The Great Superstitions of Motor Racing
The life of a racecar driver is by no means a casual experience. Every race weekend sees drivers dodging walls, debris and each other – all the while putting their lives on the line for a chance to claim victory. Given that today is Friday the 13th, we thought it only appropriate to take a look at some of motorsport’s oddest rituals and superstitions. Perhaps one of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history, having won the championship in 1952 and ‘53; Alberto Ascari was also one of the sport’s most superstitious members. Ascari famously wouldn’t allow anyone to touch his briefcase, which contained his lucky blue helmet, t-shirt, gloves and goggles.
Oddly, Ascari died on May 26, 1955 at age 36 during an accident in which he wasn’t wearing his lucky lid – the same day of the month and same age as his father’s untimely passing.
Ascari certainly wasn’t the only driver to have a lucky charm either. Driver Tazio Nuvolari, known as “The Flying Mantuan”, always wore a turquoise pendant pinned to his chest during races. Seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher was rumored to keep his daughter’s hairbrush in his racing suit, which we presume would be quite uncomfortable.
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Ex-F1 ace David Coulthard allegedly wore the same pair of boxer shorts at every grand prix during his early years in the sport. And Alexander Wurz, who will compete for Toyota during this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, has commonly worn two different colored shoes at races, mixing style and superstition.
But by far, drivers across the board seem to be most concerned with their respective racing numbers, with most avoiding the dreaded number 13 in favor of a luckier digit. However, Pastor Maldonado didn’t quite agree with the sentiment and picked number 13, which if were honest, hasn’t exactly improved his performance on the season.
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NASCAR isn’t short on ritual either. To this day, many American racing drivers and teams refuse to run green-painted racecars for fear of bad luck. In the good ‘ol days of racing, some superstitious drivers even refused to compete if a member of their pit crew wore green. The crux of this superstition goes back to 1920, when Gaston Chevrolet – the younger brother of company founder Louis Chevrolet – was killed in a green car during a racing accident in California.
It’s an odd association, but no stranger than many NASCAR drivers’ aversion to peanuts. Yes, everyone’s favorite sandwich spread has historically been frowned upon at American racing events ever since peanut shells turned up inside the wrecks of some of the sport’s earliest fatal crashes. A similar rumor exists in the sport regarding $50 bills and their propensity to cause accidents as well.
Whether luck exists or not and whether we can do anything to change it remains to be seen. However, if you’re gearing up for a weekend on the circuit – it might be helpful to mismatch your shoes, empty your wallet and perhaps your lunchbox too.
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