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Home / Features / I spent the weekend drifting. If driving sims are your thing, you should too

I spent the weekend drifting. If driving sims are your thing, you should too

Drifting games are all well and good but can they replace the high-octane thrills of the real thing?

duo DMGP 2024 SPAIN © JORDAN BUTTERS and G2A
duo DMGP 2024 SPAIN © JORDAN BUTTERS and G2A

While simulations like Assetto Corsa Competizione and iRacing are as authentic as virtual motorsport gets, they’re not quite able to emulate the sight and smell of an actual event. It’s easy to see why they’ve inspired lots of folks to become real drivers across a range of disciplines. But surely drifting is a whole different set of scrubbed tyres?

Not according to British drift champ Steve ‘Baggsy’ Biagoni, who I caught up with during the first round of Drift Masters 2024 at the Ricardo Tormo circuit near Valencia. He might’ve done things the ‘traditional’ way, but reckons starting virtually can be a big help for drifting newcomers.

“For me, it’s the G-forces, the braking… I’m looking for that movement I get from the car. People starting out on the sim don’t get that, so when they do get into the car, all that stuff gets given to them as a sort of bonus. A lot of the drivers who’ve come from the sim and then go into the cars have been really good at it.

“There’s a whole online virtual drift championship run by Drift Masters that you can compete in. And, the prize for winning that is you can drive the real car. So, a lot of the youngsters coming up have all been on the sim a lot.

Doing it the other way around is less straightforward, it seems. “I’ve got a sim at home and I’ve struggled with it,” Baggsy chuckles.

“I’ve been doing this professionally for the last eight or nine years,” he says. “But it’s actually a very accessible sport. You can go and buy a relatively cheap rear wheel drive car and get started. I learnt to do donuts and figure of eight moves in a Volvo 340, although I had to wait for it to rain before I could actually drift it because it didn’t have enough power to drift in the dry.”

That’s the curious world of drifting though. It’s all a bit, er, mad. Biagoni’s first drift car might have been the Volvo 340 of all things, but he soon migrated to one of the core drift staples, the Nissan 200SX. At the Drift Masters event, he’s standing next to an immaculately presented and race-prepared Toyota GR86.

‘Baggsy’ is one of over fifty professional drivers who are attracting sponsorship deals from big names. Digital marketplace G2A.com spotted that many of the drivers had started out driving on sims and were avid gamers, so saw Drift Masters as the perfect fit for its push for a broader audience – having already invested more than $12 million in esports.

“Drift Masters is all about emotion,” G2A chief marketing officer Mona Kinal told me. “Which is why we’ve now launched a virtual version of Drift Masters in the e-sports arena. It’s for everybody, so amateurs and the more advanced guys, can all experience the sport online.”

Having started with games, G2A now sells anything and everything associated with the digital marketplace, including gift cards, software and subscriptions. “We have more than 30 million customers in 180 countries who’ve purchased more than 100 million products to date,” she says.

There’s a cool vibe surrounding this sport, both online and in the real world. While it attracts professionals as well as amateur drivers, there isn’t the po-faced aura that surrounds motor sports like F1. It’s easy to walk around the pits and get right up next to both the cars and their drivers.

The inaugural Spanish round was won by Estonian driver Kevin Pesur, but the overall feeling I got is that everyone is in with a chance. That’s a good thing – as are the hugs the drivers share after doing battle on the track. It’s a competition, but there’s camaraderie too.

The next round of Drift Masters moves to Mondello Park, Ireland in June. If you can prise yourself away from your racing sim, it’s well worth getting along to. Who knows, keep practicing and maybe one day it might be your turn to be ‘Baggsy’.

Profile image of Rob Clymo Rob Clymo

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Rob is a freelance motoring journalist, and contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv

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