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The Best Drifting Brake Pad Setup For Your RWD Car Is…
BY Kyle Crawford //
October 13, 2022
@mrkylecrawford
Images courtesy of Hawk Performance
@hawkperformance
Guest Expert: John Butler
@jb__butler
  • Formed in 1991, Hawk Performance has established itself as a world leader in the brake and friction compound industry.
  • Drifting brake pads need to have high friction and lots of modulation, with little-to-no heat.
  • Adding an extra hydraulic brake system to lock the rear wheels will prevent tampering with the standard brake pad compound.

Choosing brakes for something like drifting isn’t as simple as it may seem. There are braking variables in drifting that aren’t present in other forms of motorsport, including no warm-up time, long cool-down periods, and the cruciality of immediate friction. By acknowledging these factors alone, a drifting brake pad seems more akin to one for drag racing, except drifting requires much more brake modulation and pedal consistency. However, having those characteristics involves heat, which we already established is tough to generate before a drift run. It’s enough to leave us perplexed about choosing the best solution. Lucky for us, our partners and braking experts at Hawk Performance took some time to answer this vexing question. If you’re curious about outfitting a RWD drift car with the most well-rounded solution, let our guest expert, the Sales and Marketing Manager at Hawk Performance, John Butler, quickly explain which compound is right for you.

John Butler, Sales and Marketing Manager at Hawk Performance: Drift cars are composed of a laundry list of modifications to achieve better angles, easier entries, and more controllable drifts. Nowadays, competitive drift cars are no longer missiles but highly engineered machines that can be just as mechanically impressive as an LMP3 car. Brakes are just as important in a drift car as in a race car. While their usage may differ, the brakes are not only often used to initiate the drift but to balance the car at the limit during the drift.

Drifting presents some unique challenges for brake pad choices. The brakes need to have high friction, lots of modulation, and be able to do so without requiring a lot of heat like a standard motorsport pad. Toss into the equation the job of a hydro brake to lock the rear wheels immediately and the lack of ABS, and you’ve got a lot of performance goals to hit, many of which contradict the others.

At Hawk Performance, we’ve found the sweet spot. Because of the drastically different jobs of the brakes underneath your right foot and the brakes on your hydro brake, we always recommend running a dual caliper system on the rear with an independent master cylinder. This second caliper allows you to run a brake pad compound specifically for the hydro brake and a different compound for the standard other calipers.

On the hydro brake specifically, we use a Hawk Performance HP+ brake pad. HP+ was originally developed as an autocross compound but finds itself just as useful here. HP+ creates more friction than any other brake pad compound in the Hawk Performance arsenal at ambient temperature. While some race pads create more friction when hot, the hydro brake will never see the heat needed for those pads to work properly. This high level of friction means that when the hydro brake is pulled, the rear wheels lock up immediately, without hesitation. Consistent and immediate performance of the hydro brake means better entries. Why neuter your expensive hydro brake system with subpar brake pads?

On the regular brakes, we use Hawk Performance HPS 5.0 brake pads. HPS 5.0 is a high-performance brake pad that offers the friction levels required to slow the car, the thermal capacity to deal with the abuse, and the modulation needed to balance the car with the middle pedal. Where lesser brake pads will overheat or behave erratically given the abuse the braking system sees, and higher motorsport grade pads may overkill the brake systems to the point it becomes difficult to use. The HPS 5.0 pads find the happy median between the two, providing the pedal characteristics a driver desires with the performance capabilities the car requires.

This combination of HPS 5.0 and HP+ on a hydro brake-equipped car has proved to be the best drifting setup for any level of drift car we’ve worked with. For cars without an independent dual caliper setup, we recommend retaining HPS 5.0 across all four corners of the car.

We want to thank John Butler of Hawk Performance for his knowledge in choosing the best brake pad compound. If you’re interested in learning more about Hawk Performance or its brake products, visit the company’s website for more information.

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