Ryuji Ikeda (池田竜次 Ikeda Ryuji) is the leader of Team Spiral and referred to as Zero. Ikeda's family staff a temple - moreover, his father is the temple's head priest and as a result has ample funds to finance his racing career. Ikeda is an older racer and is very calm and level headed even in the heat of a race. He prepares for races by zoning out. Ikeda believes in a theory he created known as "Zero Theory" in which car and driver come together to become a single entity. To do so, a great deal of tuning has to be done to a car in order to match the characteristics of the driver to attain a higher level of racing. Ikeda, while being team leader, is not considered the number 1 driver. He drives a Burning Red Nissan Fairlady Z.
Ryuji Ikeda was first seen at Yabitsu course with the other teams of the Kanagawa alliance including Go Hojo, Eiji Kubo, Hideo Minagawa and the rest of Team 246 when they met to talk about the advance of Project D into the Kanagawa prefecture.
Later on after learning that Project D had defeated both Team 246 and R.T. Katagiri S.V., Ikeda and Hiroya Okuyama, the number 1 driver of the team met at Daikanzan Observation Deck near Hakone Turnpike to discuss about their strategy to defeat Project D. After leaving the observation deck, Ikeda was practicing at Hakone when suddenly a grey R32 GTR suddenly showed up behind him. Not recognizing who the driver was, Ikeda thought it was somebody who was not a local and decided to dust him off by battling him immediately. However, after some corners he realized the guy was definitely a local as he knew all the braking points and was still keeping up with him. Out of frustration, Ikeda enters a corner, only to be shunted from the rear by the GT-R. He was able to maintain control just enough to not smash into the guardrail on the corner, and as he continued and the GT-R kept up with him once again, Ikeda recognized the driver as there was only one person in Kanagawa who would drive this dangerously - Rin Hojo, aka 'Shinigami/Grim Reaper'. Then after entering another corner, this time being shunted even more violently and recovering once again, Ikeda decided it would be better not to interfere in this battle any longer as he has to protect himself and his car for his upcoming battle against Project D. After he stops his car on an exit and when Rin continues to drive ahead, Ikeda vowed himself that he will take 'revenge' against him.
Later on when Project D showed up at Nanamagari, which was the homecourse of Team Spiral, Ikeda asks Takumi and Keisuke and then Ryosuke on what is the first thing which comes to their mind when they think of 'driving'. Ikeda found it interesting to see that for Keisuke it was masochism while for Takumi it was a regular thing. However when he found out that Ryosuke's answer was 'Dream', he was surprised to hear that. He then asks Junichi Sakamoto, the number 2 driver of the team on what he thinks of Project D. According to him, he feels Project D has a strong presence, thanks to their undefeatable record yet and their humble behavior to the team. Ikeda agrees and states that the upcoming battle will be a perfect stage to test his Zero theory. During the next day, when it was raining heavily, Ikeda notes the weather condition, while thinking about Ryosuke Takahashi, as he notes there is something peculiar about him when he met with him last night. During the same time, Ryosuke in his cabin found out that Ikeda's Zero theory as published in his team's website, is quite similar to Ryosuke's own 'Fastest Driver Theory'.
During the next day when the battle between Project D and Spiral was about to start, Sakamoto asked Ikeda who was meditating inside his car on what he actually thinks of when he's zoning out, Ikeda replies with "I don't think about anything. It's how I empty my mind and focus". According to Ikeda the negative thoughts one gets are the prime reasons for failure in racing properly. So by keeping his mind clear of anything and just simply understanding his car, he can follow his Zero Theory and win against Project D.
Before the battle, Ikeda informs Keisuke Takahashi that he will be taking the lead and the battle will start once they pass a tollway overpass of the course, where they will go on with full throttle. During their battle, Keisuke notes that Ikeda is actually maintaining well on the now post rain road surface which is still wet and Ikeda's throttle control in the wet surface is remarkable. In between all this, Ryosuke talks about the Zero Theory and how he feels it's similar to his own theory and the flaws of the Zero theory. He states that humans are bound to show emotions, and this rule strongly goes against Ryosuke's theory, at least for Keisuke, which is to show aggression to win. Suddenly the mountain pass suddenly went from misty to foggy, a scenario locally known as "the white devil of Hakone", an unexpected change for Spiral, though they are experienced in this weather. However, Ryosuke had already been aware of this weather change as he checked through this earlier and he gave his team the strategy needed. By this time, Ikeda had started to feel nervous, on whether he should slow down due to the fog or keep up the speed to win the battle. But then he realized that the very need to feel to win was a breaking of his Zero theory, as it stated that emotions should be kept away. Yet he was riddled with emotions on whether to slow down or win. By this time, Ryosuke had noted a weakness in Zero theory due to its basis on Fuji speedway, a circuit near to the mountain pass where the Spiral members honed their skills. He states Zero theory is most applicable with a closed-circuit race scenario where everything is under control. However, while street racing, unexpected scenarios can pop up, leading to problems with Zero theory.
Suddenly the fog they had been dealing with turned very heavy, leading to an almost no visibility condition ahead of them. While Ikeda panicked on seeing the fog, Keisuke suddenly got a call from Kenta, a plan prepared by Keisuke before the battle, as he told Kenta to call his phone if he reached a particular spot in the pass and there was no oncoming traffic. Keisuke then steps on his gas and to come side by side to Ikeda. Ikeda is totally and utterly confused on what he's seeing and let's off the gas, as he couldn't risk speeding up in the thick fog. Keisuke passes Ikeda, winning the battle. Ikeda though tired and shocked, feels happy that he was defeated by someone that incredible. Later on, after the battle, Ikeda states that he got a headache after concentrating too much on the fog during the battle. Sakamoto insists for a rematch as he thought it was unfair that he lost due to the fog. However, Ikeda says that since it's a public road, weather is no excuse for a loss, and he states that he needs to rework his Zero theory.
After Takumi Fujiwara battles against Hiroya Okuyama and defeats him, Ikeda says to Sakamoto that he purposefully gave Okuyama no advice before the battle so that Okuyama is inevitably defeated, which will teach him experience he wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
A few days later, Ikeda was waiting once again at Hakone Turnpike when he suddenly got a call from Junichi Sakamoto, saying that the Grim Reaper has sped past him chasing another car, and he should be careful. Ikeda complies and starts his car and begins driving, soon joining a battle between Ryosuke Takahashi and Rin Hojo. Ikeda joined with the intent of 'maintaining' peace in Hakone, when his train of thought shifted to wondering who the driver of the white FC RX-7 was, until he made an assumption it was Ryosuke himself. When Shinigami shunted Ryosuke on a corner and when Ryosuke recovered from it successfully, Ikeda realized he had got himself into a deadly dogfight and he had it confirmed that once the fastest in Northern Kanto region is back, but why he had no clue. Suddenly he realized the pace of the battle had increased and he stated he had a hard time getting into the battle let alone intervene in between. After Ryosuke survived a deadly side press by Shinigami into a corner, he stated that the natural downhiller skills of Ryosuke is much more than Takumi Fujiwara himself. After seeing him defend and survive yet another even more deadly side press from Shinigami, Ikeda became convinced that Ryosuke has the very thing Ikeda was looking for - The perfected Zero theory.
As the battle prolonged, Ikeda noticed that Shinigami was checking his brakes too frequently, before realizing that his brakes had seriously worn out, as seen by him entering the corners too fast and hitting the guardrails while exiting the corners in the steep downhill part of the course. Ikeda tried to persuade Shinigami internally that he should take runaway truck ramps, but Shinigami avoided those ramps, making him even more paranoid. By this time Ikeda was convinced that Rin was going for an all out final suicidal attack on Ryosuke. But however to his bewilderment, Ryosuke suddenly began to brake, connecting his car to Shinigami's and braking. However they all knew it was of nearly no use as he didn't have enough brake power to stop the weight of two cars together. On seeing Ryosuke desperately try his best to stop Rin Hojo, Ikeda too joined the formation as he connected his car side by side to Ryosuke as they both braked towards downhill barreling at extreme speeds to the toll booth at the end. Luckily enough they were able to stop just in nick of time as they hit a traffic cone in front of the toll booth, managing to stop in front of the booth. Ryosuke and Ikeda got out of their cars as they looked at Rin Hojo now crying at the realization of what he'd done.
Afterwards days later when Project D and Sidewinder team was preparing for their final battle in the Kanagawa prefecture, Ryuji Ikeda and Satoshi Omiya spectated the Project D opponents driving past the course, giving each other information and on how Keisuke was like Ikeda, and how Takumi reminded of Omiya.
On the night of the battle, Ikeda and Rin met at the Observation Deck, to talk about what advice Rin gave to his brother Go and the battle afterwards. Ikeda talked about his Zero theory and others. Rin Hojo criticized Eiji Kubo as the team manager of Sidewinder when compared with Ryosuke Takahashi as the team leader of Project D. He said how Go should have 'fun' while racing, which was the factor majority of the Kanagawa teams didn't have, while Project D had fun while racing. When Ikeda got the news of the battle going in for a second round, which was unexpected, Rin said that was the way it should it be, as now Go would get some time to think clearly. In between Rin Hojo even made fun of Ikeda for having an 'incense smell' of a monk, which the other didn't take too hilariously.
Exclusively in the anime, after Takumi wins the battle, Ikeda is seen with the rest of the racing teams congratulating Project D for their victory.
He makes a return in MF Ghost as a special guest for a race commentary. It is mentioned that he is now the director of the Zero Theory School, as well as the municipal representative of his own city district, working both to better Motorsports, and to introduce district policies to improve teenage health and well-being. He is also stated to help out by acting as head of the family temple on occasion.
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