Last month, I headed to Suzuka Twin Circuit for yet another spectacular event. I’m sure the title has already given it away. It was the 86 Running event that has been going on for many years, and as usual, held on the 6th of August.
The event was on a Sunday this year. For some unknown reason, I thought it would be a good idea to skip the usual 5-6ish hour highway drive because it is ridiculously expensive. Instead, I woke up Saturday morning and ended up driving about 10 hours of touge through the mountains in the Chugoku region, passing by Kyoto city, and ending up in Mie prefecture where I would spend the night.
It was a tough 10 hours of driving in the peak of summer, I think I went through about three shirts during that time. A highlight of the trip was chasing a BMW through a tight section of touge just past Kyoto city. Going to Mie prefecture the day before meant that on Sunday, the actual day of the event, I wouldn’t have gotten up at 2 or 3-am to drive the highway to the track.
It was an easy morning, a 7-am start, followed by a konbini breakfast and then a short 15-minutes drive to Suzuka Twin Circuit. For those of you who don’t know, the circuit is located to the East of Osaka, and to the South of Nagoya, a 15-minute drive from Suzuka Circuit. You can get there by train, but then a 1-hour walk through the forest awaits you. The best way to get to Suzuka Twin Circuit is certainly via a car.
The weather was good, some clouds, but too hot as per usual with the summers here in Japan. As I exited out of the short touge track that leads to the circuit, I was greeted by rows and rows of modified 86s ready to hit the track.
The usual way these events work in Japan is rather simple. You pay for a day of drifting, and depending on how many entrants there are, groups will be made usually based on your skill level. From my last drift event, we had 8-minutes out on track, and then about a 50-minute wait to go out again. This repeated itself for about 7 or 8 rotations.
You may not think it’s that long, but It’s actually quite a good system. This way you can watch other cars, and more importantly, not over-cook your car by staying out there for 30-minutes or more. Which I have been guilty of doing before.
I’m not extremely knowledgeable about 86’s, so don’t go crazy if you find incorrect information. There was a good mix of both the Levin (fixed lights) and Trueno (pop-ups). The usual, from the factory look, is that the Levin is a coupe, and the Trueno is a hatch (like Initial-D). However, people love swapping the fronts around to create the reverse combo.
What I discovered during this day was that there is actually a zenki and kouki model, for the Levin version at least. As far as I can tell the rear lights are different, and the front has the addition of fog lights in between the head lights. Come to think of it, I’d assume the zenki is just the AE85, with the kouki being the AE86. That would make the most sense, wouldn’t it?
Walking around the pits, it was easy to see that the 86 culture in Japan is in a league of its own. The amount of character that each car has is something that can’t be mimicked very easily. Every car knew what it was doing, it wasn’t stuck between ideas of the style it was trying to pull off. Whether that be small wheels, slammed chassis, tofu colour coded. It all looked so good.
The stickers are another thing altogether. I had to put this shot in, show to just how much Japanese people love stickers. I’d assume that some of these cars were probably purchased new by the same person drifting them at the track during this meeting. So really, a handful of these stickers plastered all over the 86s could be 30 years old.
This is the first time heading to an 86 meeting. It was a little different to other events, all the cars were underpowered. Meaning, the driving ability would shine through here, rather than horsepower. Cars would get a big run up and then carry the speed through the whole drift section, flicking the car from side to side.
Coming from a Silvia background, I had no idea about any of the famous 86 drifters. One of my photography buddies told me about Team Mouse, and how they are an epic 86 drift team that run super close to each other. He wasn’t wrong, with about 4 or 5 Team Mouse cars present, whenever it was their turn to hit the track, I was right there, watching their unique 86 drifting style.
The track was run in reverse to the Formula Drift section, most likely due to the high-speed entry that totally eats cars for breakfast. This was good though, I prefer this way. Using this direction means the cars are drifting towards you, so you can get shots like this.
Although, for about half an hour in the afternoon, the track was run in the opposite directions for a few of the god-like drifters to try scrape their booty along the wall. This Bride Levin was getting the closest, drift after drift, only centimetres away from imminent destruction.
The last car I found at the track, a 100% chassis rubbing Levin with pop-ups. It may not be everyone’s style, that doesn’t matter though, the owner made it look this crazy because he wanted to. That’s the usual trend in Japan, it’s good because people don’t do things to their cars that other people tell them to do. The cars carry the owner’s style.
Was the 10-hour trip, plus 6-hour return drive worth it for only a day of drifting? I’ll say yes, it was, just because it was a unique experience that involved a lot of 86s. If it had been any other kind of car, I may have had to reconsider.
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable
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