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Drift Guide

The first thing that you have to remember is that drifting in real life is massively different than drifting in the game, but also pretty similar... What I mean by that is not so much the obvious points, like having to maintain a ready supply of tyres, and trying not to screw up so bad that you slide your $40,000 tuned ride into a Jersey Barrier, ripping off a quarter panel or worse. No, the difference is in the techniques that you use for drifting.

In a real car you have independent control over all of the pedals, which gives you a lot more options in how you initiate your drift, but in the game you have fewer options -- for example you cannot really use the heel-and-toe technique to drift, but there are still several options that you can use to not only get the drift started and keep it going, but also to acquire the skills to get good at it. Considering the very real buzz that most gamers get from accomplishments like that, it is a worthy goal.

Basic Drifting

Most novice drivers find drifting to be a confusing and often hard to manage challenge, mostly because they do not fully understand the physics involved, so the first thing that we are going to do is examine the process of drifting. If you already have a solid understanding of the drift head to the Advanced Drifting section now. Still with us? Good!

Before you continue reading, please sit back, take a deep breath, and say to yourself "knowledge is power" and then take another deep breath. This really is a skill that you can master, despite the fact that many people find it more difficult to drift in a video game than in real life.

Bear in mind that in real life there are important queues that you have access to that you do not have in a video game. The feel of the tyres on the driving surface, the lateral thrust of the force being applied, and the center of gravity of the car, which when you get really good, becomes an extension of your own body. Regardless of whether you are doing this in real life, or in a video game, what this is really about is controlled force and inertia, and keeping that in mind is one of the keys to your success.

 


Forza 4 Demo Drifting - Onboard cam - 900 Degree

 

The video above illustrates the major advantages of using a steering wheel controller as opposed to the standard game pad -- the gamer who posted it overlying a shot of the controlled on top of the game video synced together to illustrate the relationship between the moves on screen and their controller moves. While you can still master drifting using the game pad, clearly the wheel has benefits.


The Magic Force Called "Inertia"

Inertia is the word that we use to describe the behavioral characteristics of matter and movement -- in other words the properties of motion. The basic rules governing inertia go back to Sir Issac Newton's first two laws of physics:

Law 1. An object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Law 2. An object in motion tends to stay in motion.

At its very basic level, inertia is defined as the quality in matter (matter being anything you can touch) that permits it to remain motionless when it is not moving, or maintains motion when it is moving. To create inertia you must apply force (transfer energy) to the object. To overcome inertia you must also apply force to counteract the energy that it has.

Force will cause something that is still to begin to move; an easy to grasp example of this is when you are playing pool and you strike the cue ball with the pool stick, and the ball hits another ball that is at rest, transferring some of its energy to the ball that is hit, and altering its state from rest to motion. The ball that is set into motion by this contact moves slower than the cue ball because only some of the energy is transferred to it -- this is due to the resistance that is present in its state of non-motion. Conversely when two balls are in motion in opposite directions and strike each other, the two colliding energy forces counteract each other -- both are transferring energy to each other, and because the energy is moving in opposing directions, the transferred energy has the effect of canceling inertia.

In drifting this basic formula is what you must overcome in order to maintain your drift.. Consider the motive force of your car, which is provided by its engine and transmission, to be the positive energy source. This energy is transferred through the drive train to the wheels, and through the wheels to the driving surface. Under normal conditions a very small amount of the energy automatically dissipates due to the resistance provided by a combination of the driving surface and the air around you, bleeding off the energy so that if you remove the source of positive energy -- take your foot off the gas and put the car in neutral -- the resistance (counter-energy) of the surface combined with the air around you will eventually cause your car to come to a complete stop.

To maintain a drift you must break the connection between the driving surface and both of your rear wheels while at the same time exerting a controlled measure of positive energy sufficient to overcome the resistance that is applied by the negative inertia of the driving surface, and the air around you, while controlling the direction of your motion. It really is as simple as that.

Into the Drift

The process of Drifting at its most basic level refers to a driving technique in which you intentionally over steer into curves, initiating loss of traction in the rear wheels while at the same time maintaining control of the car largely with the front wheels, both creating and overcoming inertia at the same time. You do this by applying power to an imaginary path that we call slip angles.

The technical definition of the process of accomplishing this is to create a condition in which the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle prior to approaching the corner apex, at which point control is retained through the front wheels, by pointing them in the opposite direction of the turn -- meaning that when the car is entering a left turn and you have broken the traction of the rear wheels and entered the drift state, the front wheels are turned (over-steered) to the right, providing the driver with control over the inertia as the energy either builds or is expelled in what should be a smooth and predictable arc.

What you are actually doing when this happens is exploiting coupled nonlinearities in the tyre force response by exerting energy and control to sustain the sideslip -- drifting in other words!

In simple terms this means that once you have broken the connections (traction) between the surface and the rear wheels, the car is now in a controlled skid under power, and heading in an outward arc matching the turn. To maintain that arc, you use the front wheels by steering in the opposing direction of the skid, so that you maintain the uneven slip angles of the front and the rear tyres.

Normally you brake into a curve and accelerate out of it, but when you are drifting you accelerate into the curve, through the curve, and out of the curve, leaving the curve at a vastly higher speed than when you entered it.

This is far easier to do in a rear-wheel drive car that is equipped with a standard rather than an automatic transmission -- but if you are really skilled you can not only drift an all-wheel drive or even front-wheel drive car, you can do it with an automatic transmission as well!

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Car Park Drifting

 

Car Park Drifting demonstrates that you do not need either high speed or a lot of room to drift.

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Advanced Drifting

This is where we get to the nitty gritty of drifting -- how to make it happen, how to keep it happening, but more important than that, how to control it. It is critical that you quickly embrace the notion that to get good at this, it is something you will need to practice. Oh, you can unlock the Achievement easily using the guide for that process that is also included in this walkthrough, but if what you want is to be a drifter, simply unlocking that Achievement is not going to be enough for you.

So now it is time to talk about how to enter the drift state in the game, using the different techniques that are actually available to you in the game.

Before you try any of these, bear in mind that which you choose relates directly to the car you are driving, its setup, and the assists you have turned on. You are advised that turning off breaking, handling, and steering assists is a minimum set of steps you will need to complete to really have full control over your car in drifting -- but you should also be aware that doing this makes the car behave like it really would in real life, including susceptibility to all of the forces of inertia. That means it can go bat-shit nuts if you apply too much energy (force) at the wrong time, or you over-steer in the extreme -- because the game is going to assume you meant to do that, and it is going to let you do it!

-- Tuning Your Drift Car --

The first thing that you have to change when setting up a drift car is adding a mechanical limited slip differential (LSD). The preferred form of LSD for drifting is the 2-way clutch type, and then you want to upgrade the clutch to the strongest model available for you car. Of course if you have damage set to appearance only this will not matter as much, but it is a good idea anyway.

Finally you will want to alter the gearsets in your car so that they have closer ratios in order to keep the engine within the power band range.

You can use the standard road-racing suspension and get good results, but jacking up the spring rates will provide a more uniform rate of energy transfer, and using a stiff sway bar will make it a lot easier to break the traction as you enter your turns.

For your engine you will want to tune it so that peak HP is reduced in order to have a wider torque band for easier throttling, regardless of the engine size. Meaning that if you have a mid-size engine or a monster Hemi, you still want it set up this way as that gives you maximum control over acceleration.

Adjustments to steering in order to provide a greater steering angle are widely considered to be a must-do, but it is not really clear how big an advantage this actually provides in the game. Maybe if you are using a steering wheel controller it will be noticeable, but if you are using the standard game pad? Not so much.

Tyre selection is the area that many new drifters make the biggest mistake in -- choosing a tyre that has a lower traction rating thinking that this will help with drifting. In fact it actually makes it harder to drift. You want to be using the tyre with the best traction rating, because the maximum amount of tyre grip is necessary to sustain speed and stability in a drift.

The Drive Setup: regardless of what the stock setup is for the car, you are going to want to change it to Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) because that is the golden focus. It is simply easier to drift in RWD as opposed to FWD or AWD. Once you get really good at RWD drifting you might want to try it with the other formats, but for now just get good at RWD drifting, right?

As you get better at tuning, you will want to experiment with adjusting the camber and wheel loading to refine how the car behaves when you are transitioning from side to side, but this is far less important than the previous adjustments for the early through medium skill levels, so don't fixate on getting this right until you have enough experience to understand what the adjustments actually do -- which is only going to come with building skill and experience in drifting!

-- Drifting Techniques --

The following techniques can be used in Forza 4 depending upon the setup if your car and what assists you have. For example some will require you to be doing both clutch AND shifting, not simply shifting. Some can be adapted for use with an automatic transmission but you will likely find that your results in that case are less predictable and harder to control...

There are basically two schools here -- brake and clutch. We will look at brake first, because that is what you will probably start with as a novice, and then examine clutch, which is what you really want to be working towards mastering.

-- Emergency Brake Drift

This is probably the most basic drifting technique period, and if you played games like Need for Speed and GT this is the one you are familiar with. The process is simple: as you enter the turn you stomp (push) on the emergency brake, locking the back wheels, and maintain that lock all the way through the turn, steering to get the longest highest arc that you can as the back end swings out.

Technically this is drifting, sure, and you can use it on really abrupt turns to get a drift score, but I have noticed that on shallower turns often the game simply does not recognize this as a drift! It treats it as a skid, and you do not get drift points for doing it!

-- Long Emergency Brake Drift

This technique is used for drifting on long and wide straightaway sections of track. Basically you accelerate to a high speed (over 100 MPH) and engage the Emergency Brake while swaying the car to put it into a flat drift, and then maintain the drift by keeping the tyres spinning and controlling your angle of attack by keeping it shallow, so that you are basically sliding down the straightaway.

An alternate tactic is to do this while approaching a turn; using the Emergency Brake to initiate a long drift and then maintaining it into the turn so that you can use the added inertia created by gravity in the turn to extend this drift over a much longer path that is a combination of the slide turning into an arc.

While this is a simple technique, it is really an extension of the Emergency Brake Drift, so you will need to have mastered that before you add this one to your repertoire.

-- Braking Drift

As you enter the turn apply the brakes to push the car’s weight onto the front wheels; this causes the rear wheels to rise, breaking their traction. You then use a combination of braking and accelerating along with steering to maintain the drift without locking up the back wheels (keeping them spinning).

-- Choku-Dori Swaying Drift

This technique is used to build lateral force adding energy from the first phase of the drift into the second, and is accomplished by putting the car into a long sliding straight drift in the opposite direction of the approaching turn, and then slewing (swaying) the car into the direction of the turn, transferring most of the energy from the first phase into the second.

 


Choku-Dori performed by Mr. Yasuyuki Kazama

 

As you can see in the video in the first phase of the drift the rear wheels are spinning but in the second phase they are locked up. Most drifters use a combination of clutch and then brake for this. The second phase is easier accomplished by using the Emergency Brake rather than the main brakes.

-- Clutch Kick Drift

This is the most basic technique, used by most novice drifters because it works every time. As you approach the turn, engage the clutch and apply the gas to raise the RPM, then as you enter the turn immediately downshift while maintaining the high RPM and pop the clutch.

What happens is that the transmission engages smoothly, causing an instant increase in power to the rear wheels, which immediately breaks their traction. This is the technique that is used when you see the drifter smoking into the drift.

-- Shift Lock Drifting

As you approach the turn entrance you quickly downshift, dropping the RPM to slow the drive train; when you pop off the clutch completing the downshift causes the rear wheels to lock up, breaking their traction.

 


Forza 4 Demo Drift Montage

 

As you watch the YouTube video above pay attention to the sound -- the constant acceleration that is required for Power Drifting, and how well controlled the car is in this mode of drifting.

-- Power Drift

This is the most complicated type of drift for most racers, and it requires a deft hand on the wheel and a real understanding of where the power is going. Basically you accelerate into and through the entire turn, causing the back end to swing out at a sharper slip angle than the front wheels, causing the weight to shift upon exit. This can only be accomplished in a car that has a lot of horsepower.

Some Final Advice

If you are really new to drifting or to racing in Forza you might find that these lessons come a lot easier if you start out on an open oval track (there are several in the Test Track) so that you can begin in a lower gear and at a lower speed.

Star out in first gear, and just get used to steering around in the circle and arc pattern. Once you get used to that, go up a gear, and keep doing this until you are comfortable driving in tight and wide arcs, then start learning to do small and well-controlled drifts.

The best way to do that is to use the Emergency Brake to break the traction and then release it and accelerate to keep the wheels spinning while you work the steering. Once you complete the drift -- no matter how brief that drift is before your car automatically straightens to correct for what is obviously an unnatural condition, you will now know what it feels like to drift!

Concentrate on larger and longer drifts, and by doing this you will build the skill and confidence that you need to go out on to a real track and make that car scream.



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