The More Things Change: The 2018 FD Rulebook

Every year, sanctioning bodies change the rules to make sure everyone remains on an even playing field.

Well, most of the time in a perfect world, 50 percent of the time. Formula Drift is no exception and is considered one of the world leaders in drifting sanctioning bodies. So, let’s look at how Kevin Wells is going to tech the 2018 FD cars gunning for James Deane’s title.

One thing you need to keep in mind as you read this is that my findings are from what is stated as Version 1.0 of the 2018 Rulebook. Some of the things I mention here will likely change throughout the year, perhaps even by the time you read this. That is, unfortunately, how ‘alive’ a rulebook is and can change at any moment if someone brings up an issue or correction. So, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

2018 FD Rule Changes Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-19

The pleasant thing about this rulebook, though, is that all changes are highlighted in red text so they can be easily seen by the crew chief or car builder. Many of the big rules, like where modifications can be done to the floor pan and chassis, have remained the same, however, the first substantial change for 2018 is that air jacks are “strictly prohibited”. Rules 2.1 K has been modified to state: “No other modifications may be made to the vehicle chassis, frame, or unibody including the installation of air jacks.” 2.1 L has been added to state that: “The use of air jacks during Competition and Competition time out is strictly prohibited.” So, we’re not going to see Kristaps Blušs install air jacks this year.

Next up is the brake system where 3.5 K has been added to state: “Carbon fiber, carbon ceramic, and carbon variant brakes or rotors are not allowed.” I imagine this is more of a cost saving measure more than anything else, though, it would also be a way to reduce some un-sprung and rotational weight. The thing about a full carbon brake system (carbon pads, carbon rotors) is that they need heat to work and, in most cases in drifting, the heat built up by the brakes isn’t always enough. Though carbon ceramic would probably work fine.

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Wheels see some substantial changes with completely new rules. Beadlocks, wheel screws, and bead securing devices other than the normal lip of your wheels are still not allowed, but three new rules have been added. 3.6 D states: “Center lock, mono lug, and center lug wheels are prohibited,” so no Porsche GT3 center-lock wheels this year. 3.6 E states: “Carbon fiber or hybrid carbon fiber/alloy wheels are not allowed,” so no Ford Mustang GT350R carbon wheels are permitted either.

Wheel Decals FD

Finally, 3.6 F states: “PRO Series vehicles will be required to have stickers on each tire or a contrasting color on a specific portion of each wheel during official practices, qualifying and competition.” This is a response to the dark and black wheels that have been used for quite some time. Specifically, 3.6 F subsections (a) and (b) specify the requirements for the decals. 3.6 F (a) states: “Tire stickers must be a minimum of 1 inch tall with 2 stickers per wheel,” while (b) gives examples with illustrations.

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Section 4 is all about the drivetrain, where some new rules have been written. You’re still allowed any engine you want to run, and you can still use gasoline, diesel, or ethanol, but no other fuel is specifically allowed. However, you can write Kevin if you want to use something else, which makes me wonder if anyone has asked about jet fuel or nitromethane yet.

4.1 deals with the engine but a new rule has been added. 4.1 C allows for skid plates, but within reason, stating: “Skid plates are allowed for the protection of engine associated components such as lines for oil, cooling, and fuel. Skid plates shall cover the minimal area needed for the protection of those components. Metallic skid plates shall be made up of a maximum thickness of .125-inch steel or .1875-inch aluminum.”

2018 FD Rule Changes Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-2

This is probably in relation to someone trying to go into the flat bottom route at least up to the front wheels, though, according to Mike Kojima of MotoIQ, it probably wouldn’t work too well. On a topic about aero on drift cars on the Maximum Driftcast discussion board on Facebook, Mike noted: “A flat bottom won’t work on a drift car at all due to the angle of attack. It would also eliminate the possibility of doing any five-minute repairs.” He does point out that a splitter on the front works and, when they don’t get too damaged, a barge board side skirt sort of works, too.

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4.2 D is an interesting addition: “All engine components and exterior components that support engine operation such as coolers, pumps, tanks, and lines must be protected and within the confines of the factory frame rails and factory bumper or tubular bumper structure.” What I’m getting from this is they are trying to get away from the trophy truck-style radiator placement. So, while you can mount your radiator to the rear still, it’s got to stay within the bumper or frame rails.

4.3 deals with the oil system and it’s mostly the same but 4.3 D gets an addition: “Oil catch tanks with a minimum capacity of one (1) quart are required. Catch tanks must be securely fastened and sealed from the driver’s compartment. Wristbands are recommended on all breather filters. Basically, the filter breather should be held on by more than just friction, which makes sense and I wonder why that wasn’t there to begin with. Though, I think this one will be modified to say something other than “wristbands” before the year starts.

4.4 is dealing with the fuel system and fuel tank or cell. Again, not many changes but 4.4 L will no longer allow pressurized refueling. This was common for years in trophy truck racing and several other motorsports as well. It’s a huge risk for fire as the mist from the nozzle could be combusted by the heat from the exhaust or even the brakes. Even in drifting, this would have been a fire hazard waiting to happen, so I’m glad to see it prohibited.

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Section 5 relates to the electrical system and, immediately, I’m pretty sure that someone was using a battery as ballast. 5.1 B adds: “All batteries must be connected and in use.” I wonder who had a ‘spare battery’ in their car for ‘emergencies.’

I mentioned aerodynamics earlier, but Section 6 is where we see the full rules about the body and the aerodynamics. 6.3 A has been added to specify when wings mounted on standoffs must be mounted to the trunk. “Wings that are multi-piece mounted on standoffs and those that are not directly attached to the trunk will be prohibited at tracks where they may come into contact with walls, fencing, and signage. Examples of such tracks include, but are not limited to Long Beach, Orlando, Wall, Las Vegas, and Seattle.”

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So, no bumper mounted standoffs at those tracks like you see on Dean Kearney’s Viper, which I think is the only car that will be affected. Most are running standoffs on the trunk or using a ducktail spoiler. It’s self-explanatory as to why this is the case as the spoiler will hit before the bumper does and can fling it up on the follow car or, worse, into the spectator stands. I don’t know how likely that latter one is, but I know of cases where end plates have flown up and hit people before their size was mandated.

Oh, by the way, you can’t run non-approved Formula Drift tire sponsor or supplier logos. 6.9 D states: “No non-approved Formula DRIFT Tire Sponsor or Tire Supplier logos are permitted anywhere within the event venue(s), on vehicle transports or rigs, competition vehicles, uniforms or driver suits. Additionally, no material or promotional items are permitted with non-approved tire manufacturers branding and/or logos allowed at Formula DRIFT events.” This is probably about Josh Robinson, who had Tri-Ace on his truck, er, Commodore ute before Magnuson became his title sponsor. However, his trailer still had Tri-Ace and the 530 logo and tire on it, if I remember correctly.

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Decals are regulated by Formula Drift, just like most any sanctioning body, but 6.9.2 adds the requirement of a single “Formula Drift Sponsor Decal” on the passenger side of the windshield, which can change depending on if the car is left-hand or right-hand drive. Miss that and you’ll be hit with a $500 fine per event if it’s issued. The fine wasn’t added, it was always there, but I wanted to point out what would happen. For Pro you’ll see a Black Magic decal here while Pro2 will have the Link Engine Management logo.

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While 6.11 hasn’t seen any changes, the rule is now being enforced that all OEM lights, including headlights, must remain in place and function normally. So, we won’t see the intake scoop like we saw on Matt Field’s S14, or projector lights with blacked-out housings like Kyle Mohan was going to run this year. I’m not entirely sure why this rule is in place other than to make the cars look as close to showroom cars as possible (minus the roll cages and body kits). I understand the need for lights at night events, too. However, most FD events take place during the day and the only night events that were done on purpose were Atlanta and Irwindale. The only other event is the Motegi Super Drift Challenge, which doesn’t even follow FD rules.

For driver safety, Section 7 stipulates the rules on what the driver must wear during competition, but 7.1 C has been added to state: “Helmet visors must be closed during on-track sessions.” Someone must have enjoyed eating rubber before that rule was required. Though, I know many drivers who wore glasses had safety glasses with corrective lenses required by Formula Drift and would leave the visors up. So, now they either don’t run a visor or must deal with the visor and the need for glasses. I can see why FD would want this as it fully protects the driver’s face from debris other than tire rubber like rocks, fiberglass, and metal. Also new for driver suits for 2018 is the new Pro and Pro2 patches. They will both need to be located on the right upper chest area of the suit, but Pro and Pro2 will have different patches this year.

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8.3 goes into all the tire regulations enforced for Pro2. There will be two official Pro2 tire suppliers, Achilles Radial and Nexen Tire. You can’t get any other tire; you can’t use any other tire. However, the good news is that those tires will only cost $100 per tire including delivery, mounting, and trackside support. Achilles and Nexen can sponsor a team, but it’s totally up to them if they do or not in Pro2.

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The new rules for Pro2 also include the new sizing requirements. Front and rear tires are still limited to 260mm with the minimum vehicle weight with driver for that measurement still at 2900lbs, however, tires advertised as wider than 255 will no longer be allowed; it doesn’t matter if it’s from Nexen or Achilles. Tires can also not be shaved, chemically treated, and you can’t use tire warmers. You also can not buff or file the tire logos or markings off. Teams will also be required to show proof of purchase in the event of an eligibility protest is filed. So, if you’re sponsored by another tire brand, you can’t hide that you’re using an Achilles or Nexen tire.

At the time of writing, these are the new additions to the Formula Drift Rulebook for 2018. Again, these can and most likely will change through the year, including right up to the first event at Long Beach.

Words by Justin Banner
Instagram: jb27tt
Facebook: racerbanner
Twitter: RacerBanner

Photos by Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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The sticker rule on the rims seems to me like a great idea, fewer ways for Aasbo to cheat or get away with stuff.


Can you elaborate about this?


I can, having watched Aasbo in person several times through the last 3 years of FD.

He plays these games where he will accelerate in the decel zone to create an artifical gap, and decelerate in an accel zone to cause the other driver to hit him and thus he takes an easy, though scumbag, win.

He also LOVES using his e-brake everywhere on track and this slows him down and causes the follow car to "trip up" and either straighten or crash into him.

Previously his dark and thin spoked wheels let him get away with this as you couldn't watch the wheels to see if he was on the e-brake, etc. Now with the stickers, you can.


Having been at every FD event last year, I only seen Aasbo trip someone up once, at Long Beach. I still don't think it was on purpose but if it was, there was no repeat of it. I don't think people appreciate how difficult fully gripped up FD cars are to drive, mistakes happen often but are rarely on purpose. There's just no room for error with a chase car on your door.


he won in Canada after getting hit, then he also won several battles in seattle after being hit by the chase driver. he gets hit by the chase driver far more than any other driver in the series.


Brap-Brap my man!


I don't understand the rule about air jacks. Can someone explain it to me? I find it really useless.


what about getting the vehicle safe and ready to work on, jacking the car up and putting it on stands shouldn't be part of the 5 mins. drifting as a competition is safe as a whole but what about the crew, last year Nate hamiltons dad was underneath the car when it fell off a stand he was fine but i can imagine it happening more frequently in a rushed circumstance. just surprises me this hasn't been addressed yet.


Along with the banning of centre locks, I would think that it's a push towards cost savings more than anything.

We can always arrange a chat with Kevin Wells if people want to get insight into why some of these rules have been implemented?


I have seen air jacks used as a cost savings in racing (less crew required). I wonder if teams will have more guys on hand to get the car up quick between rounds.

Devon Bartholomew

i think its to keep things fair for when a 5 minute is called. Its more of an advantage for a guy to put on 1 wheel nut and takes more time to put on 5. Same with those with Jacks and jack stands vs air jacks. I think they're covering their bases before any issues within the competitors arrive.


Thanks for replying everyone! It makes a lot of sence, but I still think it should be something that you could equip if you and/or your team wants to have.


They do not want you strengthening the chassis to install the air jacks. it's the same reason we can install pin stands. Even though pin stands are safer than jack stands on uneven surfaces.


Probably for ballast too. Air jacks and their plumbing add weight plus more into the mounting for them. Could even seen teams installing all that stuff but not actually using it, similar to the "spare" battery ballast.


It is probably a cost saving thing as well. And a safety thing as you have less lines and pressurized components on the vehicle.

Mārtiņš Ēlerts

So that you don't get an extra 10 seconds for repairs during the 5min repair window.


"all OEM lights, including headlights, must remain in place and function normally"

GG Kyle Mohan's idea on using headlights delete to save cost, lol

Mark Joseph I. Argoso

Huh. Reasonable. A breath of fresh air indeed.


Agreed. I am still against them instituting "max camber" rules, as Tuerck before in his FRS (sorry, GT86) had like -20 degrees of camber in the front, basically super stance-nation style and he was killing it as the crazy camber allowed him to throw stupid aggressive entries and hold it. Then after the "max camber" rules he had to back it off and he's not doing so hot now. He needs to stop blowing diffs but that's another story...


Brap-Brap, there are no rules on maximum camber. You can run all the camber you want provided you can maximize those changes while keeping the strut bolt within the OEM strut bolt circle. What a lot of the original Wisefab kits did was move the center of the strut outside of the bolt circle to keep the caster change to a minimum from King Pin Inclination (KPI) as you went to an extreme lock. That's why a lot of older S-chassis drift cars with the original Wisefab would have a flat camber curve even above 45-degrees of steering lock.

The closer you can get the top of the strut to the center of the lower ball joint, the flatter your camber gain will be from caster change. It's part of the reason super-strut cars like the Type-R and the original Ford Focus RS handle so well despite the power they put to their front wheels: the steering pivot (my simplified term for KPI here) is (nearly) directly center of the wheel because it has an upper ball joint on the strut that attaches to the spindle rather than the strut being attached directly to the spindle and turning on the further away strut top. Should I do an article on this?

It also helped push the spindle out to gain room while at a high steering angle so that the tire didn't hit the inner fenders or rub against the chassis.


I don't think you've been watching the same FD as the rest of us?


I think Justin cleared it up. I don't follow the rules more than what I learn from chatting with some crew people. LBC Aasbo VS Blus was a perfect example, and other drivers have done it too. Kyle Mohan did it to Aasbo at ATL. For sure the wheel sticker rule is a step in the right direction.


For the record, I don't think Mohan purposely tried to trip Aasbo up in Atlanta, it's just that MX-5 is a horrible car to drive, you can see it every run. Kyle needs to get into something proven for 2018 (which I think he is).


Yeah, the dark wheels issue was in the works for a couple of years. It's kind of the solution of "how do we fix it without demanding colored or shiny wheels?" I think it's a good compromise that won't take away from the looks of the wheels. It's even an issue in the Pro-Am levels of the sport.


Paddy "Savage" McGrath


The car has run the same wise fab designed camber for 3 years. There is no camber rule, and he didn't break one diff last year.


The "wristband" deal is referring to a cloth sweat band around the breather filter itself. Like how the honda guys would put one on their brake reservoirs to catch leaks. Their not talking about attaching it with one.


That's entirely possible. Just odd they would make it a part of the securing portion of the rule.


No rules that will substantially change anything. Got a good laugh from the "flat bottom" idea on a drift car lol.

As for real rule changes what I would like to see is a total ban on hand brakes and a horsepower cap. Would also remove all aerodynamic devices and set a minimum amount the wheel must turn lock to lock to actually make them work the wheel a bit.

Short of that I don't see anything substantial in these rules.


Mate, what are you on about? Totan ban of hand brakes and a horsepower cap? This is not grassroots drifting. What about Dean Kerney's Viper? 1400hp and you want a horsepower cap? Go watch Formula 1 not Formula Drift please.


I don't think a handbrake ban is required, the current system for docking points for over reliance on it seems to be enough. Coupled with the contrasting colours on wheels / tires for this season should help with enforcement of it.


Eliminating the hand brake would require drivers to actually use weight shift and vehicle dynamics instead of what is essentially a beginner technique to initiate a slide.


A lot do, to be fair. It was rare last season to see a long arse drag into the initiation. I know both Worthouse drivers preferred a flick / clutch kick entry which is absolutely the way it should be done.


Damn right. Didn't know that. Appreciate proper initiation!


Same. Nothing worse than someone accelerating flat through first, second, third and fourth only to spend five seconds slowing down again on the handbrake in complete silence.


Alot of these are just silly.


I hate to sound like, "that guy"..but, reading stuff like this makes me nostalgic about the early days of drifting..boy do I miss the "good old days". Time to go watch old footage of D1GP and D1SL!


Good news, Sunpros is uploading ALL their old Video Option and Drift Tengoku content onto Youtube, twice a week. So far, Option is as recent as 2008 and has EVERYTHING dating back to 2001! The Hibino jumping drift and Kawabata reverse entry are officially preserved!


Send link.


cant seem to find on youtube mate? any link?


Huge thumbs up to what SpeedingCow said, and about the YT channel I think he refers to this one


The only rule I’m pissed at is the all oem lights. Aftermarket headlights and taillights are what make the cars look awesome especially at night. Who cares if they have aftermarket projector lights with hid’s and not shitty halogens or aftermarket led taillights.


I think it's more a ban on headlight and taillight 'blanks' and covers, rather than functioning OEM style lamp units.


Why don't they just issue every team a standard car and forbid them from modifying it?

The obvious point of the rules is to make the race a "reality" show, with all kinds of fake drama and Day-Glo personalities - in this case facilitated by rules that say a team can't do this or that - for "competition's sake."

Personally, I don't watch races for the "human drama" - I wanna see what kind of insane machine somebody will build to win a race.

I'm in it for the cars, not the personalities.


I think they're pretty sound regulations, nothing outrageous in there at all. But FD will always be damned if they do and damned if they don't.


Sure, new rules are always reasonable - at first.

Then before you know it, Formula Drift has become NASCAR, and anything innovative or fun is banned for being an "unfair advantage."


Have you ever seen a NASCAR or even a SCCA rulebook? Formula Drift is no where close to the amount of rules writing those two organizations have. Hell, NASA has more rules than Formula Drift does in their top tier Time Trial and Autocross rule sets. FD is nothing and more akin to CanAm in the rules that have been made, and that's series still had more rules than FD has now. Don't get me started on the FIA.


they should add a ride height maximum rule. ban lifted mustangs


Sorry, still not watching. Remember when it used to be good?


Yes, last season was pretty amazing.


the rules they come up with in drifting, and reasons for them are so often trivial its a joke.


Transitions should be sharper, each track should have a drift off-throttle area.


Going off throttle usually produces less smoke. Most drivers like being on throttle more, from those I talk to even in ProAm.


its about using inertia after transition, instead of sideways dragracing.


Before I keep going, I just want to say that I'm not saying you're wrong. However, the judges look for throttle usage and any dead space is usually counted against a run (usually!). Drivers also like it because there is a challenge in staying on the gas consistently while maintaining control through all corners. Some drivers manipulate the clutch to make this work while others use the handbrake to slow the rear tires down when needed while maintaining throttle. A few use both. So, there's more to what FD judges are looking for and there is a challenge beyond keeping one's foot pinned.


I wish the NHRA would highlight new changes in the rule books...

Do you think any of these rule changes will trickle down to more 'grassroots' style events? It almost seems like some of the rules are set to 'attract' grassroots, namely Pro2 tires being inexpensive. Maybe some slight restructuring of the rulebook now is in hopes to pay off later.


Most likely it will and I believe has to for any FD Licensing ProAm, at least to a degree. I know that Top Drift let pickup trucks (like Brian Nimmo and Kevin Armijo in their Toyota Tacoma X-Runners) run.


Huh, I guess you couldn't get Miki Taka to bullsh*t as a photographer for a while huh? The pics are more detailed and yet she was paid for her "work" despite no experience or real training save from the ones you gave her.


What are you talking about?