If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve at least heard of, or seen footage of the Gunsai Touge at some point. It could have been while browsing the internet on a site like Speedhunters, watching Hot Version videos or reading an Option magazine.
Tucked away in the hills of Gunma Prefecture, the Gunma Cycle Sports Center is home to several roadways that make up this world-famous touge. The private roads aren’t often opened up to anything other than cycling, so that made the event I attended a couple of weeks back all the more special.
Hosted by Garage Infinity, a Gunma-based AE86 specialist tuning shop, the ‘AE86 Drift Pass Attack’ made for a stunning exhibition of one of Japan’s most iconic chassis in the colourful peak of autumn.
After a short drive out of Tokyo, I was greeted by more than 30 Levins and Truenos that had made their way from across Japan. Some owners had driven throughout the night prior, just to take up this opportunity to drift the famous course with fellow Hachiroku enthusiasts.
The event was split across two different tracks, the Touge Course and a chalk-drawn circuit in one of the facility’s adjacent car parks. This opened it up to those not keen on throwing their car around the narrow road course, which was designed for bicycles, not cars, after all.
There were many notable AE86s and teams in attendance, a favourite of mine being the Team Mouse notchbacks. This pair of 86s both share the big aero and over-fender look – an iconic early-2000s style that is often now reverted to factory. It’s another sign of the increasing collectability status of the once humble Hachiroku.
The collectible nature of these cars, however, didn’t seem to be on many of the drivers’ agendas. It was refreshing to see AE86s driven as they were 10 or 15 years ago. At the same time, though, it was stark reminder that events like these will continue to become fewer and farther between as the younger generation are priced out of the hobby.
No stranger to the Gunsai Touge, Hiroshi Takahashi, AKA Kaicho but known to many as runningfree86, was running consistently throughout the event – even after he put his car into a guard rail.
Kaicho has been drifting Corollas for over 30 years now, and his red Trueno is easily one of the most well-known AE86s today. It’s been through many iterations in its lifetime, but right now it’s running a built, dry-sumped 4A-GE with FCR carburettors, propelled by a TRD Cross Mission gear set.
It was definitely one of the best-sounding cars of the day, and it’s great to see that the Trueno will also be back to looking its best very soon.
Taku-san’s N2 AE86 Levin is an uncommon look for drift-built AE86s, but it seemed right at home on the Gunsai Touge.
Another favourite of mine was Yuichi’s perfectly-executed, street-style Levin notchback. I’ve seen this car at almost all the AE86 events I have attended in Japan, a testament to its 4A-GE engine’s reliability.
It’s no secret that driving a track like this has its risks. In just the one day, Gunsai claimed a handful of Hachis, some faring better than others against the unforgiving guard rails. This never got in the way of any high spirits though; the show went on with laughter all round.
Some of the best cars, backed by the stunning autumn scenery of the Gunma mountains is any enthusiast’s dream come true. It certainly was for me.
I’d like to give a special note of appreciation to Kaicho for the invitation out.
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