Motor racing superstitions

by Rob Widdows on 13th January 2012

Today, in case you had not noticed, is Friday the thirteenth of January. Lucky for some, not so for others.

If you were unaware, or simply don’t care, it is likely that you are not a superstitious person. You are fortunate because superstition can, at its worst, be an affliction.

Over the years there have been a surprising number of superstitious racing drivers. They did not go out of their way to make this information public, but if you spend time close to drivers you can’t help noticing their habits and foibles as they go about their business.

Of the current participants in Grand Prix racing, we know that Michael Schumacher likes to race with odd numbers on his car. Apart from 13, of course, which does not even appear on the grid. Nico Hulkenberg always gets into his car from the left-hand side and I think, from memory, so does Mark Webber.

In Moto GP, Valentino Rossi surprised many by revealing that he always puts one boot on before the other, one glove before the other, and mounts the bike the same way every time. Some do say that even Sebastien Vettel keeps a lucky coin somewhere about his person. Worth checking out.

In the old days Tazio Nuvolari always raced with his lucky charm – a tortoise pin. There will be others who do that today, though the precious object may be hidden under layers of fireproof clothing. Not to mention Stefano Modena who used to wear one of his gloves inside out, amongst many other superstitions.

More recently David Coulthard had his lucky underpants, though they surely must have worn out before his retirement. Alex Wurz always wore different coloured racing boots, right from his earliest days in Formula Ford.

Historically, green cars have been a worry for many drivers. Before the days of widespread sponsorship, some even refused to race a green car. Mind you, such trivia never bothered Stirling Moss who liked nothing more than to win in a British Racing Green machine. More bizarrely, many NASCAR drivers have had an aversion to peanuts in their shells, banning them from garage or pitlane at a race meeting. Shelled peanuts are, however, acceptable. This, according to legend, goes back to pre-war days when peanuts shells were found in the wrecks of cars involved in serious accidents.

Yes, superstition is weird. But it won’t go away. Underpants or peanuts, every racer wants to arrive at the grid feeling totally comfortable, relaxed and in control. If that means his race numbers do not add up to eight, or he has a coin up his sleeve, then so be it.

And, by the way, practice for the Grand Prix of China in Shanghai is on Friday 13 of April this year. Keep your eyes peeled for any strange rituals in the pitlane…

Am I superstitious? Well, let’s just say I won’t be walking under any ladders today. And if I see a magpie I will bid him Good Morning! Have a good day.

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