It’s Keiichi Tsuchiya’s birthday today! To celebrate we will share as to why he should be someone you follow in automotive racing. He has given so much to the world (i.e. Drifting and Japanese car tuning culture) so it seems right to give the guy a little love….and here is why…
1. HIS DRIVING SKILLS ARE REMARKABLE!!!
He quite possibly has one of the quickest heel-toe-shifts coming out of Japan (VIDEO). What makes him stand out in the field, however, is his ability to drive even the most humble hatchback on track faster than anyone. On Hot Version’s My Car Challenge segment, where pros would get challenged by viewers with their own cars, Keiichi Tsuchiya is the only one who had only been beaten once (He was beaten that time because the owner put an absurd amount of tyre pressure on to make life difficult for him). When he’s driving a front-wheel-drive street car, for example, he’d often pull up the handbrake before hitting the apex, which locks up the rear brakes and trigger turn-in, hence increasing entry speed and minimises understeer. If he’s in a rear-wheel-drive car, he can drift just about anything without pulling the handbrake or messing with the tyre pressures, even in a stock car. That’s how incredible this man’s driving skills are, and totally worthy of the name ‘Drift King’.
2. HIS RACING SKILLS ARE EVEN MORE AMAZING
If you’ve read any of his race histories you’ll know that Keiichi Tsuchiya has competed in all sorts of disciplines. Touring cars, single-seaters, GT500 cars, NASCAR, prototype cars even. Probably the most legendary race in his racing career, however, is how he won the Le Mans twice. He first won Le Mans in 1995 with a Honda NSX GT2, then he won Le Mans again with Toyota’s GT-One. He’s also part of the reason why the GT-R is called Godzilla as he helped the R32 GT-R to win all 29 races in the Japanese Touring Car Championship. Even after he retired in 2003, he still actively participated in all sorts of races. The most recent one was with Modulo, Honda’s factory racing team, driving the Civic TCR touring car. He drove two rounds of the Super Taikyu (Endurance) Championship and was praised for how fast he still is even at 61 years of age.
3. HE HELPED THE ’86’ NAME GO WORLDWIDE
Back in the eighties, the AE86 wasn’t so much of a tuner car in Japan. Sure it’s easy to work on, cheap, chuckable and reliable, because it’s essentially a Corolla, people never really got interested. Until Keiichi Tsuchiya came in that is. Because in his early days, the man won 6 races in a row with his AE86 race car, to the point where he’s told not to race in the series again by the organisers, as this ‘spoils the fun for everybody’. Then, of course, there’s the start of the Initial D, which made everybody fall in love with the AE86. Whose idea was it to make it the hero car of the anime? Keiichi Tsuchiya. He even used his personal car to dub the engine note into the anime to make it more realistic. Talking of his personal car, he reportedly spent over £35,000 on an AE86 to perfect it. The craze for the 86 was so mad, that Toyota even called the man in to help them design the new GT86, even though he was supposedly working for Honda at the time. It was his idea to make it rear-wheel-drive, it was his idea to make it affordable, and it was his idea to make it have a limited slip differential. Wow.
4. HIS TASTE FOR CARS ARE BRILLIANT
As we’ve discussed before, the man spent £35,000 on his AE86 to perfect it. Besides the Toyota, his garage was always full of interesting cars, he once had an R32 GT-R, a four-door Hakosuka Skyline as a practice car (which he totalled) and many more. Perhaps the other famous car he owned was a couple of NSX, one of them was a facelifted version of the NSX NA1, which he sold to replace it with the ultra-rare, ultra-cool NA2 NSX-R that beat many exotic supercars on the Ring.
5. HE NOW DEVELOPS CARS FOR HONDA
Forget Spoon, Mugen and other famous Honda tuners for a moment, because you can essentially buy cars that are tuned by the Drift King himself from the dealership. Yes, you read that right, because Keiichi Tsuchiya now spends his time developing aftermarket suspension parts for Modulo, Honda’s in-house tuning company, which means you can go into a dealership, order yourself a car that has been christened by those magic green gloves. One of the most famous creations of his is the S660 Modulo X, which features a 3-way adjustable coilover setup from the factory and an airbrake on a supposedly Kei car.
There we have it, may we say happy birthday to the Drift King today and say thank you to what he’s done to our JDM community.