I have been drifting casually for a few years now, but I never really gave it much thought as anything other than parking lot bashing. Indeed, a lot of RCers tend to think of drifting as a fad that has come and gone – a novelty that wore off in 2009, never to be fully taken seriously. I decided that this needed some looking into, so I headed off to see if I could find anyone who was still interested in this RC niche.
During my lunch hour I headed down to a local shop, Sheldon’s Hobbies, and was quite surprised to find a dedicated full-time drift track set up inside. And wouldn’t you know it, there were drifters there too. Well, that didn’t take long. I started asking around a bit and learned about organized meets, sponsored competitions, huge get-togethers… and that was in the first 5 minutes. Honestly this was all a bit embarrassing for me. How could I have overlooked a community of this size that was literally right under my nose? I suppose in my mind I was just a little too ready to write off this segment of RC, and I know I can’t be the only one out there.
To dig a little deeper, I went and checked out a drifting event last weekend. There were tons of people in attendance, but it was the wide demographic that surprised me. There were guys in their 20’s, old dudes, young kids… pretty much everyone. There were fathers and sons drifting side by side, guys interested in racing, guys interested in monster trucks, scale modelers, and more. This got me thinking about drifting in general, and what might make it so widely appealing.
For starters, a significant part of drifting is scale appearance. Think of it as scale rock crawling for people who like on-road. The cars you see at a drift track are just plain cool. Sophisticated light kits, detailed interiors, crazy paint schemes, roll bars – they’re all here. If you like cars even a little bit, you will love watching these guys do their thing.
The act of drifting itself is not unlike stunt flying. It’s about skill, style, and control. On one hand, you’re always striving to improve your own skills and hopefully one day be the best, but on the other hand it’s just as fun to watch someone way better than you do their thing. It’s no surprise then that the environment at a typical drift track is the most similar to what you might find at a model airfield. Overly competitive types are hard to come by; it’s full of people that simply enjoy being around their favorite type of RC. Experts are happy to help the newbs, and everyone has a good time.
Drifting competitions are unique and unlike pretty much anything else out there. Although the head to head trials and playoff-tree-style eliminations are somewhat similar to drag racing, speed has almost nothing to do with winning. All meets are judged, and so are more like stunt flying events. Of course the spectators like to join in the action as well, cheering for who they think won a particular round and doing their best to influence the judges.
So then, has drifting missed the mark? No. It nailed the bulls-eye. It’s the perfect “easy to learn, hard to master” RC activity, made from an optimal blend of eye candy, skill, and pure fun. Drifting has quietly amassed a huge and dedicated community of some of the friendliest people you are ever likely to meet, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
I’m not here to declare that drifting is back; I’m here to tell you that it never went anywhere in the first place.