I'm not sure if I can post links in this forum so I'll just copy and paste from my D1RC UK Drift Series site a piece I wrote for a RC magazine back in January and copied there. It should help anyone who fancies a go - but don't make the mistake so many racers make - I've done both at National level and they are equally technical and require just as much, if not more, driving skill! Anyone can slide around a carpark - precision tandem driving on a R/C circuit is something else!
If you can't be bothered to read it all try HPI T-Drifts, a fast 19t motor, spool rear diff, front one-way, very soft springs / thin oil and a good reverse esc (XRS is favourite) and a fast servo. The drift scene is very competitive but also very friendly with none of the TC stress!
So here we are, with a new season about to begin, with more new members, some possibly new to r/c drifting. Rather than make you read through dozens of fragmented posts about all things in the universe (you will anyway!), you may find this recent article I wrote in some way useful
First things first. In answer to the question what do I need to go drifting? the often quoted answer of a touring car with a set of drift tyres is not too far off the mark but, of course, theres a bit more to it than that and the setup is definitely different than for touring car racing. In drifting we want a chassis that has a responsive front end and a passive rear so that you can turn into a corner or flick from one drift to another, without understeer, whist the backend follows in a smooth and stable manner but tail out at around 45 degrees a sort of controlled oversteer.
Not surprisingly, the first problem to cure is the natural tendency for turn in understeer, after all, we are driving on a tyre that is made of a low friction plastic/rubber. The solution is to look for as much setup grip as you can so the norm is to use very soft front springs special drift springs that have about half the rate of a normal very soft race spring mounted on very smooth operating shock bodies filled with a thin shock oil, about 15 25wt and lots of piston holes! The shocks can be laid over for a little extra traction and it is not unusual to see extra weight added to the very front of the chassis, up to 60gms or so often being seen mounted in the front foam bumper. This weight creates more traction for turn in but also carries momentum that has to be retarded and turned so there is a trade off.
With the turn in problem minimised, we turn our attention to the rear end. What we want is a smooth tail out cornering attitude of about 30-45 degrees that will impress the judges but allow the driver to remain in full control and allow the power to be put down for a fast corner exit. The judges will look for the front inside wheel to clip the apex but, unlike the racing line, in the case of drifting the nose of the car should be facing towards the apex rather than striking it at a tangent. The drifters worst fear is that of snap oversteer, often leading to a zero score spin, so we need to setup the rear of the car so that the back releases easily, not requiring a big steering or throttle input, and then stablelises at the angle we want yet allowing enough power to be put down to maintain corner speed and deliver exit pace. This can usually be achieved with a damper setting similar to that of the front but with a very slightly stiffer spring still far softer though than the softest touring car spring. A good amount of rear toe also helps to calm the situation, around 2.5 3.0 degrees.
Given the very soft setup and the need to transition sharply from one direction to another, a low roll centre is needed or the pitching of the chassis would load the suspension leading to bump stop understeer. This can be helped by the use of anti-roll bars but the soft suspension can put a cornering load on the bars that they were not really designed for leading to the bars becoming as effective on the outside corner as the springs themselves. Its all a compromise, as situation well known to touring car racers too. A low ride height is essential to a low roll centre so on carpet we tend to run the minimum 5mm whereas outdoors this may rise to 7mm or so, if only to protect the chassis!
The choice and setup of the differentials is also key for good handling but here we find driver preferences often prevail, another similarity with TC racing. One thing most drivers agree on is the need for a very tight rear ball diff when drifting on higher traction surfaces like carpet. Unfortunately this seems to lead to frequent diff bolt failure so when a stronger bolt is available as an upgrade, these are often purchased. On outdoor circuits the tarmac surfaces provide less grip and this causes even the tightest of ball diffs to spin up which, in turn, causes the drift to be lost. This can be overcome by fitting a rear spool (locked) diff which ensures both rear wheels keep spinning and at the same speed.
At the front end the driver preferences again prevail. If a ball diff is fitted, not quite as tight as the rear, you get a reasonable braking effect, though nothing like that of a normal touring car due to the low traction tyres. If a one-way diff is fitted, you get slightly better turn in at the expense of virtually no braking effect. In fact, what braking you do get is all coming from the rear of the car so, with minimal grip, its a bit like yanking the hand brake on a bit all or nothing which can lead to spins, even on the straights - yet, with lots of practice and some careful transmitter setup adjustment, this can be used to good effect.
Having mentioned transmitter settings, there are a couple of useful tricks here too. Most of us use a reverse ESC because it does away with the need for track marshals. Some ESCs though seem keen to invoke reverse in favour of brakes, utilising the smallest of arc in the throttle curve for brakes. By expanding this brake portion into the reverse area its a lot easier to find the brakes. Another commonly used trick is to reduce the throttle end point so as to reduce the power available, often to just 75%. Racers have been known to do this in slippery race conditions so its nothing new but makes life easier round tight drift courses yet giving the full 100% of stick/trigger throw.
Finally, a couple of tips on camber/castor. Unlike foam filled rubber tires which distort under cornering forces, drift tyres maintain their shape and so were looking to keep as much flat tyre surface in contact with as much flat road surface. There are several popular types of tyre in use today: D.I.Y. ABS rings, Yokomos plastic rings supported by hard rubber tyre walls and very hard rubber tyres available from several manufacturers. The ABS ring, usually made from 2 internal diameter ABS black drain tubing requires the camber to be set to around 0 degrees. Camber can be added providing the tyres are then scrubbed down until the tyre surface is again flat against the road, a little pointless but there are some who just like that negative camber look!
The Yokomo tyre, as used by D1RC as a control tyre, is a little more complicated, not least to fit just add a little vegetable oil to all surfaces then follow the instructions. they work! If you look carefully at the tyre section youll see that the inside tyre wall is a little shorter than the outside one. Since we need the top of both side walls to contact the road, the plastic ring, which when first fitted sits proud of both walls, needs to be scrubbed down until both walls touch the road surface. The differing heights of the walls amounts to about a 2 degree slope which directly translates to a 2 degree negative camber bingo!
There is then the new HPI T-Drift tyre which appears to be a polyethylene based tyre with handling characteristics and performance very similar to the Yokomo ring. There are other very good poly tyres available from other manufacturers and all need about 0.5-1.5 degrees of negative camber to get very smooth and controlled drifts.
The hard rubber drift radial tyres are less suitable for drifting unless the driver is running a very low wind motor or a nitro chassis and so are not generally used for top competition. Setup for this type of tyre is more similar to Touring Car racing as quite a bit of grip is available.
So thats the general requirements for a good handling chassis but what models are the 2007 drivers using? There has been a move from shaft drive in 2006 to belt drive for 2007. The tradition was set by Yokomo and their shaft drive Drift Package which appeared in bulk in 2005. Competition during 2006, however, revealed that a more frontal weight bias provided better turn in and, on the mid to tight circuits, the newer belt drive chassis like the Cyclone, T2 and TA05, with their motors mounted further forward, showed their advantage over the rear mounted shaft drives. The difference was small but, in competition, any advantage must be grabbed with both hands! The smoother drifting shaft drives still seem to perform well, if not better, on the big open circuits though.
I think you can see that, from the specifications outlined above, the cost of converting a touring car chassis to a drifter is small, maybe no more than the cost of a set of new tyres if you carry a fair range of option parts already.
Anything else? Yes, you need to enter the competitions! Car park bashing is fun but after a while youll lose interest so find out whats already happening locally and, if its not, get something started with your mates. Theres nothing like competition to move things along. Keep it fun though thats why you started in the first place!