Drifters sail sideways in Day 2 of pre-Long Beach Grand Prix action
Professional drifters cranked their steering wheels and slammed on the gas Saturday, burning rubber through the streets of Long Beach.
The 2019 Formula Drift competition took place Friday and Saturday as 32 professional drifters attempted to qualify for the big race “title fight” in Irwindale in October.
The competition starts between two cars — one car leads and the other follows. The driver following earns points based on how close they are to the other car along with how close to the wall their front and back ends are during one of those trademark sideways drifts.
Also, keep in mind the average drifting speed ranges from 70 to 100 miles per hour.
The drivers want to have the best, most efficient “line” through the track, but clipping points, speed and angle of the drift all come into play when calculating points.
The ideal drift line is stipulated by the judges and often pushes drivers to use the entirety of the course from wall-to-wall. The line is marked by inner clipping points and outer clipping zones.
After they complete the track, the drivers then switch places and do it again.
Die-hard fans clad in black and white checkerboard apparel and t-shirts bearing such slogans as “hobby drifter” and “support violent driving” meandered through the vendors in search of their next big purchase for their slightly illegal avocation.
“I’ve been watching drifting for quite awhile, it’s really fun,” said Ryan Flores of Pasadena. “Not a lot of sports where you can see cars flying sideways.”
Professional race driver Chris Forsberg, who sealed first place at the Streets of Long Beach in 2014 and 2008, said racing is “just sheer adrenaline and excitement.”
“You get to be in control of your own roller-coaster,” he said as local fans approached him for a handshake and a few words of encouragement. “It’s the most fun you can have on four wheels.”
Forsberg is the most successful driver in the sport’s history with three championships and 57 podium finishes — not including what goes down in Long Beach Saturday. He has been a Formula Drifter for 16 years, drifting for 20 and illegally drifting for two.
“There was no such thing as drifting back then,” he said. “It was just people messing around in parking lots and on farm roads.”
Forsberg grew up in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where desolate roads are more common. But it’s not as easy to get away with the hobby in busy and booming southern California.
Demesio Avila, of Pico Rivera, got into cars because his father is a mechanic and has put roughly $25,000 of work into his 1989 Toyota Cressida which he uses for the occasional drift.
“Worst financial decision I’ve ever made,” Avila said.
It’s a problem Forsberg touched on as well — you need a car that’s capable of what you want it to do but you don’t want to drop too much money where you’re “too scared to drive it hard,” he said.
But, if you’re able to find the right car — and most importantly the right road — it’s all worth it.
“The drifting community is amazing,” Forsberg said. “People want to see other excel and it’s not always a competition.”
Except for today, at least.