What makes touge, or drift racing different than regular drag racing comes from the very definition of the word. Touge is Japanese for "mountain pass" and refers to a style of shifting and drifting down a curvy mountain road in an effort to increase the distance from you and the car behind you. This is not an all out speed race, but more a technique that has to be mastered and can sometimes have fatal results due to the deadly curves used to race down. In the world of modified cars, touge racing represents the elite among those who participate in this illegal and deadly sport.
Illegal Street Racing
In certain parts of Florida and California, illegal street racing has become an epidemic to law enforcement officials and a leading cause of injuries among young drivers who participate in these races. Nationwide statistics state that out of every 1000 people who participate in these kind of street races, more than 50 are injured and these injuries are not just limited to those who are racing. Many times, young drivers of modified cars end up loosing control of their cars and causing harm to those who are either watching or just happen to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
For those that get caught participating in illegal street races, most states have stiff laws for not only the drivers but for also those who are just spectators. You can lose your license, your car insurance, your expensive modified car can be impounded, you can be fined and spend some time in jail.
The truth is none of these consequences stop those who enjoy the thrills of this sport and even the chance of death is not a deterrent for these thrillseekers.
Touge Racing on the Rise
The origins of drift racing date back to the mid 50's and can be seen in the popular rally races of Europe where drifting techniques like overshifting are more necessary than overall speed. Drifting has had its place in most forms of racing, but it in touge racing, drifting is the simgle most important component to winning a race. Opponents do not compete against the speed of another modified car as the challenge lies in how close you can keep up to the car in front of you.
Touge racing began in the mountains of Japan where the curvy downhill terrain was perfect for this style of racing. Since then, drift racing has come to mountainous roads throughout California and to the legendary Nordschleife in Germany. Touge, or Toge, in Japan has gained in popularity due to several factors including the popularity of the modified car culture and the lack of legal places to race and the high cost to compete in these competitions. The races take place on S bends which were put in the mountain pass to help slow down vehicles traveling from high elevations. The fact that the racers run on these dangerous tracks and sometimes at night seems to be against the very purpose these curves were designed for in the first place.
The Dangers of Touge Racing
The dangers from touge racing are far greater than those of regular modified car drag races. Where illegal street races are about speed over a straight path, drift racing requires techniques that are built on shifting through curves and maintain tight position with the car in front of you. The fact that a lot of skill is necessary to handle the overshifting and that most of these races are run on very dangerous mountain turns tends to up the injury and fatality rate compared to drag racing.
When it comes to touge racing, there are three general types of battles.The first is Cat and Mouse where the lead car wins if the distance between cars is considerable. The other car wins if it manages to overtake the lead car. If the cars keep up with each other, then the positions are swapped and the race is run again. If a modified car spins out of control or crashes, then the other car is the winner.
Next is called the Grip Gambler if the road is wide enough to support the cars. at the end of the touge, whoever is in lead is the winner.
Ghost battles are timed heats where each driver runs the course and whoever has the best time wins.
Touge racing has become a niche racing circuit among modified car owners with their own secret language among drivers where at anytime a driver can be challenged by an opponent by the flick of their hazards which not only lets the driver know that they want to race but exactly what kind of touge is expected.
Drift Racing in Popular Culture
While drift racing will never replace illegal drags, it is becoming a growing phenomenon in popular culture. Video games like Midnight Club and Need for Speed have drifting competitions in their games and in Japan there is anime and manga dedicated to this past time. It has developed a mythic, almost legendary quality to it as a sport, making those who do compete with their modified cars in touge racing to be the most elusive and popular racers in their subculture.
Drift racing also showed up in the third installment of the Fast and Furious series.