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Drift Cadet: Learning how to drift... Without ruining your car

Drifting is a stack of fun, but it increases wear and tear on your engine, your tyres and the gearbox.

But, there's now an answer to the age-old problem of learning how to drift without gradually destroying your car, and that answer is to do it in somebody else's car.

Drift Cadet is a Melbourne-based driving school that offers people the chance to learn how to drift in a fleet of Toyota 86s and Subaru BRZs at a track dedicated to mastering the art of getting a car sideways and holding it sideways.

We had the chance to tag along to a Drift Cadet day at the Winton Raceway skidpan, and learn three skills that lay the foundation to effectively drifting a car.

To be 100 per cent honest, I didn't really think an 86 or a BRZ would be ideal for drifting given how little power there is under the bonnet, but I was wrong, totally wrong.

With a wet skidpan, the 86 and BRZ become drift machines with the advantage of incredibly direct steering and razor-sharp throttle response. There's a lot to love about them.

The three things you will learn in the beginner class include donuts around a cone, a figure-eight continuous drift, a clutch-kick initiation, along with a handbrake drift entry. While it looks easy when you see drifting on television, or when it's initially demonstrated, it's a fine art that takes plenty of practice.

Thankfully, you'll get plenty of wheel time with the Drift Cadet course, with each participant getting around three minutes behind the wheel on-track each time over a period of three or four hours. And, there's a maximum of three people per car, which means you're likely to get sick of driving before you complain about not having enough driving time.

The cars used by the team are all totally stock, with the exception of slightly more lock on the steering and a semi-locked rear differential. There's also amazing coffee and pastries on offer to keep you going.

The things you'll learn

Donuts

Donuts look super easy, but there's an art to starting and keeping a donut moving. It becomes even more complicated when the surface changes from wet to dry.

In Drift Cadet's training program, this is the first step to drifting and understanding what the car will do when the tyres no longer have any traction.

Drift initiation

Once you've mastered donuts, it's on to drift initiation. There are two key skills that are taught here:

  • Handbrake entry: Starting a drift can be harder than it looks. You need speed and the ability to place the car initially and maintain its direction once the car is sideways. A method of starting a drift is by using the handbrake while the car is turning to flick the back end around. It's then followed by throttle and opposite lock, which begins the drift process – it's then maintained with dabs of throttle and maintaining direction.
  • Clutch-kick entry: If you don't have enough speed, using the handbrake sometimes isn't enough to begin the drift process. That's where the clutch kick comes into play. By depressing the clutch briefly and quickly and adding a stack of throttle, you can provoke wheel-spin, which in turn causes the car to get sideways. Once the process is started, it's just like the handbrake entry, where you need dabs of throttle and opposite lock to maintain the drift.

Figure eight

If you've managed to get a drift started and held, the next part is to get enough momentum and accuracy for a continuous 'figure eight'. It's damn hard to do, but once you nail it, it's really a great feeling. Getting this whole process together requires patience and great training, both of which you'll find when doing the course.

We had a stack of fun learning how to drift with the guys at Drift Cadet, and it has transformed my view of the pint-sized Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. They are both incredibly fun cars to drive.

The team at Drift Cadet work to ensure you have fun and get the most out of the day. The entry-level drift course is priced at $599 and includes a full money-back guarantee if you're not happy with the experience.

Find out more at the Drift Cadet website (link opens in a new tab).

Click on the Photos tab to see more images from the Drift Cadet session by Grant Salter (Grip Shift Slide).

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