We are a colorful bunch here at X-Team, and, this time, we are happy to talk to Maciej Chmurski, our resident expert on all things car drifting and drone racing. Who has not dreamed about driving like they do in movies? Well, Maciej can actually do that, though he only does it legally and in a controlled environment for everyone's safety, of course.
Still, consider anything and everything you learn about drifting and drones today potentially dangerous to you or at least your wallet, since that first good drift and that first good lap with the drone are but a gateway drug for more, more, more!
Ben: Maciej, how did you get into drifting? You have once told me you even do things like change whole engines from one car to another, with all the required customizations. Have you always been a "gearhead", or was it something you picked up recently? Is it learning by doing, or did you have a car mechanic standing by with a fire extinguisher and 911 on speed dial?
A friend of mine built a drift car, took me for a proper spin; he did a 100+ km/h drift, and I simply got addicted.
I think I have been a gearhead ever since my young years. We have often been watching 10-15 years older people drift in Opel Ascona Bs, old BMWs... Pevo, Sosen and Nad100 were the precursors of motorsports in our small hometown, and we admired them as kids. Here you have a video from 2009 of them drifting.
I even met one of those guys recently, now in his late 40s, and he was very happy about the fact that he was my inspiration.
In the beginning we did lots of reading on the internet, getting to know which cars provide cheap ways to make them faster, handle better, etc. Then, we would buy parts, try to figure out putting them in ourselves — not many people would do those mods often, so if someone was modding something, a whole pack of people would visit and come back over the next few days to help, see the machine alive, and test it afterwards — a very rewarding feeling of course! Also some people were better at welding, others at wiring the engine, etc.
Brad: What is better, the Initial D anime or the Initial D live action movie? Are you as cool as Takumi, when you drift?
Anime. Obvious question, important though! And I guess so, yeah.
William: Do you prefer front-, rear-, or all-wheel-drive cars?
Brad: How much HP would you need to drift an AWD-car on bitumen? I feel like a lot more than an RWD.
Lots and lots more. RWD is easily driftable on dry bitumen from 200+ HP, and AWD would be nice around 350 HP. AWD drifting has very different characteristics though — you can watch Ken Block in his 600+ HP monster Ford Fiesta.
For example, my car does a 150 km/h drift. With AWD, it would need more than 500 horsepower to do that. As it is, it did 291 HP on a test bench several months ago, also with a huge amount of torque — 470 Nm — that means the power is available from really low RPM.
Also worth noting — I have beaten an Audi S6 with 350 HP, a new Camaro with 315 HP, and was almost as fast as new Audi S8 that had 520 HP, all due to my really low weight, I think it weights 1250-1300 kg now. Weight really has a big influence on acceleration.
Jakub: How does one get started? Just by buying a car and going to tracks? By getting training? What is necessary, apart from the car itself, and what is a good car you would recommend for starters?
I started drifting in a simulator game called Live For Speed. We would meet with our friends online, every one of us had a force feedback wheel. I saved for a whole year to buy the Logitech G27, years before having my first car. Then, when I had my first chance to drift a friends driftcar, I already knew how to drift — that sim already taught me how handling an RWD works.
Then, I just bought an old BMW E36 for 1800 PLN (approx. $480), sold the whole interior, exhaust, etc., and welded a cheaper one myself. By then, the cost of the car was lowered to around 1200 PLN. Then I bought a racing suspension — K-Sport Drift — for 2000 PLN and put it in the car. Some other cheap mods followed, and I had a track-ready car for under 3500 PLN (approx $930).
Then I got to the Tor Poznan circuit and started learning big time by racing with other people!
Jakub: So you started racing before drifting? I am saving for a proper track car to get some offline skills (outside of Gran Tourismo) on a real track in Poznan before hitting the Ring.
Yeah, something like that. Beside winters, when you can drift with really cheap cars.
I would recommend getting some cheap underpowered RWD, as proper track cars are not good for learning. For example, the E36 with a M43 engine, called 1.8IS — 140 HP. Proper modding is lot cheaper on Beemers. Some other brands may be cheaper to buy but proper restoration and modifications cost twice as much. If I were doing a new project car, I would go with the S13 or maybe S14. Also, old RWD Nissans built in the cheapest but reliable way are called missile cars. They are not good looking, but handle really well. There is a big group of people that drift 'missiles' at the Ebisu Circuit, Japan — the cradle of drifting.
Put simply, any car will need some mods, like a hydraulic handbrake, stiff suspension, welded diff both for track racing and drifting... Good starters are BMW E36, Nissan S13, and Mazda MX5.
Ben: You said you started out in a sim — I guess that one is a bit outdated at this point, so do you know a current-gen sim for... err... similar scientific pursuits?
Assetto Corsa, Project Cars — games that you should not approach without a force feedback wheel.
Also, I think that physics are not as good as in Live For Speed or the best rally sim ever, Richard Burns Rally.
Those do not have very good graphics, I agree, but the physics are the best.
Henrique: In real life, what was the most exotic car you have ever driven?
I do not have much experience with real exotic cars, so exotic would mean something else for me — Mazda RX8 with its rotary engine, the BMW E30 with a F20C engine from a Honda S2000, a Mustang Shelby GT500, a 1977 MG MGB, a Nissan GTR...
Brad: Is the GTR your dream car?
It is a great car, but if I had that kind of money, I would buy several other cars, I guess, instead of this one.
Jakub: Do you think drifting skills are useful for an everyday ride, or is it only for showing off?
Very useful in those extreme situations on the road.
Kelvin: So, before we conclude, I have a question for you about drones. I have considered building a custom drone for cruising and recording decent footage; could you give me some recommendations for where to start?
There are two possibilities. A drone with a Gimbal, which would give perfect stabilization, versus a GoPro attached to the drone without any stabilization — my videos are done with the latter, but having a Gimbal also runs the danger of damaging the Gimbal in a crash, which happens pretty often in the first months of flying that kind of a drone. So I would first decide how much control over the drone you need. For example, with Mavic Pro, flying is really easy and you can focus on having great video shots.
Learning to fly well takes up to a year, if you fly 1 hour per week. Without a Gimbal, I would suggest building something like Butter Kwad, for more adventurous flying. Also, start with a sim, e.g. FPV Freerider. When you fly in acrobatic mode, you need a controller where the throttle starts from the bottom. I.e. you do not steer the drone like 'go up' 'go down', you just control the throttle.
Ryan: If you could fly anywhere in the world right now and capture drone footage, where would it be and why?
Norwegian fjords or some other epic mountain-ish environment, because I love flying really fast between obstacles, and that provides even more epic footage.
Ryan: How have you not done this yet?
On my way! More skills, more tech, we will get there!
Ryan: Commit. Push. Unleash.