Earlier this year, the car you see here set a new world record for high-speed drifting. On a smooth, wide runway in Dubai, with a japanese gentleman called Masato Kawabata at the wheel, this highly modified £500,000 Nissan GT-R travelled sideways for some 50 metres at just over 190mph.
What’s arguably even more ridiculous is that Nissan has allowed a small selection of fruitcake journalists to drive this most extraordinary of GT-Rs. Not at quite the same speed as Kawabata-san, but still at sufficient lick to see what that record run may have felt like. And amazingly, it’s nowhere near as mad as you would think.
That’s because the modifications carried out to this unique GT-R have been executed with one very simple goal in mind; to make it as easy to drift as possible. So despite the fact it has 1,390bhp and over 1,400Nm of torque – courtesy of its rear-driven 4.0-litre twin-turbo, nitrous-injected engine – it’s actually quite a friendly thing to drive, thanks in part to its steering, suspension, and OS Superlock rear differential.
The rear tyres have been reduced in size to enable the thing to go as sideways as possible, as easily as possible. Extra steering lock has been engineered into the rack, too.
We’re taken for a demo run, and amid a cacophony of wheel spin, tyre smoke, engine noise and exhaust howl, we leave the line and head down the runway. There is wheel spin from first right up to sixth gear. From the passenger seat it feels ridiculous, with the cabin so full of smoke that I have no idea which way is which. So we come to a halt and I’m gestured to have a go.
The expected sensation of acceleration never arrives; instead the GT-R just sits there bonfiring its rear tyres, going almost nowhere; into second and the same thing. Only once in fifth is there anything approaching traction, and that disappears the moment the revs hit 3,600rpm. Who knew going sideways at lldmph could feel so calm?
What is drifting?
Drifting is the art of intentional oversteer, whereby a loss of traction at the rear causes the car to travel sideways. Technically, a car is only drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle – at a measured angle of more than 30 degrees.
Customised cars like our Nissan GT-R feature several key modification. They have much more steering lock than normal, to enable control to be maintained at high speeds. They are always rear-wheel drive, with specially modified rear differentials that essentially lock the rear axle when the wheels start to spin. They also run on low-grip tyres, for maximum drift.