SI Vault
Jerrold Schecter
October 17, 1966
Beneath Japan's sacred mountain a classic U.S. race made new friends
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 17, 1966

Inji Goes To Fuji For Speed And Art

Beneath Japan's sacred mountain a classic U.S. race made new friends

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

The communications around the track were admittedly poor. Whenever the yellow accident flag went down the pace car, driven by Henry Banks, director of competition for the U.S. Auto Club, came onto the track. The yellow flag was dropped twice when cars got into mechanical difficulties and once when a helicopter's downdraft blew foam rubber pillows across the track.

Promoter Jin was bloodied only in the area of his pocketbook. He is 44 and a freewheeling type who went bankrupt two years ago bringing a Wild West show to Japan. Spectacles he did not go broke on included the Bolshoi Ballet and the Leningrad Philharmonic. The Inji 200 was Jin's first racing promotion.

Understandably, for most Japanese the Inji was a mystery. In the first place, there was a good deal of controversy over staging the race at all. The Japanese Automobile Federation initially refused to go along as a sponsor when Promoter Jin announced in July that he intended to bring an international Indy race to Japan. He had hoped to obtain help in sponsoring the race from Japanese auto and accessory makers, but the Japanese manufacturers balked at a basically American race, emphasizing big cars. It was only after strong American pressure at the International Automobile Federation meeting in Italy in September that the race was officially put on its calendar. That left only a little more than a month in which to work out the details. Said Jin bitterly: "I approached all the Japanese auto companies for help, and they all opposed the race for the infantile reason that they are afraid of things superior to what they have coming to Japan. Japan is an island of protectionism, and the entire auto industry is under government protection."

There were no Japanese cars or drivers in the race, and the Japanese had had no chance to become acquainted with Indianapolis cars and drivers. Despite the difficulties encountered (some Japanese scoffed and called it the Inchiki 500, or the fake Indy 500), most of the spectators enjoyed the race. Ting Fumiko Takezaki, a 24-year-old Russian literature student at Waseda University, paid $100 to sit in the royal box. Miss Takezaki, who is studying the romantic poet Pushkin, said she had attended because "I was convinced that Indy racing was the complete opposite of Pushkin."

All in all, it was a field day for the interi. Novelists, movie directors, art critics and the restless younger set were all there in the bright sunshine—but the total crowd was only 50,000. It was the first time Indianapolis racers had left the States since 1958, when a similar race was run at Monza, Italy. The drivers would like to come back to Japan, and auto racing is growing fast as a Japanese sport. But the Indy art requires time to sift down to the Japanese masses. Jin needed a crowd of at least 100,000 to break even. Afterward he smiled wanly and said, "Artistically, the race lived up to my fondest expectations."

1 2
Related Topics
Akira Jin 1 0 0
Jackie Stewart 59 0 2
Indianapolis 422 0 5
Japan 507 0 3
Graham Hill 36 0 0