Drifting is a driving technique in which a driver breaks the rear wheels out of a gripping position and counter-steers the vehicle around a course or track. Generally the line that is designated by a panel of judges is a line that provides the highest speed and angle the car is capable of handling.

The FORMULA DRIFT Championship consists of a scheduled number of two-day meets or Championship "Rounds" in which drivers compete in a single elimination bracket of "head-to-head" match-ups. Drivers first qualify individually to ascertain where they will be positioned into a bracket that then determines the "head-to-head" match-ups. Head-to-head runs are judged and based on a number of pre-determined criteria with the winner moving into the next level of the bracket. Points and standings are awarded based on finishing rank and cumulative season points will determine the championship order.

The criteria for judging are as follows:

Speed is a non-subjective criterion. Speed is used by monitoring a driver's speed at a specific part of the course. Each course may have multiple speed capturing areas, but only one area will ultimately be used in scoring.

The maximum drift angle at which a driver can maintain and control his/her vehicle throughout the marked course.

The drift line is defined as the ideal path a vehicle must take on course and is marked by inner clipping points and outer clipping zones. The exact line of each track will be dictated by the judges at each track.

Style is probably the most subjective part of the drivers' runs. Style is just what it sounds like: The drivers' overall ability to take the specific judging criteria and display it is the most personal and individual way. That is the essence of style. Aggressive flicks, closeness to walls, extreme angle and extreme proximity to the lead vehicle (in case of head-to-head competitions) are examples of how personal driving style can be showcased.


The format for Qualifying is a "knockout" format. Drivers will complete one (1) run on the track in order of current rank in the Championship. After each competitor has completed one (1) run, the top 16 drivers will be placed in the tandem bracket by qualifying rank. The final 16 spots allotted for tandem will then be filled by the rest of the field by completing one more run. Drivers ranked from 17 – lowest positioned driver after the first run will keep their first run score and then run the second run of qualifying. The higher of the two scores will be the score that each driver keeps. From there, positions 17-32 will be filled. Running order on the second run will be dictated on rank of the remaining drivers.

A. Qualifying Scoring

In qualifying, each judge will be assigned to a criterion: Line, Angle, or Style. Line is worth 25 points. Angle is worth 25 points. Style is worth 40 points, of which the Line and Angle judges can contribute 0 through 5 points each to the 40 point total. The Speed category is worth either 0 through 10 points and is measured at a specific point on the course for each event. The judges will determine the median speed for qualifying. Driver will receive 5 points for achieving the median speed set by the judges. For every 1/10th of a mile per hour achieved by the driver above the minimum speed set by the judges, the driver will receive 1/10th of a point up to a maximum of 10 total points. No points above a total of 10 will given for speeds exceeding the speed scoring range. For every 1/10th of a mile the driver misses the median speed by, 1/10th of a point will be deducted from the possible 5 point median score, down to a minimum score of 0 points. Negative scores will not be given. The Line, Angle and the Style judges may award points in one (1) point increments or whole numbers for their specific criterion.

Qualifying Points Allotment

  • Line Judge = Maximum 25 Points + up to 5 Points for Style
  • Angle Judge = Maximum 25 Points + up to 5 points for Style
  • Style Judge = Maximum 30 Points
  • Speed = Based on median set speed and scaling based on exact MPH to 1/10 of a MPH

Speed Score Example – Median Speed 55mph

  • 60MPH = 10 points
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • 55.2MPH = 5.2 points
  • 55.1MPH = 5.1 points
  • 55MPH = 5 points
  • 54.9MPH = 4.9 points
  • 54.8 MPH = 4.8 points
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • 50MPH = 0.0 Points

Qualifying Score Example w/ median Speed of 55MPH

  • Line Judge: 22 Points + 4 points Style
  • Angle Judge: 22 Points + 3 points Style
  • Style Judge: 26 Points
  • Speed: 51.2MPH
  • Total Score: 78.2

B. Items that constitute an automatic zero (0)

  • Spinning out
  • Loss of drift
  • Two tires off course
  • Hood, hatch and/or doors open during a run
  • Resulting contact causes an abrupt change in the vehicles drift and/or causes a spin

C. Clipping Zones and Course Markers

Cones or other similar marking will designate all clipping points and zones. Anytime an inner clipping point is hit, the vehicle will be considered to be off course, and points will either be deducted or the driver will be scored a 0, depending on the severity of the hit. Hitting an outer clipping zone with anything other than the driver's rear bumper will be counted as off course and will be scored a 0. (ie. Hitting the cone with the rear tire, door, etc.) Course markers that are laid out to designate the outer lines of the course are not to be hit by vehicles at any time in competition. Hitting the markers is considered going off course and a deduction or a 0 may be awarded. Judges will specify in the drivers meeting how they will treat each specific track.

Slight contact with a wall or cone in the outer clipping zone will not result in a point deduction if the hit does not disturb or affect the flow of the drivers run. This means no major corrections were needed after the hit and the driver was still able to maintain proper line, speed, and angle. If the hit occurs at any other point on track other than the marked outer clipping zones points may be deducted. If a spin or major under steer results from contact with an outer clipping zone an automatic score of 0 will be given.

D. In the event of a tie, the driver with the higher speed in the designated speed zone will be placed in the higher position.

E. In the event that qualifying cannot be completed, such as a rain-out or other circumstances, qualifying order will be established by rank or by previous season points.

F. In the event of rain or weather that does not cause cancellation of qualifying or head-to-head, the judges have the right to make adjustments to the criteria of judging and to subsequently disseminate this information to the spotters and drivers.


Tandem rounds are based on two (2) runs, in head-to-head format, with competitors paired up based on qualifying position. The higher qualifier will lead the first run and the second led by the lower qualifier.

The lead car is to drift the course using the speed, line, angle and style as defined by the judges for qualifying. Typically, the lead car should driver 90 percent of his/her qualifying run(s) and focus specifically on hitting all clipping point and zones with the maximum line, angle, speed and style as possible.

In general, the chase car needs to treat the lead car as a moving clipping point and showcase more angle and style while in chase. With regards to speed, a chase driver may get as close to the lead car as possible as long as the chase car's front wheels DO NOT reach in front of the lead car's front wheels. In essence, if done properly, a chase driver can be door-to-door with the lead car without being in violation of being on a lower line. For a chase car to show true dominance to the lead car, the driver must follow the line the lead driver chooses, maintain consistent and larger angle than the lead car and use speed to maintain consistent and close proximity to the lead car.

Passing is allowed in Formula DRIFT. Passing is allowed anywhere on course as long as the lead car is clearly off the line the judges have specified. Any passing that occurs outside the scope of the aforementioned criteria will be deemed illegal and constitute an equivalence to a zero (0) run.


Vehicle contact in drifting is something that FORMULA DRIFT recognizes as part of the sport, however contact of vehicles while in head-to-head battle requires specific rulings and guidelines as follows:

The lead car is required at all times to run the line given by the judges and also maintain adequate speed throughout the course. If the lead car measures untypical speed, this may result in a score against that driver. Typical speed for a lead car is defined as speeds of equivalent measurement from qualifying speeds. Some slight variance (+5, -5) is in most cases acceptable.

If the lead car loses drift, goes off line or reduces speed too drastically in comparison to that particular driver's qualifying speeds and the chase car hits the lead car, the lead car will in most cases be deemed at fault for the contact. It is each individual judge's job to ascertain fault. There may be circumstances where the lead car is not at fault for the contact, but this will be left to each individual judge to ascertain.

The chase car is required at all times to follow and chase the lead car. The driver of the chase car is encouraged to know the approximate speed of the lead car through the entire course. If the chase car makes contact, in most cases that driver will be deemed at fault for the contact unless otherwise noted. Contact known as "rubbing" is acceptable, however the chase car cannot affect the lead car where loss of drift or loss of line occurs.

Once contact is made and damage occurs to either vehicle, the Judges using majority rule will ascertain fault. If damage due to contact occurs, both drivers have a right to have their spotter enact a "COMPETITION TIME OUT." A Competition Timeout is five (5) minutes in duration. It is expected that in most cases damaged vehicles can be repaired in this time frame.

In some cases, damage sustained to the vehicles may require more time to repair. At this point ONLY the vehicle not at fault may ask for additional time. (NOTE: This does not prevent teams' ability to call a Competition Timeout for other purposes). In the spirit of time and the show, the COMPETITION MANAGER also reserves the right to continue the competition with the outstanding head-to-head matches of that particular round. The COMPETITION MANAGER will re-assess the vehicle between subsequent head-to-head match up's or even at the end of the round.

In most cases FORMULA DRIFT will encourage teams and drivers to finish the head-to-head match-up, but there will be cases where vehicles may not be able to be repaired or contact happened on the last run of a head-to-head in which case the judges can make a call on the winner of the match.

If a team cannot repair their vehicle and the team was also not at fault during the incident, a FORMULA DRIFT official will verify that indeed the car is not repairable in time for the next round and declare the driver the winner of the match. The driver may move onto the next round or if the damage is too extreme, may exit from the competition.

D. If both the lead vehicle and the chase vehicle wreck on the first run of a matchup and are unable to continue due to excessive damage, and no driver is deemed at fault (i.e. both driver's wreck independently of each other), the winner is determined based on the higher of the two qualifying scores. If both the lead vehicle and the chase vehicle wreck on the second run of a matchup and are unable to continue due to excessive damage, and no driver is deemed at fault (i.e. both driver's wreck independently of each other), the winner is determined based on the scoring of the first run of the matchup.

E. Two or more of the following items constitute and automatic zero in tandem:

  • One wheel off course
  • Straightening
  • Hitting a cone or course marker
  • Double entry
  • Abrupt stop
  • Stalling


Three Judges will observe both runs during a head-to-head battle. There will be no declaration of scores between the two runs. At the conclusion of the head to head battle each judge will individually declare a winner. Judges are allowed to converse but are not permitted to show their written winner to any other judge. Judge separation devices may be used. Judges will select from three options:

  • Driver "A" wins
  • Driver "B" wins
  • "One More Time"

The majority will rule and a winner will be decided. In the event there is no clear majority, a "One More Time" will be granted, and the competitors will begin another 2-run head-to-head battle. Multiple "One-More-Times" may be necessary to determine a winner.

2013 Formula DRIFT Judging Panel

Andy Yen
Andy is a grassroots drifter at heart, and well respected among the drivers as keeping the sport true to its origins. Both American and Japanese hot shots alike know Andy as the "King of the Hill" when it comes to spirited driving on local mountain roads in his native Southern California. In competition, Andy was known to commit to his drift early in the run and protect his line at all costs. In the judges' box, Andy scrutinizes competitors under a microscope; even the smallest mistakes can't escape his keen eye. Andy has been judging for Formula DRIFT since 2006.

Dai Yoshihara
Daijiro "Dai" Yoshihara is a veteran pro drifter with 10 years of competition under his belt. Dai pilots his lightened and completely rebuilt Discount Tire Nissan S13, which features a normally aspirated V8 delivering over 600 hp, through the demanding drifting courses, running on his Falken tires. He stands out among his peers for his legendary "look" and signature hairstyle cementing his position as a fan favourite both on and off the track. He is also the 2011 Formula Drift USA overall champion and seeks to share his expertise and insights with the drivers in Asia. He has been judging for Formula Drift Asia since 2009.

Kevin Wells
Residing in California, USA, Kevin Wells has extensive experience working on race automobiles.  A professional mechanic since 1997, Wells brought new and creative engineering to drift vehicles.  Wells has been to each Formula DRIFT event since its inception in 2004.  While as a crew chief he has earned numerous accolades including Mechanic of the Year in 2005, 2006 and 2007 more than any other mechanic in the Series.  In 2009, Wells lead his NOS energy drink team to the coveted Formula DRIFT USA championship. Kevin's knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of a drift vehicle help him to create a safe and fair playing field for all competitors.