Introduction to Formula Drift AKA Formula D

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

Nissan Silvia S15 drift car built to compete in Formula Drift Japan

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.

Experience Race Car Riding And Drifting

Experience Race Car Riding And Drifting

Many people dream of riding a race car along with a professional Formula drift driver. or driving one. Participating in any of these race car activities is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. It’s a lifelong dream for many car enthusiasts.

A V8 car experience is a popular gift from loved ones on a special day that promises a thrilling and fun car racing riding experience. It’s considered the “ultimate ride of one’s life” because it’s an excellent opportunity for many people to experience the adrenaline of driving a V8 car. However, there’s nothing more unforgettable than engaging in hands-on race car driving.

So, why not try a great alternative to race car riding? People can learn the exhilarating street racing technique of drifting in a fully kitted out race car in a drift school. Drift schools offer different drifting courses suitable for those drivers without drifting experience or newbies. Expect all instructors are competitive drifters themselves. They provide one-on-one drift tutoring for maximum safety while having fun and excitement.

If one prefers to be a passenger, a pro drift driver can get behind the wheel, providing the extreme experience of riding a race car in 8 to 10 hot laps.

20 Interesting Facts About Formula Drift Racing

Here are 20 interesting facts that highlight the essence, evolution, and impact of Formula Drift, illustrating why it continues to be a fan favorite across the globe.

  1. Origins: Formula Drift (Formula D) was founded in 2003 in the United States, making it one of the oldest professional drifting leagues in the world.
  2. First Champion: The first Formula D champion, crowned in 2004, was Chris Forsberg, who has since become one of the sport’s most successful drivers.
  3. Unique Judging System: Unlike traditional racing, Formula D winners are determined by judges who score drivers on line, angle, speed, and style rather than just speed.
  4. Global Reach: While it began in the U.S., Formula D has expanded globally, influencing drifting competitions and culture around the world.
  5. Electric Drift Car: In 2020, Formula D saw its first-ever electric drift car compete, driven by Travis Reeder.
  6. Driver Diversity: Formula D features a diverse roster of drivers from various countries, including Japan, Norway, and the United States, showcasing global talent.
  7. Innovative Cars: The competition has seen a wide range of cars, from Nissan 350Zs and Ford Mustangs to more unusual choices like a Chevrolet Corvette powered by a rotary engine.
  8. Long Beach Street Course: One of the most iconic Formula D events takes place on the streets of Long Beach, California, using part of the same track as the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach.
  9. Fan Interaction: Formula D is known for its accessibility to fans, offering pit access and the chance to meet drivers, making it highly popular among car enthusiasts.
  10. Tandem Battles: A signature feature of Formula D is the tandem battle, where two cars drift simultaneously through a course, showcasing precision and synchronicity.
  11. Drifting Culture: Formula D has been instrumental in popularizing drifting culture in the United States, influencing automotive culture, video games, and movies.
  12. Safety Innovations: The league has contributed to advancements in safety for drifting, implementing stringent safety regulations for cars and drivers.
  13. Multi-Surface Tracks: Formula D events are held on a variety of surfaces, including asphalt and concrete, challenging drivers with different grip levels.
  14. Rookie Success: Formula D has seen rookies rise to prominence quickly, with several winning events or finishing high in standings in their debut seasons.
  15. Live Streaming: Since its early days, Formula D has embraced online streaming, allowing fans worldwide to watch events live.
  16. Educational Impact: The popularity of Formula D has led to the creation of drifting schools and instructional courses, teaching car control and drifting techniques.
  17. Environmental Awareness: Some Formula D teams and drivers advocate for environmental sustainability, utilizing biofuels and promoting eco-friendly automotive practices.
  18. Celebrity Appearances: Formula D events have attracted celebrities and professional athletes, both as spectators and participants.
  19. Aftermarket Influence: The series has had a significant impact on the automotive aftermarket industry, driving demand for performance parts and drift-specific modifications.
  20. Social Media Presence: Formula D has a strong social media presence, engaging fans with behind-the-scenes content, driver profiles, and live event updates, further fueling its popularity.

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.