For many people, racing games are the closest any of us will get to racing. But for Olly Silcock, racing sims are what got him hooked on the sport of drifting. Eight years later, and Motul-supported Olly is one of the UK’s top drifters. This is his drifting story, and how you can drift like a pro.
How did you get into drifting, Olly?
I was doing auto cross as a bit of a hobby, and I was playing a simulator to try and get better at that and accidentally discovered drifting. After a short foray into that, I thought I might be quite good at it, and sold everything I owned and bought a drift car, a Nissan Silvia S13, from Japan. I didn’t know much about it or anyone else who drifted. I went along to some learn-to-drift days, and for about a year I was happy practicing on part-worn budget tyres and learning. Somebody mentioned I was getting quite consistent and maybe I should think about competing, so I took my licence and started racing in 2013.
That’s interesting. You discovered drifting through computer games. What’s harder, drifting in real life or virtuality?
It’s actually easier in real life. It’s a lot more visceral. The thing that doesn't come across in the games is the risk and reward factor. In real life you can feel the inertia, you can tell where your grip is. Games can still help with technique and muscle memory, and to practice your line. With drifting you’re making cars do things they don’t want to do, so once you get your head around forgetting everything you know about track driving, you get into that addictive, adrenalin zone.
Drifting is one of the fastest growing motorsports. Would you consider yourself a professional drifter or does it still feel like a hobby?
When people say professional drifter, even worldwide there aren’t many drifters who do it full time. The professional aspect of it is you reach a pinnacle of drifting in your country. We achieved it fairly early on in 2013/2014. But the way the sport has evolved is incredible. In 2014, cars were normally under 500hp and the team would consist of the drifter, his mate and a Transit van. Now, we’re seeing 1000hp cars, sequential gearboxes, nitrous systems, and pretty much full race teams. I’m pleased to manage to stay at the forefront of it.
How has the last year or so been for you?
I'd had a couple of years out due to a neck operation and got back into it in 2019. In 2020, we gave the car an upgrade, so we came back into it strong and ended up in fourth place in the British Drift Championship, so that left us technically fourth-best in the country for the 2020 season.
Do you compete internationally or only in the UK?
We'd like to and that's what we're aiming towards and working with partners on. But it all comes down to money. Self-funding is expensive. If we could compete internationally, we would. We’d love to go to the Drift Masters European Championship, and there are some events in Norway we’d like to drive at.
What tips and tricks do you have for people wanting to get into drifting?
To drift, at low level, there's not a lot you need: a rear-wheel-drive car, either a welded diff, or an LSD, a bucket seat and a working handbrake. And soon you'll then find your limits. It’s important not to over-engineer things until you’re able to drive them to your limit. So, start in something low-powered, fairly basic, and have fun. It’s a great motorsport to get into. Then, as you progress, you start to look at higher power, super-grippy semi-slick tyres, and suspension modifications such as increased steering angle. That allows you to push the envelope further and further and getting into pro-level builds.
What’s the secret to drifting?
Contrary to popular opinion, drifting is about grip rather than a lack of it. It’s a case of balancing your abilities with grip and power levels. Once you get your head around it, it starts to make sense. But it’s such an alien concept at first. When people are learning, it feels very uncomfortable, jerky and quite scary. But as soon as you get to the point where you suddenly realise what’s going on and how to address it, it becomes incredibly smooth and fluid. As for the car, mine has 675hp. There are people running upwards of 1000hp, but there's a balance between the amount of grip you have, and just turning your tyres into smoke.
How does Motul help you with your drifting?
Running at the level we are now, we have to start using sequential gearboxes, and the warranty of that is tied with using Motul. When we started looking at the whole product range and what other Motul products we could use, we started finding all these different areas of the car that could benefit from better fluid solutions. Now we run Motul fluids in nearly every single area of the car. For example, in our brake and clutch systems, quite often you’ll find that heat soak is an issue, so we started using RBF660 to reduce fade. Working with Motul has been quite an eye opener. There aren’t a lot of big companies involved with UK drifting, so its involvement has started opening a lot of people’s eyes and helping the sport to be taken more seriously.
Photography credits: Naomi Koji-Paton - Beasy Media