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Drifting as Esports: A Breakdown

An online writer who is also an avid geek to automotive, video games, and anime. Have a soft spot for racing games


What Is Drifting?

Drifting is a driving technique where drivers try to make a car sideways using the help of throttle, steering and gearshift work. The driving technique born as early as the sixties in Japan, with drivers such as Kunimitsu Takahashi and Keiichi Tsuchiya became the first drivers that practice and promote the technique.

As a technical sport, drifting has paved its way to the competitive level since the twenties. Since the emergence of D1 Grand Prix and Formula Drift, professional-scale events start appearing.Among other motorsport disciplines, drifting sits on a smaller scale compared to mainstays such as F1 and GT Racing.

Despite this, the sport gained even wider interest from the public thanks to its presence in other media such as movies and even cartoons. At this point, it drifts (no pun intended) from real life to the virtual world, from the streets in Japan to video games.

While racing games such as Ridge Racer and Daytona USA had made it the essential gameplay, not many racing games especially racing sims are designed with drifting in mind. However, the chance is you will find a community dedicated to the art of slide in many racing games. The already established presence of drifting in racing games leads to the creation of Esports drifting competitions.


Is Drifting ESports?

Can drifting be considered as a form of Esports? Drifting is Esports, albeit in a different way.

Drifting is a PvP competition, as opposed to other car racing events such as F1 which see more drivers compete in one race. In each round, from preliminary rounds to the finals, only two competitors presented: the chaser and the leader. The leader has an objective to run the given racing line, while the chase car is tasked to imitate the leader's run as clean as possible.

Unique to drifting, a one more time run (or in D1GP is known as Sudden Death) is held given the condition judges are yet to decide a winner. Some matches even have more than one OMT matches!

Emphasizing the PvP match, such format has been used by another competitive genre which is fighting games. This means that a digital drifting competition can be built upon the already existing format.


How Judge in Drifting Works?

Drifting is a subjective sport, involving the role of judges and the scoring system. The keyword here is showmanship; a winner is determined not by who crosses the finish line first but by how good the competitors perform in the eyes of judges.

A drift match consists of two runs, where both chaser and leader switch their position. So, how both runs are scored, therefore a winner can be determined? A run is judged by the judges using the criteria listed below:

1. Speed: Speed happens to play a critical role in qualifying judgment. It comprises how fast a participant initiates a drift. That said, it is all about how fast you enter a corner.

2. Line: A racing line could be described as the most efficient pathway in navigating a course. In a drift competition, it is used to judge how good a participant drifts according to the racing line. There are also two clipping points here: inner and outer clipping points which a driver should get as close as possible to both to score well.

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3. Angle: This criterion judges the degrees of the slip angle. It’s about how can you pull a drift angle as big as possible, while maintaining a smooth run.

4. Style: Style could be super subjective. Here, it refers to how drivers pull runs as stylish as possible. In this criterion, judges look forward into the style aspects which include (but not limited to) tire smokes and the proximity of drivers while drifting side-by-side. It determines how exciting the drift run is.


The Drifting Community

When it comes to competitive gaming, drifting appears to develop a quite large following. This happens to be unseparated from the role of community in promoting drifting as a competitive mainstay in the virtual world.

Community plays a major part in keeping a scene alive. Even a niche genre could still be guaranteed a huge crowd should the community already been dedicated and established. This had been seen in the fighting game community (FGC), another niche scene that has become prolific in eSports

In the early days, the drifting community was still comprised of sim racers and alike. These guys lurked around internet forums, a hub to discuss everything about drifting inside and outside racing games. They also often shared their drift videos in forums, being posted on YouTube or other video platforms.

They often held in-game lobbies and events to allow virtual drifters to drive together, compete, and compare their driving. As the community getting bored with the vanilla content offered in a base game, they somewhat tried to improve racing games by the means of mod.


Mods are not a foreign thing as they have existed since the 2000s. One game, however, managed to change the community and the scene.

Enter Assetto Corsa, a Kunos Simulazioni racing sim designed with moddability in mind. The game’s ability to add customized contents to the game was received well by the drifters, with drifters would later make driftable cars and replicate real-life tracks seen in real world competitions.

Since then, drift-related mods have somewhat increased the accessibility of racing games to drifters. Mods created by the community have turned conventional racing sims into a capable drifting medium.

At the same time, the number of skilled drivers in the community started growing. They would go on hold competitions to accommodate those who’re uber-good in game and wish to compete with others.


The Future of Virtual Drifting

It is safe to say the future of drifting as an Esports mainstay is guaranteed. While most virtual drifting events are still community-based, they have gained larger supports. Supports come not only from the Esports community but also prominent parties in the drift industry.

Some events manage to gain sponsors and be backed up by drifters at the professional level. These professional drivers are also involved in the in-game counterpart, some of them competing in one of the events or even holding their own competitions.

Amid pandemic, a few drift series establish competitive events in the virtual realm. Drift Masters European Championship, a Europe-based professional drift series, for instance, held the Drift Masters Virtual Championship (DMVC) in Assetto Corsa which recently ended this March

© 2021 Muhammad Azka Prasetya

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