LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Some say it's like riding a roller coaster...sliding in a car at fifty to sixty miles- per-hour, tires smoking, and the driver in complete control. It's called "drifting", and a dedicated group of drivers is bringing the exciting sport to Lexington. Buckle up, and hang on!
Even if you have never heard of "drifting", you've probably seen it in action...like during a Lexus commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. During the commercial, toy cars can be seen flying into parking spots or stopping on a dime sideways. Then the "real" Lexus car comes flying into the picture; sideways with tires spinning and smoking. Andrew DiMartino, a Lexington drift driver says, "If you've ever ridden the beast, in the back seat, that's what it's like riding in a drift car."
Deep inside a Lexington auto shop on a rainy night, we met a group of young drivers who "drift".
I asked them, "Is it more than a hobby?" Jacob Howard, a drift driver says, "It's a lifestyle." And Jake Blankenship, a drifter driver proudly says, "This is my first dedicated drift car."
They spend thousands of dollars on special, drift cars, travel hundreds of miles to compete in drift events, and love every minute. Jacob says, "I do school, I work, I do all that stuff, you know, just kinda what they call the normal life. But when I go out for a weekend, nothing else matters. It's the greatest feeling in the world."
To an outsider, it looks like the cars.... are sliding out of control.
Jacob says, "You have full control, even though you are sideways...that's the difference, alot of people don't realize it. They see it completely sideways, and think you're out of control. So you really have to overcome the fear of wrecking, you could say, and you have to learn to control it."
To make it as safe as possible, drift drivers have roll bars installed in their cars. Andrew says, "If the car actually would roll over, it would keep the roof from caving in on top of me."
They wear helmets at drift events, and drivers sit in a special, reinforced seat. The drift events themselves are not car races like you traditionally see in NASCAR and Indy. It's more about drivers showing their skills at controlled sliding around a course, style points, and old fashioned burning rubber. To make the car slide, they've installed a special hydraulic brake right next to the driver. Andrew showed me, "This right here is the hydraulic emergency brake. What it does, it locks up the back tires to help start a slide."
So when you come into a corner, you'll yank the e-brake and you'll lock up the tires. As soon as you get that slide started, what you'll do is actually rev it up, and dump the clutch. and what that does is continue the slide because the back tires will lose traction." Sounds technical. But the goal is to not wreck or hit something that damages the car, or themselves. They do this.... off the public streets and in a controlled area where even spectators are safe. Drifting is less about beating the other guy, and more about helping each other.
Drivers who drift say its a powerful feeling. Andrew says, "You react to the car, and you just start to smile, and laugh. You get this overwhelming good feeling."
Until now the Lexington drivers who drift.... had to go to Tennessee for events. But Saturday, November 21st, for the first time, Lexington will have an official drift event. It's at 16-31 Old Frankfort Pike, and begins at ten AM, at the training pad for Waste Management. Spectators are welcome, and drivers need to register ahead of time.