Getting Sideways

It’s called drifting, a rather tame term for putting a speeding car into a slide, and it’s growing in popularity at the Hawaii Motorsports Center

Yu Shing Ting
Wednesday - March 10, 2005
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Steve Oliberos smokes the tires as he drifts through a controlled slide

Tires screeching and people cheering — that’s about all you’ll hear at the monthly Drift Sessions held at Hawaii Motorsports Center in Kapolei.

Cars are flying around the track, swerving side to side and braking fast while maintaining total control. Well, mostly. Some spin out, a few tires blow and a couple crash. But everyone is having a blast.

Drifting, according to Drift Session organizers, is causing a vehicle to exceed its tires’ limits of adhesion, exhibiting a lateral slip, and resulting in an oversteered condition.

Or in layman’s terms, it’s driving sideways.

“When someone watches our drifters for the first time, it’s almost too much to take,” says David Shimokawa, who along with Tom Bryant co-founded Drift Session. “Drifting causes sensory overload. The cars will be tearing across the road within inches of one another, the vehicles’ engines are roaring, turbochargers are whistling, tires are screeching, the fans are on their feet, and smoke from tires is pouring into the air.

“It’s very similar to car chase scenes in cops-and-robbers movies. Drifters cause their vehicles to slide through corners and across the roadway. Drifting is a form of stylized driving, based on car control rather than purely speed.”

This unnamed driver sets up for another try at a slide

Watching these drifters was surely exciting; sitting in the car was heart-pounding. But ask anyone, any age, what they like the most about drifting and you’ll most likely hear the same response: It’s just fun!

“People drift for the same reasons as participating in any other sport or hobby: entertainment, excitement, camaraderie, etc.,” explains Shimokawa. “However, most people choose drifting over other forms of motorsports because of its youthful appeal and overwhelming cool factor.

“Drifting gives people the feeling of being right at the very edge of control. They’re forcibly and intentionally causing their vehicles to lose traction with the roadway, while attempting to maintain control of the situation.”

About a hundred drivers roll onto the Drift Session track each month. More than 300 spectators show up for small practice events, and more than 3,000 at the super events.

Aaron Uyeda, 18, discovered drifting through friends who would rent and watch videos of it.

“It’s just fun,” he says, after his first Drift Session experience behind the wheel. “It feels like a carnival ride.”

Uyeda’s younger brother, Daniel, is also into drifting. And in hopes of getting support from their parents, they decided to invite mom and dad to watch them play.

Lance Tsubota takes his ’86 Corolla for a turn on the track

“When we first got there we went through the wrong area where the advanced drivers were, and they were going around the track at full speed, about 60 mph, and I said ‘Oh man!’” recalls dad Jason, who is a high-school teacher. “And the noise sounded like there was a lot of stress on the car and the tires. But then the guys directed us to the beginner’s course, and when we got there and saw what was going on, we thought, ‘Oh this makes sense now.’

“It wasn’t what we expected it to be. The kids had been borrowing some DVDs on


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