ANS Exclusive Interview: The Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya

By: Jonah Morgan

Keiichi Tsuchiya is considered one of Japan’s all time racing legends. He honed his driving skills from a young age driving nearby mountain roads (togue) in his KPGC10 Skyline. By driving hard on all types of surfaces and conditions he learned car control at the limits. In 1977 he debuted in the Fuji Freshman series, this was followed by several amateur racing events. 1984 saw him getting a drive with the Advan AE86/1984 Corolla GT-S. The Drift King was born. In this series his technique of using drift (sliding the rear of the car out) in a downhill corner yielded a better corner speed and improved lap times. This technique is what made him the Drift King not as most believe that he was first in the drift scene. While racing professionally he continued to participate in illegal Initial-D style togue battles. After videos of these races fell into the hands of authorities his driver’s license was actually suspended.

Despite this, his legend grew in Japan as being a rebel racer who would take on any challenge be it street or track. His relationship racing Toyota’s AE86 Trueno throughout the 1980’s helped elevate the car to the cult status it carries today. It also inspired a manga author named Shuichi Shigeno to make the car a focus of his Initial-D manga. Tsuchiya would later play an integral part in the TV series, advising on the racing physics for the CGI cars and matching proper sounds to their anime car counterparts. Today the Drift King can be seen in the monthly Best Motoring and Hot Version video magazines. ANS had the honor to send a few questions his way in Japanese recently and we actually got the answers back in English!

Anime News Service: Thank you Mr. Tsuchiya for this interview first of all. In my mind your racing skill and talent is on par with that Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna, etc.
Keiichi Tsuchiya: Thank you!!

ANS: Speaking of F1, you raced in the Le Mans series for the Toyota team. Did you ever have an interest in persuing an F1 drive?
KT: No.

ANS: Recently, I saw the VTEC-CLUB video where you had started a HONDA RA271 F1 car. As for the car, even by the standards of 2005 it was awesome. What was your experience with the RA271?
KT: I cannot believe the engine was of the 1960s at all. It turns firmly to 12000rpm(s) so pleasantly. Therefore, I was surprised…. very much.

ANS: The BAR-HONDA team seemed to have been close to attaining a 1st place podium finish during the 2004 F1 season. Certainly, I believe the team is deserving of a win. New reports are out that say their engines are now approaching 1000bhp. Do you think the 2005 sees them achieving their first race win?
KT: A racing car is not known unless it carries out a shake down!? First of all, it is after seeing a history!!

ANS: What is your opinion of Takuma Sato as an F1 driver representative of Japan?
KT: If even a machine is good, I would think that it is the driver which must win. He is a driver with such high possibility.

ANS: I’ve heard reports recently that Honda will discontinue the NSX opting not to mass produce the HSC prototype. Is it true that HONDA might desert their super-sports platform representative in the automotive segment? I understand you are very familiar with the NSX, will it really happen?
KT: It is difficult …. It is heard that it may be lost. As of the latest, it is the talk of the possibility.

ANS: How was the reception of the JGTC recently in Los Angeles? Do you think that the United States will be venue that will be added to race calander in the future?
KT: It was not so good …. I think that JGTC is impossible.

ANS: My first experience of you was from 1996, a video game was released by Jaleco in the United States for PSX called “Tokyo Highway Battle”. The game featured Masaki Bendoh and yourself, including many live action video clips. Do you remember having worked on it? I believe this was your first appearance in any medium in the United States.
KT: Thank you!! I did not know.

ANS: Car and Racing video games continue to approach higher levels of realism. GT4 for Sony’s PS2 was released in Japan raising the bar higher yet again. Have you seen it and what your opinions concerning the relation to the reality of the control of physics and the car etc. to real racing?
KT: I am not concerned at all. Since Sony is making, it is unrelated.

ANS: Can you tell us your role in the animation version of Initial-D in 1998? Can tell us of the experience?
KT: I helped produce from sound to operation of the cars.

ANS: Recently a live action version of Initial D was finsihed in Hong Kong. Did you offer any assitance to this project?
KT: I was not related at all.

ANS: How has the Togue scene changed over years in Japan?
KT: The togue is regarded as bad!! The mainstream in Japan is to run a mini circuit.

ANS: Watching Initial-D I know a lot of Americans wonder where are the police on the togue? The police always bust the street races here! They are everywhere!
KT: It would be considered severe in a country such as The United States country especially. As understood in Japan it cannot be said that it is about an understanding. It is calm if trouble is not made to the man in the street.

ANS: Has your staff had trouble finding a Ferrari ENZO to test [for Best Motoring]. I understand it has been very difficult to obtain ENZO test cars. The UK TV program TOP GEAR had to borrow a private car of a celebrity and, FIFTH GEAR had to travel to Italy for the test.
KT: It is not.

ANS: Finally, do you have any final words for your fans in the United States and greater English speaking world?
KT: I consider, if I have to study English more.

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