From Manga to the Nordschleife

Nanami Tsukamoto is the best known female race car driver in Japan. She is also very successful as a model and as a presenter. The greatest passion of the smart businesswoman, however, is motorsport. The only female professional driver in drifting competitions in the Land of the Rising Sun will start at VLN1 and VLN3. had a chat with the pretty lady driver.

How did you get involved in motorsport? What is the fascination there for you?

I started quite late with motorsport. Other race drivers enjoyed some education from a young age already. My inspiration was “Initial D”. A manga on which an anime series from the Kodansha publishing company is based. It is about Takumi Fujiwara, an 18-years old teenager, who helps his father in his tofu business doing deliveries to the hotel on Mount Akina every morning with his Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86. Due to his daily rides, Takumi becomes an exceptionally good driver who proved his drifting skills later on in road races. In 2007, I founded the only racing kart team for women, “JKB”, with model fellows. This attracted a great deal of media attention and I became a driver in the GAZOO86/BRZ team. Two years later, I started in the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan and last year, I competed in three VLN races. Driving race cars gives me a good feeling. It is quite difficult to handle the race cars correctly. Every time when I am on the racing line, it gives me a proper adrenalin rush.

You were born in Brazil. Please tell us a bit about your roots…

My father is Italian and my mother is Japanese. I was born in Brazil and I grew up in Japan. I came to Japan with my family when I was 10 years old. I spent my school days in Yamanashi and then went to Tokio. I am proud to have two hometowns. I am official ambassador of the Yamanashi prefecture. I went back to Brazil recently after a long absence and there was a strong feeling of nostalgia. In the future, I would like to develop projects that connect Japan and Brazil.

You are the only female professional driver in drifting competitions in Japan? What is it that you like in drifting?

Yes, that is correct. When drifting, the driver makes the car oversteering whilst he or she maintains control at high speeds. The rear of the car moves to the exterior in the corners. I think that these techniques and experiences are very useful for me in racing. Drifting is very exciting for the spectators, and even people who do not know much about cars just enjoy it. It was born in Japan and has meanwhile become very popular all around the world.

You are also very well-known as model at Super Car Events in Japan. Do you now and then also hear some kind of cheeky comments from male drivers?

No. Regardless of gender, I am treated like an athlete on the race track, so no special treatment. There may, however, be male drivers who are not keen on losing against women.

The Japanese media representatives describe you as the most beautiful female driver in Japan. What do you say?

I am a little embarrassed by this. At the same time, I feel very honoured.

You have been at the start in VLN races three times in 2018. What is you impression from the legendary Nordschleife?

The feeling of this strong force of gravity, the height differences, the steep gradients, the many changes in direction in this forest landscape – I do not feel this on Japanese race tracks. It is a very difficult circuit and very exciting, but at the same time also the most beautiful track of the world. I am completely fascinated of the Nordschleife. After having seen the circuit on TV and in the internet, I was yearning for competing in races there one day. I am deeply impressed by each single corner.

How did you from faraway Japan come together with Ring Racing in the VLN?

The Japanese Team Novel Racing entered into a partnership with Ring Racing.

Who is this wild and sexy diva is the first question on your homepage. There is also a manga and a photo showing you in a bikini. What is it all about?

Hahaha, I won’t tell you. I think, however, that drifting can give you a wild image. I was official promotion ambassador of the filming of “Initial D”. The character “Mako”, modelled after me, appeared also in the action film. Thereafter, “Mako” was commercialised in various forms.

What are your plans for 2019?

I will be at the start of VLN races 1 and 3. I wish to gain as much experience in the Green Hell as possible to be perfectly prepared for the 24h Race. I will also participate in the rally series in Japan and in the drifting competitions in China.

What are your further targets in motorsport?

Through my media exposures, I wish to promote Japanese automobile industry and motorsport in Japan. With “Initial D”, I have already successfully implemented various projects. This February, I became the game character Nanami in the video game Drift Spirits of Bandai Namco. I hope that I will also be able this year to further extend my activities in China.