The Anatomy of a Bloody Good Burnout

  Calvin Fisher


 13 May, 2019

How to do a burnout safely

Calvin Fisher explores that most satisfying means of turning rubber into vapour.

Is it childish? Sure. Satisfying? You bet your arse. But it doesn’t need to be dangerous. In fact, you absolutely don’t need to put yourself nor anyone you love in harm’s way, or an innocent bystander either for that matter. That makes this particular act of unfurling your rubber into an acrid low-hanging cloud the most luxurious and self-indulgent sort of mischief you can possibly perform. Go on, spoil yourself. But first some notes.

Front wheel drive is okay, rear wheel drive is better. Four-wheel or all-wheel drive is a no-no. The more power or torque you have will only benefit you - your only job is to break traction and keep it broken for the duration of your, shall we say... performance?

This won't be kind to your tyres, so if that is going to be a problem for you, you might want to fit a worn pair. I'm not talking down to the wires though, we're not looking to shoot sparks on this odd occasion, unless you're an absolute hooligan and are fine with the possibility of rendering your car into a burnt wreck. Uncommon, but wholly possible - I've seen it happen.

So, to summarize, you'll want something north of 100kW (the further north the better) and 200Nm, and something with a good exhaust note as we'll be exploring the upper regions of your rev range – and this is for style points after all. Oh, last thing - while you can achieve a good burnout in something with an automatic transmission, you'll find it far more satisfying in a car with 3 pedals.

See, in an auto you'd simply lean on the brake, shift it into Drive and flatten the throttle. Effective sure, but lazy. No, no, we want the full fat burnout experience which I shall explain in detail using my own personal noise maker.

My 1983 Toyota Celica Supra at 105kW and 240Nm barely cuts the mustard on a good day, but we've had this sort of fun before and today won't be any different. Her tyres are perfectly road legal but hardly new, so I have little sympathy for them. As for the clutch – it recently held up well at a drift event, this exercise would be very little stress in comparison. I'm on private property with permission to raise hell. The next five minutes would be bliss.

But, my last note of caution – mechanical sympathy. Have some and what I mean by that is that this isn't an endeavour for a cold machine. Therefore I've driven to my chosen spot thereby giving the mechanicals a chance to warm up, especially important in a 30-odd year old coupe.

The bit where I do it. Do it slow

First, with my left foot pressing the clutch into the firewall I give it a mercy rev, to let it know what's coming. I lower the hand brake lever gently, flatten the throttle and drop the clutch. At that second the car pounces, struggles to find grip and the revs soar. Depending on the state of the burnout you might want to pull on the handbrake to keep the car settled, like a cool hand on a wild stallion, you'll need to keep it in line, from breaking free.

A purist might insist that this is not an option, and that simply pouring on more throttle would do the trick. And often they'd be right, with more torque turning the asphalt into a glacier, the rubber now properly bellowing forth plumes and plumes of smoke.

The forecast is now hugely overcast and the squeal from the tyres fights for dominance with the engine, itself emitting a mournful howl, louder and louder. I'm getting to the part where the tyres are finding an inkling of grip and it causes the car to rock and sway. Instead of fighting it, I ride it, feeding in micro-degrees of angle to the steering wheel and with this initiating the barest of slides.

At this point so many new and exciting opportunities open up to me. I can raise the handbrake and keep this sucker in check, or spin the helm and do a slidey, smokey rolling burnout or kick the clutch to initiate a 'donut', which can be counter-steered into a wild 'figure of eight' at which point one must assume the red mist will descend and I'll be plunged into a fever pitch of wheel twirling, arm spinning and noise making. But in doing so I'd almost certainly break some laws and that was not on the cards today.

So instead, like a gentleman riding a ground-level cumulus nimbus, with about 10 degrees of turn on the chassis and 6,000rpms on the tachometer I flattened the clutch pedal once again, and ease off the throttle and watched the revs drop to below 1000. With the Supra still idling, I raise the handbrake just enough for it to bite softly and disembark feeling like an absolute gladiator.

Entertained, are you not? I most certainly am…

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