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Tōge (峠, also spelled touge) is a Japanese word literally meaning "pass". It refers to a mountain pass or any of the narrow, winding roads that can be found in and around the mountains of Japan and other geographically similar areas, like the Nordschleife in Germany.
In order to decrease the incline of mountain roads, thereby making them easier for commercial trucks to pass, engineers place a series of S bends in steep roads that provide access to and from high mountain elevations. These passes have become popular with street racers and motorsport enthusiasts, because they provide a challenging – albeit dangerous – course.
There are 2 main types of tōge battles:
Cat and mouse/sudden death
The cars start almost bumper to bumper (one in front of the other). The lead car wins if the space between the cars increases considerably. If any car spins out or crashes, the other car wins the race. In the event of the following car keeping pace, the race is usually rerun with the positions swapped.
This style of battle is often chosen when the road is not wide enough to allow passing, but if the car in front is somehow passed, the overtaken car loses if it does not re-pass.
Time attack challenges are challenges in racing. Opponents do not actually race at the same time, instead, they are timed separately over a particular length of road and the racer with the quickest time wins.
Spontaneous tōge battles may also be initiated by random encounters between racers on the street. The challenge is communicated through the use of the hazard lights, then, depending on the race setting, one of the first two tōge types is chosen for the battle.
Stemming from this surge in popularity, the term has been pirated and misused by overzealous enthusiasts (often incorrectly as a verb) to erroneously describe almost any event involving street racing, even when there are no mountain passes involved.
Another common mistake is the association of drifting (motorsport) with tōge, implying at times that the words share the same definition. While drift is considered a style or form of driving, tōge does not necessarily have any binding relationship to motorsports. Drifting can be used on the tōge to prevent the chaser from following their proper line. For example, if the lead car were to drift, it would eliminate about 60 percent of the chaser's possible lines forcing them to choose slower lines that cannot be predicted. Also in doing this one can cause the chaser to slow down in order not to crash into the drifting car in front, which might cause complications due to keeping rpm's high and traction and all other variables to consider in slowing down for a corner.
Tōge racing's notoriety outside Japan may be largely attributed to entertainment media such as Ridge Racer (The name Ridge Racer can be roughly translated to Japanese as Tōge no Hashiriya) and Initial D.
Race Driver: Grid also features tōge. There is a touge event in which the driver must race twice, once up and once down the mountain, and there is also "Midnight Touge," which takes place during the night and only features one race, either up or down the mountain.
Best Motoring International first featured the Touge Showdown in Best Motoring International Vol. 2 New M3 Takes on JDM Super Sports released in 2001. This is arguably the first time the word touge was used in US media and not translated as "mountain pass" or another other English word.
The 2006 racing game Need for Speed: Carbon has touge races known as Canyon Duels, that use the cat-and-mouse/sudden death format of touge racing on fictional mountain routes, such as Deadfall Junction and Eternity Pass.