Have you ever looked at the world of drifting and wondered what on earth are they doing? Destroying tires often in a couple of laps-wait I mean corners!Spending thousands on cars with engines producing four figure brake horsepower. I have followed drifting since we started FreshFix back in 2010, I can honestly say now that I have never really understood the rules 100%. Recently Rob and I were down at the Irish amateur drift championship and wanted to answer all the questions we had. Thankfully head judge Kieran Hynes gave us some of his time to explain exactly how the IDC drifting is judged.
When drivers arrive the must sign on and head to drivers briefing. At every event, the drivers would be introduced to a course layout which is printed out and stuck on the wall for everyone to see. The system which they run in the IDC is called Line based which they have developed over the year and is very much so about precision. When you look at this “map” so to speak you can see the course, clipping points, speed gun and the line which the judges want you to follow. The judges could spend up to twenty minutes explaining to the driver’s what they are looking for and what’s in the judges head of the perfect qualifying line.
To make it easier for the drivers and also for the people watching the drifting from the banks of the track or online they paint the clipping points on the track. Unfortunately, at winter the track does not stay dry long enough for the team to do this so cones can often be the replacement for the painted boxes.
So what do these painted boxes mean? Well, the front or the rear of the car must run through these boxes depending on where the box is positioned. This all sounds very easy but when you have to drift a car to these exact points at high speed it can be difficult. They also can place these boxes at points which have the concrete walls close buy. Some can skim the rear bumper or spoiler along the wall while others come in too hot and can often write the car off like we saw with the 240sx belonging to Darren mc Namara which was driven by Robbie Nishida.
The briefing is over and the drivers and judges all understand what they need to do. Drivers must go through qualifying first. In qualifying a speed gun is used- for what I hear you ask. Well during the practice session the speed gun is used to set the target speed for the qualifying run. For example, if the speed is set at 70mph the automated system will add and deduct points based on how much above or below the driver is from the target speed. The point of the speed gun is to encourage the drivers to push as hard as they can. The driver starts off with 100 points as they leave the start line and points are deducted as they go along. Points can be deducted for corrections, missing clipping points, entry speed and not sticking to the line. Kieran commented that “it needs to be nice and flowing to score well”. The driver only has two runs to qualify for the battles. There are only 32 spots available with over 70 drivers on the grid your day could end very quickly.
With qualifying finished the driver who qualified first will battle against the driver who qualified last and so on. This seems tough for the person sitting in 32nd trying to take out the person in 1st. It can easily happen with one simple mistake ending the day. Kieran went on to explain how the battles work, “Again you have two runs, one time you are the leading car and the second time you are the chase car”. The leading car must do the qualifying run while the chasing car must mirror the run while being as close as possible to the chase car-they have a 3-meter rule. The three judges will do the scores based on their opinion and the driver’s return to the start line reversing positions. The new lead car must then do the same and at the end, the judges will decide who wins the battle with the scores tallied up.
Going back to the 3 meters, now obviously they don’t get the measuring tape out to see are they exactly 3 meters apart but if the chase car is close and is twinning well with the lead car they will have the advantage for that run. If a big gap is pulled between the two cars the run is judged on two qualifying runs with points deducted for the chase car for having such a large gap. If the lead car runs the perfect qualifying line they make it easier for the chase car to twin with him, to encourage this they can also award points to that driver.
As we are aware you get points deducted from your run, if you mess up the start of your run and a judge decides that you lose 10 points by clip two you are unable to get them points back. If you spin on your run be it in qualifying or a battle you are scored an automatic fat 0-Pressure is on for the second run! If the car understeers you again get points taken away depending on how bad and long it was, this is up to the judge to decide.
Contact is allowed in this sport but only recently, years ago if you made contact with the car it was a 0 straight away. If you hit the car enough which causes it to spin or having to correct you will be deducted points, BUT if you are on the door of the other driver and have slight rubbing and nudging you cannot be penalized for it. Not also does it put on a great show for the fans alike it really shows off the drivers skill.
If you watch come dine with me, Judge Judy or drifting you are always going to have some sort of conflict with a decision over what a judge said or did. Kieran pointed out that every judge is different in every series around the world. He went on to use Kevin O Connell as the example with ” Kevin is a very technical judge, the line is very very important to him” ” Other judges are about angle and style”. I can agree on the angle part but style? how can you show style, if you are reading this and can clearly explain style please do? Maybe judging needs Gok Wan to get into the judging tower and he can be the judge of style. ” At the end of the day as long as a judge is consistent that is the main thing”
Kieran when on to finish off with ” At the end of the day with sit in the judging tower and it doesn’t matter what actually happened out on the track it’s what appears to have happened from where they are sitting, its the only way drifting can work.
Photo Credit: Paddy Mc Grath