How to Drift - Fifth Lesson: Brake Drifting

F1, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR champion Mario Andretti once said: “It is amazing how many drivers, even on the Formula One level, think that the brakes are for slowing the car down.” The chronograph defeater was obviously referring to using the brakes in order to keep your car on the perfect line. Nevertheless, the same... buttons allow you to upset the balance of your car in a controllable manner, which means this instrument is also excellent for... drifting.
Bentley Mulsanne drifting 1 photo
Photo: Catalin Garmacea
This deceleration braking technique is part of the bread and butter of the sideways world and, interestingly enough, once you master it, also one of the safest. Usually, we are taught to fully complete the braking phase until the moment we start steering into a corner. Well, playing with these rule is what will bring a nice slip angle to your car.

The steps of brake drifting are rather simple. As you approach a bend and you are decelerating, instead of completing the braking episode, you should stop once you’ve done about 70 percent of the job.

Don’t take your foot off that brake though, as this is the point where you have to keep a balance - you should leave the remaining 30 percent to be used throughout the corner and the dosage is the key.

As you pass the aforementioned point, you steer your way into the bend. Since you haven’t completed the maneuver, your corner entry speed will be greater than the ideal one, but the goal here is to go sideways, remember?

Braking pressure equals slip angle

As you go through the corner and use the heel and toe downshifting technique to keep things in check, you should keep your foot on the brake. Since a part of the braking force goes to the rear wheels, the car will start sliding. If you don’t feel the rear end letting go, you should increase the braking pressure.

Mind you, as you downshift you’ll generate engine braking, which, mixed with the cornering, can lead to oversteer on itself, so you should take this into account. In this case, you should play things smoothly, so as not leave the balance-upsetting part to the brakes. Once you perfectly master the technique, you can obviously combine the two. Speaking of which, this is connected to the lift-off overseer, a separate drifting technique.

If you happen to drive an automatic, the rules are the same, as lifting off also adds to the rear-end-out effect.

By the way, in case all this sounds familiar, it’s because, up to this point, the braking drift technique is largely similar to trailbraking. The only difference is that the latter sees you keeping a dynamic balance with slight oversteer traces, while the first leads to the rear end actually letting go.

Retuning to the braking drift, once the rear end is clearly stepping out, you can control the slip angle using the brake and, of course, countersteering.

There are plenty of advantages to this technique

Braking drift sees you being connected to the dynamic balance of the car, from the corner entry to the exit, which is why practicing it is one of the most fruitful manners to learn how to drift.

Interestingly enough, this sliding technique also seems to trick most ESP systems into allowing a bit of a slip angle before interfering. We’ve even seen non-disengageable ESPs making way for little slides thanks to drift braking.

Another advantage of brake drifting is that it can be used on cars with any type of drive - remember, the dosage actually depends on the vehicle’s front-rear brake balance. The only difference made by the type of car you are hooning (FWD, RWD or AWD) is made once you start to countersteer and exit the drift, as well as the bend.

In a FWD car, you should start accelerating, with this pulling you out of the slide - if you countersteer and accelerate at the same time, the comeback may be swifter than you expected and you risk being sent spinning the other way. That’s not to say you can do both, the idea is to keep a balance. As for AWD and RWD cars, stepping on the gas an countersteering is the obvious way to go.

Before you set out to find that racetrack or deserted parking lot for exercising your drifting, we want to remind you our Life Beyond Grip series also includes other episodes.
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About the author: Andrei Tutu
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In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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