Formula Drift: The Streets of Long Beach

Javier Salazar

Formula Drift: The Streets of Long Beach is the most intense event of the year and definitely the most packed event of the year in Long Beach. Formula Drift is an event that takes place during spring break, it’s also the only race in Long Beach that takes place on city streets. It’s more unique because these cars and drivers aren’t racing to the finish line. Instead, they drift around the course layout. 

The whole purpose of Formula Drift is to embrace the original founders of drifting, they would drift around corners in the mountain passes of Japan. This later got Americans and Europeans interested in the art of drifting. Each place you visit has a different type of drifting or style. In America, it’s more power and smoke that makes it entertaining. While in Japan and Europe it’s more of style/angle and not so much speed and smoke. The purpose of drifting is to show advanced car control where the driver has the car out of control but at the same time is controlled.

 In 2003  Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage founded Formula Drift and started the first Championship in 2004. Since then, the sport has grown and has expanded throughout the U.S. So what’s required to win in Formula Drift? The most important thing you need to win or even compete at each round is a reliable car—something that won’t break before your battle/run. You also need a team who knows the car well so that they can fix the car in under 5 minutes in case a problem occurs. 

 The most important thing to win, is a good driver who can consistently do 100-point lead runs. The layout consists of 3 main corners, 2 touch and gos, 2 outside zones, and 1 inside clip. This track is extremely technical, since there’s no room for errors. There’s about 40 ft of space from wall to wall, which may seem like a lot, but when you are sliding at 60 mph, it’s little to nothing. 

The way the competition works is that there are 30-32 drivers per event. There is a qualifying period that takes place for all the drivers to put a score on the board to be able to compete for the competition the next day. Only 30 drivers can qualify for the competition, so it’s really crucial that you put down the best run you possibly can with no mistakes. Many issues can occur during qualifying. For example, you can send it in too hard in the first corner and crash. Another issue could be that the car has a mechanical failure, which does not allow the driver to even do a run. A lot of issues can occur, which is a good and bad thing. For drivers who don’t qualify, they are out of the competition. But for the drivers who do qualify, there is less competition in the next round. For the competition, it’s a traditional 30-slot bracket. It is a 1v1 until the last two drivers. Every driver has a plan or strategy to win. Some may put the best lead down and the other may hold back a bit so they don’t burn through their tires. 

These different things allow for a more interesting battle between the two drivers. This event is just so interesting and different, there’s no event like this in the U.S., especially since it is on a street driver track and not your normal racetrack. In a country with so many restrictions on motor sports, it’s nice to see an event held on public roads.