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I’d definitely list “not skidding” as one of my favourite things to do while driving on the road.
You know, keeping the car pointing forwards, maintaining traction through bends, and generally minimising the risk of crashing.
So the whole idea of drifting – basically getting the car sideways at every opportunity – goes against my 28 years of road-driving instincts.
But as I’d been offered the chance of a brief taster session to mark the launch of the newly-named Adrian Flux Arena in King’s Lynn, it was time to throw off some inhibitions, and throw some shapes on the motoring equivalent of a dancefloor.
And there are few better instructors around than former hotrod world champion Malcolm Foskett, who has taught the tyre-squealing art of drifting to more than 3,000 adrenalin junkies over the past decade.
Helped by a team of volunteers, Malcolm runs the Norfolk Drift Team (NDT), based at the Arena, as a hobby with the focus firmly on fun, family and charity.
“I didn’t have a clue what drifting was when I was invited to Canada to write an article for a magazine about it,” he admits.
“There were a couple of Japanese chaps there – and that’s where drifting was born really – who reckoned I’d make a good drifting teacher, so here I am!”
The NDT hosts a day of drifting each month at the Arena, with drivers paying £40 to drift their own cars all day, passengers paying £5 for demonstration rides and free admission for spectators.
Malcolm, who is now showing me our ride – a well-used BMW 318iS – says: “The idea here is to promote safe drifting for people that could not quite afford to motor race but could just about afford to do drifting.
“I’ve not had one car in 10 years that’s cost me more than £500-£600, although you can spend up to £30,000 on a car and turn into a 900bhp monster that’ll melt a set of tyres in a couple of laps round here!”
Once, Sam Peate, from Mundford, stood in my newbie shoes and, now a volunteer and veteran of four years’ drifting experience, he’s on hand to tell me what to expect.
“The first time I had butterflies in my stomach and was really nervous. To start with I was not very good and just kept going round in circles,” he said.
“I conquered that one over a few weeks and it probably took me a year to 18 months before I was able to do everything and link the whole circuit, which was the greatest feeling, like I had just passed my test again.
“When we drive on the roads we’re all aware of other people around us and we have to drive sensibly, but when you come here on a track it brings the inner child out in me again. It also teaches you skills that you can put into use if you ever need to know how to control a skid on the roads.
“I’m doing nothing illegal and I’m free to spin, go as fast as I can and have fun. It’s very addictive.”
I’m now sitting in the passenger seat as we head out on to the wet circuit – the centre of the Arena inside the speedway track – on a cold, misty morning.
Malcolm gets me used to the car “swinging about” with a series of slightly disorientating standard manoeuvres like a figure of eight, a swaying manji (drifting sideways one way then the other without spinning) and keeping the car sideways through a sweeping long bend.
The tyres squeal and smoke in protest, spinning wildly in search of grip as the revs climb towards the red line in first gear – make no mistake, these cars are thrashed like you’d never treat your road car.
After this brief demonstration of head-spinning expertise, it’s my turn to be distinctly inexpert.
It didn’t start well as I was told off for crossing my arms turning the wheel – one of those bad driving habits many of us pick up once we’re free of the attention of driving instructors and examiners.
It seemed counter-intuitive to rev the BMW in first gear up to about 6000rpm, accelerating into a tight right skidding turn before spinning the wheel full lock the other way and completing a figure of eight.
It’s actually impossible not to smile as you’re throwing the car around without any regard for traditional road safety – it was a clear track after all – and that was that for my first lesson, which are kept deliberately short to allow drivers to get slowly accustomed to the unnatural movement of the car.
The experience – and dizziness – is not dissimilar to a fairground waltzer ride, only you’re in control. It’s easy to understand how drifting can become addictive, especially when you’ve mastered the moves and are in total control of a car dancing around cones with the precision of a Swiss watch.
And, unlike many forms of motorsport, elitism in drifting is almost invisible.
“It’s all about families here,” said Malcolm. “The youngest passenger we’ve had is about seven months old, and the oldest person to drive and do a donut was an 86-year-old woman – she loved it. It’s just pure fun and anybody can be taught to do it.
“People come here from as far away as Dorset, Lancashire, Kent – some have been here for every drift day for the past four years.”
The NDT is this year looking to offer more tuition that before with a new drifting school, and will put on fun days, corporate days and charity days.
So for drifting in west Norfolk, the future’s bright – the future’s sideways.
Find out more at norfolkdriftteam.co.uk
What do I need to start drifting?
You need a rear wheel drive car, preferably a manual, with either a limited slip differential or a welded differential, which ensures power is transmitted to both rear wheels in equal measure all the time.
That’s enough to get you started, with added extras for more serious drifters including an uprated handbrake, coilover suspension, uprated clutch and an increase in engine power.
It’s possible to buy a drift car ready prepared for a few hundred pounds, and good starter cars include:
- BMW 3 series
- Ford Sierra
- Nissan Skyline GTS
- Nissan Silvia
- Toyota Supra
Adrian Flux Insurance Services provides modified car insurance for all types of modified cars, plus classics, sports and high performance vehicles. The broker, based just outside King’s Lynn, has announced a three-year naming rights sponsorship deal for the Arena, which hosts Elite League Speedway, stock car racing, karting and concerts as well as drifting.