the throttle a little earlier. So stop it. No actually don’t. Whatever.

Using our earlier physics lesson and your new love of Newton’s third law, the reaction to the action of easing out of the throttle earlier also saves your tyre life! All hail science.

Keep an eye on your temps and do a cool down lap after a few hard laps, even if your temps are OK. Importantly this gives a chance for the tyres to cool down a little and recover. The hotter they are, the more quickly they will fall apart. It also gives you a chance to relax for a moment, reflect and focus on how to improve your technique, or driving line on the next lap.

Handbrake(E-brake) application. If you are pulling the handbrake and trying to fuse the rear discs to the pads, your tyres will become 50 cent coins and destroy themselves quickly. Practice using multiple short stabs or even some laps without using the handbrake to mix things up. Not only will it save tyre wear, it will help you become a better driver. It’s also an enjoyable challenge.


Fortunately drifting generally produces amazing track time for a motorsport. Unfortunately many drifters have not been involved in other motorsport disciplines, so are somewhat misplaced in their criticisms toward drift track time. Value for money in Australia at least, you are doing well already, trust me. So don’t complain about entry fees. As far as a motorsport goes, you have hit the jackpot already for track time!

If you are just starting out, the best way to get your car to the track is to use a family or friend’s 4WD/Ford wagon as a tow car and hire a trailer from the local service station/gas station rather than invest in those items straight away.

Finally, don’t go overboard with tools and other ancillaries. The basics will suffice when you are starting out and you can build up your tool arsenal when you find yourself drifting more often!


Don’t be this guy/girl!

Surely the above thesis will do though?

OK, OK, see below for a re-cap.

In order and for the TL;DR generation (I would assume you are not though if you got this far right?)

1. Play tennis

2. If you still want to drift, buy blinkers

3. Don’t go crazy on car and mods. Remember NEEDS vs WANTS

4. Money doesn’t buy drift happiness

5. Settle down on the loud pedal

6. Smile, you are pretty fortunate to be able to drift!

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About the Author

Jos Roder

is the owner of Drift Life and wants to delve deeper into drifting culture. Jos started drifting more than 10 years ago after discovering a sport existed that captured his favourite motoring endeavour, going sideways! Jos works full-time in the automotive/motorsport field as a PR Manager and Advanced Driving Instructor and currently owns a JDM S15 Nissan Silvia for drift/track/hillclimb duties.

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