TOUGE BATTLE PHILIPPINE STYLE

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A Subaru Impreza with a turbocharged engine chasing down a Ford Mustang motivated by a V8 engine in the Prestige class of last year’s Touge Battle Series. PHOTO BY EZ LIGAYA

Motor sports is a very expensive undertaking. The race car itself is already a very expensive investment. But those seriously into motor sports should also invest in logistics and skilled personnel, usually highly-skilled mechanics who are usually the unsung heroes who make sure that a race car driver gets to the podium.

Some entry-level race series like the Vios Cup series requires teams to shell out millions of pesos. While sponsors can be aplenty for some teams, those that have to make do with their own resources – mostly privateer teams – may end up feeling the pain in their pockets sooner or later.

Alongside the cost of participating in car races is the danger factor, because race cars literally can run closely to each other during heated battles. Fast Times Editor Ben Kritz, who was part of the BMW teams that finished in the Top 10 in the endurances series in the United States and Le Mans, said the worst nightmare of the motor sports driver is getting trapped inside a burning race car.

“That is the worst nightmare of any race car driver…getting trapped inside a burning car. And race cars carry a lot of fuel [compared to road cars],” he added.


So is there any chance for a typical vehicle owner to experience the adrenaline rush of motor sports? Why not try Touge Battle?

The Philippine now has a Touge Battle series that is entering its fifth year, thanks to the efforts of motor sports enthusiast EZ Ligaya and his team.

“To join Touge battle, all you need to do is show up at the venue, sign a waiver and pay the race fee of P2,500. And that’s it. We have a team of scrutineers who will inspect your vehicle for safety and classify them according to its class,” he told Fast Times.

“Anyone can participate in Touge Battle. We recommend drivers license holders. If you are too young to get one, we need to know the race coach endorsing the minor to be evaluated by the organizers for safety,” he added.

Touge Battle is safe too, because no overtaking is allowed and only two cars race against each other. The two cars are let loose five seconds apart. The lead car must finish five seconds ahead of the second car to win. In turn, the second car simply has to finish by less than five seconds behind the lead car to win. There are hardly any spin-outs in Touge Battle.

Ligaya said that since Touge Battle races are staged in racetracks, it becomes more of a battle of driver skills than the pure power of a car. It is not unusual for a good driver with a car with lower power to beat an average-skilled driver with a much powerful automobile, because it takes really good skills to take the twisty turns of a racetrack. Just picture a V8 Ford Mustang getting beaten by Subaru Impreza WRX. On a straight line, the Mustang will have the edge. But on a racetrack, the Impreza will have the edge, especially if it is driven by an individual with good skills.

While there are some participants in Touge Battle who have formal race car driving training, this is not essential.

“No need. The whole point of Touge Battle is to provide an opportunity to experience racing on track. The organizers always conduct a basic safety briefing and track driving instructions to first timers to help them handle themselves better on track. Our format is able to provide a safe, competitive, friendly and easy way to meet people and learn on the basics of racing. Our goal is to provide an enjoyable experience. A relaxed kind of race to help develop driver skill and confidence,” Ligaya said.

Minimum requirements
The “minimum” car to participate in Touge Battle is a well-maintained vehicle with good tires and a three-point seatbelt. Also, the vehicle should have good functioning brakes and no fluid leaks.

Although there are some cars in unmodified form that already have high power ratings, Ligaya said they want Touge Battle to be a contest between unmodified cars.

“We discourage highly tuned cars and focus more on maximizing driver skill than upgrading your car. A fast driver in a slow car can drive fast in any car,” he added. “As long as the car is road worthy and safe, any car can join.”

But since not all cars are created equal, Touge Battle also has divisions or “classes.”

The Economy class is for cars with displacement of up to 1,550 cc, while the Regular class is for vehicles with a displacement of 1551-1950 cc. The Regular class is also where Hondas with D15 and ZC engines can participate.

For the Turbo+ class, cars with turbochargers and naturally aspirated engines below 3,050 cc can participate, while the Prestige class is reserved for cars with a displacement of 3,051 cc and above

For the Street class, all cars must have a complete interior or all door panels, amd carpets and seats must be installed. Only the rear seat backrests or backseats can be removed. Also, tires must be higher than a 200 tread-wear rating while fuel cells are prohibited.

The Race Car class is for vehicles that are not advisable for everyday road use. It has three categories: Race 3, up to 1,550 cc; Race 2, 1551 cc-2000 cc; and Race 1, 2001 cc and above.

When a car has a turbocharger, its class is determined by multiplying its displacement by 1.5. The presumption is turbocharged cars usually have a power advantage of about 50 percent compared to normally aspirated (non-turbo) engines.

Origins
Touge Battle has its origins in the races staged along the mountain roads of Japan. That was modified by Ligaya and his team for maximum safety and an increased fun factor.

He added that local Touge Battle races began in 2014 and the fourth season will be held this year.

“Aside from Touge Battle, we also organize the Clubman Racing Series. We are also on our fourth year organizing the Clubman Racing series,” Ligaya said.

He was not alone, however, in organizing the Touge Battle races in the Philippines.

“After a previous car show that I organized in 2013. A friend of mine got our group together and came up with the idea of holding amateur races. One of my friends already made a Touge Battle event and suggested we continue it. We modified the format to what it is now to provide a safer and more enjoyable experience for the participants and spectators,” Ligaya said.

His team is currently made up to Sung Joon Park, Francis Arjonillo, Stephen Alunan, and Jed Jernel Labao, and other pals who are motor sports and car enthusiasts. And field of participants in the local Touge Battle series keeps growing.

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