Do IDC’s New Rules Work?
A New Dawn

I feel very fortunate to be right in the midst of the formative years of a new motorsport.

While competitive drifting has been occurring for at least 20 years at this point, it’s maybe only in the last decade that it has begun to really find its feet. For some, however, it’s still the runt of the motorsport world.

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I often wonder did NASCAR go through the same problems that drifting currently is as it struggled to legitimise itself. Both sports started on the roads and streets before progressing into formal motorsport after all. Where there those who decried those moonshine runners as sell outs, as those who had turned their back on what running moonshine was really about? One does wonder…

It maybe doesn’t help that drifting, as a form of organised motorsport, is so fragmented. Different countries with different series, different rules and different criteria don’t help a motorsport that is complex enough to understand in the first place.

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Drifting is very nuanced, and as such doesn’t enjoy the clear-cut finality of who was first across the line. To the outsider, rather than try and comprehend it, they dismiss it out of hand. This might always be the way, and there’s really nothing that can be done at the moment to change how a winner is decided.

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These nuances though are the very thing that make drifting so fascinating to watch; especially so at the very top level of the sport, where the smallest of errors is often enough to hand victory to your opponent. The problem is, these are often difficult enough for hardcore fans to spot, let alone a potential new audience.

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As things stand, the challenge for organisers around the world is to make a complicated sport simple, without betraying its heritage and roots.

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Not long before the respective 2017 seasons kicked off – in the Northern Hemisphere at least – the Irish Drift Championship announced a series of rule changes which it believed would go a long way to bringing the sport to a new audience. As the organisers of the IDC, the British Drift Championship and the Irish Amateur Drift Championship, these would be changes that would be implemented and felt on arguably the highest stage outside of the United States.

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Its main aim, above all else, was to streamline the show for the fans. Less downtime, more action is the mantra behind these changes. Having trialled the changes over the winter months in the IADC and debuted them successfully at the first round of the BDC last month, I was curious to see them in effect, but in person.

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With the first round of IDC practically on my door step, it was an easy decision to attend. Speaking to numerous drivers over the winter months, the same subject kept popping up time and again. What these rule changes were bringing for them was uncertainty.

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In particular, the new tyre changing rule, the removal of ‘One More Time’ situations and the points punishment for using a five minute rule, of which each competitor is only allowed one per competition. Some of these rules aren’t new to the world of drifting, but they still contribute to a type of drifting that we’re maybe not familiar with.

A New Day
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Practice and qualifying were as usual in Mondello Park last Sunday, as the new rules really only affect the battles. The course was one familiar to drivers and fans alike, running the first two corners of the circuit in reverse with the addition of two outside wall clips in front of the grandstand as the cars looped back around and over the finish line.

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With many new builds, there were the associated teething issues. Maybe the biggest was reigning IDC champion, Duane McKeever, having to borrow a car for qualifying as his new RB-powered 180SX suffered engine failure right at the end of practice. The first time he drove the borrowed car would be on his first qualifying lap. His effort was admirable, but he just fell short of qualifying for the Top 24. Before the battles had begun, there was already a shake up.

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Someone who was plagued by reliability issues in 2016 was 17-year-old Jack Shanahan. His BMW-powered S14 Silvia always seemed to be a bit of sick note last year, but this was remedied by upgrading to a 2JZ setup during the off season. His younger brother, 13-year-old Conor (fresh off an appearance on The Grand Tour), must have breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he could keep his own 2JZ 180SX upon his graduation into the Pro class, having won Pro-Am the day before.

Both brothers would comfortably make the battles, with Jack taking top spot with a simply brilliant 98-point run.

The real test would be the run from the Top 24 to the final. To briefly explain the Top 24 format, the top eight qualifiers automatically qualify for Top 16, with the remaining 16 drivers battling it out for the remaining eight places. Compared to a Top 32 round, it halves the number of battles. With less spots on the grid, it also ensures drivers push harder in qualifying.

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By Top 16, we were back to familiar territory with a straightforward run to the final. There wasn’t much in the way of drama throughout the battles, with most decisions being clear-cut or made due to mechanical failures and subsequent retirements. It just meant that the focus was on the driving.

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With the removal of One More Time, replaced instead with a One More Run, drivers were going for the jugular from the off. In the single situation where the judges called for a One More Run in the Top 16, the higher qualifier had the choice to lead or chase in one single run that would decide the battle.

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This introduces a really interesting psychological aspect to the battle. With both drivers unable to change tyres, they must complete this One More Run on the tyres that they’ve just done battled on. If you’re the higher qualifier, you have a decision to make: Do you gamble that your tyres are better than your opponent and lead, hopefully leaving them for for dead as you power through the clipping points.

Similarly, if you think you have a grip advantage, you can force your rival to lead and stay glued to their door throughout the course.

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On the other hand, if you know your tyres are completely done, you have little choice but to lead and hope that the chase car makes a mistake behind you. Or do you throw a curveball and chase regardless?

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The aforementioned mechanical retirements all fell foul of exceeding the five minute rule. Not only were they retired from the event, they were also deducted a championship point to compound their misery.

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Maybe the highlight of the event was both Shanahan brothers facing off in the Top 4. With a combined age of just 30 years old and over 1,000hp between them, it was far from your average sibling rivalry. Jack might have beaten his younger brother on this occasion, but I don’t think Conor is too far away from putting one over him. The talent of each driver has to be seen to be believed.

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After their battle, both Shanahans would face competitors typically unfamiliar to this late stage of competition. This would be Anthony Galvin’s first Pro final, having struggled in 2016, but being a tour de force in Pro-Am in 2015. Maybe this is the year that he finally gets to shine? Similarly, Gary Dunne was just promoted to the Pro class for this season and found himself fighting it out for third place against Conor Shanahan.

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Jack Shanahan would eventually take the win, after an error from Anthony Galvin forced the judges hand. Conor, too, would win his third place battle and ensure both brothers ended up on the podium. In doing so, he also gained his IDC Pro license. He’s 13.

And I’m Feeling Good
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It’s hard to judge the impact these rules have made after just one event, but initial signs are positive: two new faces in the final four and a more streamlined – if not ruthless – event. I still think there’s progress to be made here, and I would personally love to see the complete abolition of the five minute rule which is maybe the last remaining hold-up to an event’s run time. I prefer Formula D’s judging when it comes to battles, where a lot more emphasis is placed on the lead car.

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On the subject of Formula D, which I think is the benchmark series, it’s hard to compare both FD and IDC. I consider both to be – comfortably – the best championships that I’ve ever attended, but they’re very different at their core. Where Formula D enjoys the benefits of the US market and the vastly increased budgets that go along with it, IDC is very much a grassroots Pro series. As such, they both have to do things differently, but I think they both do them well. Neither series is perfect, but at the moment they’re leading the way.

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On the whole, I think drifting series around the world are heading in the right direction. There’s infinitely more good than bad now, and while there’s probably still a lot of trial and error to come, we’re closer now to perfect recipe for drifting as a professional motorsport than we ever have been before.

And that can only be a good thing, right?

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos
paddy@speedhunters.com

Cutting Room Floor
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25 comments

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1

This is what happens when a sport that determines success subjectively tries to become one that determines it objectively.

2

This. While I might be neat to look at, it can't be objectively decided. He makes a comparison to NASCAR; the difference is, stock car racing isn't won by who's the loudest or took to widest racing line. It's won, just like any real form of racing, by finishing first. Keep drifting out of Motorsport

Author3
Paddy McGrath

If you don't like it, don't watch it. Or click into a story about it, just to complain.

4

"I often wonder did NASCAR go through the same problems that drifting currently is as it struggled to legitimise itself. Both sports started on the roads and streets before progressing into formal motorsport after all." - You should read Neal Thompson's "Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR." - It will give you some insight into this.

"Drifting is very nuanced, and as such doesn’t enjoy the clear-cut finality of who was first across the line." - And here in lies the difference between Drifting, Racing, and "traditional" motorsports. Most motorsports are not "shows" with biased (even if they mean not to be) judges, they are competitions where he who crosses first wins. And as such, drifting, while it can be extremely challenging for the drivers and entertaining for the crowd, will never be taken as seriously as Racing. Drifting will always be Evel Knievel to the BAJA 1000. - And that is okay as long as people who partake in it, recognize that they are more half-time show than megasport.

I think it is worth bearing this in mind as we compare drifting to other more traditional forms of motorsport (namely racing). I like the new IDC rules, they bring a different kind of challenge to drifting, but still don't remove the biggest barrier for most folks to take it as a serious sport. That of making a clear cut winner.

5

"And here in lies the difference between Drifting, Racing, and "traditional" motorsports. Most motorsports are not "shows" with biased (even if they mean not to be) judges, they are competitions where he who crosses first wins. And as such, drifting, while it can be extremely challenging for the drivers and entertaining for the crowd, will never be taken as seriously as Racing. Drifting will always be Evel Knievel to the BAJA 1000. - And that is okay as long as people who partake in it, recognize that they are more half-time show than megasport"

Respectfully - that's some ignorant sh*t. Because it isn't ranked by who finished first, it will never be seen as a "real" motorsport? What kind of jock mentality is that? The Baja sucks. Who cares to got to the other side of the sandbox first, you can't even witness 90% of it.

This is just an older mindset that can't see a future in something you don't fully understand. It may not be racing, but it's certainly a motorsport, and trying to negate that in any fashion is severely misinformed; simply because "most" don't do it that way. How many sports have sprung for "traditional" roots? Look at any of the "alternatives" that have grown into the mainstream - Freestyle BMX, Skateboarding, Snowboard SlopeStyle/Halfpipe, Ect. All of these have sprung away from people with your mindset, and stood their ground to develop into what they are now.

I can only hope drifitng follows the same fate.

6

With all do respect, Matt. I think you're letting your emotions run away with you. Every one of the comparison sports you provided is bigger than it used to be, true. But none of them are among top tier earning sports. Seriously, are they Soccer, F1, American Football, or Cricket? Nope. Yes, alternative athletes are still struggling for recognition on an international stage (to a degree) and so are drifters. At the end of the day, if there isn't a CLEAR winner, the average/casual fan won't "get it". Just look at the Gold Medal Olympic winners that people consistently care about. Is it figure skating or gymnastic floor shows? Nope. It's running and swimming.

I like drifting, it's fun and entertaining to watch and tough to do well. None of that is up for debate. BUT that's not going to make it a motorsport that rivals NASCAR, F1, or even Touring Cars as a motorsport. Why? Because objective > subjective when it comes to declaring a winner. Fans want to cheer for a winner, they want the underdog to win, and they almost never want it to come to down to a judge's decision.

Sorry if that frustrates you, man. It's a harsh reality.

7

You're right, Shawn White hasn't really had a lot of exposure due to his subjective winning. Nor has Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, Mat Hofman, Ryan Sheckler, Dave Mirra... You basically backed my point with every sport mentioned, and even F1 is just a financial pissing contest at this point; still good to watch, though.

I'm not sure how any of your last points relate - all of the people I mentioned are "winners" in their discipline, under dogs DO win in those sports - that's how the next generation is created and the previous generation lives on, and judges make decisions in regulated port that determine the outcome ALL. THE TIME. Remember that American Football you mentioned? Just one example.

I'm really not emotional about it, you just seem to not have very a positive insight for a "fan" of drifting. I'm not a drifter my self, I don't claim to be, and I've never been to a pro drift event. But I've seen enough passion, dedication, and talent, even on a local level, to know drifting is bursting with all 3. It's maddening how people can be so close minded about something so raw and exciting. Making tweaks and adjustments to make it more "spectator friendly", without compromising the overall feel of the event is key to any sports longevity.

I used to not understand the "rules" of drifting - clipping points, lead v. follow, ect; but any time I saw it on TV, I always sat down to watch. I never knew what it was looking at, but then I took 10 min to google it, and suddenly I started enjoying it even more. If people, even as dumb as me, can understand first downs, turn overs, off sides, false starts, and SO many other "rules" for just ONE sport, it shouldn't be hard to get on board with "follow that guy closely, and try to make it look better than he does."

8

I think expressive sports like skating and snowboarding are a lot more similar to drifting than any traditional motorsport that currently exists, except maybe monster trucks, and so people have trouble with calling it motorsports, even though it definitely is, because they look at the way the competition is run and see the X Games. RevolverRob is right when he says that drifting is a show, because that is how it is run. The new rules have not been introduced to make judging more objective or the sport more competitive between drivers, they have been introduced to make the spectator experience as action packed an involved as it can possibly be.

Drifting is still very counter cultural and with that comes the naysayers, but these people who don't get it aren't drifting's target audience. Just like you don't understand the appeal of Baja, Rob doesn't really get the appeal of a sport where the winner is decided by a group of judges who may have personal preferences regarding the many different aspects of a run. This doesn't take away from drifting as a sport though. The type of entertainment provided by drifting is often digital, is very much in demand, and social media and content creation is something the drifting community does very well.

I think what I'm trying to say, is that RevolverRob not "getting" it doesn't make him ignorant. He expressed what he sees as a barrier to drifting getting to the point that you want it to get to, which is a constructive criticism rather than ignorance. Drifting really does have great potential but it's important for drifting to take on these kind of criticisms to be able to bring itself into the mainstream.

9

Yeah, except I "get it" with other motorsports, even if it isn't something I actively like, watch, or participate in. I was just making a blanketed, ignorant statement about a very serious endurance race. Sound familiar?

I'm not sure how you call it a "show", but all other racing is...an exhibition? You're just adjusting the terminology to belittle it because it doesn't perform on a big stage with million dollar contracts. And I'm not saying that's what it needs to be, or that's where it should end up; but the point of these events is to win.

Regardless of how you win, by placement, time, or judge, you are "showing" you are the best. Be it the pinnacle of technology and tuning, or off road grip and control, or ultimate driver control sliding a 1000whp coupe at 80mph, millimeters from the wall and leading opponent - they are all out to win. I don't see why this universal concept is still being missed, simply because this type of motorsport is still so UNregulated compared to all others.

I don't need a lap time or pole position to know a good driver when I see one.

10

I didn't mean to come across as belittling the sport, as I am a fan of drifting, it's just that there are people who can't see the appeal in something subjective, and if there is a way that can make drifting appeal to a wider audience, then that is what will need to happen in order to bring it to the same levels as other forms of motorsport.

11

Drifting is like exactly like figure skating; part technical and part style.

It just needs more sequined outfits to become legit.

12

Now they really look like brothers, these two Shanahans (livery-wise). These new rules are truly only for a new public, because I personnally don't care whether or not things go faster or quicker, I'd just sit and enjoy the event for the time it last. However, I must admit that the new regulations on tires are rather interesting, I'm sure we'll have some interesting situations in which a big fish will get caught in the net because of that! Great event coverage, now I can't wait to see Deane compete next year; and that Conor really looks promising!

13

Poor, poor 13 and 17 year old kids, plagued by 2JZ reliability issues :)

14
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

It's what happens when you wring out nearly thousands of horses out of the engine, and then drive them in ways they were not designed for: sideways. LOL!

15
Novac Darius-Fabian

Something that happens with absolutely every engine out there.

16

Excellent article right to the point. My son matt Denham has been drifting only a few years in BDC,and understanding precisely what wins over another is only now dawning on me. The new rules do make it easier to explain,and your pro opinion has increased my confidence that drifting may soon be of interest to many on TV. Especially with its natural commercial breaks.
Many thanks.

17

I personally think people dismiss drifting as professional because of the subjectivity that goes into judging. Like event based sports vs. action sports, people are going to relate more to the ones that score points objectively. Evidence: basketball is much more popular to watch on tv than track and field events. May be as simple as that, idk.

18

edit: I should say gymnastics not track and field.

19
Fitzgerald Mayi

why is d1gp not mentioned here and how does it stack up given this article says idc and formula d are the benchmarks of drifting curious.

Author20
Paddy McGrath

And since D1 went the way of judging based on Drift Box readings, the series has become completely irrelevant for many.

21
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Because D1 does not get as much international exposure compared to FD and IDC.

22
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

To understand drifting, one needs to watch the sport with their own eyes. It takes time to understand the judging criteria.

23

I want to see full track drifting with forza horizon style skillchain meter. Too bad tires don't last that long.

24

That's why I really liked Drift Shifters. You get a score instead of just judged.

It's a drifting event where drivers are placed in a custom layout skidpan with obstacles. Coming up with their own line, drift past various sensors that give you points based on angle, proximity, and speed. You can also get combo bonus if you get trigger multiple sensors in succession.
eg.
http://www.speedhunters.com/2014/12/is-this-the-future-of-drifting-red-bull-drift-shifters/
http://www.speedhunters.com/2014/12/we-run-these-streets-red-bull-drift-shifters/
http://www.speedhunters.com/2012/12/drift-shifters-mad-mikes-dream-comes-to-life/

Still needs refinement, like anything else, but there is more potential here to take forward drifting as a motorsport in my opinion.

25

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