Vijay Pattni30 August 2011

TopGear.com’s guide to donuts

Not the Krispy Kreme variety. Falken UK drift champs teach us the noble art….

Contrary to schoolyard lore, ‘donuting' isn't a euphemism for a bizarre sexual practice, nor is it the noble endeavour of pelting unsuspecting motorists with reams of deep-fried sugary dough. It is, actually, the first step in becoming an artisan of sideways driving; a connoisseur of smoking your rear tyres while moving in an angle at some considerable speed to the amusement of a slack-jawed audience.

In short, it is the first step to drifting.

You should know all about this fine art by now; it is the only way Internet winner Ken Block knows how to drive. Show him a straight line and he'll show you a look of contempt. But as with everything in life - barring a recording duet with Jedward - it is much, much harder than it actually looks. And it is a two-stage learning process. Stage one is donuting.

Not the Friday-night-at-the-car-park special - that's just spinning around the front two wheels. No, this is proper donuting, where the entire car spins around a circumference.

Gallery: Falken UK drifts at Santa Pod

So when the lovely chaps at Team Falken valiantly offered to teach TopGear.com's useless but enthusiastic staffer a tutorial in ‘something decent', much biting of hands was performed. Turns out ‘something decent' was, in fact, something bloody terrifying.

We arrived at Santa Pod raceway in Northamptonshire with a bagful of gusto, and followed directions to an obscure corner of the track we had never seen before. Here, just opposite the famous drag-racing strip, was a large, vacant expanse of tarmac, and sat to one side nestled under a tent, were two very green and very powerful drift machines.

Step forward our instructors for the afternoon: Paul Cheshire, 26, and his lightly modified 2002 Nissan Skyline ‘G35', and 26-year old Matt Carter with his lightly modified 1993 Nissan 200SX of S14.5 vintage. Any by lightly modified, we mean of course, massively turbocharged and massively slidey and massively scary.

"It's better if you take Matt's car out first", Paul says to me carefully. "It's less powerful than mine and a bit easier to manage." Some cones are laid, and the cars are fired up.

"Let me lay some slicks down first mate," trumpets Matt, "then we can get an idea of layouts and teach you a thing or two." He promptly fires up his Nissan - which sounds borderline demonic - and begins sliding around the arena as if the ground was made of ice and his eyes were in the side of his head. Until of course, something important and vital in performing the job of keeping his body in one piece breaks. Quite loudly.

At this point Paul steps in with his Skyline, does a few slides to warm up the tyres and throws me the keys to his motor. "It's easier if you just try it out rather than me showing you," he says. I climb into his Skyline and fire it up carefully. "You're the first person to drive it since I have had it all done up, so, y'know." He makes a face to suggest bad things would happen to my vegetables should I break it.

And there's every reason to be scared. It's got a 2JZ engine from a Toyota Supra, a custom Garrett GT35R turbo, HKS engine management, 1000cc injectors, coilover suspension from HSD, a Nismo body kit, a rollcage and a simply endless list of other custom bits and pieces. It's worth a lot of money. And it produces 607bhp and 615lb ft of torque.

"You've got to steer the car with the throttle, don't thrash away too much with your hands. You won't keep up." Paul's face is deadly serious. Dutifully, I load up the revs, exercise some lock and unleash some horsepowers. The car just pivots on its front wheels and everything comes to a smoky, embarrassing halt.

"You need to manage the throttle a bit better. And just turn in a touch - when it spins don't correct it with your hands, let the wheel correct itself. That's what I meant when I said ‘you won't keep up'."

Ah, I see. Carefully, I load up the revs again - the turbo lag is quite strong so you have to judge it pitch perfect - and unload, turning in slightly. I don't quite get 360 - more a 270 degree spin - but crucially, understand what ‘steering on the throttle' means.

A few more goes like this and it's time to change the tyres - and the car. Matt's 480bhp Nissan 200SX is fixed and ready. "Go for your life mate," he says, handing me the keys to a car he has personally built and one that previously served as his daily driver.

"Me and Paul are both mechanics so we've saved a lot of money that way", he explains, offering me an insight into the world of a seasoned, weekend drifter.

Back to the Nissan, a few more unsuccessful spins and a bit of smoke. Not enough to wow an Internet. "Don't try and spin around the cone, just start by driving in a circle and then slowly load in the power - there's less lag in this one - and then once you get the back out just put really small steering corrections in the direction you want it to go, and keep the throttle constant," Matt explains.

I do, and - miraculously - get it. I manage four or five proper, full-blooded smoky spins before enthusiasm marshals my right foot and I spin out.

"It's a completely different way of driving," Paul explains, as I emerge victorious. "But once you get the hang of it and it clicks, it's easy." Well, it would be for these chaps. Paul has six years of drifting experience under his belt, and came 1st in the 2009 and 2011 Team Event at the British Drift Championship.

And Matt - a full-time painter and decorator who drifts in his spare time - scored two first place finishes in the 2009 and 2010 KD Race Invitational in Portugal, and is the current points leader in this year's British Drift Championship.

"We just want to get more people interested in the sport," says Paul, as both cars tick themselves cool. Well, we're interested. Next step, drifting...

We suspect you're interested too - you can start your sideways hooning at Santa Pod Raceways ‘Drift What Ya Brung' days - for more info click here

Now watch some world class hoonage, courtesy of the Falken UK drift team:

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