Heroes 2’ part 2 Keiichi Tsuchiya
Our final instalment of the "Heroes" series looks at Part 2 of the legend, that is Keiichi Tsuchiya
Mr Tsuchiya’s racing history is quite obviously distinguished, having his debut in 1967 at Fuji he’s certainly got that mileage down and considering that he’s still active as of October 2020 lets take another moment to acknowledge greatness. Yes, that’s right Keiichi Tsuchiya started his illustrious career back in the 60s when pretty much most of us hadn’t been conceived, so we can accurately say he’s been doing this since most of us were in our diapers. Now that’s not to say he’s a relic of the olden days but rather it just serves to inform you that what you see today has taken years to refine.
He has competed in numerous race cars at different tracks in various classes that include Group A, JTCC, Le Mans 24 hours, Fuji Freshman Series, Toyota Cup, Japan F3 Championship, you name it and the list goes on. Amongst all these competitions one stands-out to our proclaimed hero, Mr Tsuchiya himself considers it one of his greatest drives of all time, that is the 1993 Nissan Skyline GTR with Team Taisan. Considering that the GTR is a hero in its own right as a JDM legend it was a pairing made for the history books for sure.
The R32 had just caused a stir upon its return to the world after a very long hiatus without any GTRs in Nissan’s line-up and the 4-wheel drive and steer technology was paying dividend on track. As most of us know this is around the same time that the name Godzilla was cemented over in Australia and people were just left in utter disbelief of how fast the car was. The same could be said for the GTRs in JTCC because here Mr Tsuchiya was also setting the pace in a red and black liveried Taisan GTR, the only other R32 to be arguably more iconic is the widely known Calsonic GTR in blue (thanks to Gran Turismo).
The car did utilize the now familiar RB26 DETT engine which was fettled with to produce anywhere between 550 – 650 horse power as well as a very distinctive exhaust note that is unique to the vehicle even to this day. Watching the faded grainy videos from way back then only serves to show how savage driving these cars could be.It was fun to see the driver’s inputs so clearly and directly relayed to our eyes. These were and are still some of the greatest analogue machines.
My favourite points with these cars were at the mid-corner, corner exit and on the straights, when the boost was arriving the whole car would twitch ever so slightly just to indicate how much power was being put down. As the boost builds the diffs, both front and rear start applying some lock and you could see the car’s line through the turn tighten as a result, just brilliant. Now image this type of vehicle prowess in the hands of Keiichi Tsuchiya.
It might just be one of the greatest driver/car combo. Mr Tsuchiya himself did say that his 3rd place finish at Sugo in 1992 with teammate Kunimitsu Takahashi was one of his best races in his career, despite the overall result it was a career highlight for him.He drove in anger unleashing the RBs furry on the famed Japanese track and the car was later auctioned off to some lucky enthusiast.
I wasn’t feeling certain, so I went in search of some videos from that very race and I quickly realised why. The race was littered with other R32s, all weaving about and spitting flames on the magnificent twin-side-exit exhaust, yay. The racing was certainly fast, competitive and if you’re for the notion that rubbing is racing then you’d be right at home here, driving amidst racers who all seemed to be driving like crazed lunatics from the east. If you ever wanted to feel the brutality of motorsport, I would encourage you to go have a look at some of the old footage.
Speaking of brutality, Mr Tsuchiya’s driving inputs can be described as being lightning fast and those of us with a bit of some mechanical sympathy. By watching some of Mr Tsuchiya’s footwork, he seems almost inhuman judging by just how fast he can bang in the gears. If you blink you might just miss his gear changes both going up and down the gearbox. He is even more satisfying to watch when he is drifting, he is called the Drift King after all. His accolades in the motoring world also lent him some mainstream attention, as most of you will already know he was also picked as an advisor, stunt coordinator and stuntman all at once in the 2007 film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
While the movie itself wasn’t really that big of a success for its producers it did atleast let the world know about the art of Drift. Both Mr Tsuchiya and the film brought drifting to mainstream media’s attention and that is one of the reasons why we should celebrate this man. Not only does he love driving but he has given his whole life to motoring and there’s no greater sacrifice. For that we as petrolheads salute you Keiichi Tsuchiya! You’re and absolute legend!