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In automobile driving and motorsports, "drifting" is a technique where the driver intentionally oversteers while going around a turn or a curve, such that the rear wheels lose traction. As a result, the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle, such that the car's front wheels point in the opposite direction of the turn. This opposite tire angle is known as "opposite lock" or "counter-steering."

There are a variety of methods a driver can use to kick a car into oversteer. For example, she can suddenly pull the handbrake to lock the rear wheels, she can kick in the clutch to "shock" the rear tires with torque, or she can suddenly ease off of the throttle to shift weight away from the rear tires. "Drifting" is not defined by any one means of inducing oversteer, but merely the fact of inducing oversteer on purpose.

Oversteering on purpose during races originated in Japan, as did the name "drifting" (ドリフト走行, meaning "drift driving" and pronounced dorifuto sōkō, borrowed from the English verb "drift"). Drifting was originally developed in the 1970s by Japanese motorcycle and racecar driver Kunimitsu Takahashi, who often used the technique in his car races, wowing the fans with the smoke produced by his tires during his drifts around turns. Drifting was possible in regulation races without the specialized drift tires used today, because the bias ply racing tires used from the 1960s into the 1980s lent themselves well to drifting.

However the driver who truly popularized drifting was Keiichi Tsuchiya, who studied Takahashi's techniques and developed them outside of racing events by practicing on Japan's many remote mountain roads. Word of his exploits began to spread, until in 1987, several racing magazines worked together to produce a video of Tsuchiya's astonishing drifting techniques. This video, known as Pluspy, became a massive worldwide sensation, and inspired worldwide interest in drifting techniques as well as the modern sport of drift racing. For popularizing the technique to the world, Tsuchiya earned himself the nickname of "Drift King" (ドリフトキング, dorifuto kingu).