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Sideways at 130km/h with drift king Keiichi Tsuchiya

Coming on to the main straight of Sydney Motorsport Park at around 130km/h is something I’ve done before. Never sideways though.

Luckily, it’s drift king Keiichi Tsuchiya behind the wheel, not me. I’m strapped into the passenger seat of a Toyota Supra GR while ‘KT’ is doing the wheelwork and flinging Toyota’s halo car into a perfect four-wheel drift.

His hands and feet work in tandem, with perfect steering inputs married to a deft touch of the throttle, a choreography that keeps the Supra completely in control.

This is no purpose-built drift Supra, however – just a bog standard GR road car apart from the wheels and rubber. And Tsuchiya is drifting it like a boss.

It’s difficult for him, too. For starters, he only arrived in Australia from Japan that morning. And there’s no manual gearbox, nor is there a manual handbrake. Instead, to combat the grip of the Supra, Tsuchiya places one wheel of the car off the track, the scrabble for grip momentarily broken and the drift initiated. Total control. Genius.

I’m the first to admit I don’t fully appreciate the art of drifting. It’s just not something that floats my boat, certainly not when viewed from outside the car. But when you’re riding shotgun with the ‘Drift King’ and can see the artistry involved, the dance between feet and steering wheel, my levels of appreciation go stratospheric.

With the inline-six under the bonnet of the Supra howling and growling, Tsuchiya’s deft car control is other-worldly. It’s a privilege to ride alongside him, to see a master at work, the lightness of touch on the wheel, the infinitesimally small movements that keep the car in a perfectly timed and executed slide.

For Tsuchiya though, it all comes easily, though.

“The new Supra is really easy to drive because you can tell when it’s starting to slide,” he says. “With the previous A80 [Supra], it’s a lower base so you can start sliding it at lower speed. [But] with the new one, the grip is at a much higher level so you can drift at a much higher speed.

“With the higher grip levels, once you start sliding it, you get better feedback from the car. It’s not as scary as previous platforms. It’s a much more balanced platform, you get better feedback overall, as the driver.”

Only two things could make it better, according to Tsuchiya, when asked about the existence of a manual Supra test mule deep in the bowels of Toyota HQ. While he admitted he had no knowledge of it, using exaggerated hand gestures and grin that could melt icebergs, the Drift King said: “It would be much better to have a manual… with a handbrake!"

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