May 8, 2008

Keiichi Tsuchiya

Keiichi Tsuchiya or the “Drift King,” as he is more widely known, is a living legend within the drifting community. Keiichi Tsuchiya is credited with developing several drifting techniques widely used by professional drivers today. Unlike most professional drivers that come from wealthy families or have previous racing experience in other motorsports, Keiichi Tsuchiya earned his reputation and honed his drift skills from illegal underground street races. In fact, Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya had his license suspended for illegal street racing not long after he began his professional racing career in the amateur Fuji Freshman racing series.

Keiichi Tsuchiya was born January 30, 1956 in Nagano, Japan and started his professional racing career in 1977. Beginning with the amateur Fuji Freshman Racing Series, Tsuchiya would continue his racing career in the Japanese Formula 3 Series, Japanese Touring Car Championship, and Super Touring car championship class. Throughout the Drift King’s racing career, Tsuchiya made a name for himself driving, and drifting of course, a Nissan Skyline GT-R, Nissan Silvia, Honda Civic, Honda NSX, Toyota GT-One, and perhaps his favorite car the Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno or “Hachi-Roku” in Japanese, which translates literally to “eight six.”

Keiichi Tsuchiya’s most notable wins and races:

• Class win and a top ten finish at the 1995, 24 hours of Le Mans in a Honda NSX.

• Second place at the 1999, 24 hours of Le Mans, with co-driver Ukyo Katayama in a Toyota GT-One.

• Tsuchiya holds the record at his home course of Usui with his Honda NSX-R.

• NASCAR-sanctioned exhibition races at Suzuka Circuit (Suzuka Thunder 100) and at Twin Ring Motegi Super Speedway for the 1998 NASCAR-sanctioned exhibition and 1999 NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series races at the circuit, both named the Coca-Cola 500k.

• Tsuchiya’s last race was round eight at Suzuka for the Japanese GT Championship race.

At age 47, Keiichi Tsuchiya announced his retirement from professional racing. After retirement, Keiichi Tsuchiya became Team Director for the GT500 Class ARTA All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC) team for a year and GT300 Class of JGTC Team until the team disbanded the GT300 operation at the end of the 2005 season. Later in 2005 Tsuchiya sold his aftermarket suspension company Kei Office to Ogura Racing Clutch.

Drift King continues to judge the D1 Grand Prix drift championship and also hosts the Japanese video magazine “Best Motoring,” now “Best Motoring International,” which features road-tests of new Japanese cars, including a special section called “Hot Version,” which focuses on performance modified cars. Tsuchiya can also be seen guest staring in Video Option’s monthly video magazine “Drift Tengoku,” which covers D1 Grand Prix and other drift related events and the Super GT video magazine also in Japan. Tsuchiya is also an editorial supervisor on the drifting anime Initial D and appeared in episode 23 as a special guest. He can also be seen in the semi biographical film Shuto Kousoku Trial 2, 3, 4, and Max. In 2006, Keiichi made a cameo appearance as a fisherman in the movie The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya’s presence and legend only grow larger as the sport of drifting becomes more popular throughout the world. What I personally find inspiring about Tsuchiya’s career is that he was not rich when he started racing and was not handed his legendary title of “Drift King.” Instead, Tsuchiya fought his way up the ranks and earned his skills and reputation in battle – underground street racing. Keiichi Tsuchiya is arguably the greatest drifter ever. There is only one “Drift King,” Keiichi Tsuchiya.

Keiichi Tsuchiya’s Website:

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