I really am a mixed bag of automotive culture. On one hand, I enjoy classic cars; their details, design, curves and the unique story that every example has to tell. On the other hand, I also enjoy the destructive side of motoring, shredding tyres, uncouth and loud, burnt rubber… that is drifting. While I’ve been constantly involved in documenting and writing about classic cars, it’s been almost 4 years since I wanted to put myself behind the wheel of a drift car and learn the dark arts. It’s not like I haven’t tried, including building my own drift car (Mazda Miata MX5) which failed miserably as we were always struggling to find parts as importing is the only option, which is painfully slow and unreliable here in India.
So this year I decided that I will finally do it in the right way by attending one of the best drifting schools in the world – Prodrift Academy UAE. While the organisation was setup 13 years ago, in the last half-decade, they have really set themselves apart by establishing some pretty impressive records. Back in 2014, Prodrift drivers James Deane and Ahmad Daham set the Guinness World Record for the longest twin drift at 28.52km. Then again in 2016 they teamed up with Nissan Middle East to smash the world record for the fastest drift ever performed. For this, they actually found someone loony enough to drift a Nissan R35 GT-R Nismo at an unbelievable speed of 304.96kmph. In short, these guys know what they are doing, and thus they would be the perfect people to go and learn drifting from.
Our two days of academy didn’t go without its own challenges though. On day one while steadily progressing towards Level 3 certification, we broke the first of the two Nissan 350Z drift cars. Nearing the end of the day, its exhaust manifold came off and we had to stop the sessions. Returning next day, while progressing towards higher difficulty of level 4, I managed to break the second 350Z too, this time over a broken driveshaft. It wasn’t what I had in mind, but thankfully, we had one last car to continue our practice sessions… sadly that too had a puncture before training could come to an end.
One of the biggest challenges (for me) however was not the training itself, but the coordination between keeping mindfulness to document the proceedings on film while at the same time focusing on the actual training. Filming alone is where sometimes you come across such challenges where you might have to do one before the other. Between the limited amount of time I had to learn technique, overcome 3 breakdowns and film the entire experience. So of course, there were delays and we ended up falling short on time for completing Level 6 which is intermediate skill certification. That said however, I did overcome Level 5, which is if not more, but equally exciting as at this stage, one is required to perform a complete lap of the designed circuit. And this is difficult as it involves you to stitch whatever you’ve learned over the last 2 days into once seamless attempt that involves initiating the drift, weight transfer, proximity to the clipping points over two separate sections of the lap that are designed to test one’s skill under varying speeds and approach angles.
Learning drifting has been an experience second to none. In my opinion drifting is one of the easier ways of understanding car control that is taught on a closed circuit with not much around to hit and damage. It definitely isn’t the same glory as say taking Eau Rouge flat out, but then it makes you a step closer to understanding a car’s balance, its limits as well as you own. Photos by Raghav Sangwan