6/14/2012—In just a few short weeks, Lexus’ IS F CCS-R racecar will enter the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a grueling competition where drivers power up to the summit of Pikes Peak through more than 150 tight, steep turns, gaining nearly 5,000 feet of elevation along the way.
It’s no race for timid drivers, which is why we wanted to get to know the talented man behind the wheel for Lexus—pro-drifter Ken Gushi—who was more than happy to tell Lexus Enthusiast editor Kevin Watts what it takes to tackle this mountain:
You’re no stranger to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb—back in 2007 you had quite an adventure.
Yes, it was my first Pikes Peak experience, and my dad was the co-driver. We competed in the Open class, and qualified third in the class. We were pretty excited to take on the hill, but on race day, about three miles into the climb, we miscalculated Engineer’s Corner at about 90 miles an hour and flew off the mountain.
You came out of that unharmed?
A few sore muscles, but relatively unharmed. It was still low enough in elevation that the drop-off wasn’t too intense.
You were the youngest driver ever in the D1 Grand Prix in Japan and the Formula Drift Championship in the USA—could you share some of your racing history?
My father taught me the basics of car control when I was 13.
Nothing like starting early...
Initially, the plan was to pursue a career in rally racing, but it was expensive. At the time, drifting was the new thing, so we started competing in the local drifting events in the L.A. region—just small scale private events where a bunch of locals would come out and practice. When I was about fifteen, I entered my first actual competition and finished in the top three. That’s when I figured we could make something out of this, so my dad invested the money to build me a better drift car. In 2005, I was picked up for my first major sponsorship deal.
So then, how did this opportunity to race the Lexus IS F CCS-R come about?
When I was first approached, I didn’t know any details at the time, but I said that I would definitely love to do it—I wanted to tackle the mountain again after not finishing last time. I was told that Lexus wanted to use a drift driver to pilot the IS F CCS-R that was on its way from Japan, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Do you have a co-driver this time?
No, my plan is to go up a week before the race and do as many reconnaissance laps as I can. I want to memorize the road this time—the course has 156 corners, so I’ll be spending a lot of time driving.
I know you had some practice runs this past weekend—what do you think about the car so far?
The car is really fun to drive—and you can definitely feel that some weight has been shaved off the stock IS F. The IS F CCS-R has more than 400 horsepower, but up the mountain in those high elevations, a driver can lose a lot of horsepower in the higher rpm range.
How are you going to compensate for that?
We’re discussing the option of installing an air fuel controller to pull out some more horsepower, and maybe messing around with the gearing on the transmission.
What are some of the other differences in the IS F CCS-R racecar?
The CCS-R of course feels like a racecar. The interior’s gutted with the roll cage and race instrument cluster, the exhaust note is completely different, and the seat position is different. But the interesting thing is that you can really see how much engineering work comes from the stock IS F—the shift feel, the power.
Final question—what are your expectations for the race?
We’re competing in the exhibition class, and I can say we’re pretty confident that we’ll be first in our class.
That’s exactly the thing we all like to hear, best of luck to you in the race!
Thanks! The car feels great—I’m sure we’ll have a good time on the mountain.
—INTERVIEW BY KEVIN WATTS
 Model shown is a special modified race project for racing purposes by professional drivers only.
 Vehicle shown is a special project car, and may be modified with non-Genuine Lexus parts and accessories. Modification with these non-Genuine Lexus parts or accessories will void the Lexus warranty, may negatively impact vehicle performance and safety, and may not be street legal.