Meet the Drifter Part 1: Wez Keating of WKD Imports.
So what do you say about this man,I've known Wez for maybe nearly 7 years now, of course through drifting and his love for cars and his car import business, what strikes you about Wez when you first meet him is his height a good 6ft plus makes you wonder how he tackles those roll cages in his drift cars, secondly what strikes you about Wez is what an approachable fella he is, I've had experience with other drifter that weren't so approachable..shall we say because they thought they were famous but you wont find this with Wez, someone once described him to me as the BFG(Big friendly giant,this is certainly the case).
So Wez introduce yourself to DriveTribe and tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Wesley Keating.
So what age were you when you got into cars? A young child?
Yeah basically mad into cars and rallying from an early age. Used to get brought by my Dad and my uncle who is Barry’s Dad. So we (me and Barry- fellow drifter interview to follow) grew up together around cars and race fuel in the air.
What age were you when you got behind the wheel?
Been driving machinery on the farm since I was 5. There are pictures of it somewhere at home.
Legally behind the wheel so since 17! What was your first car?
On the road on my 16th birthday with agricultural machinery. So in to town in the tractor for a bag of chips was a weekend ritual. Then on my 17th birthday in my Mam’s car. A Mazda 626.
What was your own first car?
First car was a Talbot Sunbeam my Dad bought for me when I was about 12 for 90 pounds in a local car auction. First car I bought for the road was a new Toyota Avensis after I got a job in a local Toyota garage as an after sales assistant.
Where did it head then after that? When did u get into importing cars? What made u want to start it?
I bought an MR2 Turbo with light damage and repaired it. Drove it for a few months and sold it on and made a profit. I got the bug and wanted to buy another so I did and it went from there.
How long ago was that?
Back in 2000, 17 years ago now!
What was the first car you imported from japan can you remember?
First car I imported was a 1997 v4 Sti 2 door. 25k odd at the time I sold it for.
Where did the name WKD imports come from?
Barry came up with it. Clearly the whole Wicked connection sounded good. But basically it’s Wesley Keating Direct imports. WKD Imports was born.
What was the worse car you ever imported if there was ever one?
Good question. I always bought what I thought were cool cars but prob the worst was an Evo 5 from the south of japan that was clearly by the sea. It looked great in pics but was very badly corroded underneath when I got it home for a closer look. I sold it to the trade with no profit rather than retail it.
Also favourite car you ever imported?
Has to be my HKS Evo . Still have it ten years later. Over ten years now. Just over 2,000 Kms on the clock. HKS Evo 9.5MR . Or named the CT200R by HKS .
So when did u start drifting? Started drifting around 2006.
What was the first car you ever drifted? Sil180. Always had RPS13 chassis. Still do.
What made you want to drift? How did u get the bug?
I was selling lots of these RWD cars. I wanted to have some fun while advertising the business.
Tell me a random fact about the import business ? Is it still strong today or since the recession hit has it gone downhill?
I went to Japan by myself in 2004/2005 and found my way to Fuji Speedway to see this D1 drifting craic. I stood out in the crowd being 2 foot taller than everybody. But I noticed a couple there who certainly were not locals. I approached them and to my surprise figured out they spoke English. That evening they gave me a lift back to Tokyo and we went to TGI Friday’s. It was Andy and Emily who went on to operate a very successful car export company. Powervehicles. I became one of their best customers and still very good friends to this day. Pretty random!
No the import trade died a death with the Celtic tiger in Ireland. On top of the Yen getting very expensive and prices not dropping in Japan plus our lovely Government making VRT a bigger nightmare every year its really killed the market. The only people doing it are the die hards and car enthusiasts who do it as a hobby. There are very few if any import only companies in business any more. Me included which is why I had to diversify and open new channels for income.
When did u last import a car?
I’ve not imported a car in 5 years. Not from Japan anyway . I can't remember what car it actually was.
Where else have you imported cars from?
I’ve imported cars from UK, Northern Ireland and Germany. Looking at America at the moment but not purchased anything yet.
Back to the drifting, do you get a buzz from it? What drives you to do it? How many cars have you used for drifting in total?
Yea it’s exciting pushing a car to its limits and beyond. Modifying it so that you both work as one. It’s all part of the fun. I’ve had 4 180sx that I have used personally in competition in the ten years plus I’ve been at it. I’ve owned many more but just bough them to sell them. ie Falken Chaser and Koguci S13 etc .
Do u see a difference ? Between say drifting in 2010 and 2016?
Yea massive. It has transformed massively. It’s getting much more global recognition and becoming much more competitive. It’s been ran like a business now, which is what it is. Unfortunately with that success it takes much of the close friendships away which is what I loved about it. It’s a pity but for it to progress that’s the way it’s got to be I guess.
Have you ever felt there was a wrong decision made in drifting? Been it competing or watching?
Yes all the time. I can answer this with experience as a driver a spectator and a judge of both Irish and British championships.
As in judging decisions also? Yes Wez.
Nobody is out to screw the next guy over. We all do our best at what we are doing. Supporters support drivers drive and judges judge. Supporters will always side with their preferred driver and drivers will do their best. Unfortunately for the judges they have to make the decision from a neutral point of view. There will generally always be somebody that will disagree with them. Judges make a decision on what they seen and the information that they have. Majority of the time it’s straight cut but some are controversial and hence we always explained the reasons for the judgement. People can agree or disagree and no doubt sometimes the wrong decisions can be made once 100 other views of the run can be seen. But decisions are made there and then with the info that they have and that’s it. Once the decision is made it don’t matter what actually happened. It’s over. Sounds sharp but you couldn’t spend all day going over one run. The show must go on.
It must be hard to be a judge!
Yes of all the people from top to bottom of the sport I admire the judges most. Tough tough job. Especially when they are handed rules they must go with that they personally disagree with. On top of abuse from sideline experts who generally don’t know what they are talking about. It’s tough from every angle.
Have you ever had a row/fight with someone over a result?
All the time. I’m very strong minded and speak my mind. But once it’s spoken about and sorted it’s forgotten.
Tell me bout your drifting career so far highs lows and in between s? Ever wanted to quit drifting? What keeps u going ? If u could change one thing about it what would it be?
Podiums are always a high and pulling a backward entry for my 3rd place run in Mondello but without doubt the highlight of my career was going 3 one more times with team mate and cousin / brother Barry at Japfest in front of 10k people. Highest high.
I’m an old dog in a young lads game. Retirement might not be far away.
I really enjoyed my trip to America this year to pilot the Worthouse cars to a number of events. To be part of the team where James Deane won his first FD championship was pretty cool for me.
If you could change one thing what would it be or would you change anything?
No regrets. It’s been a thrilling ride so far.
If you could change something for the future of drifting what would it be?
I dunno. I’ll leave that to the experts.
When retirement happens, what would you like to be remembered for in the world of drifting?
Having the craic!
So moving onto the drift car.....have a look here people!