Sorry for the long wait.. Here's a rather smaller chapter, as exams are encroaching upon my sanity once again. Hopefully we can enjoy further discussion of the story now that I've restarted it.
Aquarian Superprix, Qualifying.
“Well, Jeremy, we’re here again. Just over five minutes until the Formula K grid is allowed to exit their respective pit boxes and begin qualifying for the Aquarian Superprix. Jeremy, old buddy, first of all, I’m glad to see you’ve changed your shirt since yesterday. Secondly, what are your predictions for the qualifying?”
“Well, Jim, seeing as your career as an aspiring comedian hasn’t worked out yet, I suppose I’m resigned to telling you what I think, if your tiny brain can comprehend it.”
“Careful, Jeremy, if you want to put people to sleep you’d better stop using big words and start using chloroform-”
“Unfortunately they’ve stopped me from using it, or you wouldn’t be talking right now, Jim. Anyway, let’s get on with the proceedings before I lose my rag-”
“Can’t be worse than the mind you’ve lost already, dear old chum-”
“Shut up, Jim, before I call the trackside security!”
“Fine… get on with it then…”
“Right. After a predictably rapid time put Louis Kerman at the top of the timesheets in Free Practice, and given the Aquarian circuit’s suitability to the Ferram car, he’s the red hot favorite to qualify on pole. Melcan and Dre Kerman round out the top three on the timesheets, with Velocity Motorsport’s George Kerman as an outside prospect in fourth. Arcazon Kerman takes the OTech to sixth, behind Carlos Kerman in fifth. Jim, what are your predictions for today’s qualifying?”
“Well, Jeremy, it’s clear for all to see that despite some spirited advances by Melcan and Dre, Louis Kerman is still faster than a greased ferret with a lit firework up its-”
“Shut it, Jim! D’you want our budget cut again?”
“Right, Jeremy. Oops. So Louis Kerman, for lack of a suitably idiotic metaphor, will take pole. However, the rest of the grid is looking as changeable as a roulette table spinning on a knifepoint, with strong lap times from rookies George and Arcazon Kerman, not to mention veterans Carlos, Dre and Melcan putting in some very solid laps. Of course, the bright glare from your clearly whitened teeth might put them off-”
“I HAVE NOT HAD MY TEETH WHITENED, YOU-” The rest of this message has been censored by Acuario Televisio. Please stand by.
The buzz of the pit lane is somehow more alive to me than ever before. Cars are roaring in their pit boxes as a last minute check, and the sharp blares of car horns and screams from fans mingle with the whirr of wrenches, chatter from commentary boxes and the raw throated screams of cars flying past. The sun blazes down on the thousands of eager spectators, faded national flags and gleaming Formula K cars. I grin, in spite of the trials ahead. This is where I belong. This is home.
I depress the clutch, shift the paddle up and cruise out of the garage. The sun blinds me momentarily, like a heat lamp flicked on in a dark room. I squint against the glare and roll towards the pit exit. This race could make or break my hopes of staying with OTech, and the enormity of this situation crouches on my shoulders, breathing down my neck. I disengage the pit limiter, and the chirrup of cold tires gripping on to sunbaked tarmac revitalises my poor mood. This has to be it. You need to pull it off here, or we might never make it to K1.
The raucous wail of the engine vibrates my luridly-helmeted head as I pin the accelerator downhill towards Turn One, brushing the apex lightly before the cold rear tyres squirm and squeal in protest. Teddy bursts onto the radio with all the subtlety of a rabid and slightly cross bear.
“Arcazon, you idiot! Those tyres are supposed to be warmed, not torn to shreds before the flaming lap starts!”
I grit my teeth, choosing not to reply, and instead gripping the wheel with both hands and clenching as I swing wide into Turn 2. Outside in, inside out, I thought, internally repeating the age-old racing mantra in my head. Somehow, I doubted a mantra would be enough.
Circuito Internacional de Acuario, 2037
2 minutes, 34 seconds remaining.
“OK Arcazon, this is Sid from telemetry. We do not have enough fuel to finish two laps. I repeat, this is your final flying lap.” barks a gruff, northern-accented voice in my comms unit as I round Turn 24 and shift up into max revs for the main straight.
“Roger that, Sid; I’ll make it a good one for you. Radio silence guys, please.” I responded. To tell you the honest truth, I’d driven like a complete lousefest. I was currently sitting tenth, four places below my expected target of sixth. It was starting to look a bit hopeless. But Dad always said, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. As I switched the car into rich revs and short shifted into Turn 1, the angry rev of the redlining engine brought me crashing back to reality. Maybe it was hopeless. Maybe I wouldn’t make into K1, I considered as I slingshotted my car through the inside of Turn 2, but I’d sure as hell die trying.
I brake hard into Turn 3 and mount the kerb, carrying my speed onto the tunnel straight and barely slowing down for the kink of Turn 4. Flying out from under the bridge, I rapidly shift down and stamp both the accelerator and brake, acting on instinct. The rear starts sliding, but I counteract it with a flick of my wrist in the opposite direction, sending the car howling towards Turns 6, 7 and 8. Careful light pulls on the wheel send the car straight through the bends without breaking a sweat. Going into Turn 9, I brake aggressively late and swing the car across the apex of the hairpin, almost hitting the wall. Before I have time to chide myself, I’ve flown through Turns 10 and 11 and am halfway through Turn 12, my body operating on autopilot and weirdly separated from my mind.
I lock up slightly into 13, missing the inside line and sending an acrid cloud of blue tinted smoke up into the stands. Fans are clapping and some joker is blaring an airhorn in the stands somewhere. I ignore them and instead upshift massively into Turn 14. The engine yowls like a scolded cat, and I slingshot out of T14 down the home stretch, hitting 305 kph before ramming the brakes and mounting the kerbs at the Turn 15-16 S-bend. A perfect exit sends me with a brilliant run down to turn 17. I nail a perfect apex and manage not to repeat my mistakes from practice, avoiding lock-up.Spinning the wheel left and right impossibly quickly as I round the technical triple corner series of 18, 19 and 20 nearly distracts me, but I hold on through the conflicting lateral g-forces. Pinning the accelerator down, I savagely attack the kerbs on turns 21 to 24- no conservative lines. It’s a good lap, maybe even top 3 material. The strangled screech of the tires as I brake heavily into Turn 25 seems like razors to my ears, sharpening my focus and intensifying my resolve as I fly out of the inside of T25 and down the straight.
The engine whines as I cross the line; nearly starved of fuel, it auto-shifts into reserve fuel mode. The fans scream as I back off the revs down to Turn 1, and I switch on the comms.
“Guys! Guys! How’d I do? That has to be at least top 5, right?”
“Not top 5, son.” says Teddy. My stomach drops like a kerbonaut in a parachute capsule.
“How-” I croak out, before screaming drowns my eardrums.
“You’re on provisional pole. POLE, you sweet little stand-up guy!” Teddy roars. I bang the steering wheel. “YES! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! WAAAHAHAHAHOOOOOOO!” I scream into the microphone, doubtlessly deafening everything in a two-mile radius of the OTech pit box. At this point, I pull to the outside absent-mindedly, letting fast-lapping cars through as I coast on momentum down the straight from the Turn 14 exit. I’m so wrapped up in the news of the provisional pole that I don’t notice a backmarker car- the Virtuolli Motors of Antonio Kerman- directly behind, presumably trying to catch a tow from my slower car. I turn slowly, going quite wide into 15, when-
The rear spins out and I’m engulfed in a cloud of smoke: while not as dramatic as a fully under-braking collision, even a slight bump at those low speeds can cause major damage to the car’s internals. I take my hands away from the wheel and allow the car to roll into the gravel. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Antonio’s tattered car rolling back on track and out of sight. The fans are booing- something’s happened to their hometown hero. I radio in.
“Teddy, what the hell was that! Did Antonio ram me or something?” I say, trying to keep myself calm.
“He hit you going into 15- you didn’t see him, so you weren’t quite wide enough to allow him through the inside. His front wing hit your rear, and judging from the tatters it’s hanging in, it’s not looking good for his hotlap.”
Crap. I crashed into the home hero driver on his hotlap. Keeping my thoughts practical, I ask quietly: “How’s the car looking, guys?”
“Not great,” says Stuart from engineering. “The right support beam on your rear wing is toast, and your rear right suspension has taken a small bump. Nothing we can’t handle mate, bring her in nice and gentle for us.
“Roger that.” I reply tersely, and coast the car back to the pits on what I can only assume is condensed fuel on the inside walls of the fuel tank. As I cruise back into pit lane, I hear shouting and vaguely familiar Aquarian words. Translating with my admittedly poor grasp of Aquarian, I shudder. Not good at all.
Pulling the car to a gentle stop, I lever myself out of the cockpit with the car parked in the outer bay- a common practise for angry drivers. The team back off as I put my head in my hands and hobble unsteadily a few steps away.
Antonio’s going to press a penalty, and I’m going to lose the only pole I’ve ever had. Without looking at the team, I sigh: “Did we get pole?”
A quiet voice I recognize as Barzon the fuel technician pipes up. “We did, by 0.064 seconds.”
I chuckle derisively and walk a few steps further away. Suddenly, Teddy’s voice shouts across at me.
“Arcazon! Behind you-”
A blinding pain hits my senses like a freight train at top speed. I crash to the ground, holding the left side of my head and dimly registering a luridly patterned helmet, loud voices and the angry face of Antonio Kerman, who now occupied the #1 spot of Who Hates Arcazon The Most Right Now list, dethroning Louis from a surprisingly long stint at the top. His screamed Aquarian was a mess of swearwords and abuse, but I managed to catch the most important bits.
“¿Crees que puedes echarme de la carrera, gilipollas? ¿Vos si? ¿Cabrón?”
Ah. Not pleased, then. As I pass out, I hear a snatch of excited conversation from the commentary box, where Jim and Jeremy were going bananas.
“Antonio Kerman is being restrained by stewards! He’s bashed Arcazon Kerman over the head with his helmet!”
“Not since the days of Nelson and Elias Kerman back in ‘04 have I seen such a thing, and in the middle of the pits too-”
Wonderful. Now I’ve got my head bashed in and my name all over the paddock gossip circuit. Not exactly how I imagined celebrating pole position.