Nearly one in five (18%) automotive enthusiasts say they have attended drifting events within the last year, according to SEMA's 2007 Automotive Lifestyles enthusiast survey. The following is a short excerpt from the 2006 SEMA Compact Performance Market Report, which delves further into the subject of drifting:
As of 2006, drifting has become such a frequent topic in the industry that hardly anyone is blind to its presence. Still, there remain some questions regarding the current stage of the trend and its future. Some say it's going to be the sport that replaces drag racing while others are adamant that the bubble will pop at any given minute. The most prudent guess is that it will be around for a long time, but will never reach the spotlight enjoyed by NASCAR or the NHRA.
Truth be told, it has growth potential so long as an infrastructure is there to build upon. The industry will have a significant influence on whether or not drifting can be given room to grow. With sanctioned events, an expanded offering of venues and sponsorship opportunities, drifting could blossom throughout the country.
The defining feature of a drift car is platform design. Front-engine, rear-drive cars work best and are by far the most used of any type. Mid-engine layouts are less capable than FR cars because they have better balance and tend to struggle getting loose, so their applicability is limited. Practically everyone agrees that front-wheel-drive cars are technically incapable of drifting, yet some rare examples do exist. This prejudice appears insurmountable, however, and it is doubtful that FF cars will make much impact on the drifting scene.
With few exceptions, OEMs have phased out or limited affordable FR cars during the last few years. Of the options that remain, sports cars and high-end sedans are suitable but come with a price penalty that younger enthusiasts cannot overcome. Due to this shallow market, drifting fans have been forced towards the used-car market where they can buy some of the same vehicles their Japanese icons use.
Without question, the most affordable and accessible car targeted is the Nissan 240SX. What the Honda Civic was for early tuners, the 240SX is for drifters. Another favorite is the '83–'87 Toyota Corolla that came with rear drive and some basic performance options. This car became extremely popular overnight due to Internet forums, magazine coverage and industry buzz. Used-car prices for both cars have swelled as demand has grown exponentially. Other favored cars include the Mazda RX-7 (2nd and 3rd generation) and siblings, the RX-8 and Miata MX-5, the Nissan 350Z, Toyota Supra and Honda S2000.
When the Japanese racing series D1 Grand Prix brought drifting competition to the United States, it was open to recruiting experienced drivers that utilized domestic and non-traditional makes. Through these channels, it has become widely accepted to welcome cars such as the Ford Mustang, Pontiac GTO and Dodge Viper into the same arena as the Japanese models.
These would have been taboo in the previous compact-performance environment, but since the mentality has changed to accommodate rear-wheel-drive cars, the loyalties to import brands have loosened. That key element has opened the door for producers of components for domestic cars since this youth-dominated market has had members soften their “strictly JDM” disposition.
Undoubtedly, the hardcore JDM purists will remain loyal to whatever the Japanese are doing, but those on the fence have started to expand their range. Compact performance tuning is dominated by Japanese cars because there are simply more options to choose from and it has been easy for the crowd to stay focused on that perspective. Drifting, on the other hand, leaves the door wide open for domestic cars because the vehicle options are not as plentiful. With the exception of a handful of luxury and sports cars, there are roughly 10 Japanese models to choose from.
Information on the types of performance parts currently purchased and used for drifting can be found in the 2006 SEMA Compact Performance Market Report. SEMA members can receive a complimentary copy of this report as another benefit to being a SEMA member. This data-intensive report may be downloaded by visiting www.sema.org/research.