Thomson soon will be the first town in the area to have a sanctioned drift race.
StreetWiseDrift is sanctioning an event in Thomson on Saturday, June 18, that includes Pro-Am and amateur drift racing, spectator drags, gymkhana and a car show. Josh Galbreath, formerly known for his wake-boarding excursions, has picked up the new sport and is bringing it to his hometown.
"It'll be the first one in the area that I know of," Galbreath said. "It'll be better than most of the ones around Georgia because it's right off the interstate and on a paved road."
Called "Clear to Drift" because it's being held on the runway of the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport, the event will include about 60 drifting racers from the sport's elite, including Drift Mechaniks and Team Rowdy.
Drifting is a driving technique in which the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels, said Brian Phillips, the founder of StreetWise. A car is drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle and the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction of the turn, with the driver maintaining vehicle control and a high exit speed.
The winner is selected according to the line angle and speed maintained and the overall excitement of the drift, rather than who crosses the finish line first.
"It's the art of driving a car to the edge of its limits," Phillips said. "It's ballet on the asphalt. It's like barrel racing for cars."
Gymkhana racing includes drifting and other techniques, such as reversals, 180- and 360-degree spins, parking boxes and figure eights through a track with obstacles such as cones, tires or barrels, within a set time limit.
"StreetWiseDrift is sanctioning Clear to Drift in conjunction with Thomson Drift Events and the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce in an effort to support growth of the sport in the area," Phillips said.
Amateurs also may participate in the event, and drawings will be held to allow members of the crowd to ride along with a pro. Phillips said StreetWise events raise awareness of the dangers of illegal drift racing, and he gets frequent reports from law enforcement agencies of a decline of incidents after StreetWise events in a community.
"It only makes sense," he said. "They can pay to drift with us and don't have to look over their shoulder or worry about hitting anything because we have all the safety personnel and equipment in place. Plus, it's cheaper to register and drive with us than it is to pay a ticket if you're pulled over for illegal drifting."
Galbreath and Phillips met May 25 at Thomson's airport with drift race coordinator Howard Smith and SouthDrift Association's Chad Copeland to test drift the runway, determine where concrete barriers would be needed, and to measure degree differences in the runway to map out a course.
Forward McDuffie Executive Director Mike Carrington said bleachers will be brought in for the event.
Clear to Drift begins at 8 a.m. June 18. Admission is $10 for spectators.
It will cost $75 to participate in drifting, $30 for gymkhana and $15 to be in the car show. Parking is free at the Augusta Tech Thomson Campus, and concessions will be available.
Go to www.streetwisedrift. com or find Thomson Drift Events on Facebook.