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Basic Drift Chassis Setup Part 1

Basic Drift Chassis Setup Part 1

By Mike Kojima

If you have been following my series, “The Ultimate Guide to Suspension and Handling” on MotoIQ you have been getting a step by step education on the theory of suspension.  Due to overwhelming demand, I have decided to take a step back from the theory side of things and give some simple and practical advice on how to set up a drift car due to the literally hundreds of requests I have gotten on this.

 Basic Drift Chassis Setup Part 1
2011 Formula D Champion, Dai Yoshihara's car has some really exotic parts in the suspension but much of it is off the shelf stuff that anyone can buy.

As most of you probably know, my normal drifting job is setting up the chassis to make Dai Yoshihara’s Discount Tire/ Falken Tire S13 do its thing on the Formula D circuit.  For the pros there are a lot of tricks and engineering going into making those cars go sideways, changing directions and maneuvering with lightning fast precision with the performance envelope of a road racer and drag racer combined.

 Basic Drift Chassis Setup Part 1
Matt Powers is an example of what you can do with the basics done right.  All of Matt's suspension is off the shelf stuff that anyone could buy for a modest price.  Matt's driving skill and Costa Gialamas's set up skill was good enough to take Matt's low buck program all the way to a 6th place in Formula D ranking.

Being what is perhaps the fastest growing motorsport, Drifting is getting ever popular on the grassroots level.  Although your local drift day can sometimes attract hundreds of enthusiastic beginning drifters the scene is lacking for a large part even a basic knowledge of how to properly set up a car for drifting.

 Basic Drift Chassis Setup Part 1
Walker Wilkerson was runner up for 2011 Formula D Rookie of the Year Honors and was voted Fan Favorite.  Walker is one of the only competitive 4 cylinders engines in pro drifting running an SR20DET.  Guess what?  Walker reads MotoIQ and uses our basic set up!

Although we do some extreme high dollar secret tricks on the pro cars, the grassroots drifter can get 80% of the way there by getting the basics right.  Proper basic setup will make the car easier to handle in drift and speed your learning curve.  Unlike most grassroots motorsports, many people in the drift scene are seemingly oblivious on how to make their cars work better, being more conservative with things like stance, ride height and flushness as the street lifestyle aspect of drift culture is very strong.

 Basic Drift Chassis Setup Part 1
Matt Fields is also a MotoIQ reader and one of the top privateers in pro drifting.  His car uses all basic off the shelf stuff.

At the pro level, we really don’t care how the car looks, just how it works and if you care to advance yourself in the art of drifting as a driver, you might want to think in the same way as well. For those of you that want to get better through making your car easier to drive, we decided to write down some basic low cost guidelines on what it takes to set up your car for drifting.

 Basic Drift Chassis Setup Part 1
Formula D Rookie of the Year Odi Bakchis owns Feal Suspension and is a suspension expert  himself.  He uses a very basic setup that is well dialed in.  Odi can do stuff to make your low dollar coil overs work a lot better.  Give him a call.  The point of all of this is that the basics done well can see you all the way into pro competition.

 

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Comments
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 2:56 AM
I need to find a cheap set of 15" rear wheels and worn-out tires and try this drift thing some time. I'm sure I'd still like "grip" racing better, but, man, that looks like fun.
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 6:01 AM
I don't drift my 240, but I do drift my R/C cars. I'm hoping some of this info will help me out on getting my TC4 set up. It's very stable and can hold drift for ages, it's just hard to get one going. Drifting R/Cs is a ton of fun and far cheaper than doing the real thing.
Supercharged111
Supercharged111link
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 10:23 AM
Everything's off the shelf except for those knuckles and the knuckle adapters that I swore I had taken pics of in Atlanta. I want some for my not drift car.
OMG Its Weasel
OMG Its Weasellink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 2:54 PM
I still laugh when I see that Hellaflush pic of you lookin' hard Mike...
I can vouch for the awesomeness that is Koni/Ground Control/Eibach coilovers. Not that large, well known companies collaborating together needs my vouch, but they are amazing kit none the less.

@Supercharged111: who are you talking about exactly? Steering knuckles that correct steering geometry are getting increasingly popular in pro drifting. Off the top of my head, I can think of four companies that have produced knuckles in the past and at least another two companies that are developing knuckles that correct roll center as well.
The days of outer tie-rod spacers and extended ball joints are slowly becoming numbered. Thankfully.

EB Turbo
EB Turbolink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 3:36 PM
Mike, You said you at least want an inch of droop travel. Is droop required? I run zero droop on my race cars. have you found zero droop setups don't work well on drift cars?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 6:30 PM
Zero droop doesnt work on race cars or drift cars unless they are specificaly designed to run at zero or close to zero droop like aero influenced formula cars.
EB Turbo
EB Turbolink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 7:43 PM
Setting up a car for zero droop is not very difficult. You have to think outside the box to set everything up properly. When done correctly it works very well. Many world challenge and grand am cars run zero droop setups and they are not even.close to aero formula cars.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 9:18 PM
Hard as F*@*? I don't speak hellaflush!

Mike - Thanks for the in-depth look at various reputable coilovers that work on both a drift and grip level. I have a lot of respect for the guys (and their crew :) ) willing to kick it sideways at 100mph.
abunai s13.5
abunai s13.5link
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 9:41 PM
how do i measuer for droop and bump form where to where? Is 9kg/mm and 7kg/mm to stiff for s13 hatch back? so glad you wrote this article cant wait to read the the rest of this series
DaewooOfDeath
DaewooOfDeathlink
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 11:11 PM
When you setup shocks do you go for as stiff as possible without bouncing or as soft as possible without floating, or somewhere in between.

Of all the stuff I've tried I like stiffer springs with damping slightly on the soft side, especially in bound, but I'm sure you guys have tried more things than I have.

BTW, I found what appear to be rebranded Bilsteins in custom aluminum bodies here in Korea for very reasonable prices. I don't think the brand is available in the US though.
Supercharged111
Supercharged111link
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 6:56 AM
@OMG: Nobody that I'm aware of makes an aftermarket knuckle for an AE92. I think my best bet is going to be getting friendly with the guys who made the spacers. I don't recall which cars had them because I don't have the pics that I thought I'd taken, maybe they're on my other camera back in the states. They attached to the bottom of the factory knuckle but optimized the lower control arm's geometry, the tie rod geometry, gave quicker steering response, and left the option of altering ackerman on the table which would be more than enough rope for me to hang myself. I thought they were a pretty slick idea, Atlanta was my first Formula D event and checking out the cars gave me quite a few ideas for my own car auto-x/HPDE-mobile.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 9:41 AM
EB Turbo-They would find a lot more mechanical grip with some droop. You want to run a minimum of 1" of droop, even on road racing cars. WC and ALMS cars all run some droop.

Abunai- Take thesprings out, jack the car up and let the suspension droop, measure, then jack the wheel up until the suspension bottoms out.

DOD- in general terms you want to run the shocs as soft as posible. However for low powered drift cars, stiffer than ideal helps transfer weight easier.
RotaSpinna69
RotaSpinna69link
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 4:26 PM
Awesome! Can't wait for Part 2 :)
abunai s13.5
abunai s13.5link
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 6:21 PM
Mike I dont fully understand what you are telling me can you email me with more details on how to measure bump and drop

abunai_s13@yahoo.com
M.TUNG
M.TUNGlink
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 6:39 PM
Hey Mike,

I had a question. What's happening when sliding in a corner and the front checks up and the car straightens. This is bad because one, the car stops sliding, but more importantly it's a safety issue on banked turns with a wall. It was never a problem in my 240, I've noticed it on my corolla. I understand it could partly be due to the short wheelbase/low yaw inertia making it snappy. But what causes it to snap back in the first place? The rear end suddenly regaining grip, or is it front end related? Gotta be one or the other.... right?

Front: -3* camber, a little toe out, guessing ~*5 castor.
Rear: it's a corolla!
M.TUNG
M.TUNGlink
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 6:48 PM
Forgot to add, I really noticed it at one event when it started to get cold. I've heard mu goes up as temp drops.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, November 03, 2011 10:50 AM
M.Tung When the car wants to straighten up, it is usualy 3 things. To much rear toe, not enough rear roll stiffness via springs or rear bar or too soft of shock settings or a combination of all three to some degree or another.
Chubby Chaser
Chubby Chaserlink
Thursday, November 10, 2011 9:22 AM
Mike,

When you say, "Generally, you don’t want to lower the car more than 2” with short bodied coilovers". Do you mean measure the length of the coilovers at their highest then subtract 2 inches?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, November 10, 2011 11:09 AM
No measure your ride height at the wheels.
Chubby Chaser
Chubby Chaserlink
Monday, November 14, 2011 12:53 PM
Ok, set the coilovers at their max height, let the car down, let the suspension settle, then measure the height at the wheels, then lower to a height that is 2 inches lower than that? I'm a little confused on the actual procedure for this ideal ride height. Thanks!
EB Turbo
EB Turbolink
Monday, November 14, 2011 2:22 PM
Chubbs,
There are many reasons you don't want to lower your car more then 2''. Bump steer, Roll centers, bump stops, wheel contacting the body, ect.. Shorter bodied coilovers will allow for more travel before the shock contacts the bumpstop. What you ideally want to do is find the stock ride height whether its another car or putting the stock suspension back in your car. with shortened shocks, do not go 2'' lower then that.

Abunai,
Jack your car up, put a zip tie around the shock shaft and bottom it out on the top of the shock. lower the car and let it settle at ride height with weight(driver). jack the car back up, measure the distance the zip tie has raised up off of the top of the shock. this will tell you how much droop travel you have at the shock. droop at the wheel will be different, just apply your motion ratio to find wheel droop. bump is a bit more difficult. pm me and I will explain.
Chubby Chaser
Chubby Chaserlink
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 5:22 AM
Thanks, EB! I wasn't able to track down my cars stock ride height at the wheel, but I was able to find the stock ground clearance which is 155mm. Can I use that as a starting point?
EB Turbo
EB Turbolink
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 4:25 PM
Yeah, that is fine.
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