Japan’s car culture is without a doubt the most unique in the World. Besides a tonne of other things related to wheels, enthusiasts from the birthplace of drifting are also obsessed with the idea of looking ahead through the windows while driving forward. Stuff like Initial D and Tokyo Drift allowed that obsession to spread far and wide, however, it isn’t all about big power being sent to the rear wheels, luminous neon and mad spoilers. These front-wheel-drive examples turning up the heat in the Snow will tell you why:
For those who’ve dug deeper in the history of this art would recognise one Keiichi Tsuchiya, also known as the ‘Drift King’. Many attribute the foundations of this style of driving to this man, who is also said to be inspiration behind the anime character Takumi Fujiwara in Initial D. However, Keiichi wasn’t the first Japanese gentleman to flaunt such a style. In fact, back in the 60s, a Japanese motorcycle racer Kunimitsu Takahashi was the one who started it all. Successful on two wheels, Kunimitsu sustained a bad injury after his crash at the 1962 Isle of Man TT. Not among those who stop, he switched to four wheels and started racing cars in 1965.
Although he raced everything from Formula One to GT2 machines, his unique driving style was first noticed during the All-Japan Touring Car Championship in the 1970s. To compensate for the lack of grip from old-school rubber on his Nissan Skyline, Takahashi would carry more than usual speed before a corner and force the car to lose shape so that its nose is dead straight on exit. This technique allowed him to fire out of corners like a rocket and his corner speed could not be matched by his rivals, allowing him to take top spot on the podium, race after race.
Street racers who noticed this trick began applying it while racing illegally on mountain roads. Among these was a young Keiichi Tsuchiya and his AE86. His natural ability and talent earned him the famous nickname. Through the years, drifting had to grind it as a pastime before it found recognition in the late 80s, which is when the first sanctioned drift competition, called ‘Ikaten’ was created. It wasn’t until the year 2000 though, which is when the first All Japan Professional Drift Championship was held.