Drifting as a driving technique is documented as early as the 1930s as being used by drivers of the Grand Prix cars of the day. At least one piece of extant period footage used to promote the sale of a rare Auto Union D-Type racer clearly depicts the driver throwing his vehicle into a controlled drift to navigate a bend in the road racing track.
Modern drifting as a sport started out as a racing technique popular in the All Japan Touring Car Championship races. Motorcycling legend turned driver, Kunimitsu Takahashi, was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. He is noted for hitting the apex (the point where the car is closest to the inside of a turn) at high speed and then drifting through the corner, preserving a high exit speed. This earned him several championships and a legion of fans who enjoyed the spectacle of smoking tires. The bias ply racing tires of the 1960s-1980s lent themselves to driving styles with a high slip angle. As professional racers in Japan drove this way, so did the street racers.
Keiichi Tsuchiya (known as the Dorikin/Drift King) became particularly interested by Takahashi's drift techniques. Tsuchiya began practicing his drifting skills on the mountain roads of Japan, and quickly gained a reputation amongst the racing crowd. In 1987, several popular car magazines and tuning garages agreed to produce a video of Tsuchiya's drifting skills. The video, known as Pluspy, became a hit and inspired many of the professional drifting drivers on the circuits today. In 1988, alongside Option magazine founder and chief editor Daijiro Inada, he would help to organize one of the first events specifically for drifting called the D1 Grand Prix. He also drifted every turn in Tsukuba Circuit in Japan.
One of the earliest recorded drift events outside Japan was in 1993, held at Willow Springs Raceway in Willow Springs, California hosted by the Japanese drifting magazine and organization Option. Inada, founder of the D1 Grand Prix in Japan, the NHRA Funny Car drag racer Kenji Okazaki and Keiichi Tsuchiya, who also gave demonstrations in a Nissan 180SX that the magazine brought over from Japan, judged the event with Rhys Millen and Bryan Norris being two of the entrants.Drifting has since exploded into a massively popular form of motorsport in North America, Australasia, and Europe.
Drifting has evolved into a competitive sport where drivers compete mostly in rear wheel drive cars, and occasionally all wheel drive cars, to earn points from judges based on various factors. At the top levels of competition, the D1 Grand Prix in Japan pioneered the sport. Others such as Formula D in the United States, and the NZ Drift Series in New Zealand have come along to further expand it into a legitimate motor sport worldwide. The drivers within these series were originally influenced by the pioneers from D1 Japan and are able to keep their cars sliding for extended periods of time, often linking several turns.