Understanding the basics of RC drifting

Ok, so now you’ve got your setup, you’re going to want to drive. Here I’m going to talk about the basics of drifting. Again, every driver has a different style and technique. So in no way am I saying “you have to do it like this”. Learn the basics. Develop your style. Practice your technique. Conquer the world and become drift king. Yep…it’s that simple.

So lets look at a simple track layout:

    Apex (aka “clipping point”)

    the highest point of a turn or curve. It’s not always at the center of the curve however
    Sweeper : a large “sweeping” turn. In a lot of tracks the sweeper is usually the first thing you come to since it comes after the straightaway or staging area.

    You’ll notice the areas marked in red. These are the areas that you typically want to try to get as close as possible to (rear end to the sweeper, front end to the apex) to the wall or rail when drifting. In competition, the closer you can get, the higher you score. For sweepers, you want to stay in the red zone as long as you can before you exit.

    Lines and angles

    Lines are angles are the most important elements when drifting. How you take your line and angle dictates where you end up at the next turn, how you set up for the next turn, and how close you get to the clipping point and sweeper. Notice how I didn’t mention speed as being important. Why? Because drifting isn’t always about speed. We’re not racing to the finish line. If a driver floors it through the entire track, but misses all of the scoring zones, what good does that do? So keep that in mind. Drifting requires control. Just because you can mash on that 3.5T brushless doesn’t mean you can drift. At the same time you don’t want to be drifting miss daisy around the track either.

    Lines In rc grip-racing and 1:1 racing, the “racing line” the described as the path of travel on the course that allows the highest speed in the shortest amount of time. You shouldn’t have to fight the course or the car..it should flow.

    But this isn’t grip racing, is it? Doesn’t matter. The concept is the same. But the race line incorporates the highest top speed? Isn’t that contradicting to what you said? Yup. But you have to remember one thing…you’re sliding through the course. Lets look at a track with a race line:

You’ll notice that the race line hits all of the red scoring zones. So even though it’s the “fastest” way around the track, it’s also the path that will hit all of your sweeps and clips in the smoothest, most efficient manner.


But it’s not enough just knowing your lines. Like I mentioned before, we’re going sideways. This is where entry and exit angles come in. Take too steep an angle (rear end moving past front end) and you’ll spin or come into the clipping point too early. Too shallow an angle (car looks almost straight) and you’ll go wide and miss the clipping point. Again, a lot of this has to do with physics…but I won’t bore you with it.

So, lets take a look at another diagram..note that this isn’t exact, but should give you a general idea:

First, you notice that the car pretty much stays on the ideal line. Next, look at the angles at the entry and exit of the curves. You’ll notice that it’s not completely sideways (perpendicular to the direction of the track). Why? Because if you were completely sideways upon entry, your chassis will want to move to the inside and t-bone the wall. Remember that your inertia is carrying you down the track, But you are also altering the path of travel with your throttle (newton’s 1st law again!). Even though you are sideways, the car wants to go in the direction in which you are applying force (throttle). This is where steering plays an important part too. You have to know when to steer into the turn to pitch the car sideways, and know when and how much to countersteer to stop it from pitching and to hold the angle AND set up for the next turn.

Understeer and Oversteer. Now lets look at understeering a turn and oversteering a turn and how it relates to angles.

Simply put, when your car understeers, it wants to take a more straight line through the curve. Hence the term “straight-lining a drift”. There are several reasons why you chassis understeers, like suspension issues, and your setup being off. But we’re going to focus on angles for now. In the diagram you notice that the point of entry is pretty straight. The result is a shallow drift angle, and the car is not going to want to come in at the apex because the front end is still pointed away from the clipping point by the time the car starts to pitch and exits the turn. After that, into the wall you go. Remember you need to steer into the turn and guide your car in the direction you want to go. Many 1:1 guys sometimes say that by the time you hit the clipping point, you want to be almost facing it (depends on track and next turn). Same thing applies when you are in a sweeper only the rear end is facing the wall.

Here’s an example of oversteer (I’ll need to redo the pic to show a more dramatic example). Oversteer is the opposite of understeer. Instead of the car wanting to take a more straight line, the rear end wants to overtake the front end. This results in you either spinning out or hitting the inside wall before the clipping point. The drift angle is much steeper than a car that understeers. Now, not all oversteer is bad. In fact it’s still possible to hit a clipping point while oversteering too much. But it requires a good handle on throttle control and steering (and the right track to do it on). Normally, you loose a fair amount of speed when you oversteer due to the loss of inertia, and often times this ends up resulting you understeering or missing next turn…which is why practing switchbacks are important (explained later).

But like I said…overtsteering isn’t always a bad thing…like this.

Kawabata’s famous “backwards” drift. Notice that upon entry, his nose is practically facing back towards the staging area. Yes, it’s possible to do this in RC (we did it at the fatlace demo)…but the chassis settings, timing, speed, and the track layout have to be favorable. Only reason why it worked for us is because the sweeper was on a downward slope…so we had a lot of momentum built up on entry. So possible? Yes…practical? Maybe not so much. But it looks pretty damn cool.

Practice: Putting it all together

Now that you’ve got the gist of lines and angles, it’s time to use it.

This is one the most basic drift exercises around, the “figure 8”. It’s used in 1:1 drifting along with practicing circles. There are few things that I stress when I talk to beginning drifters. This is one of them.

Figure 8’s help develop

  • throttle control
  • steering, countersteering
  • switching from right to left
  • line consistency

The point is that you want to be able to make an “8” while coming close to the clipping points consistently without having to stop, taking the exact same line every time, and making the switch from left to right at the center. If you don’t believe that this isn’t important, then I suggest you watch the Option1 special “Drift Like Nomuken” if you can find it. He does a similar drill using an S13.

When doing the exercise, the key is in your throttle control. You need to be smooth and figure out how much throttle you need to enter and exit. Veteran drifters like the guys in Hyper Hawaii can do this drill using consistent speed and can “flow” through the 8. That’s what you want to go for.

So practice, practice, practice.

So how do I initiate a drift?

I’m probably putting myself out there to get flamed, but f-it. Lol. I can’t say that this is the “right” way. It’s not the wrong way either. Like I said at the beginning of the guide, we all have different styles. And depending on the chassis, the technique will differ greatly. But, I can give you some pointers.

  • Remember, you don’t need to be hauling a$$ down the track. Take your time, focus on being consistent.
  • As the car slides, you’ll need to figure out how much throttle to give it. The important thing is to try to keep the wheels spinning. Remember your lines. They will tell you where you need to be, and how much power to put down to get there.
  • Understand how your chassis and setup reacts to different situations. You need to know what your kit is capable of based on your settings.

Drifting with a one-way

Like I mentioned before, a front-one way isn’t the easiest thing to master for some people. It takes a lot of practice and patience. I started using a one-way the minute I built my chassis, and was practicing figure 8’s and donuts for months before I was comfortable with it. But like Justin mentioned, there are a lot of great advantages if you can use it properly.

By now, you pretty much know how a front one-way works. With a one way, the minute you slam on the brakes or completely let off the throttle, the rear end want kick out pretty quick. You need have to figure out how much to ease back, and how much steering to apply to prevent you from oversteering. So here are some tips on drifting with it.

  • you need smooth throttle control. If you feather a lot with a one-way (pulsing your throttle), it’s going to be difficult since you’re starting and stopping the wheels from spinning constantly. Work on feathering less, and try to keep your acceleration and deceleration smooth. Try to keep those wheels spinning, even under low speeds.
  • Take it slow. No need to take the drift at full speed when you’re learning. Get the hang of it first, and then gradually start going faster on your entry.
  • Don’t fight with it. The unit needs to work with the chassis and you. What helps is turning down your brakes a little. Since the one-way already acts as an e-brake, you don’t need 100% braking EPA. So ease back a little and let the unit do the brake work.
  • Try not to steer too hard into corners. Since the one way makes it easier to pitch out, you don’t need to throw the steering hard right or left.
  • Practice your “manji’s”, drifting side to side by making an “S”. Here’s a vid that will help you understand what I mean.

Kumakubo from Team Orange in an S15

Manjis will help you in your timing and throttle control. With a one way, just let off the throttle a bit when you want to swing, steer, repitch, and throttle again…then repeat in the other direction. This all happens pretty quick. As you get better, you’ll be able to switch faster, manji on narrower tracks, and start to understand how much to let off the throttle to let the one-way work.

That’s all I can really say. It’s up to you to figure out what feels right, and what doesn’t. Drifting has a certain “feel” to it. You’ll know when you’re on point, or when you’re off. This is where you develop your own style. You take what you’ve learned and apply it to your driving in the way you see fit…I could go on about my theories on drifting, but maybe some other time.

So this is pretty much it. I might not do one more chapter of the guide….. The next part really isn’t a guide. It’s more of my philosophy on RC drift…not sure if it’s important to people at this time, but we’ll see….

Source: dj722@hyperdrift


  1. Can we look forward to a counter steer drifting guide? Sadly, Only 3 out of 30 rc drifters know how to use a cs car properly in my local rc drift scene. The 27 other drifters have sick camber and as many kv as they can on their motor and drift their cars like 50/50 setups. They steer from lock to lock every half second no matter where they are on the track. full left , full right and handbraking (braking with one ways). They never really counter steer at all with no grip at the front wheels, worse is they think they’re drift kings.

    •  Yes you are right that a CS guide is necessary.  These guides were written a few years ago before CS gained popularity.  Most of these principles in these guides are based on 50/50 drifting.  We will try to write some new guides to expand into this new CS era, but often these guides are very time consuming and require research for accuracy.  In the past, most people spend at least a year or two at 50/50 learning the basics of car settings before moving onto CS.  Now everyone just goes straight into CS, so it does cause the problems you mentioned before.  Regardless, if they think that they are DK and are having fun then let them be.  This hobby is about fun, you are an enthusiast so you take it more seriously than the others. 

  2. I’m really interested in hearing the advantages and disadvantages of battery placement in reference to the r31 setup.
    (straight down the middle) vs (sideways in the rear)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment