Mid Night Club
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (February 2010)
The Mid Night Club also known as Mid Night Racing Team (Japanese: ミッド ナイト クラブ) (Chinese: 午夜俱乐部赛车队) was a Japanese and Hong Kongese street racing association that hosted illegal top speed themed races on the Bayshore Route (known natively as the Wangan) of the Shuto Expressway between Tokyo to Yokohama in Japan and former Route 7 between Causeway Bay and Aberdeen in Hong Kong. The street racing team and subsequent club was formed in 1982 and was active (as a racing team) until 1999, prior to partial disbandment and remaining only as a close knit club.
"Mid Night Club" 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 Nissan Skyline GT-R around Japan, stated that his car "is more likely to be seen in the Mid Night Club". The show 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 and Hong Kong, a worldwide notoriety. The club was regarded as one of the longest-running street racing crews in Japan and Hong Kong.
To join the club, which was formed in 1987, was very difficult, as it was governed by a series of rules and was well-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 their first year, they were required to attend all of the meetings. Only 10% of applying drivers would qualify for full membership and they would have to leave if they posed a danger to other motorists and members. Members would bear the trademark small rectangle "Mid Night Car Speciall" 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 (110 mph), a legal requirement set forth by the 1977 Japanese Automotive Gentlemen's Agreement, and thus the police cars could not catch cars that were driving 180 km/h or faster.
On average, there were 30 members in rotation within the club at any given time, 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 parts of the "Shuto Expressway" for more complicated 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".
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 with a car displaying "Mid Night" stickers/logos, they could face harassment and vandalism inflicted on their cars.
In order to organize a meetup, a Mid Night Club leader would place an ad in a Tokyo local newspaper, under the "Classifieds" section. Usually, it would read something entirely different from a racing meeting, in order to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement. The subject of the ad would have been discussed at the previous meetup so that the team members could look up the ad and specifically meet up at the exact location in order to begin racing. 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. Daikoku PA was the most visited parking area for designated meet-ups of the team, and today, it is an exclusive PA for street racing gatherings.
Alternatively, times and places for a meetup would be discussed ahead of time by existing members, or they would stage a certain area of Wangan at night awaiting the arrival of more members.
As full-fledged members' cars were capable of performing over 320 km/h (200 mph), the cars were usually boasting over 400–600 bhp, in order to maintain a 320 km/h speed through the Wangan straight stretch for well over 15 minutes in close-to-consecutive order.
One member, originally training to be a doctor, was rumoured to be spending over US$2 million on the rebuilding and modification of his Porsche 911 Turbo, known as the "Yoshida Specials 930." The Porsche, with an output of 600 bhp on a stroked 3.6 Liter Turbo flat six, had a long-running rivalry with an Air Breathing Research (ABR) Hosoki Z-Car that made 680 bhp on an L30ETT custom setup. 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.
End of the club
The Mid Night Club was disbanded only as a racing team 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. The members drove at very high speeds, and they 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 regular motorists on the expressway. As it was club policy to refrain from endangering or injuring any other motorist, this incident resulted in the club being disbanded forever. Since then, there have been numerous imitators, but with tighter traffic laws, most racing groups have since been disbanded. In the time period since, most “Mid Night” members have abstained from street racing.
Despite being no longer active as street racers, many automotive media still cite the gang as an inspiration for 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 safety above all. Many automotive enthusiasts credit the club with a high sense of morality and honor due to its immediate disbandment post-disaster.
Many club members seclude themselves in secrecy to this day, refusing to talk or even mention the club under any circumstances.
In popular culture
- The video game Midnight Club was originally based on the club.
- The Wangan Midnight manga and anime series depicted and was based on the club's activity.
- In the Rockstar Games hit video game Grand Theft Auto V, the car Elegy RH8 (loosely based on the popular Nissan sports car GT-R) features a rear bumper sticker in the style of the "Mid Night" badge that says "Bayshore". This is the exact translation of the Japanese word "Wangan", which was the highway of choice for Racing Team Mid Night.
- In a Car & Driver interview with the lead development engineer on the Nissan GT-R, a picture of him and his own personal Nissan Skyline BNR32 GT-R is shown. This GT-R has a "Mid Night" decal on the front bumper that was obscured and blurred for print, but is still quite visible.
- YouTube: Jeremy Clarkson Meets Keiichi Tsuchiya "The Drift King"
- From an article[which?] by Andy Wilman, Later, Jan 2000