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The Mystery of the Ghost Racecar
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The Mystery of the Ghost Racecar

Following the end of World War II, fans of car racing in Japan had to wait more than 15 years for the appearance in their nation of the big event in that same sport.  Finally, on May 5, 1963 the first post-war Grand Prix brought crowds to the Suzuko circuit in Nagoya, Japan.  Many members of that particular crowd hoped to catch a sight of Masao Asano, the driver that was favored to win the day’s event. Everyone had been surprised to learn that he would be driving car number 42.

In Japanese culture, people tend to avoid the number 42 in the same way that so many westerners try to stay clear of number 13. When translated into Japanese, the Arabic numerals for 42 become this two word phrase: shi ni.  The two words "" bear a close resemblance to the word "shingu", which means “to die.”

Asano claimed to be unconcerned about superstitious thoughts, regarding the number of his car. Indeed, during the start of the first lap, Asano’s rejection of such superstitions seemed to be verified; he was in the lead. Then as he steered his Austin Healey into the final, tricky bend, speeding ahead at 130 mph, he lost control of his vehicle. Asano’s Austin Healey broke through the barriers that were supposed to limit the distance traveled by a crashed racecar. After crashing through those barriers, Asano’s car plunged into the nearby ravine.

Not long after that tragedy, the Japan Auto Federation banned the use of the number 42. Still, it did not discontinue the annual Grand Prix. One year later, fans gathered for anther big race, Japan’s second Grand Prix.

Those in charge of the race decided to place spotters at designated spots along the track. The spotters were made responsible for checking on the running order of the passing racecars. At the end of the race, the spotters compared their notes.

During that comparison, those designated observers and counters made an astonishing discovery. Their notes included mention of a car 42 in the course of at least 8 laps. Yet there had been no such vehicle at the starting gate.

No one could state the make of the unexplained extra vehicle. By the same token, no one had succeeded in identifying the driver of that same automobile. Consequently, it looked like the racecar that had been lost the previous year had returned in the form of a ghost car.




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