Imagine driving at 80 miles an hour, then ripping your steering wheel sideways so your car's rear wheels lose traction with the road and you're sent spinning sideways.
I call it terrifying. But Brittany Williams, a professional drifter driver, calls it a day job. "Doing it on purpose, and doing it well, is an amazing feeling," Williams tells Refinery29.
The 28-year-old Texas native is one of 28 drivers from around the world featured on Netflix’s bingeworhty new show Hyperdrive, promoted (quite accurately) as a mash-up of American Ninja Warrior and The Fast and the Furious. On her 2008 Nissan 350Z, built especially for drifting, Williams aced dangerous obstacles like the Leveler, a high-rise seesaw that drivers must balance with their cars, and the Supernova, a 180 degree turn in reverse.
Though she’s only been drifting professionally for two years, Williams reached the top eight drivers in Hyperdrive. Along the way, Williams was aided by her husband and spotter, Kevin Williams, who calmly guided her through the courses. The Williams are used to working together — Kevin and Brittany run a YouTube channel dedicated to extreme Jeep driving.
We spoke to Williams about Hyperdrive, being a woman in motorsports, and drifting to the top of her driving game.
Refinery29: What were your thoughts when you first saw the obstacle course?
Brittany Williams: "It was one of those, Wait you want me to do what with my car? It was intimidating but really exciting. This course, this track, and these obstacles….it’s like being a kid in a candy store. The easiest way to put it is: It’s every race car driver’s dream course. These are obstacles in events and courses that we could only dream of. No race car driver has even attempted them before."
How did you get started with drifting?
“I started with show cars. You go to a show, you park your car, and it looks pretty. That’s it. I was lucky enough, several years ago, to go to a car show with a drift ride-along. You could pay a driver 20 bucks to hop into the passenger seat and go onto the track. I was like, This is amazing. When am I going to get another chance to get into a drift car? I picked a car, hopped in, and coincidentally enough it ended up being my future husband who was driving. Several years later, we reconnected and he put me in the driver’s seat of his drift car and said, ‘I’m going to teach you to do some donuts and some Figure 8’s.’ We spent an hour doing them. Two weeks later I bought my own drift car. I was instantly obsessed. Addicted right then and there.”
Wait, how did you come back together after meeting that first time?
"It’s a weird story. When we met, we were both in other relationships. I couldn’t remember his name after the ride along. Three years later, we had a mutual friend in the car scene go back and tag him in one of the old photos of me getting into his drift car on Facebook. [Kevin] reached out to me on Facebook and one thing led to another. We started dating and got married."
Right, and your husband is even a part of Hyperdrive. What's it like working with him?
"It was amazing. My husband and I are one of those rare couples who do literally everything together. We both manage a YouTube channel full time. We spend 24/7 together and we love the absolute crap out of it. He’s my ride or die, if you’re a Fast and Furious fan."
"I don’t look like I’d know how to pull an e-brake or go sideways around an entire track — but that’s the thing. I do."
How does drifting compare to the extreme Jeep driving that you do on your YouTube channel, LiteBrite?
"It’s a totally different type of extreme. Rock crawling is much more slow paced, but there’s a significantly higher amount of inherent danger than what I do in my drift cars on a track. In my drift car, I have a full cage, I have my helmet, I’m wearing a fire retardant race suit and a device to protect my neck. Whereas in my Jeep, if you’re rolling 1000 feet off a mountain...Personally, I like drifting more. I like the fast pace. I like the control I have over the car as it’s sliding sideways."
What's it like to be a woman in the world of motorsports?
"Motorsports is a male dominated sport. But what’s so amazing about it is that motorsports is one of the only sports where women can compete against men on a completely equal playing field. There’s not just a women’s only racing team. When you’re out there on the track, you're just a driver. Man or woman, doesn’t matter. You’re all gunning for the same thing. A lot of women seem to be afraid to get into motorsports. The one thing I try to tell people is everyone starts somewhere. All those big pro drivers also didn’t know what a clutch kick was, or didn’t know how to change their oil. You can’t be afraid of needing to learn."
Are women scared of embarrassing themselves because historically cars have been a "guy's" thing?
"I honestly think that’s the truth. It’s a guys’ sport. There’s always that fear that guys will be sexist or make snide comments. It happens, but it happens less than you’d think. When I first got into drifting I competed in the Lone Star Drift series down in Texas. I had nothing but amazing support. When my car broke, there were always drivers with spare parts so I could fix my parts and compete. Most motorsports are like that. It’s really a supportive sport. You see that in Hyperdrive as well. We’re all competing but we’re cheering for each other as well. We want to see other people succeed."
Have you ever encountered skepticism outside of the motorsports community when you say you’re a professional driver and into motorsports?
"Absolutely. I don’t look like your typical driver. I don’t even look like your typical automotive enthusiast. I don’t look like I’d know how to pull an e-brake or go sideways around an entire track — but that’s the thing. I do. It’s always cool to show people that. Initially you get that, You do what with your car? You race a car, period? Then I get to show them photos and videos. It might start as a surprise but it ends with, Holy crap, that’s so badass."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.