Car drifting in Abu Dhabi
We learn how to take corners with a skid at Abu Dhabi's Yas Drift School Discuss this article
- Picture 1 of 2
It might look like wanton tyre destruction, but drifting is one of the best, albeit most extreme, ways to master car control. Andy Mills checks out Yas Drift School to see if we’ve got what it takes.
In a car-crazy country like the UAE it’s no surprise that the sport of drifting has gained popularity. While Japan is often cited as its birthplace, where drivers would head to twisty mountain roads in rear-wheel drive AE86 Corollas and travel along them as sideways as possible, others might argue it began with European rally drivers, where the ‘Scandinavian flick’ became a tool of the trade to get sideways through corners.
Over the past decade though, drifting has become a motorsport in its own right with competitions like the D1 Championship attracting big sponsors and fanatical supporters across Japan, USA and Europe.
Ultimately it’s a fantastic spectacle, so Time Out thought it would be rude not to try and master the art at Yas Marina Circuit’s Learn to Drift driving school.
Meeting instructor Abbas Al Alawi at the Vehicle Dynamics Area in the depths of the circuit complex, he seems as excited to get behind the wheel as I am. A racing driver by trade, he knows a thing or two about getting a car to do some manic things and gives a full briefing on what to expect.
The key, he tells me, is the first reaction when the car starts to lose the back end. How you balance the steering inputs and the amount of throttle is the difference between drifting and spinning out of control. He’s also quick to point out the benefit of learning this kind of driving. ‘If you hit a patch of oil or water and the car loses control, knowing how to steer out of it could be the difference between crashing or not. The skills we teach here can really help people stay safe on the road,’ says Abbas.
The lesson consists of three parts; a kickplate, doughnuts and figure-of-eights. At each point, Abbas gives a passenger a ride or sits in while they drive, before letting them in the rear-wheel drive, 200 horsepower Toyota GT86 on their own, giving encouragement and tips via a walkie talkie in the car.
The kickplate is a dampened patch of particularly slippery road surface that I get to drive along, snaking the back end at relatively slow speeds to get a feel for how the car handles. The name becomes apparent on later runs where, as I drive into the skiddy bit, a plate slips left or right under my back wheels, kicking the rear end out. Not knowing which way it will send you means you have to react with your steering quickly or end up in a spin.
Once I’ve shown I’m not altogether useless, it’s onto doughnuts; driving on a damp surface again but in a continuous circle.
The idea is to get the back of the car to slip, apply opposite lock on the steering wheel and remembering to keep the engine revs steady to complete a full circular lap with the car sideways. It’s a fair bit to take in and while the wet surface makes initiating a drift easier, it’s unforgiving if you make the smallest error.
I spin a lot and the car stalls often, meaning I have to start it up again and disengage all of the electronic traction control systems before trying again. It’s hot work too, with lots of arm movement as we grab at the steering wheel, but the sensation on the few properly executed doughnuts I manage is immense.
Abbas reckons I’m ready to attempt a figure-of-eight, which is basically linking two doughnuts but with a tricky transition in between. It’s great fun trying it, and the figure-of-eight pattern means you drift both clockwise and anti-clockwise, but it’s the hardest part to get right. I’m sure I managed at least one good run. Abbas politely agrees.
At the end I ask how he’d rate my drifting prowess and a seven out of ten seems fair. It probably means I’m not quite ready to enter a drift competition any time soon, but it’s been a hugely enjoyable foray into steering from the rear, with lots of time behind the wheel. And the best thing is, I can always head back and try to perfect my drifting skills in another Learn to Drift lesson or even take on their more advanced
Drift King course. Although maybe we’re getting ahead of myself.
Yas Learn to Drift lessons cost Dhs1,000. To book, contact Yas Drift School, Yas Island, www.yasmarinacircuit.com (800 927).
Time Out Dubai,
- Martial arts(13)
- Rugby & Gaelic(13)
- Academic City(2)
- Al Barsha(1)
- Al Quoz(21)
- Arabian Ranches(4)
- Bur Dubai(9)
- Business Bay(3)
- Discovery Gardens(1)
- Downtown Dubai(8)
- Dubai Investments Park(2)
- Dubai Marina(46)
- Dubai Media City(1)
- Emirates Hills(10)
- Festival City(5)
- International City(5)
- Jebel Ali(14)
- Jumeirah Lakes Towers(4)
- Motor City(1)
- Nad Al Sheba(6)
- Oud Metha(20)
- Palm Jumeirah(11)
- Sheikh Zayed Road(24)
- The Gardens(2)
- Umm Suqeim(8)
Most viewed outlets
Our favourite features
Dubai's best burgers From diner-style bites to gourmet towers of meat
Best karaoke bars in Dubai Don’t save your singing for the shower and hit these Dubai spots
17 new Friday brunches to try in Dubai We review the city’s newest Friday feasts
Best new clubs in Dubai 2014 New openings which have outlived the hype
Where to eat in Dubai Marina Try a new place to eat in Dubai's exclusive waterside neighbourhood
45 budget meals in Dubai Where to dine with a friend and still get change from a Dhs100 note
Best live music venues in Dubai Listen to all sorts of live music at these great Dubai venues
Must-see Dubai sights Nine iconic attractions no tourist or resident should miss
The SMALLEST things in Dubai In a city known for size, we look at the more miniscule things in life
The most stylish restaurants in Dubai Eight fashionable finds in the city
12 best steakhouses in Dubai A veritable carnivore's delight awaits
101 celebrities in the UAE The most famous faces spotted in the emirates throughout 2013
Best selling albums of 2013 The top 20 sellers in the UAE: Who comes out on top?
Around the world at Global Village Dubai Stop and shop across the globe at the UAE's cultural park
Iconic Dubai buildings explained We celebrate some of the city's less well-known architectural triumphs