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    It's 2am, pitch black and raining doggedly. Along with the smell of gasoline and clutch fluid, there is a precariousness in the air – and that's not just because inches from the edge of this narrow mountain road is a sheer drop into the black pine trees. I've come to the outskirts of Los Santos, on a dank Friday night to experience first hand the illegal drift scene. Street racers, puff cigarettes in the darkness and chat with the kind of hushed reserve you might find in the smoking area of a inner-city dive bar. But with anything from 200hp to 500hp on tap from tuned, turbocharged engines, channeled through semi-slick rubber onto slippery tarmac, and only a few shin high barriers between the road and a black abyss, drivers are understandably edgy. "All I hope is that I don't crash, I survive the night and the police don't come," says John Doe veraciously, a 21-year-old drifter. "But it's worth it – right in the middle of the corner when I get the perfect drift is the best feeling I know." - He adds. The race track is simply a fully-operating public road and most drivers come to drift: a driving technique where the driver deliberately loses traction and slides the car sideways across the tarmac. It requires scalpel-sharp reactions and every inch of the street on both sides of the road is utilized, regardless of the occasional city car that comes pottering down the hill. Front tracks are enlarged to increase steering angle, and vents cut out of hand-forged bodywork. "Drifting is like juggling glass," John says. "You put so much work into your car and you go and almost crash it every night...To find out the limit you have to go over the limit. You only know when you're peeling it off the barrier." The drifters are friendly but understandably cautious of our presence. They all come from different backgrounds. Young rich kids who have snuck out from their parents' houses rub shoulders with hard-up grease monkeys who have arrived with a borrowed set of part worn tires. A couple of middle-aged guys in flip flops – they drive in bare feet – have escaped from their families for the night in sedans they have hand-built for drifting. One of the drivers has offered me a shotgun ride. With better breathing, this car can easily touch 300hp. When crude weight-saving measures like ditching the back seats are employed, and the old auto 'box is replaced with a stick shift, you have have a very quick, very responsive machine. I'm barely strapped in before the landscape is blurring in front of my eyes. The rear tires are almost constantly searching for traction when in a straight line. The driver swings out left for something resembling a Scandinavian flick to cause a weight transfer that will help the car oversteer. As the car pendulums into a perfect drift, I look out of the side window up the road straight ahead. "This is drifting," he shouts over the din of a fully stressed six cylinder, as the murdered-out car's nose all but trades paint with the apex of the bend. The car seamlessly swings left to right with surgical precision – fitting, because by day he makes medical instruments. Momentarily, a deer runs out and the car lunges under braking, four-wheel sliding towards the barrier, before the man expertly reigns it in, laughing. At the top of the run he pulls an oversized, custom acrylic handbrake lever, positioned next to his right hand as in a rally car, and spins a full 180 degrees to a stop. Hands shaking and holding the camera, I ask him if he has crashed before. "I've crashed over 30 times in 10 years of drifting," he says matter-of-fact, still smiling. "This is my fourth drift car, although one I did drive into a parked truck." Why does he do it, week in, week out? He looks at me, hands going back to 10-and-2 on the steering wheel, and momentarily breaking his recce of the road ahead. "My life is boring," he says, "I do this for excitement." With this, my driver drops the clutch and the rear wheels break traction again. The set of bespoke dials on the dashboard are dancing their own tune – the speedo and clock behind them have been rendered useless. Downhill is even more exhilarating. His judgement in lining the car up from drift to drift, and his sixth sense of pendulum swinging a ton and a half of metal from one side to the other, is otherworldly. Whereas people I hang out with on a Friday night might pride themselves on their prowess in a game of darts or pool, these skills are preventing us from leaving the side of a mountain backwards. Halfway down the hill the dashboard lights up and we slow the car down. "Overheated," he says, putting on his hazard warning lights. With a car built to ferry middle management along a highway, it's hardly surprising. While the mood is one of camaraderie and respect among the drifters, it is hard to ignore the unpredictable undertone. Earlier, one of the racers was punched by a group who arrived in a similar custom sedan – a family dispute, someone tells me. One car has had a big collision with a barrier, leaving half the rear fender hanging off and the rear lights smashed. While youths across the world sink tequila in search of their kicks on this Friday night, this is a whole different world of recklessness and fun. While others have embraced drifting on tracks and bought the Fast and the Furious DVDs, here in the darkness, this is the real thing. There is a real sense of danger coupled with a satisfaction that everyone and everything makes it home in one piece.
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