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Formula Drift Champion Ken Gushi Got His Start by Watching Initial D

“In the professional scene, there is a huge representation of Asians,” Gushi says. Drifting started in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By the time it made its way stateside in the late 1990s and early 2000s, “everyone knew the whole JDM craze, drifting, and they all wanted to be a part of that scene or that community.

“To me personally, the Asian representation has always been dominant, especially in the import culture, because the word ‘JDM’ means so much to a lot of people in the car industry,” Gushi continues. It’s certainly where he got his start.

As a teenager in Japan, Gushi’s father was always into motorcycles, cars, and racing. (With a love of Subarus and rally racing, his dream was to compete at a Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado.) Gushi was two years old when his family moved to the United States and remembers following his dad around the house garage in a little one-piece jumpsuit, surrounded by cars and motorsport.

Gushi senior eventually opened up a shop and his son was there, hanging out and helping, moving customer cars around and giving his dad rides to work. (No, he didn’t have a license at the time.) Car stuff with his dad, that was the norm.

And then the Initial D anime series came out.

“That story was so familiar to ours,” Gushi says. “That anime series got me hooked on Corollas and drifting. Not that I wanted to deliver tofu, but I loved the fact that [Takumi] was still a teenager, helping his dad [Bunta] with his work, driving through the canyons in the middle of night. It reminded me of our story where I would help my dad with his work, driving him to work, and helping him move cars around.” 

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