The Day I Met The King

Looking back, it still feels surreal over four years later.

The legend of Dorikin is something that I’m sure a lot of us were introduced to in a similar manner, via a grainy DVD or video download of questionable legality. These were the days pre-YouTube and file sharing was often a physical activity where you swapped discs with your friends. Well, at least where I grew up. I think that we still had a 56k dial-up connection when I first saw the man with red gloves show us the other way to drive a car.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-25

I’m not going to pretend that it was some sort of life changing moment, but it did have a pretty big affect on me at the time. I was always that weird car guy throughout my school and college years, despite not having the means to actually own a car of my own. Instead of studying after school, I’d pore over the latest issue of Max Power, Redline or Fast Car. I was raised in a rally household, but as I grew older, it was the world of JDM that held the most attraction for me. This also coincided with a huge influx of Japanese imports into Ireland in the early ’00s and the affordable performance these cars brought to the masses.

Drifting really began to be picked up in Ireland in 2003 /2004, and through some stroke of luck I ended up taking pictures – looking back, not very good ones – for Ireland’s first drifting series. Over the years, it was my relationship with drifting in Ireland that opened so many doors for me. It was through a chance meeting with the then Max Power staffer Ben Barry at an event around this time that would ultimately lead to an opportunity six or seven years later to work with the king himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

Tsuchiya was in the UK for a few days in 2012, working with Toyota GB on the then new GT86 launch. I’m not sure what sparked Ben Barry’s memory, but I distinctly remember the email asking if I would be interested in coming to the UK and shooting this story for CAR magazine, who Ben was working with. Like Ben, I had graduated from Max Power to CAR and EVO, although I remained a reader and fan while Ben had established himself as one of the UK’s top motoring journalists and remains as such today. CAR had sourced an AE86 for the obvious comparison and as a talking point for its interview with Tsuchiya-san, which would consume the guts of a day.

There was one issue though. On the morning of the shoot, I woke up with severe abdominal pains. It would transpire that my appendix had thrown the proverbial con-rod out of the block and would be removed that night during an emergency procedure. But nothing was stopping me from shooting that day.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-2

The day started out relatively easily, thankfully, with Tsuchiya arriving ready for action in his famous green race suit, tied with the sleeves at the waist. He was accompanied by a translator, but he had a much better grasp of English than I expected. Certainly better than my Japanese, anyways. A formal meet and greet was carried out before a brief introductory interview was conducted a cabin near the car park at the location.

The location itself was just outside London and near Woking at a film studio/test ground that only the UK could conjure up. While we worked away with our shoot, brand new McLaren 12Cs would arrive, perform a series of tests and leave again. We were under strict instructions to photograph only what we were there for, and I didn’t feel like pushing my luck on this particular day. I can’t emphasise how strange it was to be stood with Tsuchiya whilst a 12C was doing donuts not even 200 yards away.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-5

I had a shot list to keep me occupied for most of the day, most of which were pre-arranged images with the two cars. In between,CAR journalist Ben Pulman continued his interview and note-taking with the interpreter at hand.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-13

With most of the shots requested already in the bag, I wanted to capture some candid shots of Tsuchiya hanging out with the car. This was actually a perfectly natural photo, although when Toyota’s PR representative caught me capturing it, he politely asked if I could re-take it without the cigarette. I duly obliged, but I still think that this is the better photo. To date, it’s probably my most stolen and reposted photograph. To be honest though, I’m perfectly fine with that.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-7

Having watched so many videos of Tsuchiya, I was surprised by his quiet demeanour. I mean, we’ve all seen the hilarious D1GP judging videos and even some of the wackier sides to the Option and Best Motoring videos, but he carried himself much more subdued on this particular day. Maybe it was the language barrier playing a role to a certain extent, but every now and then you could see glimpses of the more familiar Tsuchiya popping up.

In fact, I do recall one particular story that he told Ben about an early experience filming in Japan. He had relayed the entire story to the translator who was filling us in, but I could see this sparkle in his eye and a smile coming through as she reached the climax of the story with us. The story went something along the lines of he had been hired to drift a car up a touge. The crew had reassured him that the road was closed with all the appropriate permission having been acquired, but as it turned out, this wasn’t the case. When he was stopped by the police, the camera crew did a runner and he ended up in a cell for the night. He did sees the funny side of it at this stage, although he learned a pretty good lesson that day.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-17

As the day went on, I felt that he opened up more and more. There were several times where I had to pinch myself that this was happening but it only got more surreal when I needed to get shots of Tsuchiya driving from both outside and inside the car.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-23

To have the privilege of riding shotgun with Tsuchiya is something that I feel immensely fortunate to have experienced. It was lightly raining at this point and when he hit the wipers, a greasy smudge completely obscured his vision out the windscreen. He could only laugh, looked at me, pointed at the windscreen and simply said ‘shit!’.

2012 Keiichi Tsuchiya Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-18

The experience was repeated in the GT86. This time though he shared his own technique for finding the correct seat and steering wheel position with us, which I still use to this day. The wipers weren’t required this time.

Finally, we set about capturing the action shots, which proved a whole other challenge as the stock GT86 struggled for power on the fast section of the test course, which just happens to look like a public road. It’s funny, since shooting here, I have seen this section used in countless movies and TV shows. As we were shooting this, Fast & Furious 6 was also filming at the very same location. Like I said, it was a strange day.

Tsuchiya managed somehow to get the car to link the fast sections with some impressively aggressive driving.

He also took huge amounts of pride in annihilating several sets of tyres, too. Serious pride.

Before long, it was time to say goodbye and wrap what remains one of the highlights of my career. Even now, I find it difficult to find the words to accurately describe how much it meant to be on an assignment like this. You always want to maintain at least a veneer of professionalism during jobs like this, but inside you’re absolutely dancing. To meet one of your heroes, and for them to meet all your expectations is a pretty damn awesome feeling.

I’m not really sure if there’s a point to this, but I guess it shows that if you’re committed and passionate, you can go from taking photos on a pocket camera of cars doing skids in a field in Tipperary, to photographing the man who arguably started it all in a relatively short period of time.

I just know one thing, I’ll never forget the day I met the king.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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and the " technique for finding the correct seat and steering wheel position "  is ?  :)


bogdanp i second that


johnbezt bogdanp If you reach out for '10' and '2' on the wheel, but with your hands crossed, you should be able to comfortably hold the wheel without stretching and with your hands at just about shoulder height.


This is taught at every HPDE. Good to see it's consistent across the pond as well!


Only just skimmed this briefly before starting my next job of the day so will read the whole lot later. But to see an article titled "the day I met the king" only really means one thing in the world of cars. Very jealous Paddy, this guy is my Super GT hero! My friend Skip and myself regularly watch the best motoring videos of him, Manabu, Naoki and Juichi tearing up the touge comparing cars and having a laugh.

Very jealous and so happy you got to meet him!


It's epic to meet your idol , isn't it ?
Also , amazing shot on the 86 .

Also , FnF6 ? I somehow don't recall FnF6 has touge-sort of scene .


RDS Ah, should have been clearer. They were filming in-doors at a sound stage nearby.


Best article on Speedhunters this year. Love that pic of Keiichi-san smoking.


The title shot is the best I have seen on Speedhunters, great effort Paddy.


The interior driving shot. Bang-bang! So good.


Lovely work man. Your writing and photography are easily up there with some of the best on here.

I hope you don't mind but your header image is now part of my screensaver rotation. It's funny, I still remember my first glance of Tsuchiya, on  a 7" headrest monitor in the car park of rose green, when the championship was still called "D1 IRL" and regularly fielded by Opel Mantas and Omegas. Thanks for bringing back some great memories Paddy.


Share to me that technique he uses!


My Uncle Charlie got red Toyota Camry from only workin on a home computer... hop over to this siteᴵ------->>ᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ


Nigwin damn right....Paddy whats with the holding out bro?


I've stolen that casual black & white pic of Dori dori smoking and have had it on my laptop for years....Just wanna say its an awesome pic and glad to know who actually took it. Brilliant shot Paddy


Paddy McGrath 
ah , that's why .

Oh btw , I didn't know that Keiichi photo are yours , at all ... not until now


Hey Paddy,

Great article love the black and whites of Tsuchiya! Can you update with larger downloadable views? I'd love to put this up on my background :D


I remember you posting the picrure with Tsuchiya smoking next to the hachi. Still one of my favourites to this time.


Best read I've had for ages!


DevBizkit Nigwin Scroll down, friends :)


Aficionadoo Just click on the image and use the download button in the bottom right corner :)


DevBizkit Thanks, mate. I don't class that as stealing and I'm proud its made it into your wallpaper rotation. Stealing is when someone tries to sell prints of it on eBay or pretends that they took the photo!


Great article. I know Tsuchiya was probably taking it light that day on the touge. Haha! +1 on the Blackberry.


Properly jealous, this was a great read & to have a bit more insight into someone I look up to. Thanks Paddy


Oh, Paddy, how could you shared this story just now?....


Best story i've read anywhere in ages. Spades of soul and eat-your-heart-out photography to boot. Thank you:)


Glad you decided to write this up. Love it!!
Judging from the other comments too, I think it's safe to say it makes us feel as if we get to share some of your glory reading this article and looking at the photos.
Thanks bro (y) :)


hang out with DK (Tsuchiya-san) a couple of times during the Super GT races in Japan and Thailand. there was once during a Super GT race at Fuji circuit a lady on wheelchair  was waiting for his autograph outside the pits under the hot sun. when Tsuchiya-san came out and saw her immediately invited her to the pits and show her around. really make her day!


Wow. Everything you just wrote completely resonated with me. I grew up exactly the same way with Option DVDs etc. You're really lucky to have met your idol and for him to be exactly how you imagined. Thanks for this Paddy, definitely the best article on SH to date.


Yeah, I can relate to almost everything in this article. I've always been crazy about Tsuchiya even before the drifting craze hit US shores, I havent really seen anything on him lately other than his exhibition at WTAC in Beau Yates 86 so this was a really nostalgic read. It's awesome you got to ride with the king, quite jealous actually lol.


Paddy McGrath so you were at Longcross proving ground??? near Chobham, Woking! The DK was on my doorstep and I didn't even know it, lol!

Some great photos, I love how he still wears his classic green overalls. I imagine his wardrobe is just filled with these and nothing else


I remember the article well, Paddy. Fab work as always.


life long dream to met the king. still one of automotive biggest influece and a living legend.


I'm surprised that some one can get paid $8765 

in 1 month on the computer ............


Great story and cool pics. Love this.


Mechanophile Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!


amirulmkhtr I had actually met him before at Silverstone in 2005, but this was obviously a lot more personal.


mrwicksy I think I actually lost the magazine, but I have a PDF of the feature somewhere so it's not too bad. Thanks for the kind words!


Rotormotor Same. I follow him on social and he's still doing the rounds, so to speak. Wouldn't say no to another passenger run!


Pedders Thank you, you're very kind.


Rick Tee I'm not surprised, he's a very down to earth guy.


i23sonny I'm glad people enjoyed it, I was weary of writing it as I didn't want it to be some self-indulgent nostalgic piece, just wanted to share the experience. I'm still hyped about it, over four years later!


alisterp That's very kind, thank you!


schoedikae I was so on the fence about writing it for quite a while. Glad that it has gone down well.


SebAgentOrangeBetts You're very much welcome!


VWayyyyyyyy He had the GT86 absolutely strung out. You might notice there are actually a couple of different GT86s in the photos, all the same colour. They got a lot of punishment that day, but they all took it like a champ.


Such an awesome story to tell! And those pictures are amazing, are there available on higher res? I'd like to use one of them as my desktop wallpaper.


d3vak They're all available as desktops, just click to enlarge any image and click the download icon in the bottom right corner.


Primarily was curious of the technique to find the best seating position, glad to see it was answered below. Great shots and write-up Paddy, long live the king.


Great read Paddy, it's this type of narrative that loans some soul to Speedhunters beyond mere metal, glass and rubber. I suppose grown folk don't really have heroes per se, but I would certainly be lying if I said I did not hold certain icons within our community in great esteem, personally and professionally.
It's a bit of a nervous proposition, then, when we are finally afforded the opportunity to meet them. Will they live up to their internet and social media mythos? What if they turn out to be a complete sod?
Magnus was on my shortlist of people I'd like to meet, and I can fortunately and convincingly say he is even cooler in person than he seems online. Entirely genuine, humble, hospitable and generous dude.
No real point in mentioning that encounter other than to express my appreciation for your story, which provided me with some fond circumstantial nostalgia for a rare instance when my expectations were quite positively exceeded. Cheers!


Turbology I can only second what you've said about Magnus. He's a great human being.


Paddy McGrath Thank you very much!


He did it for the lulz...


like Irene answered, I'm in shock that a mom can make $5437 

in a few weeks on the internet .............


Andy always comes up with some crazy shots, must be the beard! =P
             see more detail


Photo with the cigarette is top, it's like after good sex when you light one, same here after a good drive/drift :)


He's always smiling and laughing, he must be a very great person I would've loved to meet him since I also grew up with his videos. Thanks for the article Paddy I'm jealous hahaha


amazing jobs..............

my friend makes $82 hourly on the laptop


mind sharing his technique for finding the correct seating position?


my Aunty Arianna recently got Mercedes GLK-Class Diesel by working part-time from a home 
pc. check this link right here now.............


rehdogg15 It's down at the bottom of the comments :)


Paddy McGrath rehdogg15 Ah sorry, I missed it! Thanks for answering :)


I've driven there! Did one of the super car experience things in a Lamborghini Gallardo. It really is a weird, weird place. Awesome feature, great pictures and, as usual, really good article on capturing an insight to being a true petrolhead (in other ways than just loving cars!).


My Uncle Ben recently got a new green Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive Hatchback 

only from working parttime off a home pc............. 

(Copy And Open This)


Those shots of Tsuchiya-san holding his cigarette are pure gold. Just shows how human he is.
When RWB's Nakai-san was in town for a build, I also make it a point to take a picture of him with a cigarette in hand. These kind of shots just show what these people are: humans.


My Uncle Joseph just got a new yellow Infiniti QX60 Hybrid just by some part-time working online with a computer.........



Very nice photo and story. One thing I dont get it. You are so much into drift,from its earliest days,and yet,you dont have a drift car o.O  At least some cheap beater.


BozoMotosport I can't afford to!


can't imagine how you lucky you were :) amazing thanks for the captures


amazing jobs..............

my friend makes $8288 hourly on the laptop

more details   


my best frend got a nearly new yellow BMW 6 Series Convertible 

by working part time ................



inspiring read Paddy thankyou!


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