Touge Run(down)

VROOOOM. SHROOM. SHROOM. SHROOM. GROOOM. “Yep, that was them.” Brakes. E-brake. U-Turn. Gas. We had spent the previous forty minutes at the meet-up spot waiting for the other drivers to show. Patience lost, we decided to head back south in hopes of running into the group. Our plan paid off and we were quickly back at the meet-up spot having only left about five minutes prior.

S15 patiently waiting.

We spent the next half hour standing around and waiting. The Japanese guys driving the other cars stood in a group chatting, sharing what I imagined to be car stories or shenanigans from their drive north. I made a lap around the parking lot to check out the other cars. An eclectic mix but each was equally respectable in their own right. Since neither of us spoke any Japanese nor did they speak any English, we stuck to ourselves until they threw us a nod and made a move for the cars at 2:00am.

Stray parking lot dog that kicked it with us while we waited.

We were off. The cars filed out in an order decided by a series of “after you’s” and waves. the pink kitted S15 sitting pretty on white Buddy Club P1’s leading; followed by a black Evo 2 with a GT-wing; a black EVO 8 rocking Kansai Service stickers and a rear diffuser; a stock body BMW 3series slammed on unknown five spoke 18’s and diesel powered; a spectacularly clean white kitted JZX100 Chaser on Volk GT-7’s; a rather unassuming blue JZX100 Chaser on old school Volk GT-C’s (us); a white Evo 5 looking almost rally spec with flares; a yellow built Suzuki Swift on Volk CE28N’s showing his Swift pride with a massive side vinyl and rally mudflaps; and bringing up the rear in stunning fashion was a gutted white stock body Daihatsu slammed on small Watanabe’s, interior chassis braces visible through the widows.

It would be a grip night. After another half an hour drive, we were at the first run. What is a busy two-way mountain highway during the day becomes a deserted racetrack in the wee hours of the morning. We lined up and waited to run while the other drivers chatted on their 2-way radios. The S15 was gone; I assumed he went ahead to check the roads hence the waiting. Hazards turned off, the cars started rolling with us in back behind the black Evo 8.

The object of the game: don’t lose the car in front of you. We were never more than a three car lengths behind him. While on flat tarmac twisties and fully uncorked, the Evo 8 would have probably walked away from our Chaser. But in the mountains; the hairpins, uneven road, and threat of on coming traffic equalized the field. What we lacked was unnoticed – we were on his ass. The JZX rolled and pitched perfectly around the corners gripping superbly. Understeer was nonexistent and the Project Mu pads shed speed with confidence. This massive four-door saloon is a sports car in sheep’s clothing.

The first run was over before I realized it. We pulled off into a rest area and let the cars cool before the second leg. I took the opportunity to drink a vending machine coffee and think about my apprehension during the run. Firstly, I didn’t know the car or its capabilities. Secondly, I wasn’t driving and didn’t know the driver’s skill. Thirdly, I didn’t know all the road’s turns and elevation changes. Fourthly, I would be buying this car in a week and wanted it to survive the night. (Yeah, you read that correctly; I am buying a JZX100 CHASER!!!) After the first run, I was at peace. The car was phenomenal and the driver top notch. He carried on a normal conversation while driving one handed and barefooted. He knew the roads and was respected by the guys we were driving with. The latter was proven when they let us go fourth in the line up for the second leg – S15, Evo 2, JZX100, JZX100. Apparently, the other Chaser is the fastest in the group. This would be interesting.

The second run was higher speeds, no stacked up turns, and deeper braking zones. JZX v. JZX. We were on him with the twin 1JZ’s laying down the soundtrack. He pulled hard and fast undoubtedly his PowerFC was able to extract a little bit more juice from the stock turbo. Ours threw down what it had and we maintained a tight gap on his rear. It was driver nerve and brakes that were keeping it close. We blazed through the run without incident – avoiding a few oncoming cars and wet sections of road from the Okinawan phantom rains.

At the second pit stop, I took a much needed bathroom break and spent a lot of the time mesmerized by the other JZX. It is so captivatingly sexy it hurts. Nothing over the top but everything in the right spot – Bride driver’s seat, Nardi wheel, a row of APEXi gauges on the dash, sleek kit, flush 18’s, and the exhaust poking past the rear bumper. To contrast this, I took the opportunity presented by a popped hood to give the S15 a closer look. The undeniably awesome S15’s potential was slightly drug down by the universal idiom of S-chassis ownership – we are broke! Its notchback SR had a heat wrapped aftermarket manifold, Greddy BOV, and Greddy boost controller. The exterior salmon pink was sprayed by either a novice painter or an expert with a rattle can, the fiberglass front bumper was chunked out, and the tires bald. It looked driven and like its normal use is drifting hinted at by the cambered fronts. Both are sexy cars but polar opposites. Time to go!

SHING SHING SHING VROOOM. “What is that metallic knife sharpening sound when the other JZX starts up?” “That’s his clutch.” Too wicked. We were again behind the Chaser maintaining the same order as last time. This leg was a combo of elements that defined the prior runs – high speed sections and switchbacks. At this point, I was thoroughly impressed with the capabilities of the stock CT15B turbo and the 1JZ. In third gear at 4000rpm, it was in its zone. Willing to give more up to the 7000rpm redline or be feathered in the low RPMs and show off its grunt. Whatever you needed it had an answer. This was tested when they finally really decided to get on it and within seconds the other JZX was gone. Like POOF, ZOOM GONE. We made up ground by coming into the corners hotter and begging the TRD 2-way to keep the rear 275/40 Yokohama S.Drives planted through the turns. It worked and we were on his rear in no time where we would finish the run and the night. As a seemingly celebratory act of a successful night, the S15, still in the front, locked up his rears and drifted the last few turns.

We pulled off to the side and looked the cars over. All came through unscathed; a big thanks goes out to the skid plate on my soon to be Chaser for taking some abuse. After a few waves, it was homeward bound for some much needed sleep at 6:30am.