AE86s On The Gunsai Touge

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.

Alex Pender
Instagram: noplansco


How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Whew! Nice photography. Captures the energy of the event nicely. Much better than that crazy over boosting of reds that Thyer chap does. Hopefully we see more of your work on Speedhunters!


Am I the only one who found out thru this article that Gunma is a cycling track first and foremost?!


Not really, that place is a shrine to Japan's failure to produce winning riders. :p


Ouch...but very tru


Its so sad that at the same time, the best steel frame tubes also originated from Japan. :(


was new to me too!!


Big yes to this content


This looked pretty much like my usual track day, so real amd mundane, love it! So happy to have the experience and repetition on my car that I haven't broken anything yet, since shade tree fixing is half the racer's days typically and this article reminded me of when times are dry, sunny, and cool - such a cozy article, thanks!


Not bad! You can enjoy 2 real life manga at the same time Initial D and Yowamushi Pedal! Should do a summer 5-day event with touge and time attack in the day and when its cooler at night crit racing


Wow, epic photos, great stuff. Really cool to hear about and see this.

Incidentally while the AE86 itself will surely continue its ascent to classicdom like the Mk1 Escort before it, Toyota have carefully produced the GT86 specifically to solve the problem of the old car becoming too expensive for ordinary people to abuse.

Hmmm.. wonder if it'd be possible to set up a drift event at Cadwell Park? Probably the closest the UK would get to this sort of thing.


That's the Japan I want to see and hear, That video was everything I wish to experience.


Thanks for sharing- the pictures were great but the video was awesome.
The bike/drift track is really narrow; kinda reminds me of "Tail of the Dragon" in eastern Tennessee, USA. :o


Love seeing the Team Mouse cars out, gets me even more excited to slap the TRD spoiler and rest of the aero on my notchback soon


I have my 86 since 2001,i guess since the initial d crazy phase, it was my first proper car and i learned alot with it, be it in the touge or at track, drifiting was really never my thing, maybe i was too poor to handle the inevitable crashes or i was just realistic that i couldnt really drift on the streets of my country without risking others. I dont drive the car since 2011,2012, i got frustrated by the police pressure towards modified cars and also i needed an engine rebuild, so i just storaged it and waited for better times, in the meanwhile i bought an ap1 and a Na8c, the Honda i sold after 2 glorious years, i was missing the lightweight feeling and the working class aspect of the Toyota, the Mazda is everything i love about the 86 but with an abundancy of parts and the happy faces of having a non "luxury" vehicle, everybody loves it, kids, girls and no one is trying to prove they are faster than me, the ap1 here was always seen a bit of a poseur car, im in Portugal btw.
In February i finally decided to do a restoration of my Levin, full paint job, full engine rebuild and my goal is to sell the car on this crazy overvalued market we are living, to cash in lets say. When i see posts like this and videos like the one above it reminds me what i felt in the beginning, to be the underdog, to drive an old Corolla that is much more than the sum of its parts, the soul and the noise of the engine, the smell of the interior and the locking of tires on the touge, my god i realized that maybe i can never be apart from it, its just so punk, so hardcore, its really a lifestyle, and its just so beautiful to see them with battle scars and mods, all of them look different, like our tattoos.
I respect every 86 owner but i realized that a true 86 will never be a garage queen, completly stock and talked about like an investment, at least not as long as there are people like this crazy dudes from Japan making me dream like they did in the beginning