Mid Night Club
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (February 2010)|
The Mid Night Club (ミッド ナイト クラブ Middo Naito Kurabu?) was a Japanese street racing gang that hosted illegal top speed themed races on the Bayshore Route (known natively as the Wangan) of the Shuto Expressway between Tokyo to Yokohama. The club was formed in 1987 and was active until 1999.
The gang became one of the most notorious and highly respected clubs of its type, which led to it being featured in over 200 editorial features in most of the leading Japanese auto magazines and even in foreign magazines such as the Danish Autoviz, the British Max Power and the American Turbo magazine. One of the earliest non-Japanese media referrals was in the first episode of Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld in January 1995, when the presenter Jeremy Clarkson, driving his Skyline GT-R around Japan, stated that his car "is more likely to be seen in the Mid Night Club". The show then featured roughly 30 seconds of amateur footage revealing the typical nature of the club. The combination of its dangerously high racing speed, and aggressive racing style gave street racing in Japan a worldwide notoriety. The club was regarded as one of the longest running street racing gangs.
To join the club, which was formed in 1987, was not as easy as the other clubs as it was governed by a series of rules and was far better organized. Additionally, unlike in other groups, the hashiriya (street racer) car was to be capable of going over 250 km/h (160 mph), as a racing speed of over 300 km/h (190 mph) was common. As new members are regarded as apprentices for one year, they were required to attend all the meetings. Only 10% of these drivers would qualify for full membership and they would have to leave if they posed a danger to other motorists and to other members. Members would bear the trademark small rectangle "Mid Night Car Special" sticker on their bumpers, a larger sticker on the sun visor area, and sometimes a "Mid Night Racing Team" sticker on the side skirt. The high standard of the drivers made it difficult for the police to catch them, as police cars of the era were limited to 180 km/h (112 mph), a legal requirement set forth by the 1977 Japanese Automotive Gentleman's Agreement, and thus the police cars couldn't catch cars that were driving 180 km/h or faster.
On average, there were 30 members in the club, and they met in a designated meeting spot at midnight, as the name implied; races would take place on the Bayshore Wangan route sometimes leading itself to extended portions of the "Shuto Expressway" for more complicated and intricate top speed runs. The standing/winner of the race would be one of many factors, such as "the ability to no longer see the driver in front" or "to pass a certain highway stop first". Although very secretive in fashion, a member was once heard saying "'Drifting' and 'autocross' is for the weak. We only do maximum velocity."
It was customary among most racers to watch out for members of other teams displaying Mid Night Club paraphernalia. If a member of another team, or an independent racer was spotted owning a car displaying "Mid Night" stickers/logos that were not part of the actual team's roster, they could face harassment, and in some cases, vandalism inflicted on their cars. There were many reports of non-member cars wearing the logos being defaced/damaged to a state of disrepair because of the attempt to fabricate the stickers to falsely announce their membership in the gang.
In order to organize a meet up, a Mid Night Team Leader would place an ad in a Tokyo local newspaper, under the "Classifieds" section. Usually it would read of something entirely different than any sort of racing meeting, in order to not draw unwanted attention from law enforcement. The subject of the ad would have been discussed at the previous meet up, so that the team members could look up the ad and specifically meet up at the exact location in order to begin racing, at the exact time. An example of the ad would read something like this:
For Sale: Small handbags at discount prices. For more information, I am available for meetup at Daikoku Parking Area on Thursday, between 11PM and 2AM. Thank you.
The members would look up at the ad in the specific newspaper given by the leader (which is a small-scale newspaper or local city newspaper) and meet at the scheduled spot and organize the racing events.
As full-fledged members' cars were capable of performing over 320 km/h (200 mph), the cars were usually boasting over 400–600 bhp and one member was rumored to be spending over US$2 million on rebuilding and modifications of his Porsche 911. The drivers' professions and personal information were never revealed, as by club policy, members were not allowed to ask the other members about personal information nor professions or to reveal them to other members (and, in the case that the few members were friends, they were obligated to keep silent about it). Only Max Power, in 1995, revealed the professions of two drivers: one, a RX-7 FD3S owner, was a property developer; the other, who drove a Skyline GT-R R32, ran his family car sales business. Many affluent and well known Japanese "tuning" shop founders are rumoured to be original members however.
Disbanding the club
The Mid Night Club was disbanded in 1999 when Bōsōzoku gang members were waiting to "play" with the club as they were racing down the expressway. A few of the members accepted the challenge, however. Since the members drove at very high speeds, and they accidentally entered a high traffic zone, it culminated in a huge chain-reaction crash with the deaths of two Bōsōzoku members and eight motorists hospitalized; six of them were innocent drivers on the highway. As it was club policy to refrain from endangering or injuring any other motorist, no matter a racer, nor an innocent bystander, this incident resulted in the club being disbanded immediately and forever. Since then there have been numerous imitators, but with tighter traffic laws making things difficult, most such groups have since been disbanded.
Despite being no longer in existence, many automotive media still cite the gang as an inspiration to more street racing gangs, such as the June 2008 issue of Max Power, which ran an article about a street racer gang in London who claim to race in town centers rather than on expressways. However, the Mid Night Club is highly regarded for being a club which put pedestrian safety before their own. Many automotive enthusiasts credit the club with a high sense of morality and honor due to its immediate disbandment post-disaster.
The club members seclude themselves in secrecy to this day, many refusing to talk or even mention the club under any circumstances.