Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya Has Aussie Motorsport Connections We Never Knew About

Every year, Keiichi Tsuchiya journeys down under to serve as the unofficial patriarch of the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge, so we dug deep to learn a little more about the legend!

*Article Updated 27.12.23 after originally published on 1.08.23. Update contains information regarding Keiichi Tsuchiya's day with the The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.

Keiichi Tsuchiya’s Japanese humility, mixed with the fact that he’s one of Japan’s more storied motorsport identities, makes it difficult to approach the man from a new angle. Enthusiasts blogs the world over have written and rewritten the same career highlights and anecdotes, including trotting out some of his most famous quotes.

But ahead of the man’s return to Australian soil for the 2023 Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge we’ve tried our hardest to unearth our favourite Drift King facts.

He’s the Drift King, not the Drift Father…

Keiichi Tsuchiya may very well be known as the ‘Drift King’, but he never claims to have invented the sport. Rather, the genesis of drifting is widely attributed to Kunimitsu Takahashi - a great influence on Tsuchiya - who inspired the young DK’s driving style.

Tsuchiya can comfortably be attributed with making the sport more prolific though, and he’s traveled the world for decades to raise its profile.

He’s Stood On the Podium at Le Mans

Tsuchiya’s racing profile cannot be overstated - the man has raced on just about every continent on the globe, in everything from AE86s to NSXs, GT-Rs and even a Dodge Viper! The one achievement that stood out proudly though was the fact that he’s a two-time Le Mans class winner.

Tsuchiya credits his speed at the famous 24 hour long event to the late nights spent drifting on Japanese backroads, which saw him able to drive faster through the night at Le Mans than many other drivers were prepared to!

There’d Be No D1GP Without Him

As a testament to his love of drifting he was integral in setting up the D1 Grand Prix, which elevated drifting from an amateur motorsport in Japan to a formal, professional sport that attracted driving talent and coverage from all over the world.

He’s a Movie Star, Too

Fittingly, the Drift King landed a role as a stunt coordinator on Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. As well as being drafted to oversee the driving sequences, he scored a cameo in the film playing a Fisherman who watches on as Sean Boswell with his thick Alabama accent struggles with the concept of drifting. Tsuchiya’s head shake in disappointment is a meme unto itself that deserves more credit!

He’s Got a Connection to Australian Motorsport Legend Mark Skaife

Tsuchiya’s connection to Australian motorsport extends beyond his annual trip out to the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge and extends back as far as the early 90s where Japanese-built BNR32 GT-Rs took no prisoners in the Australian Touring Car Championship.

While the Nissans were wreaking havoc on home soil, a young Mark Skaife was invited to join Tsuchiya and teammate Kenji Takahashi at the 1991 Macau Grand Prix as part of the two-car team fielded by Team Taisan.

He’s Famous For His Green Racing Suit

Allegedly, DK’s affinity for the colour green can be traced back to Kei Office - the company he used to own. He sold the company in 2005, but is intrinsically linked to the distinct jade green colouring to this day.

Keiichi Tsuchiya, known as the "Drift King," has had an illustrious motorsports career spanning decades. Though he did not invent drifting itself, he made the sport more popular globally and co-founded the D1 Grand Prix professional drifting series in Japan. Beyond drifting, Tsuchiya has raced in major events like Le Mans, where he scored two class wins. His skills even earned him a role in Hollywood coordinating stunt driving for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N electric SUV received a glowing review from none other than legendary drift racer Keiichi Tsuchiya. Getting behind the wheel for testing at Sydney Motorsport Park, the "Drift King" was impressed with how easily the 2,200kg EV could slide thanks to its drift mode. Without a clutch or hydraulic handbrake, Tsuchiya had no issues kicking the tail out and linking big smoky drifts together on the track. 

The heavy curb weight actually helps shift momentum for initiating and holding slides. If the master approves of its driftability, the Ioniq 5 N promises to be one of the most engaging and fun EVs for enthusiasts. Tsuchiya's endorsement shows that even without a petrol engine, this electric SUV captures the spirit of performance cars. And a bit of sideways action too thanks to some clever programming allowing it to dance gracefully under the command of the Drift King himself.

While humility prevents Tsuchiya from boasting his achievements, his enduring passion for drifting brought him back to Australia once again for the 2023 Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge. After over 30 years, the Drift King continues building his legend in motorsports worldwide. His iconic green racing suit endures as a symbol of his singular style behind the wheel.


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