Last weekend’s Nurburgring 24 hours saw the Eifel mountains in Germany brought alive by one of the largest motorsport events in the world. With over 200 cars, 700 drivers and a quarter of a million spectators, the event is a spectacle the likes of which is rarely seen in the sport of racing cars.
With the majority of fans camping in the forests and fields surrounding this epic 13-mile racetrack the event turns into something of a festival, with live music, fireworks displays and corporate events to entertain the throngs of beer-fuelled motorsport fanatics from all over the world.
This year, tyre manufacturer Falken – who fielded an utterly gorgeous 911 GT3 R in the 24 hour race – was on hand to entertain the crowds with passenger rides in some rather special cars. If you’d driven past the scene you’d be forgiven for thinking the forest was on fire. In actual fact, it was Falken’s drift team, destroying tyres in a balletic display of sideways car control.
Drifting is amongst the newest motorsports to emerge and has its own unique championship. The simple aim is to provoke the rear end of a car into a slide with a surfeit of power, and hold it at increasingly impossible angles, cornering with smoke pouring from the rear wheels. The Falken team make it look like childsplay, so we joined them in the passenger seat to see how it’s done.
Stepping aboard, the first thing that strikes you is the sheer simplicity of the cars used: rear-wheel drive, over-powered engines and some trick suspension and differential components are all you need to send a car’s rear end sliding. That and a massive amount of talent. With 720bhp, Paul Cheshire’s Infiniti G37 coupe is ready to spit us into the undergrowth at the merest hint of throttle, with only his inputs keeping us upright and on the tarmac.
It’s an impressive display and we’re left wide-eyed and slightly suffocated thanks to the fog of combusted tyre that instantly fills the cabin. I get out and immediately want to have a go myself.
Thankfully, there are a number of standard road cars equipped with the necessary power and drivetrain configuration needed to pull shapes like the pros. While we wouldn’t recommended attempting it on the road – even trackday organisers frown upon it – here are our top five drift cars, for if you fancy attending a local event and driving like a loon.
Mercedes C63 AMG
The king of tyre-shredders. With an enormous 6.2-litre engine, rear wheel drive, and a locking differential if you spec the optional Performance Pack, the C63 is well equipped to get you sideways. Thankfully it’s also got traction control, should you not fancy wrestling with it on your commute home from work. With a sumptuous interior and the kudos of the badge, there is no classier way to go drifting.
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At the opposite end of the price and performance scale sits the iconic Mazda MX-5. While it doesn’t have lairy power it is loved by car enthusiasts the world over thanks to its rear-drive balance and engaging handling. It’ll require some commitment to get it sliding (unless you fit bald tyres), but will reward you time and time again without bankrupting you in running costs. It’s a convertible, too, so you can make sure everyone knows who is the driving god behind the wheel.
Search for a used Mazda MX-5 here
Anyone who grew up in the 70s will instantly recognise the Ford Capri, as it had a starring role in hit TV show The Professionals. It was up to the task of the suitably hooligan driving exhibited on the show, thanks to a selection of powerful V6 engines and Ford’s famed handling magic. The Capri is now something of a cult icon, which will just make you look all the cooler when you emerge from a corner looking out of your passenger window.
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This Australian muscle car is known here for only one thing: going sideways. Featured heavily on Top Gear for just that reason, the Monaro’s combination of a Corvette derived V8 engine and a long wheelbase made it effortlessly easy to drift. Numbers are limited in the UK thanks to the Vauxhall being a rebadged Holden import, and it’s not exactly what you’d call fuel efficient. However, for sheer fun, very few other four-seat cars come close.
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Nissan Z cars have always been a firm favourite on the drift scene, and the 350Z is an ideal place to start your journey into the world of opposite-lock. It’s fitted with a bullet-proof 3.5-litre V6, meaning a driver can light up the rear wheels in an instant, and thanks to a well-sorted chassis, it’s approachable enough not to spit you into a wall the first time you get things wrong. It even had a starring role in The Fast & The Furious Tokyo Drift. Being a Nissan, however, it’s never been considered quite as desirable as its BMW and Mercedes rivals, and is now a bargain in the classifieds.
Search for a used Nissan 350Z here
Picture: Daljinder Nagra