So You Want To Pursue A Career In The World of Drifting – An Open Letter From The Drift Idiot

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I have been asked this question dozens of times since I started Drift Idiot in 2012. I really had no idea how to answer it then, and only recently would I consider myself at least minimally qualified enough to give a respectable answer. The message I continually receive usually looks something like this:

“Hi Sam! I love your series and I eat, sleep, and dream about drifting just like you. It’s all I want to do, and I am ready to do whatever it takes to become a professional drifter/professional drift filmmaker. Do you have any advice?”

First, you are all probably aware that I am not a professional drifter, nor am I a pro-am drifter, nor am I even financially “breaking even” on my drifting projects. However, I have spent a decent amount of time working with the best drivers in the world, and although I haven’t been involved in the sport nearly as long as many other drivers, filmmakers, and photographers, I have given as much of my energy as possible to better myself as a filmmaker, driver, and to promote the sport any way I can. That being said, I am by no means the end-all-be-all on the subject of “how do I become a professional drifter/professional drift filmmaker,” and the following “open letter” is merely my opinion based off of my personal experiences and documenting the experiences of the best Formula Drift drivers in the world.

The following letter is an actual letter I wrote in response to the most recent individual to ask me “how do I become a professional drifter/professional drift filmmaker?” 


Hello [Future Drift Champion/Award Winning Documentarion]!

I’m happy to share any info about my past or present experiences with the sport and all of the background details that go along with this passion.

First, when I started, I had already graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and was working 3 jobs, usually working a combined 60 hours a week.

I started drifting because I had attended Formula Drift Irwindale as a spectator in 2011 and I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. That, in combination with the Speedhunters post about Matt Powers’ green S14, started a fire in me, like you, that had me eating, sleeping, and thinking about nothing but drifting.

I found the right car, bought it, made a video, made some friends and fans, and now everything is perfect and stress-free.

That is a complete lie.

At one time I had savings and lived fairly large with my hard earned money. Since I started drifting my financial situation has been shaky at best. I have run out of money entirely a few times since then. I was in a very committed relationship with my “high-school sweetheart” when I began drifting. I thought it would be the last relationship I would ever have. There were other issues, but I can say that my commitment to my personal drifting and aspirations to immerse myself in the big leagues caused unmanageable strain on the relationship and had a part in its demise. I had to quit one of my jobs right away, and as you may have read, as of a few weeks ago, I quit the other job so I can work only on my commercial photography and Drift Idiot. At this moment, I am making less money than I did before I started drifting and I can’t make impulsive purchases or splurge on food or drink without extreme caution. I still work 40-60 hours a week to fund my passions, I just don’t make as much. But I am happy.

I found a way to make money in the field I am passionate about. I am constantly building and rebuilding a bad ass car. I have strengthened friendships with old friends, made some incredible new friends, and fortunately now have an incredibly supportive girlfriend who jumps at the opportunity to spend 14 hour days filming with me and understands when I go multiple nights without sleep to finish an editing project.

But enough of my story for now.

This is my advice to you and anyone else who is ready to throw away their “normal” lives, seek financial instability, and spit in the face of anyone, loved ones included, who isn’t supportive of your reckless path.

– If you are in college, finish college. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my college training. Not so much what I learned in class, but simply learning to speak to people and finish tasks in a timely and professional manner. If you are not in college yet, and you can get a well-paying job with room for growth and increased pay then maybe don’t go to college. But you might regret it later. No one that I graduated with will say that their education was a waste, even if they are not working in a field even remotely related to their degree.

– Work. Work as much as your body and mind can handle. 40 hours minimum. 60-70 is better. Work in the automotive field if you can. Work anywhere. You can’t do anything in the automotive world without money. You can’t drift competitively, travel, or remain sane without a lot of money. You don’t need a formal education to make money. I typically made $15-$30/hr parking cars as a valet, and many friends in the service industry waiting tables or tending bar easily make that or more. I haven’t met anyone who is succeeding in this lifestyle that doesn’t absolutely work their asses off. The people at the top work harder than anyone else. NOTHING about their rise to success has been easy.

– Have a daily driver. Your drift car will break. You need to be reliable, and trying to daily your drift car is bad idea. You also won’t push it 100% at the track if you need it to get you to work the next day. You should get a truck that can tow a car.

– Buy a drift car. Buy a lot of tools. Buy a 240sx, a BMW 3-series, or a 350Z. Rip out as much weight as possible. Weld the diff. Buy spare wheels. Buy the cheapest new tires you can find. Drift. Break something. Fix it. Add suspension mods. Add a roll cage. Add more suspension mods. Break more things. Fix them. Add power. Drift.

– Talk to everyone who knows more than you, which when you start, will be everyone. Talk to the best people at the track. Talk to the best people in the world. To the best of my knowledge, Chris Forsberg answers every serious question sent his way. Every other pro drifter will probably do the same.

– Profit?

Congratulations! You now have the life you’ve always wanted. Only not really. Drifting is great, but it is not the end-all-be-all of experiences. The friends you’ll meet, the things you’ll learn, and the places you’ll go are more important than your time in the seat. You probably won’t be world champion. You should try, but only if you are ready to be 100% committed. Even if you spend every cent, dedicate every hour, and get extremely lucky, there will be some one else with as much commitment who is still more skilled than you. Be prepared for failure. Be prepared for sleepless nights, bloody hands, and mental breakdowns.

THE SHORT ANSWER: I don’t recommend pursuing a life in drifting. But if you are like me, or any people committing a large portion of their life to any passion, then it’s not really a choice – we don’t really know how to live any other way.

I hope this gives you all a bit of insight into my experiences with the sport thus-far, and please feel free to ask me any further questions on this subject or any others – SN 

Rehabbing the Ride

I found a car. Not the perfect car, but is there such a thing? This 240 was built mostly right by a guy who wanted to learn how to drift. He did his research and bought almost all of the basic parts to get the car to a point where a new guy can learn to drift without complaining that it didn’t have what it took. And then it sat uncovered in a dusty shed for around 6 months.

With the help of some dedicated friends, without which this venture wouldn’t have been reasonably possible, we stripped, scrubbed and rehabbed the car the best we knew how. Which, I might add, is probably not that great. I have the most mechanical experience out of the few of us, and that is mostly just from watching others and rarely hands on. But as in all new things, one rarely starts out skilled. I’m sure if you were to ask any drifter of any level about what they put into their cars, I’m sure they would all agree the gears of any drift ride are lubricated with blood and toil.

These guys. For every successful drifter I’m sure there are at least 3 die-hard bros willing to help out, even if the tasks are as minute as removing vinyl from the previous owner or drinking your beer.

I think there are few things prettier than 90’s inline motors. Even if this specific example barely makes any power. After a bit of degreasing and effort we made this puny powerplant shine and purr happily (yet still noisily) after replacing all of its fluids and spark system. After my 3 events I am starting to realize that a bit more horsepower would really help – but I am dedicated to maximizing my low hp skills until this motor dies or until I feel there is little else to learn from from being slow.

The previous owner had outfitted the car with nearly every SPL suspension component available for the chassis, but never got around to installing these rear traction rods. It was a great excuse for me to finally buy the cordless impact driver I had always wanted.

The car was definitely put away wet and has some rough edges, but rehabbing it has been an invaluable learning experience. I have no experience reglassing body panels yet, but I have certainly improved my zip-tying skills.

I was skeptical about the aesthetics of a rattle-canned, textured hood, but like most things on this car, it has slowly grown on me. I’ve had some over heating issues that a vented hood would likely help with, but hopefully as our temperatures drop below triple-digits it will become less of an issue.

(Sorry for the terrible photo quality. I only had my phone during this night repair session)

I’ve been slowly replacing little things on the car as it becomes obvious that 200K miles of abuse hasn’t been kind to some of the weaker components. I replaced the previously installed Altima fans and stock radiator and hoses with Enjuku’s ISIS parts that are incredibly good considering their relatively minuscule prices.

Since I sadly don’t have the ability to tow the car to the track yet, I needed it to be street legal. The first time I attempted emissions I failed miserably (about 10x the acceptable amount of CO) and it prompted me to replace the stock catalytic converter (as well as the spark system, 02 sensors and coolant temp sensor) with a new high-flow cat.

It sadly still wasn’t enough. I only reduced my CO emissions by half, which was still well over the legal amount. I picked up and installed an ISIS fuel pressure regulator and hit the emissions station again running the minimum fuel pressure, and I was pretty shocked to learn that I somehow passed. Installing the FPR was actually pretty fun and was my first glimpse at learning the basics of the KA motor.

At my third event, some wiring to the Walbro fuel pump that the previous owner installed came loose on a corner and killed the car early in the night. I was so eager to get back out on the track that I stupidly and repeatedly submerged my hand in near-boiling gasoline to try and fix it without any effect. After some pep talking and burn cream, I geared up and did the job the right way a few days later in ideal conditions. Having the car fail so early in the evening was emotionally devastating, but it made getting back out there and kicking ass at the next event all the more important.

Keep in mind that all of this work was done in a garage with temperatures usually exceeding 110 degrees. I hear Washington has a good drift scene. And clouds. Clouds would be nice.

Where does that leave the car and I now? Everything should be just about ready for the next event in a few weeks. I just need some fluid changes and a few more zip tie bumper repairs. That reminds me – I need more zip ties.

I finally came up with a mantra for my efforts, and that is to “Suck Less.” When I think of my ultimate goal in this sport and the Drift Idiot venture, it is simply to have fun and to be better than I was the previous day. I just made a few “prototype” shirts that me and a buddy will be wearing in Irwindale this weekend with my home made zip-tie font. If there’s enough interest, stickers and shirts will be available for giveaway or purchase soon.

Thanks for reading! I can’t wait to share my progress and what I will learn from drifting’s greatest. I hope you all join me down this fun-filled and smoky road.

Check out my first 2 drift event videos here and the 3rd should be completed very soon!

And please check out Drift Idiot regularly at the site, Facebook, and Twitter for more updates and general awesomeness.

– Sam Nalven

Corey Hosford – A Formula D Rookie With a 700hp Z and a Killer Mustache

Corey Hosford decided he wanted to drift. In one season he went from attending his first XDC event to being a fully licensed Formulad D driver, and is currently fulfilling one of his all time dreams of shredding tires at “The House of Drift,” Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, in round 7 this weekend.

Saying that he’s only been drifting for 2 seasons is somewhat inaccurate however, as he has been behind the wheel of some form of hoon device since he was old enough to reach the pedals. Corey currently teaches high performance driving at Bondurant Driving School in Phoenix, AZ, when he’s not training to take down the old guard in the K-Sport 350Z. I met up with him and his spotter Dustin at the Bondurant track a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to find out what he’s all about and what he has to say to all of the drifting noobs out there.

DI: I understand you’ve been focused on professional driving for the last decade of your life. When and how did you get started?

CH: I was actually pretty fortunate that I started racing at a very young age. I was lucky enough to be raised in a family of motorsport enthusiasts. My father grew up racing motorcycles and he ended up getting a pro career running AMA flat-track and supercross.  When I popped out, that was the direction he really wanted to push me in. When I was 5 or 6 years old he put me in cadet go-karts and from there I just progressively worked through the ranks.

DI: After all of these years of training others while at the same time advancing your own skills while working as an instructor at Bondurant, you could have seemingly chosen to pursue any form of racing. Why did you choose drifting?

CH: I feel like drifting is one of those sports that can relate to a lot of people. Even if they are not fans of any other motor sports, drifting is exciting enough to bring in a lot of other fans that wouldn’t watch anything else. It’s exciting, constantly evolving and high speed. It really represents every aspect of driving.

DI: Drifting is hard. Especially if you are new and have no idea what you’re doing. Many beginners have no idea how to even initiate a drift let alone how to maintain one. And many novice drifters have no idea how to take it to the next level. What one piece of advice would you give to a driver who wants to improve?

CH: Hands down, being committed is the most important skill. A lot of people that get in to this sport get easily frustrated because they don’t feel themselves progressing.  People completely stop, back out of the sport and sell their car – and I get it. If you actually want to keep progressing in the sport, you have to be committed. You need to have the dedication to want to keep going and getting better. If you get to a point where you feel like you’re plateauing or falling off, know that nearly everybody in this sport has gone through something similar to that. If you’re not a pro mechanic or can’t afford a new car it’s common for your car not to function correctly even after you’ve put a lot of work into it. And it’s equally easy to become upset at your own ability. Even if you have those frustrations, just keep doing it, stay committed, and if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to actually make it happen. If you stay frustrated, you already know what your result is going to be. If you have that goal of becoming a professional driver and running in Formula Drift or if you just want to advance yourself a little further – the only way you are going to do it is if you just stay committed.  Don’t let failure get in your way. Don’t let people stop you. If you want to do it, do it. You are the one who ultimately makes the decision.

DI: What sort of skills does a driver need outside of the car to bridge that wide gap from amateur to pro?

CH: I think that any amateur driver that wants to break into the professional ranks needs more than just being a skilled driver – they need to market themselves, and they need to know how to market their sponsoring companies. If you are not out there promoting the brand or promoting yourself it’s going to be difficult to get and maintain that sponsorship.  I see a lot of people having difficulty bringing the funding in or trying to grow themselves, when really it’s all about putting in the work. You need to go to people’s shops and say “This is what I can bring to the table” rather than just sending an email and hoping that you get a response back. A lot of people like putting a face to the name, and not just a name in an email box next to a thousand others.  It’s more than just “what can I do beyond driving,” it’s going out there and communicating well, relating with others, and looking to promote yourself and the brand. If you can’t do that it is going to be very difficult to find a company that wants to use you to endorse their product.

DI: You quickly advanced through the pro-am league and got your Formula D license in just one season. What has been you and your team’s biggest challenge going into the big leagues with relatively little seat time dedicated to drifting?

CH: The most difficult thing in going from an amateur to a pro is just the level of the competition and the level of their cars. It’s on a completely different scale than any other drifting I’ve been involved with in the amateur ranks. The best thing you can do your first season is just to go in there and learn. You can learn from these guys, see what they’re doing and then use that to grow, and then progressively keep growing until you get to the top. It was definitely a rude awakening running with these guys.  It’s not just a street 240 going out, putting stickers on and competing – these are racecars. Purpose-built drift cars that are made to do one thing.

DI: How do you and K-sport Z plan on being more competitive in the seasons to come?

CH: We learned a lot this year. Going into next year we are going to be making a ton of changes. Possibly the motor, but the biggest thing is that we are going to be dumping a lot of weight. We are one of the heaviest cars competing in the series (3275 pds) and I feel if we can keep the same horsepower range but shed 400-500+ pounds it is going to make a huge difference in how competitive we can be.  Ultimately, we just want to keep getting better. That’s our main focus. In our rookie year our main focus was just to make it to each round, and then go out there, drive, and learn. One of the biggest things we’ve got out of this season is learning the tracks. It’s difficult to show up to a track with zero previous information.

DI: Once you pull into the track for a Formula D event, how much practice time to you usually get in before your qualifying runs?

CH: Well there’s Thursday practice, and usually most of the teams will register for that. You can probably get about 12 runs in that 4-hour window. Those Thursday runs are to try to get your car’s baseline set up, and then when Friday rolls around you have only a 1-hour practice. In that time you have 40 cars show up and they will split the field in half so each group of twenty gets a full hour. In that time you can get maybe 8 runs in. And in this practice session you have the option to be a lead driver or a chase driver. Usually people are pretty conservative on that day because they are still chasing that set-up for the car or are trying to get a better feel for the track. So we get about 20 laps total before qualifying. Coming in as a rookie, you have almost no knowledge of the track and then you get only those 20 runs to set up your car for qualifying. Now that we’ve gone through this season, we have a lot more information so when we go to the track again we can start with where we left off the previous year.

DI: It seems like Formula D announcer Jared Deanda has a nickname for just about everyone. Have you had the honor of being graced with a trademark nickname from “The Voice of Formula D?”

CH: Jared fortunately gave me the nickname “The Boss,” or “Like a Boss.” I don’t know how he comes up with his nicknames, but he can be super witty. He’s been using that all year and it’s been sticking. As I walk around the paddock people come up to me and actually refer to me as “The Boss” now.

(ioxBossxoi is the alias of a fan who designed a 1:1 version of the K-Sport Z in Forza on Xbox. He asked Corey if he could sign the bumper while he was competing in Seattle earlier this year. Thinking that the bumper was going to be trashed after a mishap with the Evergreen wall, Corey happily obliged, but they later decided that the bumper wasn’t so bad. Now they rock the sharpie as an homage to a dedicated fan.)

DI: With your teacher status at Bondurant, I imagine you get the opportunity to practice quite a bit with some of the Bondurant cars. Which is more fun to drift, the Cadillac CTS or the Corvette?

CH: Personally, I would have to go with the Corvette. The car is set up so well with a good balance and tons of grip. Another Formula D driver (name redacted) and I were actually out here a few weeks ago driving the Corvettes and we were both actually really impressed with how capable the car is at drifting.

DI: I am a guy with a brand new (old) 95 240SX with 160 HP, and of course at my first drift event I got out there and couldn’t keep the car from flying off of the track. After 4 hours and maybe 30 runs, I was finally able to fully link the course. It was awesome. But I still suck. What would you say to some one like me, who is brand new to the sport, still sucks, has the heart to keep going, but still has no idea how to get better?

CH: If you don’t want to suck at a sport, the only way to get better is by constantly doing it. Go to every track day, every amateur drift event and keep driving. Keep wanting to work on those skills. If you set a goal, like linking each corner this event, and have the dedication to follow though and keep doing it, you’ll progressively get better with seat time. Keep working on those basic skills.

DI: Inside the car, what should some one as new as me be focusing on?

CH: If you were to pick one specific thing, it’s committing to the corner. Once the car is at angle – stay on the gas. With such low horsepower, if your foot is not on the gas the car is going to straighten up and you’ll lose drift. Once you get the car on angle, stay on the throttle. Throttle control is and essential skill to learn if you don’t want to suck.

DI: One thing I’ve noticed starting out in a low powered car and is that I was initially entering corners way too slow because I was afraid. It would be impossible to make up that speed deficit mid-corner. I’ve learned that proper entry speed is essential for me.

CH: Yeah a lot of people say that if you hit a corner and aren’t drifting already then you need to go faster. And it’s hard to tell somebody who is not doing so well already to just go faster and keep your foot on the throttle.

DI: When you’re not at Bondurant teaching cops how to catch robbers and teaching new Corvette ZR1 owners how to not put them into walls, what can we find you doing?

CH: I’m an avid gamer. I’m a big fan of World of Warcraft. I play that game all of the time.

DI: How many characters do you have?

CH: I currently have 3 level 85s. I have a Tauren warrior, a Tauren druid, and a Troll hunter.

DI: Which do you like playing the most?

CH: Right now I’m grinding on my hunter. Getting’ down on that thing. Haha.

DI: What kind of car do you drive on the streets?

CH: My personal car is a Cadillac CTS. It’s a fun car. I’ve put C6 brakes on it all the way around, a Borla exhaust, it’s lowered on K-sport coilovers, and I actually just got the heads machined so I’m running a little more compression.

DI: Before Formula D Vegas, I read on Twitter that you were giving away mustaches to people at the event.

CH: It’s funny, the mustache actually started growing on me… haha. I started growing it out as a joke to be weird I guess? Then a lot of people actually started complimenting me on it and talking about it so I figured I would let this thing hang around for a little bit. Then going in to Vegas I was thinking I wanted to have some fun with this, so I ended up buying around 1000 mustaches. During the driver signing I had a box of mustaches and people kept grabbing them. By the end of the night, it was hilarious watching a bunch of kids walking through the pits with fake mustaches. It didn’t really start out as something cool I wanted to do, I just wanted to have fun with it and it eventually turned into this thing… now I’m the mustache guy.

DI: Do you think it will stay with you for a while?

CH: I’m trying to think of a competition or something I can do with myself. Like if I don’t do well, I’ll cut it off. That, or I might let it keep going until I get a top 8. Maybe in the off season I’ll figure it out.

DI: My vote is to grow it out.

CH: If I do it I’m going full handlebars. I’ll be Hulk Hogan in 20 years.

DI: Do you have any extra advice for the new guys?

CH: Do it right the first time. If you are going to build a car, make sure you build it right the first time. I’ve seen a lot of people build a car not the way they should or take short cuts and they later end up having many more problems and actually spend more time off track fixing those problems. Make sure you are investing your hard earned money into proper parts and spend more time maintaining them so they last. If you have a car that actually works and lasts longer, it’s going to get you more seat time and make you a better driver. If you are driving something that’s being hard parked half the event because you broke some cheap product or a part that never worked right, the end result is that you’re going to be sitting on the sidelines. Do it right – get it done.

DI: I ended up experiencing that on my WRX. I was young and couldn’t afford expensive parts, so I ended up buying a cheap exhaust and cheap coilovers and then ended having to spend even more buying the right parts later. I would have saved more money in the long run if I just had patience and I bought the right part first.

CH: If you go on eBay and buy a cheaper part or take a hand-me-down part that some one has had on their car for 20 years, it can potentially cause you problems. The cheaper product may get you out there for a lap or two or may find you a temporary fix, but it will be just that – temporary. Get something that will be durable and build it right. You’re going to keep on spending more money if you don’t.

DI: You’re going to keep on spending money no matter what.  Haha.

CH: Hah yeah you’re going to keep on spending money either way you do it, but try to do it right the first time. The most important thing is to have fun with it. Drifting started as a fun sport. If you lose that enjoyment, you should probably not be out there. You have to make sure that any time you hop in that driver’s seat you enjoy it. That’s one way of improving your skills. Enjoy it, drive with your friends, and get better.

– Thanks for reading! Please check back soon for the video portion of this interview where Corey focuses on teaching you how to “Suck Less” at drifting and then calls his mom to get her take on the matter.

Until then, please check out driftidiot.com for videos of my hilarious attempts at drifting (Day 3 will be out VERY soon) and other blog posts.

Sam Nalven driftidiot@gmail.com

All photos © Sam Nalven

Before We Slide: An Intro to Drift Idiot


My name is Sam Nalven and I know almost nothing about drifting.

I mean to change this. After years of watching Formula D’s top drifters, I finally decided to jump head first into this awesome sport. I spent  years casually looking for the right Nissan 240SX but after not finding the right one and lacking the time, money, and commitment to the sport, I had all but resigned to a life of sticky grip driving in my 02′ Subaru WRX.

A few months ago, I ran into an old friend, Jesse Robles, who just started building his own S13 drift missile. Over a few beers at the bar where he worked, I picked his brain about his car, the sport, and how a person who has no idea what they are doing gets into drifting. First things first – I needed a car.

I adore my WRX.

It has been my daily driver for 8 years. While the engine has always been reliable (it sees redline almost every day and has nearly 200,000!) the transmission has needed to be rebuilt twice. This last rebuild, I researched what it would take to make it RWD. While the conversion was not cost prohibitive, learning, and crashing, my daily driver did not seem like a wise choice.

I had been scouting for 240’s on Craigslist, Autotrader and Ebay with little luck finding anything in the condition I wanted at a price I could afford – then Jesse told me about AZ240SX. The first day on there I found this:

It is a 95′ 240SX base model that the previous owner started building for drifting. It met my criteria of having a stock motor, being (mostly) tastefully modified otherwise, and have a 5-spd. What really sold me on the car is that it already has nearly all of the main suspension components replaced with SPL parts, came with 6 wheels (2 of which have brand spankin’ new Falken Azenis), corbeau buckets, and a welded diff. The interior has already been completely stripped, which is a con for many buyers, but I had planned on doing it anyways so it was a plus for me.

The main bad part about the car is that it had been sitting in storage for the last 6 months – and it showed. This car was loved once, but it became the bastard step-child once the previous owner moved to Miami, AZ.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

While this site will start out just as a blog for me and my project, I aim to expand it as a resource for drifters of all levels, and specifically those who are wishing to get into the sport.

I have little to no mechanic experience other than watching those who do on occasion. I have few tools, no garage (storing at my mom’s for now), and no RWD driving experience.

What I do have is passion for the sport, a lot of helpful support from friends and family, and an eager desire to take part in this awesome scene.

I can’t wait to experience drifting and to meet all of the awesome people who share my passion.

                    – S