Get the Drift? 

Finesse is the key this weekend at Altamont.

A common admonishment from the driver's ed. teacher at the Brandeis School in Lawrence, NY, class of '89, was the panicky holler of "You're drifting! You're drifting!" Poor Lenny Goldstein -- he had no clue that, right around the same time, drivers on the other side of the world were developing a sport based on what he feared most. Drifting, according to Todd Yih-Ying Ho, started ten to fifteen years ago as a late-night, underground sport on the deserted mountain roads of Japan. Technically, drifting is driving with low to no traction on the rear wheels. "Unlike other motor sports, drifting does not compete for time or finishing position," Ho says. "The purpose is to display control even with the lack of traction."

Ho got actively involved in the sport about a year and a half ago, after nearly a decade of participation in other motor sports. In January he and Donald Ahn founded the Norcal Drift Academy (NCDA), to provide drift enthusiasts with a legal place to practice. Not surprisingly, such opportunities were hard to come by before the NCDA was created, because of high cost and liability issues. "I personally like to describe it as freestyle with cars," he says. "Skateboarding, freestyle BMX, and freestyle motocross are sort of the same, but we do it with bigger vehicles, and four wheels."

Curious? The next NCDA event is Freedom Drift, this Saturday and Sunday at Altamont Motorsports Park, 17001 Midway Rd., Tracy. Day one is strictly a practice day, with staff instructors to teach the fundamentals of car control. Day two begins the same way, with a competition in the early evening. Rear-wheel drive is the only prerequisite for participants, and, explains Ho, "competition always involves two drivers that do a lead and follow of each other. However, the goal is not to pass but to show who has better control in real-time comparison."

Gates open at 9 a.m. both days, with the first cars allowed on the track at 10:30 a.m., and the track shutting down at 8:30 p.m. It costs $100 to participate for either day, $180 for both. Visit NCDA.net for more info.

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