nodded him through to enter in the Pro Championship for the 2013/2014 season at the eye-popping age of just 18.
Progressing into the Pro field meant development came with several changes for Joe — the main upgrade, of course, being the brief shift from an RB25DE+T to an RB29, before again stepping up the game. Recently finishing his second season in Pro, Joe now runs a 440kW RB30DET complete with forged internals, Garrett 35/82 turbocharger, Sinco manifold, and a Turbosmart wastegate, all kept cool by a new radiator and intercooler set-up thanks to Fenix Radiators. The Skyline has also been equipped with a customized Keto Steering System, allowing for maximum steering angle. Townsend Brotherz Racing (TBR) has jumped on board heavily over the last year to ensure that Joe can always leap into the car with confidence, changing it drastically every race day to ensure the R32 is dialled in specifically for each individual track at any given time. The Kukutais have been consistently blown away by the support from TBR, with Joe stating, “We now have one of the fastest cars in D1NZ, and nine times out of 10 we have to dial grip out of the car to avoid hitting the competition. TBR has accelerated our competitiveness drastically; I owe a lot to Kaz — he is without a doubt the best in the business.”
He’s kept true to type with his RB platform among the stiff V8 competition in the series, and we had to question his engine loyalty for the foreseeable future. His reply? “Running a V8 in drifting is like eating a big-ass cheeseburger with a knife and fork — f***in’ boring.”
At 19 years old, Kukutai still remains the youngest D1NZ Pro Driver in the field, and he brings with him an energetic and personable attitude that easily wins support from fans of all ages.
When asked where his inspiration comes from, Joe was quick to respond, simply saying Naoki Nakamura. Given Nakamura’s Japanese aggression and stylish flair, it is not hard to see why Joe aspires to drive like the D1 Street Legal legend, and he’s even included elements of Nakamura’s style in previous liveries on the Skyline.
Keeping Joe grounded and focused throughout his time on track is his crew chief and father, Denny. “I’m always thankful to have my dad beside me at the track,” Joe told us. “He’s been such a big part of my life for 19 years. It is absolutely awesome to have someone that I can truly trust with me in the pits. He is the best motivator for me, and I could never ask for anything more.”
Sitting comfortably in 13th position at the end of the D1NZ 2014/2015 Pro season, Joe was unfortunately unable to attend the final round due to brake-failure issues — not what you want happening with the infamous 200kph entries at Pukekohe Park Raceway.
The progress Kukutai has made over the time between picking up his Nissan Skyline in 2011 and his recent D1NZ Pro career is undeniably intimidating, and will remain a hot topic among competitors leading into the next championship. It will be interesting to see how Joe decides to grasp the next season of D1NZ and what changes will be made to his R32. We’re not sure about you, but we think that his thirst for the crown, aggressive style, and ‘smash the gas’ attitude will have us all guessing … DRIVER/OWNER: Joe Kukutai AGE: 19 LOCATION: Auckland OCCUPATION: Man of few talents BUILD TIME: Four years LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: Four years THANKS: Dad, Mitch Cowley, my family and friends for all the continued support, Rockstar Energy Drink, Blastacars, TBR, Gull New Zealand, Luxury Sports, Keto Steering Systems, Rota Wheels, Kukutai Transport, Garmin, Zeroclass, Fenix, NZ Wiring, ST Hi-Tec, Amplified Customs, Richard Andersen — Graphics, Joe’s Mechanical Services, Driftdirect, and everyone who’s supported me in the past!
Joe has certainly earned himself a reputation as an aggressive chase driver who’s not afraid to swap paint with anyone