Catching the Drift

Remote control cars have come a long way - and fast. RC drifting provides a fun, safe hobby for thrill-seekers. Alan Yee lives a double life. No, there’s nothing scandalous about the 28-year-old insurance salesman from Waimanalo, no secret agent life.

Kyle Galdeira
Wednesday - April 20, 2011
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RC drivers put in as much practice time as given to get used to the track

Alan Yee lives a double life. No, there’s nothing scandalous about the 28-year-old insurance salesman from Waimanalo, no secret agent life. But it’s safe to say that Yee’s life follows two distinct tracks - and one happens to involve living in the fast lane.

Yee spends his days working at his Bishop Street office of New York Life as a means to support his young family, including his wife Jolene and 18-month-old son Koa. But when the neatly pressed aloha shirt and notepad give way to T-shirt and remote control, Yee shifts into another gear.

As a member of Hyper Drift, Yee is an avid remote control car drifter - the activity mirrors the exciting pavement-hugging turns and rubber-burning skids found in automobile drifting, but instead uses battery-powered cars built to 1:10 scale that, unlike illegal street drifting, pose no danger to their drivers or others in the area. Yee estimates spending at least 14 hours a week practicing, including two four-hour practice sessions per week, and nearly one hour per night at home in the street. Yee plans to install a practice track in his backyard to give himself a safer arena in which to hone his skills, and one that does not present the danger of oncoming traffic. “My wife told me to make sure it looks like a pathway, and she’s going to make a garden around it,” says Yee of Jolene’s approval of and conditions for the planned practice area.

While he admits that drifting takes up a significant amount of his free time, Yee considers it a positive alternative to other less-productive activities. “To me, it’s better than smoking pot or drinking beer with friends,” he says. “It’s a release, but it also helps me with my job. You have to set goals for yourself, and the goal setting goes hand-in-hand with work. And it gives me relief from a long day on the job.”

Competition is fierce, but fun and friendly

In competition, two cars are on the track at a time, although not in a race for time. Each car gets the opportunity to lead for a lap and follow for a lap.

While leading, the driver is tasked with taking the best line possible while the trailing car must mimic the first car, following the same line while remaining as close to the leader as possible without actually touching it.

According to Yee, many of the car operators competing today are former drifters - of actual automobiles - and they race the remote control cars to “get their fix. It’s like regular drifting, but much safer. They get to stay in the sport and stay in shape mentally while staying safe, especially because there are no legal drift tracks.”

As realistic as they look, these RC drifters are only a 1:10 scale and are drifting around the corners of the track

While the scaled-down cars used by the drifters look similar to remote control cars one may find at Radio Shack or Toys ‘R’ Us, they are anything but. Yee says that cars are available in different grades and that he uses a “hobby” car, meaning that basically everything from the mini motor to shocks and tires are customizable and replaceable.

Everything down to the remote and antennae are sophisticated, and use a digital signal as opposed to an AM/FM radio signal used to control toy cars. This allows drivers better, more accurate control when performing precise maneuvers on the circuitous tracks.

Cars can range in price depending on which features and upgrades they come with, but Yee says that a basic race car starts in the $200-$300 range,

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