Slide Rules: A Day At Toyobaru Drift School

W Christian Mental Ward
by W Christian Mental Ward
slide rules a day at toyobaru drift school

Subayotas by night

Buckle your seatbelts folks; we’re firing up the wayback machine. Last week I had the privilege of attending the Yas Island Drift School with none other than Justin “Wheels” Crenshaw. I have actually known Justin for a few years now, back when he was juggling press loaners and writing for TTAC, while I had no idea this site existed. He helped me with this story, as well as editing it, so hopefully he saved Baruth some stress and the B&B some frustration with my tenuous language skills.

Behold, the Yas Island F1 track and general gearhead amusement park. We arrived for class and set about beating up their Toyota GT-86’s.

Classes are run with two instructors and three students. Ours were from Belgium and Germany. Neither was young, nor did they wear a flat billed ballcap canted to one side. The German; Mark, was a factory BMW instructor and actually “knew the facility in Greenville quite well.”

We had a quick PowerPoint presentation while the sprinklers started watering the paved course. We learned the methods of inducing a slide; add throttle, downshift, the e-brake, the famous Scandinavian flick, and the one we weren’t privy to at our price point, the “bump” drift; which utilizes pavement irregularities to upset the car’s rear.

The 30 slide presentation went by in a flash; our instructors seemed to have as much interest as we did in classroom time. To the Toyotas! Mark demo’d how to turn off the traction control completely (come on! get to something us gearheads don’t know) However, his following point about the primary slide sensor being your spine intrigued us. According to Mark it gets input from the seat, which gets input from the rear axle, and so forth. His point being a lot of information is lost in that transition, so you’d better be sensitive to what the car is doing.

booorrriiinngg…when do I get to act like Bo Duke?

The other rules of track driving still apply. Your eyes should look where you want to car to go, slow in fast out, and throttle inputs should be gradual. With that, we hopped into the cars and drove to the site’s skid pad; a plastic coated block of smooth concrete surrounded by sprinklers. Our task was simple; slide to the left of the first cone, then to the right of the second and exit.

Crenshaw executes a surprisingly (and annoyingly) graceful arc around the first cone, catches it and almost does the same with the second before going full 360. I drive the course with the rear wheels slipping but the car remaining somewhat straight, I wanted to catch the slide. Our handheld radios barked instructions; “Let eet slide…more trottel, more trottel…”

I met Crenshaw at BMWCCAs OKC area autocrosses, and we have shared several track days. I noticed the road course dynamics we practiced were betraying us and we needed to accept the car going sideways rather than trying to correct it.

My biggest handicap was the habitual nine and three hands on the wheel. Mark would bark into my car “You arh naht turnink, da front wheelz are not moving.” After one failed attempt, he made me move the steering the full range of motion, which forced me to hand over hand the wheel, rather than the normal crossover. My next attempt I used a “flailing” method at the wheel and it kinda worked. Until then I wasn’t moving the wheel and was using slow hands with my slow throttle inputs. This is not how you get a rear end to step out. Finally I caught up to the others’ progression. Learning is fun!

Next was the cone circle exercise. (Yep, it involved drifting around a circle of cones.) There were two; one clockwise, one counter. I started on the counter-clockwise side, and if I say so, mastered it quite easily. After a respite I started on the clockwise side and sucked. What the hell?!

The front tires of any car will go about 37 degrees before a spin, so of course you steer with the throttle, but never use all of it. If you start at full throttle, you have nothing left to modulate. The concept is intuitive, the action is not. Stay ahead of the car, give the throttle inputs before the car needs them, and make them slight. Again the radio barked; “Puhmp eet! puhmp eet!”

The next trick was to connect the two circles into a full figure eight. My road racing background still betrayed me. The Belgian instructor chastised me for not using the brakes before entering the corner; “Drifting has nothing to do with speed.”

The muscle memory was starting to form and the learning was happening very quickly. Or so we thought. The final exercise was a full autocross course. A short acceleration to a sweeping left, into a quick right followed by a left. We get a few feet to straighten the car, then a left slide into a box. Our tank of dollars was running low, so we had limited attempts.

my usual view of Crenshaw at the track

My first shot I tried a handbrake induced slide for the entry. Epic freaking fail. The car just stopped. The next two I couldn’t get more than 2 connected slides before a spin, and the last was full up banzai mode, with predictable results. So I replaced all the cones I knocked over and returned the Toyobaru to the starting line.

I was covered in sweat, partially because it was 109 with absurd humidity, and partially because it was hard work. I left with some new skills and the same satisfaction you get after a hard day at the autocross.

Now, if I can just get this damm Toyota Fortuner to stop understeering…

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He only owns one ballcap, the brim is NOT flat and he when he wears it, it rest square on his head. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and a gift for making Derek and Jack wonder if English is actually his first language.

Comments
Join the conversation
3 of 8 comments
  • Juniper Juniper on Sep 21, 2013

    A question to all those that love to jump on manufacturers for their fleet sales. Are these to be considered Fleet Sales? Just askin.

  • Dartman Dartman on Sep 21, 2013

    Uhhhh...dude, those are not "plastic coated smooth concrete barriers" but rather hollow plastic barriers that are (probably not) even filled with water....

    • W Christian Mental Ward W Christian Mental Ward on Sep 22, 2013

      "a plastic coated block of smooth concrete surrounded by sprinklers" The barriers were exactly what you described. The skidpad was a plastic coated concrete surface for reduced traction.

  • Tassos I hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving. To answer the question, my present car is almost Ideal for such road trips, but I can think of an even better one, which has the same awesome engine in a bigger, far more luxurious vehicle.OK, let's THINK, what kind of car is best for such a trip? NOT a 911 or a Corvette, not a Body-on-frame pickup truck or SUV. It has to be a LONG vehicle, and most importantly, with a LONG WHEELBASE. It should be quite heavy so it is comfortable (in addition to the always nice to have passive safety). It should be powerful but frugal, with today's ridiculous gas prices. It should be LUXURIOUS so when you get out of it after 12 hours of driving, to feel as rested and relaxed as when you started the trip. So naturally the best candidates are FLAGSHIP LUXURY SEDANS with the above attributes. What are the best ones to choose? A 2007-2012 Lexus 460 LS would be hard to refuse, and is very reliable to boot. (in 2012 they ruined its grille), but is poor in other chores (handling, poor steering feel etc). A BMW 7 series, like the MAGNIFICENT 1998 740iL with its adequate 4.4 lt V8 and its 282 HP and 300+ LBFT torque was also an excellent cruiser AS WELL as a great (as if on rails!) Handling car, with plenty of features and luxury fit for a king inside (plus they had facrtory GPS as early as 1998, which Merc Did not then!), but it is not as reliable as you would like. I owned one from 2005 to 2017, almost 20 years old and 150k miles at the end, when I donated it. My current car is just perfect for this job, being a GLORIOUS DIESEL Merc E 320 Bluetec 2007 (I also have a 2008 twin!), it gets 35-37 MPG on long trips, which offsets the ridiculous current Diesel prices, AND its 21 Gallon tank gives you 700-800 MILES OF RANGE, so you can fill up at the lowest cost stations at your convenience. COmpared with the BMW 7 V8, its V6 actually gives you about the3 same performance at half the MPG!! Because the HP may be less (208 vs 282) BUT the TOrque can only be matched by AMG gas versions, the E55 AMG, at over 400 LBFT.If you want a little better than the above AWESOME choice, try the S350 Bluetec Diesel, 2010-2013 models. THere are very few Diesels sold in the US, so you may have to drive 4 hours to buy yours (as I had to do with both of mine), BUT it is REALLY WORTH IT.BTW, the extra benefit of the diesel MErcs, they are THE MOST RELIABLE VEHICLES I EVER DROVE, and I had plenty of Hondas and other alleged reliable cars in the past. TWO diesels, owned from 2016 and 2017, and NOTHING went wrong with them except ROUTINE Maintenance, brake pad replacement, new set of tires, NO FAILURES OF ANY KIND!If you have experienced these outstanding cruisers, tell us what you think. If NOT, try them!
  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
Next