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How to Drift in the Simulator

Aiden's 1jz S15

Featured image: Aiden’s 1jz S15

Are you feeling like something a little different to standard track or offroad racing in your favourite simulator game? Have you checked out our guide the best drifting simulators?

Time, then, to actually learn how to drift in the sim!

How to Drift in the Simulator
Simucube sponsored Alan Hynes to show his technique in the sim and on the drifting track

How to start a drift and exit it without losing the car

For it to be considered “a drift” you must have the car in a slide before the corner’s apex. For those hardcore drifting enthusiasts, you will know that there are many ways to start a drift, including advanced techniques such as clutch kicking, initiating the slide Ken Block style with the handbrake, etc.

Approaching the corner, brake to the apex as you normally would, transferring weight to the front of the car. This makes takes the grip away from the rear, the main element of a slide – setting up the slip angle.

Yamaga Touge with Excite Nissan Laurel C33 (source)

What’s a Clutch Kick?

A clutch kick is an important technique used in drifting, both in real life and in racing simulators. It involves briefly disengaging the clutch and then quickly re-engaging it, causing a sudden increase in engine RPM and wheel speed. This results in a loss of traction, which helps initiate or maintain a drift. It’s a useful way to initiate your drift, especially if you’re in a lower-powered car like a Miata / MX5. By momentarily disengaging the clutch and then re-engaging it, drivers can break traction in the rear wheels and start a controlled slide.

Clutch kicking also helps you maintain the drift (as we’ll come on to in just a moment). During a drift, it’s possible for the vehicle to lose momentum or for the rear tires to regain traction, causing the drift to end prematurely. Clutch kicking can restart the process and save your drift momentum.

Mastering clutch kicking can lead to better overall control of the vehicle during drifting, allowing for smoother and more fluid drifts. Consider the clutch pedal another tool to master to help you fully master the art of the drift.

Pull off a smooth tyre-smoking drift

Drifting is all about controlling the car’s attitude with the throttle and your steering.

While the car is under braking and you’re beginning the rotation into the corner, your slip angle will increase. Normally at the right amount of slip or rotation, you’d trail off the brakes to give the rear more grip, gradually slowing the rotation until the car is ready to accept throttle input.

The difference with a drifting technique is that you keep the weight over the front of the car and flick the steering wheel as quickly as you can into the corner.

This will massively increase the rate of slip into the corner and it’ll feel like your slide is going to turn into a spin! This is the rear of the car breaking traction. While you’re practising, you’re probably going to have a lot of spins at this stage.

So, the next step is very important; you have to be fast with the steering wheel to put on lots of opposite lock (spin the steering wheel in the opposite direction, away from the corner) as the rear of the car rotates around. Put simply, you have to catch the slide with the steering.

u/TitanJaws Showing us how to drift in the sim (source)

Aggressive inputs with just the right technique take finesse and practice. Ideally, you should try to get the car into a slide into the apex of the corner to maximise your track width and scope to collect the car if the drift goes wrong.

As you probably know from time spent racing, throttle use settles the rear of the car, giving you more grip. In a drift, you’re correcting the slide by putting in opposite lock and then you have to maintain the drift.

Maintain that drift

Once you’re in the middle of the drift, the goal is to get to a point where you have a constant steering lock and you’re controlling it with the throttle. So, as the slip angle increases and you’re controlling the car’s attitude with your steering, use the throttle to maintain that drift.

You’ll find, with enough practice that there’s a “sweet spot” where the car is at a steep, sideways angle, but you can control the attitude of the car with small adjustments to the steering (to adjust the angle of the car) and extra throttle, to stop the car rotating any more. If the car isn’t rotating enough, gently lift off the throttle to induce off-throttle oversteer. But, use a lot of RPMs!

The aim of the game is to always keep the rear tyres spinning, as soon as they regain traction with ginger throttle inputs, you’ll lose your drift.

Exit the drift

If the fun is over for this particular drift, wind the steering lock off the car and it will naturally begin to exit the drift. Of course, as the car straightens up, the rear tyres will find traction again. To come out of the drift smoothly and under control, you need to keep the tyres spinning to smoothly exit the drift, so come off the throttle smoothly after the car has straightened up.

How to do a transition

Lifting off the throttle and having the car snap the other way is how you do a transition. This requires care and a fair bit of work to practice.

“There’s no ‘wax on wax off’ with drifting. You learn by doing it” (source)

While you’re holding your drift, over-rotate the car with a few extra degrees of slip over what you feel will hold the drift. Lift off the throttle aggressively. This will create lift-off oversteer and begin a rapid transition in the opposite direction.

Spin the steering wheel in the opposite direction – because, in the simulator, your inputs have to control this spin. If you’re getting it right, the car will feel like it’s rotating quickly in the opposite direction, and when it feels like the slip angle is about right, get back on the throttle aggressively. You’re now back in a drift (in the opposite direction) and can maintain it with the same throttle technique you’ve been practising.

Learning to drift in the simulator takes time and effort and critically, the right setup. Check out our Assetto Corsa Mods page for drift mods that can get you in a car designed for the task.

How to Drift in the Sim: Summary

So, in summary, there are four ways to initiate a proper drift. First off, we have the classic handbrake pull. You do this by pulling the handbrake, locking the rear wheels, and letting the car slide out. Then apply throttle, continue the drift.

This is how a lot of beginners start out drifting. It’s a simple yet complicated skill that takes a lot of time and master. Coming in at number two, we have the clutch kick. This is where you turn in the corner, pushing the clutch while keeping the gas, which kicks the car out, kind of like a fish -tail as your grandparents would say.

This is one of the essentials along with the handbrake pull to learning how to drift. In at number three, we have the weight transfer, otherwise known as the skinny flick, which is a really flowy initiation using only the car’s power and weight to get the car going.

This is a very complicated skill and a more intermediate skill as you can easily oversend the car and spin out if you do use it incorrectly. And lastly, the hybrid method, which uses all three techniques to get the most amount of angle and speed at your initiation, which of course will take some time for you to adjust as this is different for every car and drift package. It is, however how to the Pros drive – fine adjustments through all the tools you have at your disposal. Happy drifting!

Useful resources:

Driver61: How to Drift

Simucube: Why did professional drifter Alan Hynes choose Simucube?

Kame Trick: How to Drift WITHOUT Spinning Out (Assetto Corsa / Real Life Tutorial)

SAMMIT: LEARN TO DRIFT in a Simulator!

SIMRACINGCOCKPIT: What are the Best Assetto Corsa Mods and How do I Install them?

Fredric Aasbo: How to Drift like Fredric Aasbo: Tips for Improved Sim Racing Performance

SIMAGIC Official Group: Assetto Corsa DRIFT Community

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How to Drift in the Simulator