Formula Drift or also known as Formula D is the premier United States drifting series. It was founded by Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage in 2003. It was a sister company to the now-defunct Slipstream Global Marketing which introduced the D1 Grand Prix to the United States.
Formula D is a motorsport with an on-track competition. It also has a touring car show circuit that accompanies the Series to the various event venues called Offset Kings. Unlike a traditional race where drivers are awarded who crosses the finish line first or having the fasters car on the track, Formula D is more similar to sports like skateboarding which is judged based on the skill and car control showcased. If you’re interested to know more, then read on and find out about the history of Formula D and how it works.
History of Formula Drift
Drifting was relatively unknown in America in the early 2000s, during the time where slammed Honda Civics with huge wings and body kits roamed the streets. It was through Japanese magazines and as well as the Video Option series circulated among import car enthusiasts where the United States slowly gained drifting exposure. But across the Pacific, drifting was already a part of popular Japanese culture and it had its own professional series which is the D1 Grand Prix.
Back in the United States, Jim Liaw was building a career in the aftermarket industry. When he graduated from college, he worked with Source Interlink, then IDRC, and then moved to Hot Import Nights where his job brought more on-track type content to their show car enthusiasts. He noticed a disconnect between race-inspired show cars and actual race cars. It’s because show car styles were being taken from racing but their owners had never experienced being on an actual race track. With that, Liaw, together with his partner, Ryan Sage formed Slipstream Media. It’s a marketing and consulting agency that deals primarily with the Japanese automotive aftermarket.
During that time, D1 thought that a US exhibition would make a good publicity stunt since professional drifting had never taken place in the United States. D1 decided that Slipstream Media would be the US partner for their event after getting in contact with Liaw and Sage. Nine months were spent by Liaw and Sage in promoting, pushing, and educating drifting in preparation for the D1GP Exhibition at Irwindale Speedway.
D1 made its debut in the United States on August 2003 in front of a sellout crowd of 10,000 attendees. There were so many audiences that the event caused traffic on the street outside the race track. D1 in the US proved to be a total culture shock but the minute that the cars did stunts, everybody in the stands loved it.
Even though the event was successful, D1 did not have any plants of continuing in the United States. But Liam and Sage saw the potential and thought about what they can do to continue. They tried to approach D1 to run a series in America but they are not interested. They told D1 that if they don’t want to, they are going to. Therefore, in the fall of 2003 at SEMA, it was officially announced that Formula D will have its first race in May 2004.
The first season of Formula D had 4 events which grew to 6 in 2004, and 7 the following year. In the present time, Formula D is recognized as the premier North American professional drifting championship series.
Cars Eligible for Formula Drift
The rule book for the car eligibility is revised every year to promote fair and exciting drifting and the cars and their builds are constantly under review by the Formula D staff. Formula D does not permit front-wheel-drive cars but it allows all-wheel-drive cars to be converted to rear wheel drives like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi EVO.
Formula D allows engines from other manufacturers to be swapped into competition cars. But vehicles that wish to compete for the Manufacturers Championship should use an engine from the same manufacturer as the chassis. Suspension modification can be done as long as stock pickup locations are utilized. Formula D also institutes a maximum tire size based on the vehicles’ total weight to keep cars in check.
How Formula Drift is Judged
After the practice, each driver on the grid is given two chances to qualify for the single elimination top 32 tandem field. The judging criteria for these have different aspects which are line, angle, style, and speed. Here’s what the judges are looking for in a competition-level drift.
- Line: This is the drift line defined as the ideal path that the car must take on the course. It is marked by inner clipping points and outer clipping zones where the drivers must bring their car to. This often pushes the drivers to use the entirety of the course from wall to wall.
- Speed: This is how fast the driver goes through the course while maintaining the drift. The faster and smoother it goes, the better.
- Angle: Judging the angle means monitoring the overall steering and slip angle that the driver uses while he navigates the ideal line through the course. There should be minimal steering adjustments and smooth transitions between turns for higher points.
- Style: When it comes to judging the style, there are three subcategories being monitored which are initiation, fluidity, and commitment. Each of these subcategories is worth their own respective points in scoring. These points can be awarded for aggressive flicks, how close the driver can get to the wall, extreme angle, degree of difficulty, how smooth the driver can make the car look, and how close can the chase car be to the lead car.
After the qualifying or single elimination, the top 32 drivers who qualified are paired up in an elimination bracket. The highest scoring drivers are paired against the lowest scoring drivers. They will face off head to head on the track in a tandem battle.
- Tandem: This is judged based on a combination of both runs. When the driver is in the lead, he is expected to adhere to qualifying requirements and set the pace. The chasing drivers, on the other hand, must push to maintain their proximity and keep the pressure on the leading car. They will also mimic the leader’s angles and line and try to make as few corrections or mistakes as possible.
- Time-Out: Drivers also have a one-time option to utilize a time-out during the competition for them to attempt to fix their cars. If ever the driver or car will not be able to come to the start line in time for their tandem run, the other driver will be allowed to run a solo lap to advance in the competition.
- Overtaking: Overtaking incurs a penalty in Formula D because its rules are structured so as to not encourage drivers to overtake their opponents. It is only permitted when the lead car makes a mistake like coming to a complete stop or going completely off course.
Formula Drift Home and Abroad
Formula D is home to more than 60 professional drift drivers in the United States. Aside from that, there are also drivers from around the world who have set their sights on Formula D as the series of choice to compete worldwide. It had also increased its international presence every year since 2008 with the addition of demonstration and sister series in other countries such as the Formula Drift Asia and Formula D Australia.
Today, Formula Drift is at the forefront of technology and innovation and it embraces social media having a huge social following in different social media platforms compared to other motorsports. It shows no signs of slowing down and it continues to improve, partnering in new realms and executing better events as the sport evolves.