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A "doughnut" is the act of rotating the rear of the car around the front wheels continuously, thereby creating circular skid marks if done right, and causing lots of tire smoke. All in all, it is a pretty pointless technique, with no real use except to show off. Fair enough.


The doughnut is performed differently in front-drivers and rear-drivers. To tell you the truth, the only real doughnuts are performed with a high-powered rear-wheel-drive car. The best doughnuts you'll ever see are performed by V8 Mustangs, Z28 Camaros and Trans Ams, along with rally-bred all-wheel-drive monsters like the Lancer Evo and WRX STi, which send more power to the rear wheels than the front ones. Rear-drivers equipped with a limited-slip differential also have an advantage, as both driving wheels spin at the same rate. However, doughnuts are possible with a wide range of cars, but it is a very tricky technique and requires lots of practice. You will destroy a lot of tires in the process, so make sure that the local used tire dealer is your best friend.

Video : A Porsche 911 does doughnuts in public
WMV format / 456kb / 16 sec.
First, we'll look at rear-wheel-drive doughnuts. The trick to making a doughnut happen is to quickly start oversteering but not so much that you just do a sudden 180-degree spin and stop. The most common method using a manual transmission is to select 1st gear, slowly start driving around in a large circle, then turn the steering wheel to do a tighter circle while at the same time pressing the clutch and pulling the hand brake. When the rear wheels lock up and the car starts to skid, floor the accelerator, release the hand brake and let the clutch out. You will now start spinning if your car has enough power. It takes practice trying to balance the throttle to produce a round enough doughnut with the rear wheels while keeping the inside front wheel at roughly the same place. With an automatic, you should first shift into 2 (or L or whatever it's called in your car - the idea is to choose the gear used to climb hills, so you get the most torque). You then apply moderate pressure on the brake pedal with your left foot, and then floor the throttle completely with your right foot. The rear wheels should now start spinning while the locked front wheels hold the car in one place. If the wheels don't start spinning, back off the brake pedal a little bit. As your rear wheels start spinning, slowly get off the brake pedal until the car starts moving. Start to turn the wheel and release the brake pedal more, and as you speed up, turn the wheel more sharply and take most of the pressure off the brake pedal. The car will jump forward and turn sharply, and the rear will be moving sideways. If you start to slow down, apply the brakes lightly, and back off the brakes as you start to spin faster. Once you are spinning real fast, you can even flick the wheel the other way to start spinning in the opposite direction. If you cannot start a spin at all, then your car is too weak for this sort of thing. A last ditch attempt may be to clamp your car's brake lines that lead to the rear wheels, thereby somewhat disabling your rear brakes, and there are also devices called line locks which do this, but if you have no idea about car mechanicals, just give up and buy a new car.

Video : A VW Jetta does painful FWD doughnuts
WMV format / 383kb / 13 sec.
Now for front-wheel-drive doughnuts. These reverse doughnuts look even more crazy than rear-wheel-drive doughnuts. They are more easily performed with long-wheelbase cars like Maximas, Bonnevilles or Accords. To start the doughnut, turn the steering wheel completely in one direction and shift into reverse. Then, if you are using a manual, press the clutch, floor the accelerator and drop the clutch. The car will lurch backwards and turn for a while before the front wheels lose grip and start to slide. The front will now rotate tightly around the back wheels. Back off the throttle a bit so that you don't hit the redline. The car will slow down when you back off, so then you will have to hold the throttle at a constant position. You can even turn the wheel quicky all the way in the other direction, to make the car slide around the other way. Please be aware that these reverse doughnuts generate huge lateral G's, so if you have a weak stomach, carry a barf bag in the car. Now, to attempt straightforward rwd-style doughnuts with your front-driver, you can use the handbrake. It is very hard to break rear-wheel traction on a dry surface, so a slippery surface is recommended. To do this, turn the steering wheel complelety in one direction and shift into first gear in manual or the hill-climbing gear in automatic. Floor the throttle, and the car will start turning sharply. As the car body rolls to one side, yank the handbrake to get the rear-wheel slide started. Now you will have to keep one hand on the handbrake and keep pulling and releasing it at the right moments to keep the rear end sliding. The power should be kept up but you should be careful not to over-rev your engine in first gear. As stated before, you need to do this on a slippery surface, like a wet parking lot or gravel. On grass or dirt, you can even leave the handbrake up and keep spinning. A popular trick to do doughnuts on tarmac is to put plastic trays or wooden planks under the rear tires and keep the handbrake up.

Video : A Nissan Skyline GT-R does AWD doughnuts
WMV format / 293kb / 9 sec.
If you have an all-wheel-drive car, you can pretty much forget about doing doughnuts. The only ones capable of aggressive doughnuts are the heavy-hitting Lancer Evo, Skyline GT-R and Impreza WRX STi. Others like the basic Impreza and Legacy can be fooled around with on a slippery surface. Most other upscale AWD cars either don't have the power or are set up all wrong. While the Evo and all have more power sent to the rear wheels, cars like the AWD Passat W8 send most of the power to the front wheels, and send some power to the rear only when loss of traction is detected. Anyway, if you have a rear-biased AWD car, the technique is basically the same as that for RWD cars, except that you have to play with much higher rpms to break all four wheels loose.

For best results, turn off the a/c and turn off traction control or any other electronic gimmicks if you can, as traction control kills wheel spin. Do not expect to do doughnuts if you cannot turn off that fancy ESP system of yours. Doughnuts look great and is an excellent way to impress lesser mortals, but it is costly on tires, and is stressful on differentials and engines. Reverse doughnuts are even worse, especially on universal joints. And doughnuts can also mess up your wheel alignment. Moderation is the key to a long life for your car, you wallet and your driving license.

Modernracer.com 2003

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