Published on March 29th, 2016 | by Jos Roder0
Survive the Wall
Forget Zombie’s, here is a more important guide. How to survive a wall hit while drifting.
For many drifters wall strikes will become par for the course. As you practice learning your car’s dimensions in relation to walls, push the limits and in competition settings reach for clips located on walls, wall strikes are an inevitability.
Where a low speed wall tap may be inconsequential, a higher speed hit can quickly turn into a costly and potentially dangerous crash. The difference between a hit that you drive away from and something that sucks your front end into the wall creating a damaging impact for the car can be the split second decisions you make just before or as you hit that wall. Learning how to control a wall strike is an important technique to have in your drifting cap.
So what is the best way to handle the rear of the car hitting the wall at speed? Drift Life wanted to explore this technique in more detail and by reading this and taking in a few pointers it could leave you a more confident driver and in the heat of the moment potentially avoid a worst case scenario.
What is this worst case scenario you speak of? Drift Life has found two examples and interestingly they are of professional drifters, so it can certainly happen to even the best.
The first is OG D1 driver Ken Nomura ‘Nomuken’ in the Blitz R-34 Skyline at Ebisu’s Minami course in Japan.
Next up is Darren McNamara getting it wrong at Long Beach in 2012.
Both crashes share similarities and perhaps a difference or two, but the point is the end result was the same.
When researching this story, I came across some comments from Stewy Bryant of InertiaMS fame relating to this very topic. Stewy is a passionate, highly experienced Australian drifter and has been intimate with walls enough to instinctively know how to escape potentially bad times. Not only is Stewy knowledgeable in this area, it turns out he has the perfect example of the correct way to handle a solid wall hit scenario. Before we get into the example, I wanted to talk a bit more about a wall strike scenario and also what is happening to create the end result (both good or bad!)
Let’s breakdown the situation. You are sideways, with a good deal of opposite lock on and you are heading toward a wall at speed. Being sideways your rear end will be the first part of the car to hit the wall. As the rear connects with the wall with significant force, it will have the affect of pushing back the rear of the car in the opposite direction. If you are still holding opposite lock as the wall hit occurs, as the rear starts to push back the other way, your front steering wheels will drive the front of the car into the wall or alternatively, actually send you spinning off in the wrong direction if you have a short wall section (like both video crash examples above).
There are three fundamentals at play that we will breakdown.
Knowing your car and knowing the dimensions of the rear of the car intimately. Being able to identify when the rear is most likely going to hit the wall could make all the difference. This is never an exact science, even for the best drivers but the more you drive the more you will have a sixth sense as such regarding your car’s rear end proximity in relation to the wall.
Have you heard of ‘Target Fixation’? It is very easy to become fixated on the wall you are heading toward, rather than where you want to go. Like ‘a deer in the headlights’, when you are fixated on something with your eyes in a driving scenario, your brain normally fails to respond with any input that would assist in averting you from that target, instead maintaining your direction of travel toward where your vision direction is.
3. Proactive vs Reactive input
Being reactive in this case can result in you waiting until the wall strike and then attempting to correct the situation. At high speed, a solid wall hit can change the direction of a car in a split second and in many high speed wall strike scenario’s, being reactive can be too late.
Proactive input on the other is preempting the inevitable strike with corrective inputs to the car. If you combine your awareness and your vision with proactive input ahead of an inevitable wall strike you may get yourself out of a tricky situation.
Although every wall hit scenario is different generally speaking the steps you should take are:
a) recognise if you are tracking toward the wall and determining that the rear is going to contact the wall solidly
b) make sure you are bringing your vision forward to where you want to go, rather than at the wall
c) just before the impact, start to wind off some of the opposite steering lock so the car will not direct the front back in to the wall with the momentum change the hit inflicts.
Power can also play a role in wall hits. If you are on power and shut power down as you hit, this can accentuate the change in yaw momentum of the car. This most likely played a role in McNamara’s hit above. Even without a wall hit however, if you shut down the power without getting off lock, the car will want to bounce back the other way still so it is something to consider. Having said this, the power side of this wall equation is a little more complicated and fraught with potential implications if you are holding power, like seen with Nomuken in the first video, but in principle you can get off power at the hit moment as long as you get off that lock in time.
Stewy has provided a fantastic example below that perfectly illustrates a potentially dangerous wall hit scenario at the famous South(Minami) Circuit at Ebisu. Stewy shows how he was able to avert disaster by implementing the above techniques. Thanks to the slow motion, you clearly see Stewy start to get off the opposite lock just before the hit.
The end result is they came out of the hit safe, with only a banged up rear quarter. This is a significantly better result than the videos above.
Of course as Stewy correctly points out, the trade off with winding off opposite lock before a wall strike is that you are actually increasing the angle of the rear to the wall and it can worsen the rear impact as a result. However if the question is there, a slightly worse rear hit is better than a rear and then front hit at the same time.
One more thing Stewy added and that was to make sure you have a firm grip on the steering wheel if it is going to be a solid hit to ensure your hands don;t come off the wheel and you can man handle the steering off as needed when the time comes.
To finish off our lesson, have a watch of this well known crash collection from some local drift events in the U.S. Pay particular attention to a large number of crashes and near misses that are a result of rear end wall strikes. Identifying these hits will help hammer home the importance of knowing this technique.
Happy drifting and let us know your own thoughts and experiences on surviving the wall.