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Life At The Top (A KSP Racing Novel) (Chapter 42)


DarkOwl57
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2 minutes ago, MiffedStarfish said:

In my completely unbiased opinion, this was a great chapter. Thank you for bringing Aquaria to life! 

No problem, bud. You've been so much of an influence in the writing style, it's the least I could do ;)

Also, a couple of days ago I got bored. So, I made this:

Famous Corners of K1 (And their real-life counterparts)

 

KSC

Turns 7 & 8: Sakhir Circuit, Bahrain; Turns 9/10

Turns 13 & 14: Silverstone Circuit, UK; Turns 10/11

 

Tekkia: None

 

Solaria (Introduced: 2037)

Turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain; Turns 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15

Turn 7: Sochi Autodrome, Russia; Turn 3

Turn 20: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Turn 15

 

Owlia

Turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Turns 9, 10, 11: Circuit Spa de Francorchamps, Belgium; Turns 2, 3, 4 (Eau Rouge/Radillon

Turn 12: Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; Turn 1, 2, 3, or 4

Turn 14: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Turn 15

 

New Baskay

Turns 1-19: Monaco/Monte Carlo, France; The whole circuit

 

Aquaria (Introduced: 2037)

Turns 1 & 2: Suzuka Circuit, Japan; Turns 1/2

Turn 3 straight: Suzuka bridge

Turn 9: Nagyar-Nagydij, Hungary; Turn 1

Turns 12 & 13: Sakhir Circuit, Bahrain; Turns 1/2

Turns 15 & 16: Circuit Spa de Francorchamps, Belgium; Turns 3/4 (Radillon)

Turns 19, 20, 21: Mexico City Circuit, Mexico; Turns 13, 14, 15

Turn 25: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Turn 15

 

The Temple: None

 

Halco

Turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA; Turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Turns 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA; Turns 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

 

Basil (Removed: 2038)

Turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11: Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Sao Palo, Brazil; Turn 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

 

Fegeland (Introduced: 2038)

Turns 1/2: Magny-Cours Circuit, France; Turns 1, 2, & 3

Turn 10: Magny-Cours Circuit, France; Turn 9

Turns 11/12: Nürburgring GP circuit, Germany; Turns 8/9

Turns 12, 13, & 14: Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan; Turns 13, 14, & 15

Turns 15, 16, & 17: Magny-Cours Circuit, France; Turns 15, 16, and 17

 

If you want pics of the real-life turns, just use google I guess. I've not got the time (or get around) to make the circuits in KSP using KerbalKonstructs, so I've got my work cut out for me this summer I guess. A few more ideas are floating around in my head... I can't wait to show y'all

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  • 1 month later...

It's been a while, eh? Well, no need to fear- I am not dead. School just got busy, and I had some trouble getting everything situated. That and also I was running low on inspiration. But that is behind us now, and we can get to more important things... Like Chapter 32. And 33- Wait I forgot to upload 32. Yeah, that explains some things... 32 will come out now, 33 later today. I think. That's my plan- for now, it's time for Life At The Top. Enjoy!

 

Chapter 32: Redemption

 

2:30pm, 6 Days later. Practice 3 for Round 7 of 10: The Temple. United International Raceway

 

   The engine screamed as I flew into Turns 13 and 14 at max speed- taking the turn as hard as I could thanks to the new repave (and restructuring) of the corner. The sparse crowd watched as I passed and pushed the car to its absolute limit.

   “Car feels really good in the high-speed corners,” I radioed in to Andy before braking for the chicane that mimicked Aquaria’s Turn 6-7-8 complex. “I’m taking Kerenna.” Andy didn’t protest despite him practically banning me from taking the corner in the last two practice sessions. I flew out of Turn 19 and went down the straight as the crowd cheered me on. The team hadn’t wanted me to risk a crash before the race even started, but now was the time.

   I opened up DRS and flew into the turn at 200 miles per hour. I turned in and the car maintained the grip as I gently held the wheel. I kept the rear collected before moving up the track to the outside curbing. The left side tires flew over the rumble strips and I felt the buzzing reverberate through the car. The bare shark fin shook around from the forces and I shot back down the track onto the racing line before slamming the brakes for Turn 1. The sudden deceleration threw me forward in the belts, but I managed to fly into the turn at max speed and hit the apex before weaving through the tight Turn 2 and flying out to get down the straight. The crowd roared their approval while a passed, and I started slowing down for a cool down lap. I sighed breath my helmet and watched my mirror as Max went through the corner as fast as he could. The crowd through the Esses clapped and whistled as I pulled off the circuit and went down the escape road to avoid blocking everyone else. I was ready.

 

6:38pm. Qualifying 3 for Round 7 of 10: The Temple. United International Raceway

 

   “And with just two minutes left in qualifying, it’s looking more and more like Max Kerman will take pole position in what is a crucial championship fight. But we’ll see here- where will Jebediah end up as he comes out of Turn 10 and down the back straight?” The sunset glared off my tinted visor as I turned through the freshly-banked Turn 10 and flew up the track- right on the edge of grip as I flew onto the outer limit of the track. I opened up DRS and flew down the straight- the engine tone rising louder and louder as I sped up. The car started sparking over the track, and I could see the tiny flashes of light fly up into the air from my mirror behind. The engine speed rose. 160. 170. 180. 190. 200. 210. I broke 220 before slamming the brakes and flying into Turn 11 and 12. The car flowed through the apex and I slingshotted out of the Turn 12 hairpin and right down to the Runway Straight.

   A couple of lights had come on around the track as the sky got darker above us, and I saw the shadows repeating over themselves as I blasted down the long straight. The tires were perfectly heated as I stormed into the Turn 13 hairpin- just a slight hint of grip loss from the front tires before I swung through the apex. I repeated the process through the next few corners- fast in, faster out.

   “And now out of the final chicane; where will he be? He’s about 3 tenths up on his previous best lap, which should put him up near the top…” I pushed the car as hard as I could as I went down the straight. “And it’s…” My breath sped up as I neared the start/finish line. I blasted across, and the crowd roared as I started slowing.

   “Where am I?” There was silence as the team waited. Then, the radio crackled.

   “P1! One-thousandth of a second! Max is in the garage- there’s no time for another run. Pole position!”

   “And that’s pole! Jebediah Kerman takes the provisional pole with just one minute left! Incredible final lap by Jeb as he storms past Max in the closing seconds of qualifying!” I pumped my fist and coasted through the kink as the seconds counted down. Through the Esses, the timer was nearing its end. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

   “Yes, guys, yes! P1! I almost lost it in 6, but we somehow held together. Y’all gave me one heck of a car though. We’ve got some work ahead of us before tomorrow, that’s for sure. Honestly though, thank you all for the amazing car, and thank you fans for the support. On to tomorrow I guess.”

 

 

11:00am, The next Day. Round 7 of 10: The Temple. United International Raceway (The Desert Temple)

 

“The Temple. From unknown origins, this site has been host to the pilgrimage of millions over its time. But today, the Temple is home to a different kind of pilgrimage; the K1 2037 Temple Grand Prix. Host to the 1980 season finale, the circuit has long been home to the highest speeds on the calendar. And despite all this time, this still hasn’t changed. Home to legendary corners- Kerenna, the Esses- and straights like the Runway, the track has long-been a stunning jewel on the K1 crown. However, danger lurks around every corner. Last year, a massive high-speed crash sidelined both Max and Jebediah- while the latter was left fighting for his life.

“Today, the dynamic duo of Max and Jebediah Kerman look to battle it out as they duel for the top spot. And after an incredible battle last race in Aquaria, the two are perfectly set up for an incredible showdown here today.

“With only 10 points separating the top two and three races left, the pressure has never been higher in this thrilling championship. Will the teams find a way to stay cool? Or will the heat be the downfall of a dream? It’s time for the always-thrilling Temple Grand Prix.”

 

 

   The sun blazed down on the grid as I sat in the car with an umbrella over me. The crowd was a sea of sound- murmuring and sometimes cheering as we waited for the start of the race. Finally, after a long wait, only one red light was on- signaling 15 seconds before the start of the formation lap. The team pulled off the tire blankets (Which really served no purpose as the track temperatures were insanely high), and set the car down as the cooling ducts were pulled away. The engine rumbled and growled behind me, and I watched in my mirror as everyone else behind was pulling away from their own cars- ready for the start of the race. Finally, the light went out and we got underway on the lap.

   “Car’s got a really good launch,” I radioed in as I shot forward off the grid. I started weaving to get some temps up, and tried to get the car ready for the start. This week, the car’s shark fin was 100% bare- trying to get the car as slippery as possible. We’d gotten in the “Speed” engine, which had a much higher top speed. We’d already used it in Solaria and Owlia, but this was the last race it was going to be used at.

   The 2038 rules and regulations had been decided, with not much changing from concepts last race. The Shark Fin design was going to be opened up, while the engine and aerodynamics were the main changes on the season. The cars would get a re-branded and re-designed V4-E2S engine, which meant that the main engine would have a lot more power with slightly less electrics affecting the process. The turbo was upgraded to be more effective- reducing lag and increasing performance. Rules-wise, driver-to-driver comms were now outlawed, but they weren’t used for much more than post-race chatter anyways. Overall, 2038 was going to have more basic aero designs, while being faster, more challenging (Read: fun) to drive, and exciting. I couldn’t wait for the season.

   I rolled over the tiny curbing strip in the kink, and tried to block out the nerves. It’s just another race. Just. Another. Race. I turned into the first corner and the crowd cheered as I passed them in the most technical (And, coincidentally, oldest) corners on the track. The car got in its rhythm as I weaved through the corners. The Esses, the Old Loop of Turn 8, and the new section of Turns 9 and 10. As I pulled out of the banked Turn 10, heat waves shimmered off the track and formed a pretty mirage down Forza- the longest straight on the track and in K1. I hit a switch on the wheel and some cool air came in to my feet through the nose- lowering the temps on my already burning legs.

   “What’s the air temp out here? Feels like I’m melting already.” Some sweat rolled down my neck and I opened the visor’s air slot.

   “Air temp is 105, track is at around 130. 10% humidity, and a slight wind coming out of the East. Tires are probably going to be really sliding around for the first few laps- be careful out there.” I tried to pull my foot off the pedal about halfway down the straight, but my foot was caught. I chuckled.

   “Slight problem up here guys, I think my boot’s stuck on the gas pedal.” I tugged down the straight and the boot popped loose- bumping up against the puffy foam cushion as the car started slowing down. “Never mind. Really hot up in here though.” I got a drink and rolled into Turns 11 and 12 before pulling out of the corner. “What’s the strategy looking like?”

   “One stop, same as normal. Pit in on Lap 14, run it to the end.” The car went down Runway and plowed through a tiny wisp of sand as it blew across the track. The circuit had gotten a repave over the offseason, and the track had gotten a bit cleaner. There was some kind of sticky surface on the runoff areas that trapped sand, and instead of natural grass (that regularly died in the heat and was a pain to maintain), turf was put in where the old grass was. Overall, the entire track looked a lot better. Still didn’t keep the desert from being… you know… a desert.

   I flew through Turns 15 and 16 before weaving down the straight. About a quarter of the way to the next corner, I slowed down to an almost crawl to bunch up the field. We passed by the World Circuit (A tiny oval-like track) and the track was looking like a conga line of cars. The car rumbled over the chicane curbing, and I was rocked in my seat. I jammed the gas and fishtailed on the front straight before heading down to my grid slot. The rest of the cars quickly got onto the grid as the heat shimmered across the track. Finally, after I got a second drink of water, I watched the green flag wave in the back.

   One light came on. I shut the visor and felt the smothering hot air in the visor.

   Two lights. I pushed in the clutch and waited.

   Three. I went into Rich and started revving up the engine.

   Four. The engine rose as my heart started to beat faster.

   Five. The grid was a cloud of noise, and I waited.

   The lights went out and I got away with a tiny amount of wheelspin before launching out of the slot. I started shifting up the gears and looked in my mirror. The grid about 6 rows back near the rear was covered in a cloud of dust as our cars picked up the sand from the track's surface. Max didn’t get a good run compared to me, and I managed to get clear before Kerenna. I cut down entering the high-speed turn and the rest of the grid followed through. There was a roar from the crowd and I checked my mirrors to see a stark white TT Motorsports car sliding off the track on its top. Sparks flew from the engine mount as it ground along the tarmac- chucking up dust before it caught and flipped itself back over. I dove into Turn 1 but Max out broke himself and almost ran into my gearbox. I rolled into Turn 2 and got a great run out of the exit, but the wheel turned yellow as we got out of the corner.

   “Safety Car, Safety Car,” Andy said over the radio as we rolled around. I sighed and went on the Super-Lean mix, which had really bad power but didn’t use hardly any fuel.

   “For that? He was off the racing line and way deep in the runoff- I don’t see why we should have a Safety Car. Just stupid.” I groaned and went into Turn 6 with the field dancing behind me in a weaving conga line. “What even happened?”

   “Looks like the TT dove down and tried to make a hole where there wasn’t one, and clipped a LakeFront. Everyone’s looking okay though.” It killed me to just stroll along the track, and I couldn’t help but blip the gas down Forza and let it go. Safety Cars on a long track like this were impossibly boring, and I don’t want to put y’all through that. The Safety Car pulled off the track on Lap 3, and I peeled away out of the chicane- gapping Max down the straight. I blasted down the straight to complete the lap, and watched the speed climb. 170. 180. 190. 200. Max tried to get back up to me, but we flew into Kerenna and I kept the position. The car slowed perfectly for Turn 1 and I went over the curbing on the apex. The rest of the field went through in a multicolored line of cars, which disappeared as I flung the car into Turn 3 and the Esses. The car held the grip as I felt myself get thrown against the cockpit’s side. Max gained in Turns 5 and 6- getting right on top of me out of the corner. I defended on the exit of the turn, and he tried a run around the outside. He got a wheel past, but I was holding my line through the corner. I got my rear past him in Turn 7, and managed to slip by in Turn 8 up the inside.

   The crowd roared while we dueled down the 8-9 straight, but I got a big run through Turn 9 that kept an attack behind. We flew into the banked Turn 10 and I used the speed to rocket out onto the straight. The speed climbed. 140. 50. 60. 70. 80. 90. 200. 210. I hit 213 down the straight before braking for Turns 11 and 12. The car felt skittish as it lost a lot of the aero grip on braking, and I had to wheel the car through the hairpin. I missed the apex by a mile and Max took advantage- getting a nose up the inside. I forced a tiny hole on the very outer edge of the track, and dust flew up into the air as I tried to make the move stick. I used a tiny amount of slipstream from the sidepod to allow me to get alongside and eventually past in the Turn 13 braking zone. Max out broke himself and I was able to coast up the inside of the corner- sweeping by up the inside. I turned the engine down to Standard mode, while Max had to work on getting back the ground he had lost. Micheal was hovering a little bit behind us, and looked like he was just waiting to see if we messed up.

   Max slipped up in the double apex of Turns 15 and 16, which gave me the chance to get out a slight gap. The car felt perfect through the next laps- flying away from Max as Micheal fell back. I blasted over the curbs and hit every apex perfectly on every lap. The car felt more like a bullet train on rails- never wavering as I flew into the corners. As I started Lap 14, the rears slipped in Kerenna- giving me a massive scare as I went wide over the rumble strip to collect a spin. I slammed the brakes and went into Turn 1 with a really compromised line that made me slip up the track.

   “Boxing now,” I said to Andy as I got out of Turn 2 with my heart racing. Max was trying to reel me in, but he wasn’t close enough as I dove into the pit lane. The car went from angry howl to a kind of docile hum when I hit the pit limiter. The team was ready as I got towards the stall, and I watched as they went to work. I opened up the visor as they gave me a water bottle, and I poured it on my face for some attempt at cooling. The water trickled down my face and down my front before the jack dropped and I pulled out of the spot with a squeal of the tires and a small trail of smoke. I shook my head and closed the visor before heading down the pit lane- turning in the kink before blazing out down the 2-3 straight.

   I could feel the grip in the car as I let it loose, and I started blasting through the corners. The heat was messing with the car’s grip, but I couldn’t feel it as I weaved through the Esses. Now you might be asking: Why does heat mess with aero? Well, downforce pushes the car down. That relies on air. However, whenever the air is hot, it’s less dense. This less-dense air means that the wing isn’t as effective- less air to use means less air to push the car down into the ground. That’s why some airports cancel flights due to extreme heat (Because remember- our cars are essentially upside-down aircraft wings). That’s also why cold races (Like Tekkia or the far north races like Halco and Eradica) are typically faster and grippier. And that’s your science update for today.

   I flew into Turn 7 and looked up the inside of Micheal, who hadn’t pitted yet. He cut me off in Turn 8 and I was forced to look at his rear wing on the apex. I cut down to make a pass but he cut down with me and forced me to brake. I went around the outside and popped up into Rich mix- sweeping around his right side on the apex. I was well clear into Turn 10 and the crowd roared their approval as the right sides kissed the concrete runoff and tossed up a tiny puff of dust.

   “Micheal’s got to get out of the way,” I protested to Andy as I went down Forza. “I know he thinks he’s fast, but he’s really not. Just getting in the way. I lost about a second or two in that corner- he’s got to know that we’re not racing him.” I looked in my mirror and watched as Micheal swept past me up the inside. I knew he was going way too fast into Turn 11, and I tried to get out his way. However, Micheal went way wide and I couldn’t get through as we both missed the apex by a couple of feet. I turned in and he went straight-on into me, and as he ran over my right front Micheal speared off left before I carried on.

   “For God sake,” I sighed as I went down the Runway straight. “That’s what he gets. Not wanting to sound like a jerk but he shouldn’t have tried that move. Micheal just killed our run- if we lose time to Max I’m gonna be mad.” The car hadn’t taken any damage (somehow), and I pushed through the lap to get back the lost time. The fresh tires made such a massive difference in the lap, and I could make up the time on Max quickly. I flew through Turn 19 and did my best to start catching up- getting a perfect run out of the corner and blasting down the straight.

   Max had just gotten out the pit box, and I flew past with ease and got by. I swung into the Kerenna Kink and broke for Turn 1- just getting the car under control before getting into the turn. Max was just behind me as I pulled out of Turn 2, and I had to bear down and break away. I knew I had about half a lap while Max got to speed with the “cold” tires, so I tried to pull away in the fast corners. The car flew through 3 and 4, and I rolled over the curbing in 5. Max lost some time and I took advantage- pulling out a tiny gap through Turn 6. Max was running hard down the straight, and swept around the outside into 7 as the Rich revs went to work. I defended up the inside and the crowd roared.

   I got past his left side out of Turn 7 and managed to get clear out of Turn 8. I swept up and cut off his run down the straight, but he tried to slipstream me. I darted down and tried to stop the slipstream, but he followed me down. I went back up to get a run for Turn 9 but he stayed down to look up the inside. I had to leave some room and we went side by side with each other down into Turn 10 out of the fast 9. I couldn’t get a run out of 10 and we were still right next to each other down the long straight. Max had the DRS and started getting past, but I popped into the slipstream to get a tiny bit of time back. The engine yelled as it climbed up in speed, and we both dove into Turn 11 on the brakes. There wasn’t any DRS down the Runway Straight and I managed to get in the slipstream- swinging by around the right side well before Turn 13.

   “Nice pass there, Jeb,” Andy said as I pulled away from the corner. “12 to go now. Push on- we can get this.” I blasted out of Turn 14 at full speed and collected the rear on a tiny little power slide after running a bit wide over the rumble strip on the outside. Max lost a ton of ground and didn’t contest down the Inner Straight- the oldest and longest straight-line section on the track. I extended the gap in the double apex of 15-16, and flung myself down the track. Max lost a lot of time out of the corners (Probably due to the dirty air), and I blasted through the Chicane. Suddenly, my dash lights went yellow.

   “Safety Car, Safety Car,” Andy exclaimed. I groaned. Before I could even ask what happened, Andy was on the ball. “A LakeFront blew up down the 8-9 straight and couldn’t get to a runoff in time. Go ahead and be ready for Max to try a comeback on the restart.” I shook my head and went down to the Ultra-Lean mix. We caught up with the Safety Car and I started weaving behind as the rest of the field caught up.

   Finally, on Lap 20, we were released. I got a massive launch out of 19 and used my momentum to grow a lead out to Max and Louie in P3. The Monster actually passed Max before Kerenna, but Max easily got by well before Turn 1. I had already grown a gap through 6, and Max tried to close in on the two-second lead. I felt the car roll through the turns so easily, and I knew it was my job to hold the gap. Max couldn’t close in that well- despite a minor mistake out of Turn 12 that cost me a ton of time down the straight. I hit the gas too early and the wheels spun- making me fishtail a bit and laying down two black lines on the tarmac. Finally, it was time for the last lap.

   I flew into Kerenna at max speed- rolling up on the curb on corner exit. The rumble strip rattled the car as I cut back down, and I broke in for Turn 1. The crowd whistled and cheered at me as I passed them, and I weaved into Turns 1 and 2. Max was too far back to mount a challenge, and I went a little bit easy. I flung the car into Turn 3 and flew through the Esses. The car drove magnificently, and I pulled out of the slightly banked Turn 6 with as much speed as I could. I flew down into 7 and 8- two corners that were tight left-handed hairpins that were part of the old circuit. I didn’t pay much attention to the massive grandstand that went around Turn 10, and focused on running down Forza. The speed climbed- 180, 190, 200, 210. I hit the brakes at 217, and the car flew hard in Turn 11. I went over the Turn 12 apex and went down the Runway with ease as Max came out of the corner about 5 seconds behind me. The crowd cheered as I flew out of Turn 14, and I felt my heart rate rise. My head started playing flashbacks to the crash.

   “Big crash…”

   “Will he race again?”

   “Almost died..”

   “Strong enough?”

   “Scared?”

   “What’s going to happen?”

   “Kerenna. What now? Race Championship Temple Step away Retire Stop Too dangerous Death Largest crash in K1 history.”

   The noise in my head stopped as I stormed out of Turn 16. Then, I saw a reporter during an interview that I had watched before the season started.

   “Can he do it?” There was silence as I hit the brakes for the chicane. I hit curb and flew into the corner. Then, I heard a sigh as time slowed down. “Really?”

   “It’s going to be really hard for him to come back from this kind of situation.”

   “So you’re saying no?”

   “I’m not saying that.” I hit the Turn 18 and 19 curbs right on cue. “But here’s the question. Will Jebediah find the strength to face his demons at the Temple? Will he ever win again?” I exhaled and saw the start/finish line getting bigger and bigger as I rolled down the straight. Everything went silent, and a voice in my head said one thing. Yes.

   100 meters to the victory. The crowd was cheering and clapping as air horns went off in the stands.

   75. The team was up on the wall- beaming smiles and pumping their fists as I got closer. I felt emotion start to clump up in my throat.

   50. I started weaving. This is it.

   25. I stuck my fist up in the air and felt the wind grab it- trying to pull it back. The checkered flag started dropping.

   0. The crowd roared and I pumped my fist as I crossed the line. I rolled down the straight and saw Max cross the line- waving to the crowd and celebrating a P2 finish. I keyed the radio- emotion almost choking me out as I yelled.

   “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!!! YES GUYS! Thank y’all so much for the weekend- that’s just amazing.” Some tears leaked out and I sniffed as I went down the straight. “I can’t believe I just did that. This is so cool, holy cow.”

   “Congratulations, Jeb, that’s P1! Amazing drive in the race- awesome work. We know how much this one meant to you. Everyone was hoping you would get that win.” I went to the outside of Kerenna, and parked the car well off the track.

   “Can I burn it down?” There was some silence before Andy responded. In that silence, I could hear the crowd cheering off to the side- celebrating the victory in the stands behind the wall. Finally, I got an answer.

   “Go for it.”

   I jammed the gas and the tires spun- turning the rear of the car into a cloud of smoke. I shot forward and drove along for a little bit in a ginormous wheelspin before pushing the wheel right and looping around. I was covered in a cloud of white tire smoke as the engine screamed- drowning out the sound of the crowd. The rest of the grid went past and I saw Max stopped behind me before I spun around again. I stuck my fist up in the air and spun for a little bit more before finally coming to a halt. The crowd cheered and whistled, and I waited for a gap in the cars before going on. I waved to the crowd as I rolled along the track- trying to clear my eyes. Suddenly, the radio crackled and I heard a familiar voice over my ear plugs.

   “Is that my big bro out there?” I smiled and pulled through Turn 3- rolling over the curbing and weaving through the Esses.

   “How’d you get all the way out here,” I asked- gunning the gas and blasting through the corners. I passed a RedWing around the outside of Turn 6 before slowing down and waving to the next patch of fans.

   “Summer break! Plus, it’s not every day I get to see a race like that.” I shook my head and laughed as I pulled through Turn 7.

   “It feels good to be back at the top,” I admitted with a sigh. “Really good.”

   I leaped out of the car in the paddock and the team cheered as I ran over to them. The crowd cheered and clapped, and I could practically feel the energy pulsing off everyone at the podium area. Or maybe it was the 106º heat. Louis, Max, and I all went up the steps to the podium lounge, where I immediately grabbed a bottle of water and poured it down my back and on my face. The freezing water sent shivers and I did a weird jerky dance before stepping away. All three of us were covered in sweat and I could tell Max was really tired as he laid down across the entire couch- a cold towel on his face.

   “Good race,” I said, patting his foot as I sat down on the armrest. Max made a kind of tired groan and flapped his hand in my direction like a wounded bird. The race took everything out of all of us. But I had done it. Finally.

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Okay, I messed up. I said that Chapter 33 would come out on Friday... I failed. Accept this late gift as payment for my crimes.

 

Chapter 33: The Comeback

 

6:00pm, 3 weeks later. Round 8 of 10: The Halcan Grand Prix. Halco Grand Prix Circuit, McKerley, Halco.

 

“As the saying goes, ‘When the sun goes down, the stars come out to play.’ Tonight, 22 of K1’s finest and fastest are prepared to go at it in the heart of Halco. After dominating the Temple, OTech star Jebediah Kerman is coming ever closer to clinching the title tonight. Meanwhile, on the other side of the garage, teammate Max is prepared to come in and spoil the show- possibly reclaiming the lead in the championship. Now, with a 15 point gap in the standings and all to play for, the circuit of Halco is ready to host what will undoubtedly be an incredible race. And now, it’s time for the 2037 Halcan Grand Prix.

 

 

   The last remnants of the sun shone down on the picture-perfect circuit as I looked down the front straight and up the massive hill to Turn 1. The sunset race was (apparently) one of the best races to take part in, and I was ready to finally get at it after sitting out last year. The crowd knew that now there was a ginormous 15 point gap for Max to make up in the standings, but there was a good chance that would all come down to the final race at the KSC. However, if I won this race tonight (or beat Max by 5 or more points), and finished at least second in the final two races, I’d guarantee myself the title. So many unknown variables, but with the dominance of the car this year, I had no doubt we’d finish the season locking out the top two. I was expecting Max to be desperate during the race, but I had to be tough.

   In between the Temple and the Halco event, K1 made an announcement that turned a lot of heads. Since the start of the modern era in K1 (2000 to now), the season calendar had 10 races. But, from 2038 onwards, there would be 11 races in a season. This meant that next year, Basil was back on the schedule- news that made Max insanely happy. Also, Andy was still shut up in his office designing the 2038 car down to the very last nut and bolt.

   Our car for this race was the same as we used in Owlia, with the single T-wing on the top of the Shark Fin. We had locked out the front row by only a couple tenths as Monster was throwing everything at the final couple of races. Simply scoring one point would lock out the constructor's championship, which pretty much everyone knew we were going to win with ease. The car had a beautiful livery on with the sharp and sleek number scheme, just like Aquaria and the Temple.

   I watched a single fighter jet blast overhead with smoke trailing off the edges as the crowd cheered with a massive roar. The team was busy making last-second checks to the car and I stepped in- cameras clicking and rustling as reporters took pictures pre-race. Max was lined up on Pole position, but I had the all-important inside line down into Turn 1.

   I put my helmet on and the noise seemed to stop. I exhaled, and felt the engine roar to life. I blipped the throttle as the car was let down, and I felt the car shake a bit as the team got everything unplugged and set up for the formation lap. Everything on the car felt perfect as I waited for the light to go out.

   The light finally went out and I practiced the launch out of the grid slot- getting a little bit of wheelspin before the car got it back with ease. The suspension flexed as we ran up the hill to Turn 1, which was an uphill hairpin that was so much fun to drive. The field started weaving like a snake as we went through the high speed esses of Turns 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. The crowd cheered and whistled at our passing cars, and I lowered the black tinted visor a bit up the Turn 7 hill. The Halco track, though slightly old (Created in 2022), was incredible fun to drive with sweeping corners, flowing hills, and a massive back straight that allowed for speeds nearing 200 miles per hour.

   “Everything’s looking good from here,” Andy said as I went through the newly renovated kink before the hairpin. The new renovation had us skipping out the old Turn 8, 9, 10, and 11 section- instead making it a straight line run from Turn 7 to the back straight hairpin. This would drop lap times by around 10 seconds, not including the 2037 car updates. We’d already seen improvements in Practice, and I was ready to get this race started.

   “I’m glad we’ve got the visor all set,” I said as I pulled out of the Turn 8 hairpin. “Sunset is really bright without it.” We had a couple extra tear-offs on the helmet this race- a couple layers of heavy tint and a few with anti-spotlight tinting. I weaved down the back straight and tried to get some heat into the tires as the sky turned a beautiful shade of orange that made the sky look like it was on fire. The car brushed along the ground and threw up a cloud of glowing sparks in my trail. I broke in for Turn 9 and the car felt like it was starting to come alive as I brushed the inside curbing and just missed a bollard on the inside.

   The rest of the field snaked through the corners of 10, 11, 12, 13, and the massive loop of 14. I felt the G-forces strain on my neck even at the low speed- even with the relatively low speeds of the formation lap. I went through 15 and the looked to the right at the stands before braking for Turn 16. The stands were packed and the crowd cheered and clapped as I rolled up to my grid slot behind Max. The rest of the field pulled up to their spots, and we were ready for the start. A green flag waved in my mirror at the back of the grid and I sighed.

   One bright red light came on above us. I turned the engine up to rich as it idled on the grid.

   Two lights came on. I pushed in the clutch.

   Three lights came on and I watched the lights.

   Four. I pushed the gas in and the engine started rising in revs little by little.

   Five. My heart raced as I looked up and focused on the lights. The engines yelled on the grid and echoed off the buildings.

   Finally, the lights went out and I released the clutch. I timed it perfect and the car launched out of the slot about a tenth of a second before Max. I didn’t get any wheelspin and blasted away. I got right alongside Max and we started up the hill. I managed to fly up Max’s inside down the straight, and shifted up through the gears. We flew up the crest to Turn 1 and I had the advantage as we dared each other entering the turn. I finally broke first- watching as Max tried to get past around the outside. However, the apex was going for me, and I flew past up the inside. I heard a squeal behind as someone locked up, but I didn’t look as Max slotted in behind me on corner exit.

   We went down the dip through Turn 2 and sparks popped into the air as the cars bottomed out. The field went single-file into the esses and I felt the G-forces flinging me against my seat as I flew into the corners. I had one goal this race; finish ahead of Max. I flew over the curbs in 3, 4, and 5 before rolling through the sweeping Turn 6. I bounced up the hill and the car shifted its weight around- rolling through the turn before Turn 7. Max had lost ground from the aerodynamic shift (“Dirty Air”), and I didn’t have any competition down into Turn 8. I clipped the apex and ran up onto the exit curb- rumbling over the strip and managing some wheelspin as the rears tried to step out.

   Max hung in my slipstream down the straight as the car sparked against the ground. He started closing in but ran out of track as we hit the braking zone for Turn 9. We stayed single-file and the crowd roared as we passed in Turn 10 and 11. The track widened out in Turn 12 and 13 but Max didn’t try anything through the technical section of hairpins. I got a good run out of 13 and kept him behind in the Turn 14 loop. I had to strain to keep my head upright as we raced through the turn, and I flew out of the exit. The sun shone in my eyes on corner exit but I could still see the track- hitting the apex on point for Turn 15. Max had gotten onto my tail down in the technical section of the track, but I was still holding onto the position as we rolled through Turn 16. I got a good run out of the turn but Max seemed to get a better one. He started closing in on me little by little and I decided to go defensive- darting down to the inside to block off the inside line.

   Sparks flew off the under tray of the car as I went up the hill, and the bright lights were thrown into Max’s visor as we went up for the Turn 1 braking zone. Max didn’t waver and lunged down my inside as we broke for the corner. I got the cut-back and managed to get back on his left, but I was on the outside for Turn 2 as the track tightened up. I followed Max’s car through the winding esses- 3, 4, 5, and 6. I had to fight the wheel in the corner and I could tell the effects of the dirty air. The 2038 aero updates couldn’t come soon enough. I looked up the inside through Turn 7 but Max cut me off- just barely missing my front wing as I lost the rears over the crest of the hill.

   “That was close,” I said simply down the straight. “I almost hit Max up in 7- He’s lucky I backed out of it in time.” I got the car back and looked down the inside into the Turn 8 hairpin, but there was no room to try an overtake. I managed to gain some time on corner exit, and tried to get some slipstream down the massive straight. Sparks flew up into the air as the sunset started to come to an end, and glowed brightly against the dark sky. I closed in down the straight as the speed climbed, before finally darting out of the slipstream at the last possible second. I got my front wheel alongside into the braking zone, and was clear as Max broke first.

   We went single-file in through the hairpins, and Max again lost some ground. I went down into Standard Revs in the long Turn 14, and the suspension flexed through the long, sweeping turn. Max stayed in my tracks through Turn 15, but didn’t try a look into Turn 16. We went on to start Lap 3 and the crowd roared as we passed. I immediately dove down to guard the inside entering Turn 1, and Max followed me down to try and grab a little bit of slipstream off my car. I hit the brakes first for the corner and Max tried to sweep past around my outside. The hairpin was tight enough that I managed to stay ahead- clearing him by the apex despite Max’s strong run on the entrance.

   I formed a tiny gap through the esses, but Max got a stellar run out of Turn 7. I cut down to defend as he drew alongside me- utilizing the momentum from corner exit. I managed to keep him on my outside through Turn 8, and got clear. This, however, was a mistake. Max now had the slipstream and DRS down the longest straight on the track, and I knew I was about to pay for keeping him back. He had a little bit of ground to make up thanks to the corner, but made it all up incredibly quick as we raced down the straight. I went left and Max followed- trying to nose his way inside. Finally, he had enough and looked right about mid-way down the straight. The violent turn and lack of rear downforce made him lose the back end, and I saw him fish-tail in my mirrors as he tried to get the car back under control.

   Max tried a move around the outside in Turn 9, but I again locked him out as I held my line on the tight corner. Max was trying everything to get past me, but I wasn’t letting him have anything as we raced through the technical section of hairpins. The crowd roared as Max looked up the inside, but I managed to stop an attack into Turn 13. The car flexed as I flew through Turn 14- the lateral G-forces forcing the car to list as I turned through the corner.

   We flew out of the turn and went down into Turn 15 as the sunset had pretty much ended. The spotlights gleamed bright on the track, and I tore off the last dark film- now switching to the yellow spotlight-blocker. Max tried a look up the inside but the corner wasn’t wide enough for both of us to get through. We went through the turn and Max couldn’t get past on corner exit. He opened up the DRS and tried to pass me down the straight. I defended the inside heading into the braking zone, and the move helped me hold onto the position.

   Max stayed behind me through the next laps- until on Lap 14 when Max started getting ready to overtake. The tires were starting get worn and I was really suffering on the lack of speed. I flew through Turn 6 and Max continued to close in. He was right on my gearbox as I went down the hill out of Turn 7, and dove up the inside into the braking zone to Turn 8. Max had locked up and we both ran wide- slipping up the track in an attempt to avoid contact. I put the power down out of the corner and started gaining on Max. I got DRS out of the corner and flew around the inside through the slight bend in the track. I got clear on the left and moved right to cut off a lunge around the outside, which worked.

   I dove into the pits on Lap 17- one lap after Max. I hit the limiter right on the dot and started down the pit lane. I pulled in and stopped perfectly in the box as the team lifted up the car. Four tires on, four off. I waited for the fuel to get in, and for the timer to run down. Finally, the team dropped the car and I peeled out of the box. I got out of the pit lane and stormed out of the exit line- watching as Max gained. I was on the far inside for Turn 1, which wouldn’t give me a good run but would keep him behind. I managed to keep Max on my outside, even though his left front wheel was pretty much past my right front. Max was on the inside for Turn 2 but I managed to keep ahead- flinging the car around the outside through the corner and hanging with Max before I got the inside run for Turn 3. Sparks flew off the under tray as the car bumped along the track in the middle of the corner, and Max let me to before Turn 4. I threw the car into the corners- flinging off the curbs with ease as Max tried to hang on.

   I could feel the fresh tires going to work, but I misjudged the run through Turn 6. The rear stepped out and I had to fight the car up the track- leaving a hole up the inside of the corner that Max took. He nosed up the inside through 6 but I had an inside run through Turn 7. I tried to hold on but Max got the run and drove past. I dove up the inside for Turn 8 and just barely got by around the left. The car got a massive run out of the turn and I started to pull away, before Max got the DRS. I lost the ground and then some down the massive straight as Max tried a lunge up my inside into Turn 9. I managed to keep him behind me, but I could tell Max was looking to make the overtake.

   He lunged into Turn 13 and I had to leave him space before the apex of the corner. The crowd roared as Max got along my inside, and I had to fight hard to defend around the outside of the hairpin. I got a better launch out of the corner and had the inside through the sweeping Turn 14. Max fought hard on my left side and the aero effects took the downforce off my car. I lost some grip and Max pulled ahead just a little bit, but on the corner exit he had me beat. I had to recover the car and Max flew clean around my outside to the excitement of the crowd. I tried to fight back into Turn 15 but he covered off the inside as I had to brake hard to avoid him. I lost some front-end grip from the aero on exit and had to recover- losing some time and space to Max. I looked inside but Max cut me off as I had to go up the track to avoid hitting him.

   “Max is blocking me,” I said down the straight. I opened up the DRS and went to Max’s inside. “I almost hit him twice in those last two corners. Please please please tell him to calm down; I don’t want to ram both of us out of the race.” I got past up the inside and pulled up out of the turn. I managed to slide past and get in front of him- cutting him off down into Turn 2. Max’s car sparked off the ground and I flew through the turn at full throttle as the spotlights flashed off our cars. Max was still right on top of me in the esses and I had to fight hard to hold the speed. Max was clearly fighting hard with the car and I managed to get out a tiny gap down the straight out of Turn 7. We flew down the hill and I went hard into the hairpin braking zone.

   I hit the brakes and the car lost grip as the left-front locked up without any warning. White smoke flew into the air and covered the apex. A loud squeal sounded through my helmet and I let off the brakes a little bit to reset. Max got his nose up my inside and I had to leave the space as he started to get a good run down the straight. This time, however, I had the DRS. I flew past around the outside of Max down the straight while the engine howled and the speed climbed. 180. 190. 200. I slammed on the brakes at 203 and the car started slowing with a massive bite. I hit the curb with Max hot on my tail, and I fought hard down the run to Turn 10. I forced Max to go the hard way around Turn 10, and that gave me a tiny bit of breathing room.

   Max hung behind me hot on my heels as the laps ticked down. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. On Lap 28 with just 5 laps to go, he lunged up the inside down into Turn 8. I wasn’t expecting it and out of instinct gave him room. Max took the gap and flew past my inside as I cursed myself on corner exit. I tried to get by down the straight but Max cut off any attacking move with relative ease. I attempted to get him back on the inside of Turn 9, but I was too far back to mount a serious challenge. Max suddenly began to pull away. 4. 3. 2. 1.

   As the final lap began, I saw Max was too far away. I was fighting super hard, but I couldn’t make up the time. Down the back straight, Andy told me to bring the engine down. Sadly, I agreed- moving the mix down to Lean to preserve it for the next race. I rolled through the final corners at a reduced pace as Max continued on. I pulled out of Turn 16 as Max crossed the line to cheers from the crowd. Fireworks blasted into the air and Max weaved down to the wall before turning back up the track- one hand up in the air. I crossed the line and coasted as the engine started reviving down. I shook my head and waved to the crowd. It’s okay, I thought to myself as I broke for Turn 1. It’s just another race.

   “Congratulations, Jeb- that’s the Constructors! Seven in a row, buddy; top drive. Absolutely amazing- you’ve earned it.” I keyed the radio as Max and I formed up two-wide through the Esses.

   “Thanks to everyone out at the team, y’all have done amazing this year. Congrats to everyone at the factory, we couldn’t have done it without you.” The crowd enjoyed our formation driving, and I couldn’t help but smile despite the loss.

   The team was already around the stopping point in the paddock and I stepped out of the car to cheers and claps. I gave Andy a high-five before walking out to the cool down room with my helmet and gear. Max was grinning as I sat down on the couch and tossed me a water.

   “Almost hit you about 3 times,” I sighed before taking a sip of water.

   “Where?” Suddenly, there was movement out of the corner of my eye as a LakeFront driver- Marty- came up to the cool down room.

   “‘Ello,” he sighed with a grin on his face as he sat down on a chair.

   “Turn 15 and 16,” I replied. “You got past there and brake-checked me.” He shook his head but didn’t say anything as I turned to Marty. “How was your race?” Marty grinned.

   “Crazy,” He replied with a thick accent and a ginormous smile. “Micheal and I fought like crazy in the final couple laps, but it was just amazing fun.” There was a TV screen showing the highlights of the race and I stood up. It showed Max cutting down on me and I pointed.

   “See? Right there- you just flew down on me.” Max pursed his lips and shook his head.

   “Sorry there, man. Just had to keep ahead of you to win, and I was in desperation mode. I’ll try not to do that again.” I nodded.

   “It’s fine, just didn’t want to hit you and give you a puncture.” We kept watching and I saw Marty’s wild overtake around the outside of the esses with sparks flying into the sky. “Holy cow that was close,” I sighed as Marty watched on. “That was all in the last lap?” He nodded. “Geez.” The two cars flew down the straight with Micheal looking up the inside as Marty cut him off. Micheal looked outside but lost the rears- fishtailing just like Max did before the braking zone. He somehow made it stick, though, and tried to get past around the outside of the hairpin. He almost made it work, but he cut down on Marty too early and the two made contact. Micheal’s car bounced up into the air with sparks before crashing back to the ground. There was still a fight though, as Micheal was up the inside of Marty in Turn 10.

   “Holy cow,” Max muttered as Marty grinned. Marty held it around the outside of Turn 14- pulling off the same move that Max did to me. He got it past into Turn 15 and never looked back as Micheal tried into Turn 16. After a lot of waiting, we got out to the podium.

   The crowd roared as Max lifted up the trophy and air horns went off. Blue colored smoke covered the crowd below as fans celebrated, and despite the loss I couldn’t help but smile. The podium interviewer came up, and I took my microphone.

   “Max, first off, congrats on the win! How’d it feel to go out there and race toe-to-toe with your teammate there in the final few laps?”

   “Aww, it was just amazing. The team had the car set up perfect, and it was just amazing to go out there and race. We had some really close calls there with Jeb from what I saw on the TV, but it was just so much fun to get out there and go racing.”

   “And Jeb, comments on that fight for the lead?”

   “Pretty much the same thing,” I replied- nodding and adjusting my hat. “Max and I had some good fights out there on the track, but in the end, he was just faster. I guess now it’s onto Basil.”

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  • 1 month later...

So the last chapter came last year. Let's get back into the swing of things, shall we? Time for Basil- the penultimate round. Again, sorry for the delay, but I do hope that this chapter makes up for it.

 

Chapter 34: Basil

 

7:30 pm, 1 Week, 6 Days later. Practice for Round 9 of 10; The Basilian Grand Prix. Circuito Nacional da Basiléia.

 

   I blasted down out of Turn 17 and hopped over the curb, trying to catch Max on the timing sheets. I opened up the DRS out of Turn 18, and the car started speeding up. The suspension bounced over the bumps in the track and put sparks up into the air as I drove. The engine roared down the straight, and I broke hard for Turn 1. The left front locked up on braking and I went offline, and I shook my head.

   “Nothing we’re doing with the setup is working here. I’m either oversteering, or I can’t turn in. It’s awful, absolutely awful.” I slowed up to try another go- racing at around 75%. I ran over the inside curbing of Turn 2 and hung out offline. I went down low when I got a clear space and picked up some rubber.

   “So what happened there?” I sighed and turned into 4 and 5.

   “I just locked up the left front and ran wide. Don’t think I beat the tires up too bad though.” I waited for a few corners before gunning it out of Turn 10 and started getting ready to go at it again. The car felt good as I flew out of Turn 11, and I got ready to get into the braking zone for the 12-13 chicane. I ran over the curbing and threw the car out of Turn 13. The rear tried to step out just a little bit, but I kept it under control as I went down the straight. I broke for Turn 14, and the rear tried to step out again. I hit the curbing for 15 and 16, before heading to 17.

   As soon as I started turning in, the rear stepped out big time. It hit the curb, and the rears lost whatever traction was left. Almost in slow motion, I started turning the wheel right. The car slowly turned back right, and my eyes widened as I tried to kick the car back to the left. The rears slid and pulled left. My vision changed from the wide-open track ahead to the hard concrete barrier on the outside of the turn. The tires started smoking, and I pulled my hands off the wheels- crossing my arms across my chest. I lifted my feet and closed my eyes as the car sped towards the wall.

   I heard nothing but the loud screeching of tires, followed by the swish of the car slipping over grass. Then, there was a loud crash as the nose pounded into the wall. My whole body was thrown forward, and I felt the car start to spin across the track. Debris flew off the car, and I kept my eyes closed before I felt the car come to a stop. My heart was racing, and I cautiously opened up my eyes. The front of the car was smashed in beyond recognition, and both of the front wheels were gone off the car. I put up the visor and sighed.

   “Jeb, are you alright? That was a really hard hit.” I keyed the radio button and started trying to get myself unbuckled as the hushed crowd waited.

   “Yeah, I’m good,” I sighed, tugging at my belts. I tried to pull my legs up, but I felt a pinching on my thighs. I looked down and saw that the chassis of the car had actually bent from the impact, and my legs were pinned to the holes on either side of the steering column. “Uh… Okay, maybe I’m not alright. I think I’m pinned in here.” I undid the wheel and put it up on the top of the nose as the emergency crews arrived.

   “Alright, just stay in there until the med crews arrive, just stay calm.” I undid the straps to the helmet and handed it to one of the marshals that got to me first.

   “Okay?” One of the marshals gave me a thumbs up with a thick accent, and I nodded before pointing to my legs.

   “Pinned,” I said simply, and the marshals looked confused. I sighed and pointed down to my leg again, but they didn’t get it. I extended my arm out and grabbed it with my right hand- squeezing tight while I tried to pull my left arm out away from my hand. They still didn’t get it, and I shook my head. “Legs pinned,” I desperately tried to explain. “Can’t get my legs out.” The marshals looked at me, confused.

   “Are you hurt?” I shook my head and pointed down to my legs while one marshal got back behind me to get a better look. As I turned and pointed to my legs, he nodded with what I assumed to be an “Ah-ha” moment. He fired off a fast string of Basilian, and the other marshals came over. There was some muttering before one started talking into the walkie-talkie on his belt. About a minute later, a couple more came over with a drill. Behind them, Andy was jogging up- along with a kerbal in a fancy-looking suit. By now I had all my headgear off and could talk freely as Andy kneeled with his hand on the sidepod.

   “You good, man?” Andy looked worried, but my nod seemed to ease him a bit.

   “Yeah, I’m good.” I held my hands up to give him a visualization. “When I hit the wall, I think the chassis got bent up, and I can’t get my legs up out of the box.” I pointed for him to look down and he saw, nodding. The kerbal in the suit started speaking Basilian, and there was some muttering from the marshals. Andy turned to the marshals.

   “Do y’all think you can maybe take out the seat? That might give Jeb some room to work with and maybe shimmy out.” I raised my eyebrow as who I assumed to be the translator started speaking again.

   “How do you think that’ll work?” Andy shifted over, and I tried to shimmy over. He pointed to some screws on the side of the cockpit.

   “We could unscrew this and see if that works- it’s got a little bit of cushion there that might give you the room you need.” I nodded, and the translator turned back to Andy.

   “Sounds like a plan,” Andy nodded. I looked at Andy before looking up at the translator and giving a nod of my own. The marshals got the drill and started drilling out the sides of the seat. The biggest challenge was trying to get the ones behind me. Andy had to get at the front and grab my hands- pulling me up and giving the team room to use the drill. Finally, after about 6 or 7 minutes of working, the team pulled the seat up and out of the cockpit. I sat back on the hard metal and immediately felt some of the pressure relieved off my thighs.

   “That feels better,” I nodded as Andy got back to my side. I put my arms on the side of the cockpit and gently tried to slide my legs out of the box. I managed to get all the way up, and the crowd started clapping. I stood up and waved to the crowd- getting more cheers as I stepped out. I leaned in towards Andy and tried to talk over the noise. “You think we’re going to be able to get the car all fixed up for quali tomorrow?” He nodded, and we started walking back to the paddock. I had a quick thought and turned around to the translator.

   “How do you say ‘Thank You?’” I asked as the marshals started getting the debris picked up. The translator turned to me before responding.

   “Obrigado,” he responded, and I nodded. I went to every marshal who was working on the car, shook their hands, and said thanks to everyone who helped out with the car. One marshal handed me my helmet, and I thanked her twice. Finally, after everyone was properly acknowledged, I jogged back to Andy and waved to the crowd again- drawing a massive roar from everyone. Max met us out at the start of the pit lane, and he gave me a clap on the back.

   “You good, bud?” I looked at him and rolled my eyes as he put his hand on my shoulder.

   “Come on guys, y’all act like I’m made of glass or something! I’m fine, trust me.” We walked into the garage, and he sat down on a stack of tires as I leaned back in a chair. Andy handed me a tablet and sat down next to me as I pulled up a replay. They both pulled up a plastic chair and sat around me. “I just lost it, plain and simple,” I sighed as they both started watching the slow-mo. I saw the car bounce over the curbing, and I paused it just as I turned in for Turn 17.

   “Right there,” I said, pointing at the rear of the car that was just a small bit offline from the front of the car. “The rear is just way too loose on the fast direction changes… It’s trying to be more of a drift car than a K1 car.” I restarted the replay and saw myself try to correct the car before the rears whipped around. I watched the front end crush the wall and start spinning. Sparks flew off the nose as the front suspension collapsed- the right front shooting out underneath the nose before flying out away from the car. The car came to a stop, and I paused it again. The front of the nose was tilted downward and had lifted the main chassis body off the tarmac. I hit the rewind button and saw the crash again- this time in full speed.

   “Geez,” Max said as the car spun around as the camera shook with a concussive thud over the speakers. “That was rough.” Andy shook his head.

   “We could try to tighten up the rear roll bar and soften the suspension…” I could practically see his brain working as he put his hand under his chin. “That way we wouldn’t sacrifice high-speed cornering but can go over the curbs more aggressively. We’re also going to work on the brake bias some- we can run sims tomorrow morning before quali.” He stood up and started tapping on his phone- jotting down the notes as he started walking to the computer. He looked back at us and waved. “Jeb, you’re good to go- we’re done for the day. Get some food, get some rest.” I nodded as Claire looked up at the timing screens. She shook her head and turned back to Max.

   “You’re good, Max,” she said, closing up her laptop and putting it in her bag. “There’s not enough time to get another run in.” I put my cap on and shrugged off my firesuit- putting it in a small portable locker at the side of the garage. The clock ticked down before finally expiring just as the wrecked car was pulled into the pit lane by the flatbed. I grimaced and turned away from the scratched and scraped paint- not wanting to look at the mistake that I had caused. Quali was going to be difficult. But the race was going to be even harder.

 

6:45 pm, The next day. Round 9 of 10: The Basilian Grand Prix. Basil International Raceway, Basil (Circuito Nacional da Basiléia)

 

“Since the dawn of motorsport, Baskay has been the home of racing. Tonight, the world of K1 heads into Basil- the penultimate round in the championship.

“The pressure is on for Jebediah Kerman, after a tough string of luck. A close loss last race in Halco and a brutal crash last night has left the 2035 series champ with a lot to get ready for in tonight’s showdown. Meanwhile, it’s been all-smiles from the other half of the garage, as Max Kerman took a commanding lead in qualifying- looking to bring the championship down to the series finale in three weeks time. Who will take victory in this race that goes from dusk to dark?

It’s time to find out. This is the Basilian Grand Prix.

 

 

   Three small jets tore through the humid air, and the crowd cheered the green, red, and white display. I put my hat back on and walked back to my car- giving Max a handshake as I walked. Basil was his favorite circuit, and he had dominated the track throughout his K1 career.

   “We good?” I gave Andy a high five and set my hat on the table next to his computer. The team had done a great job getting the car fixed before qualifying, and it was somehow able to get me into second place on the grid.

   “Everything’s looking good…” He tapped away on his laptop, and I put on the head sock before grabbing the helmet. The helmet had some nice flame decals on the sides, and I ran my hand over it before sliding it on. I stepped up into the cockpit and sat down into the seat- feeling the cushion back in the cockpit after the crash last night. I slid into the familiar cockpit padding and clicked the wheel in as a couple of engineers started buckling me in. The crowd was cheering and clapping as the rest of the drivers made their way down the grid.

   “Comm check,” Andy said over the radio as I put the gloves on. I smiled and raised the visor to let in some cool air.

   “Loud and clear,” I replied with a thumbs-up. I saw a tv camera pointed at me a little ways away, and I waved. “Beautiful night for a race. Hope the fans are going to enjoy the race here- it’s gonna be a fun one.” The team put the tires on as the final light came on the pylon. I turned the wheel a couple of times and watched the front tires roll. The light turned off, and I launched out of the grid slot behind Max. The tires smoked a little bit as I got the wheels spinning to get some heat into them and Andy came on over the radio.

   “It’s a nice cool 70º here in Basil. Tiny 3mph wind out of the West, so we’re going to get a tailwind down the 3-4 straight. Be ready for anything here in Turn 1; the other teams behind are probably going to try something on us down there.” I rolled down out of the hill and let the car coast a bit before weaving down the straight.

   “Absolutely beautiful night…” I looked up through my darkened visor at the stars that peaked through the dim sunset. “Let’s be smart tonight, guys. Thirty laps ahead of us here- long race to get the job done. Good luck and be safe down there in the pits.” I weaved through the corners and brushed over the curbing in 4 and 5- drawing a small buzz from the tires as I went over the rumble strip.

   We didn’t have any car updates this go around- we were using the same wing designs as we used in Owlia and Aquaria. We had also done our best to get the maximum output out of the front wing- using a small connector that gave us just that little bit extra downforce. It went from the back of the bottom front wing to the front of the top front wing, which not only made the car a bit grippier but it also made the car have this cool look from the front.

   After rolling through the formation lap and getting the tires warmed up, it was go-time. I flew through Turn 18 and started getting the car ready for the launch over the bumpy course. The engine toned down and I felt the crowd’s energy radiating off of the stands as the rest of the grid filed in. I put the car down into neutral and sat waiting with the visor up and the air blowing onto my face. I sighed as the engine sat in idle before the final car slotted into line.

   A single light came on. I closed the visor and bounced my legs up and down in the car.

   A second. I put the car up into Rich and the engine toned up a bit. My heart was racing in anticipation for the start.

   The third light. I pushed the clutch in and started revving the engine up.

   Four. The revs grew as I heard the engine tone go from a rumble to a yell.

   Five. All 20 engines on the grid were screaming as we waited for the lights to go out. The cars were all lined up correctly, and I waited for the lights to shut off.

   The lights finally went out, and I dropped the clutch. The revs went down, and the tires got their grip- or so I thought. The tires spun, and I got a horrible start off the line. The rears had a tiny bit of smoke, and I struggled to get the car together. The revs finally balanced out but not before Max had gotten well clear- cutting down to the inside to cover the run to Turn 1. The Monsters of Micheal and Louie got on either side of me, and I moved up to get some room into Turn 1 as we entered the turn. I had Micheal on my left and Louie on my right, and we went into Turn 1 three-wide. I turned in, but Micheal squeezed me as Louie cut down with his left rear in front of me. My eyes widened, and I braced for impact.

   My right front hit the side of Louie’s left-rear tire, and he was sent spinning across in front of me- right into the path of Micheal. Louie’s car slammed into the nose of Micheal and took off the front wing as Micheal slammed into me. My car jumped up into the air and spun around in front of the field. My vision was nothing but the other vehicles as my own vehicle rolled backward- finally coasting off to the runoff of the course. I hit the brakes and shifted down to first before jamming the gas and spinning the car around with a yell from the engine and a cloud of smoke from the tires. I got back on track and saw Micheal off to the side (facing backward) without a front wing and some nose damage, while Louie had a shattered and destroyed left rear suspension- facing back and out of the race. I went down into Turn 2 and hit the radio.

   “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!” I screamed into the radio and felt a lack of turning grip in Turn 3. “Micheal forced me up the track and Louie pinched me! IDIOTS! Box, I think I have front wing damage.” I paused for a moment before shouting out an unprintable curse and shook my head. I felt a big lack of turning in the car through Turns 4 and 5, while Micheal was slow behind me.

   “Copy bud, we’ll report it to Charlie. Bear down and keep focused- we’re ready for you to box in.” I sighed and raced through down into the Turn 6/7 double-apex with as much speed as I could carry before braking for 8. The car was in terrible shape, and I was steamed from the crash as I went through the 12-13 kink section. I shifted down out of launch revs and started focusing on my new race plan- charging up through the field and minimizing the mistakes to come back and get into a position to challenge. The field flew through the chicane with myself hot on their heels- trying to get as much time back as I could before taking the pit stop. As soon as I got into the pit entry, I saw the lights on the steering wheel and the steward’s boards go yellow, and I gave a sigh of relief.

   “Alright, Safety Car bud, Safety Car. This is our shot here.” I nodded and pulled into the pit stall- ready to get the service. Except when I got there, the team stayed stock still. The timer ran and they didn’t even lift the car up.

   “Let’s go!” I waved my hands for them to move but they didn’t even flinch until what I guessed to be around five or six seconds had passed. When they finally lifted me up, I punched the side of the cockpit. “WHAT THE HECK GUYS?!” Andy was silent as they took the tires off and fitted on a new front wing.

   “They gave us the penalty,” Andy sighed as I was released just in front of Micheal.

   “WHAT?!” I was furious as I flew out down the exit road onto the track as the field had bunched up behind the Safety Car. “THEY HIT ME! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO AVOID THAT?!” Andy sighed again and I caught up to the back of the line.

   “It’s unfair but there’s nothing we can do about it now. Just bear down and stay focused.” I shook my head and keyed the radio again.

   “But that’s bull! There was no way I was ever-“ Andy cut me off.

   “Jeb!” I paused. “Listen to me. We can’t change it. Yes it was stupid, yes we deserved to have the penalty on Micheal, but it’s not. Screaming into the radio ain’t going to change the steward’s call. Just get focused and charge up through the field, okay?” I groaned and started weaving into Turns 6 and 7.

   “Alright. Maybe we can salvage something out of this race if we get lucky.” I was furious as I saw Micheal rolling up on me as the Safety Car started nearing its end. He kept a good ways back (for a good reason might I add) before the restart.

   On Lap 5 the race went back green and I launched away- timing my restart to perfection and blazing past a couple of backmarkers. I flew around the left side of a RedWing and Fire Energy car before Turn 1 and got up to 14th by the apex. I didn’t have the help of blue flags and the other drivers knew it- defending as if their lives depended on it. I just smiled and cut past around the outside of Turn 4 and finally getting around the three by Turn 5.

   I kept methodically slicing through the field as the competition got steadily got faster and faster. I dove up the inside of a LakeFront into Turn 12 on Lap 6, flew around a ProGen’s outside in Turn 3 (Lap 8), and simply stormed past a TT with the help of DRS on the front straight on Lap 12. I was up to P7 by Lap 14 when I caught up to the next gaggle of cars in front of me. There was a single LakeFront, a RedWing, and, somehow, a Lion car all ahead of me. I tried to get past down the front straight but got blocked despite my DRS.

   “Where’s Max,” I asked as we all raced down through Turn 2 and 3. There was some pause and I got in the slipstream before Andy answered me.

   “Turn 10,” He answered almost dejectedly. I shook my head and got ready to pass in Turn 4. As soon as I broke for Turn 5, however, there was a puff of smoke in front. My eyes widened and I saw the orange LakeFront go into a spin in front of me. The LakeFront slammed into the Lion, with the RedWing going way wide off to the outside. I went to the inside and the Lion went with me before getting slammed by the LakeFront. I felt a big crash on the right side of my car and both cars went off the track- right in front of the RedWing who had pretty much stopped to avoid the crash entirely.

   “WOO BOY!” I pulled out of the corner with the tires laying down two lines of rubber on the track before my wheel went yellow. “HOW THE HECK DID I MISS THAT?!” Andy laughed before telling me that the Safety Car was out. I thought for a second, and Andy came back on the radio.

   “We can pit now. Box in!” I gunned the gas and started rushing back to the pits before catching up to P3- a PhantomTech. I muttered under my breath and tapped my fingers on the back of the wheel before Andy came back. “Max is in… We’ll have time to avoid double-stacking.”

   “Copy,” I replied anxiously- weaving behind the yellow and black car. The PhantomTech car pulled into the pits as well, and I got into the pit stall with the team lifting me up on cue. Four tires came off, and four came back on as the fuel was topped off. Finally, after the 10-second timer was up, I was dropped and had flown out of the pit stall with a trail of smoke and a squeal from the tires. I had gotten out just behind the PhantomTech car, but beneath my helmet I was grinning. I had gone from P17 on the grid to P4. I weaved behind the three other cars and saw Max’s tail just in front of me. I anxiously waited behind and started getting the tires hot.

   Finally, the Safety Car started pulling away and Max backed up the field. I flicked the engine up into Rich and got ready for the restart. Suddenly, Max jumped and we all went- the engines roaring in unison as we shifted up to get up to speed. I got on the inside of the PhantomTech and put the pressure on down the straight. We crossed the start/finish line and I managed to get a good run down into the corner. A bright pink Racing Point K1 car was in P2, and I held behind him in Turns 2 and 3. I used a bit of the EPB and started shooting down out of the corner- flying off the corner and right onto the rear end of the car. The other car went left to defend the inside but I held in the slipstream before quickly darting out right. I got next to the right-rear tire of the other car before braking for Turn 5, and I had to give him room and get back down inside to the racing line.

   I had to stay behind before cutting out of the slipstream entering Turn 6. I squeezed my way up the inside and the car gave me the room before I slipped up the inside in 7 up the hill. Max was close ahead- braking for Turn 8 about half a second before I did. I went on maximum attack and started pushing to catch up- flying over the curbing through Turns 8 and 9.

   I was in the maximum attack mode and fought for every last inch down into Turn 10 as Max locked up into the hairpin turn. I tried to get up the inside but he cut back down just in time, and I had to hit the brakes hard to keep from running into the back of him. I flew off the high-speed turn 11 corner and stormed over the outside curb. I used some more EPB and caught up a little bit before braking for Turn 12. I dashed down inside but didn’t try a dive- just letting Max know I was right on top of him.

   We both rumbled over the curbs and I stayed in the rubber line with him. I was about to dive up the inside in Turn 14 but Max predicted it just in time- slicing down the track and cutting off my run. The suspension flexed over the chicane’s curbs, and I felt the car smoothly handle the bumps. We flew down the start/finish line out of Turn 18 and went up a tiny hill before crossing the line to start Lap 21.

   “10 to go,” Andy said over the radio before I broke for Turn 1. Max was just far enough ahead to where I couldn’t get past by slipstream, and I had to wait as we raced through Turn 2 and 3. I faked outside before sweeping inside, but Max didn’t take the bait down the straight. I broke hard for Turns 4 and 5 as Max locked up a little bit- distracting me and forcing me wide. The crowd cheered loudly as we passed and I tried to get back to the inside. I got my nose up the inside in the hairpin and wheeled past. As I put the power down, I lost a little bit of grip and fishtailed a tiny bit, but Max stayed behind me. Then, I realized my mistake. Max, who hadn’t cleared me yet, was going to have the inside for Turn 6 and 7. I tried to get past using a mix of EPB and Rich, but Max was able to keep up with me and fly past around the inside. We shot up the hill and I had to regroup myself before turning down the engine.

   I tried another lunge into Turn 10 but Max had me cut off easily before the apex. After that, I felt the tires starting to go as I had pushed too hard. A lockup into Turn 5, a traction loss out of Turn 13, a snap of oversteer in Turn 3. Max slowly started getting away. The laps ticked down, but as the final lap began, I was still on top of Max. Now, I had to attack.

   “Andy, how much can I push,” I asked as I came out of Turn 18 to begin the final lap. There was some silence before Andy simply replied with three words.

   “Go for it.”

   I flicked the car up into Rich and felt the car lurch forward a little bit more as I gunned the gas down the straight. I broke hard for Turn 1 and clipped the apex perfectly- throwing up a tiny bit of grass from the inside of the curb as I went over the rumble strip. We raced down the hill to Turn 2 and I felt the G-forces pull at me through the high-speed turns. I opened DRS out of Turn 3 and cut into the slipstream of Max- gaining a lot down the straight. I caught up to Max, before darting inside. I went down and got along-side Max on braking for Turn 4, and I out-broke him in Turn 5. I rolled past on the inside and actually managed to get clear- leading for the first time all night.

   I cut Max off as I flew up to the outside, and I managed to hold him off into Turn 6/7. The cars sparked off the ground when we bounced up the hill, and Max tried a lunge into Turn 8. He got up the inside but I had the better line for Turn 9. I got past as the crowd roared loud enough that I could hear them through my helmet and the noise from the cars. I held the lead through Turn 10 and swept wide up to the outer limits of the track out of Turn 11.

   I hit the brakes hard for Turn 12, but the tires had had enough. The right-front locked up in a massive plume of white smoke, and the car went straight on before I managed to get it slowed down. Max easily went by the inside as I had to go over the raised curbing and cut the corner, and flew past me. I cursed in my helmet- punching the steering wheel as the crowd roared. I tried to catch back up down into Turn 14, but the right front had a horrible blister on about half of the tire. I felt a vibration every time the patch hit the ground. I broke hard for Turn 14 and the car understeered horribly, allowing Max to get away more. I went down into Lean and sighed as we pulled through the chicane. We raced through Turn 18 and Max started weaving down the straight- hand up in victory as the crowd roared at us down the front straight. I watched the white wording on the wall (Obrigado Basil!) flash by on the green background before the fireworks blasted up into the air.

   Yellow balls of light blew up in the sky with percussive thuds- illuminating the track a little bit more through the circuit lighting. I crossed the line and went up the track to get in line for Turn 1 as the crowd thundered around us. I shook my head and opened up the visor just a bit as we rolled through 2. The warm, humid air felt not that different from inside the helmet, but I felt it cooling me just a little bit as I hit the radio.

   “Dang,” I muttered, almost breathless but still a bit angry with myself. “I’m sorry about that, guys,” I replied. “That’s my fault. 110% my fault there. Y’all worked your butts off and I just…” I sighed and shook my head.

   “Jeb,” Andy replied quietly as I got alongside Max down the back straight. “It’s okay. We just had a lot of stuff go wrong there- nothing you could have done. You fought like heck and the world’s going to remember that. Obviously, we’re going to go over everything in the debrief, but great job tonight.” I looked at Max waving to the crowd with his visor open- a beaming smile on his face through the helmet.

   “‘Great’ job would be a victory. This is a good job at best.” Andy didn’t try to fight me and I just bent my head down as we rolled through the rest of the lap in victory formation. The crowd whistled and cheered at us in our two-wide formation. I pulled into the station for P2 and shut the engine off while the team clapped and cheered behind us along with the fans. I heard the rustling of reporter’s cameras as I stepped out of the car, and kept the visor almost shut- not wanting the cameras to catch how truly furious I was with myself. Max was giving high-fives to his crew but I just nodded in Andy’s direction before briskly walking back behind the door to head up to the cool-down room.

   There wasn’t anyone in the stairwell to the lounge and I paused for a brief bit before shouting as loud as I could beneath my helmet- letting out all the rage I could. Before I knew what was happening my fist flew out and slammed into the wall- cracking the drywall and making my hand hurt like crazy. I shook my head, panting, and resumed the trek up the stairwell to the lounge. I finally made the call to take off my helmet and set it on the table along with the HANS device. I grabbed a towel and a bottle of water before pouring some water on the towel and laying down on the couch. I put the towel over my face and immediately felt it start to cool me down.

   “I just look in my mirror as I-“ I heard Max’s voice chatting with someone as they walked up the stairwell. “And all of a sudden, I see-“ Max’s voice paused as he muttered something. There was a brief hush before they continued walking back up to the room. The door creaked open and I stayed still on the couch. “Anyways, I see one car sideways, one car going around, and one car in the air. After that, I just did my best to get out and away.” I felt a tap on my leg before what sounded like a camera crew came in. Max and the other driver continued talking as I just stayed perfectly still.

   After what felt like an eternity, I finally heard the PA announcer come on. I sighed, took the towel off my face, sat up, and grabbed my towel. The third-place driver wore the bright and distinct PhantomTech firesuit, and I saw a bright yellow “55” on the back of the suit. I thought for a moment before realizing it was Chris- one of the drivers who had joined the series a couple of years before I had.

   “Em terceiro lugar, para a PhantomTech, número cinquenta e cinco, Chris Kerman!” He jogged out to the podium and there were some cheers from the crowd. I put on the second-place cap and sighed as I waited for the announcer to call my name.

   “Em segundo lugar, para a OTech Race Team, número treze, dois mil e trinta e seis campeão K1 Jebediah Kerman!” There was a massive cheer from the crowd and I walked out with a scowl on my face before waving to the crowd on the second step of the podium. Without the walls to cover the insane amount of noise, the PA system and crowd were right in my ears. Finally, it was time for Max.

   “E os seus dois mil e trinta e sete vencedores do Grande Prêmio da Basiléia, para a OTech Race Team, número trinta e três - Max Kerman!” The crowd roared and I was almost blown back by the insane amount of raw noise. Max jogged out with a massive smile on his face and his hand up in the air to wave to the crowd. He stopped in front of the podium and leaned over the railing with his fists up to the crowd, and looked like he yelled something to the crowd before running back up to the podium- beaming from ear to ear. He took his hat off and wiped his forehead on his sleeve before putting it back on, and the anthem started playing.

   The anthem finally ended and I took the trophy with what I hoped looked like a smile. I sat down on the podium and just waited as Max and Chris sprayed the champagne over the cars over the railing. Max laughed before turning back to me, and his smile dropped. He walked over to me and bent down to talk to me.

   “Hey-“ Before he could even start, I shook my head and muttered.

   “Shove off,” I muttered, bowing my head.

   “Jeb, lis-“ I stood up and pushed Max away, and he staggered back before regaining his balance- almost falling back into Chris. His face looked shocked and he held his hands out in a “What did I do,” look. Chris turned around and his smile kind of dipped for a moment before he turned back to his team. I was breathing heavily and dropped my hands from a fighting position.

   “Sorry,” I sighed before sitting back onto the podium. The crowd was noticeably quieter than before and I just shook my head. Another thought flashed through my mind and I put my head in my hands. I could have sealed the championship up tonight if I had beat Max. But I didn’t. And I had no one to blame but myself.

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  • 2 months later...

So yeah, I messed up a bit when it comes to scheduling. Initially, I intended to have maybe at most a month in between 34 and 35. Of course, I messed up. I'll do my best to get at least one more chapter out by May 17 when we finish up school, so it's time for me to get on it. Chapter 35, everyone!

 

Chapter 35: The Champion

9:00 am, The next day. OTech Race Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia

 

   A phone rang somewhere in the distance as I sat outside the office- my hands folded together as I sat in a small chair. I sighed and rechecked my phone as I looked to the door again, feeling a sense of dread. I shook my head and looked at the nameplate with angst.

 

Matty Kerman

OTech Race Team President

 

   I heard someone walking up behind me, and I turned to see Max strolling up to me with a t-shirt and blue jeans. He sat in the chair next to me, and I looked at him, confused.

   “What are you doing here,” I asked as someone walked past us. Max shrugged.

   “Good question,” He answered- opening the top of his soda. “Probably the same reason you are.” He pulled something out of his jacket and shook it in my direction. “And also to see if you’re still my friend…” I turned and saw he had another can of DietCola in his hand, and I smiled. It was the drink we had both enjoyed since we’d first started hanging out as kids, and I took it with a smirk.

   “The drink of champions,” I toasted, knocking the top of the bottle against Max’s. He nodded and took a sip, and I opened up the top of my own. I put it up to my mouth before muttering, “And Max,” before sipping the drink with a beaming grin. Max laughed through his glass and shook his head before hitting my arm lightly. I pushed him back gently before Claire and Andy walked past, holding small binders and going over notes. Claire looked up and smirked at us as they walked past.

   “You both look like two little boys who got called into the Dean’s office,” She chuckled before turning a corner with Andy. I shook my head just as the door opened behind me, and turned. I saw Matty was far from happy, and my stomach dropped through the floor. He stepped aside and motioned for us to come inside the office. I nodded, and we both walked in quieter than a funeral in a library. I looked around and saw that Matty had redecorated since the last time I was in there- when he had demoted me to Formula. Somehow, the atmosphere in the room felt even more anxious and tense. Matty closed the door behind him, and we both sat down in the chairs as Matty walked over to his desk. The walls now had pictures of the OTech cars on-track in a ring around the top of the walls that surrounded the room on three sides (The other being a window). I noticed a few pictures came from this year; Max and I going side-by-side in Solaria being one of them. I saw a couple of pictures of my car on the track, a few dashes of Max, and a lot of Phil.

   “So,” Matty said as he rolled his chair back and sat down. He looked to me and seemed to be wondering what to say next, before sighing. “Care to explain what happened yesterday?” I sighed, before shrugging.

   “Well, I woke up around 8:00, went downstairs to eat some breakfast-“ I was cut off by a loud snort from Max, who had bent over with his hand over his face- trying not to laugh. I smiled before getting serious. Before I could properly explain, however, Matty cut me off with a scowl.

   “I don’t find that very funny,” He said sternly, crossing his arms and frowning. I swallowed and continued.

   “Well, I went down into Turn 12 and locked up the brakes. Max passed me, and I lost the race. I was honestly just so mad with myself that I didn’t want to deal with anything. I just flat lost my temper. It’s my fault.” Matty nodded and turned to Max.

   “Anything to add?” He shook his head and grabbed his drink from under his chair before taking a sip. Matty sighed and leaned back in his chair.

   “Fine,” He sighed, putting his hands behind his head. “You know that we’ve got to do something…” He seemed to think for a moment, before shaking his head. “I’ll think of something. It won’t happen again, right?” I nodded.

   “I promise,” I replied. Matty nodded and leaned forward.

   “Now, I have something to tell you. Has Andy talked to you at all?” I shook my head, and both Max and I looked confused. “Well, I’ve decided to move Andy up to Chief of Vehicle design, effective at the start of the new season.” I nodded and felt happy for him. He’d been pretty much doing most of the design work on the new cars all year long- he honestly deserved it. “However, there’s some bad news to go along with that…” Of course. “Due to his commitments, Andy won’t be able to be your race engineer.” My heart dropped down through the basement.

   “But… Andy and I have been together since Day 1! You can’t-“ Matty stopped me and reached down into his cabinet, where he pulled up a fancy looking piece of paper.

   “Actually,” He said, scowling his finger down the paper before finding something. “We can. It’s for the benefit of the team.” He put the paper back in the cabinet and turned back to me. “We’ll be holding trials during the offseason. After that, you’ll spend a bit getting used to working with whoever the new engineer is. Your final race as a pair is going to be at the All-Star Race in Thomasville over the winter break. By then we’ll hopefully have a replacement signed and on standby to learn the ropes during that race.” My mouth was open in surprise, and I felt stunned. Andy and I had worked together since my very first rookie test. We’d been an unstoppable team. I just shook my head as Matty stood up.

   “I’m hoping that this is all going to work itself out in the future,” He said as we both stood. My mouth felt dry as Max and I both walked out of the office. The door quietly shut with a little click behind me, and I turned to Max.

   “Well then,” Max sighed, blowing a strand of hair out of his face. “Up for a bit of one-on-one in the gym later?” I shrugged and nodded as I walked back to my office.

   “I think I’ll hang out in my office for a little bit. Maybe grab something to eat before heading down. Did we have any workout or testing to do?” Max thought for a moment before shaking his head.

   “I don’t think so,” He replied as we got in the elevator. “Pretty sure that’s going to be later in the week- Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.” I nodded again and checked my phone as we went down. I still felt uneasy with the new change. But there was still a job at hand. I needed to win the championship.

 

5:00 pm, two weeks and five days later. Practice for Round 10 of 10: The KSC Grand Prix. The KSC.

 

   The engine rattled off the concrete walls of the tight KSC circuit as I blasted through Turn 1. The car’s suspension flexed through the long corner, and I fought the car through the entirety of the turn as I ran wide into the thin runoff for the re-profiled turn. The grass runoff had been changed around so that it now allowed for a wider track and more overtakes. The runoff road had also been re-done so that now any cars who went wide before the grass started could get a cleaner run and not bottle up the field as severely. The massive concrete wall that was there before was now gone- instead favoring large “Sausage Curbs” on the far edge of the grass area.

   Grass and dirt flew up into the air off the tires, and I struggled to keep the car going straight as the wheel twisted left and right over the bumps before I finally got the car back on the tarmac. I sighed and shifted the car down into Mode E, and the engine dialed down to almost nothing- relying instead on the electric motors in the vehicle to power along.

   “My bad,” I said as a light blue TT Motorsports car flew past on the inside. “Car’s understeering in the long turns- not sure how we could get that fixed.” There was some silence as Andy seemed to think.

   “I’ll see what we can do. Go ahead and bring it in, mate.” I shook my head and flicked up the visor while I turned into Turn 3. The small crowd whistled as I passed, and I gave them a short wave. There wasn’t much time to get everything ready for the race, and Max looked like he had the setup perfect for the race. We had to get everything set. Or else Max was going to win.

 

2:00 am, The next morning- the KSC.

 

   I flew out of Turn 21 with Max hot on my tail. The crowd roared, and I crossed the line with just one lap to go. I hit the entry curbing on point and dove down into the apex with all the speed I could- running over the rumble strip with a loud buzz that shook the car. I felt the car running wide, but I kept the gas- not wanting to give Max anything. I went as wide as I could and thought I was in the clear as the tires hit the outside rumble strip. I wasn’t.

   The right-side tires hit the grass and threw it up into the air. The rear wheels spun, and my eyes widened as the engine yelped before the car rotated. I tried to correct it, but the car went full-on sideways in a cloud of smoke across Max. He broke hard and avoided me as my car slid forward across the track and into the grass. The nose of the car pounded into a gap in the wall, and the car spun around. One, two, three times before slamming left-side first into the other wall with a loud crashing noise.

   I woke up panting and sat bolt upright- my eyes wide. I felt burning hot and sighed before wiping some sweat off my forehead. I shook my head and laid back down on the pillow- turning it over to get the cold side again. It’s just a race; I told myself nervously as I closed my eyes again- only one race.

 

6:00 pm. Round 10 of 10: The KSC Finale. The KSC.

 

“Since the beginning of time, competition has been evident in everything we do. Always striving to defeat the person next to us, always yearning to go higher. Faster. Harder. The instinct and battle of the mind, matter, and raw, untamed power.

“Tonight, we’ll see everything. Two drivers- best friends since the start and rivals to the last- are going to fight their way on this tight, twisting circuit. Under the lights of the coastal course here at the KSC, the two OTech Teammates are ready to do battle.

“With a season of twists and turns, the year has been defined by this epic duel. Intrigue, spice, excitement, drama. Who could tame the beast inside? And, now, here we are.

“The 2037 KSC Finale.”

“Tonight, we will see a champion crowned. Two young guns- each shooting for the top spot in the final race of the season. But, today, as we prepare to lift the future, we must also remember the past. All up and down the grid, this race is an emotional reminder. Not just for what has been won, but also for what has been lost.

“Exactly one year ago this evening, the sport of K1 lost a true legend in the form of OTech’s Phil Kerman. On Lap 31, Phil Kerman was killed. Tonight’s anniversary is remembered by all- the teams, the drivers, and especially the fans. Tonight, we’ll see who will manage to control not only the pressure of the moment but also the emotions of this undoubtedly powerful remembrance.”

   I looked up at the flagpole and saw the banner whipping in the heavy wind as a formation flight blasted overhead with a dark blue trail of smoke coming out of each of the five fighters. I watched them disappear behind the massive rocket assembly building and put the OTech cap on my head. We walked back to the cars, and I didn’t pay any attention to the field of reporters on either side of me.

   Cameras flashed, reporters yelled, and phones filmed as I kept my sunglasses on- not looking at anyone as I took a sip from my water bottle. I got to the pole grid slot and saw Andy checking his laptop for what we both knew would be the final time. I wrapped him up in a hug and tried to be heard over the crowd and reporter frenzy.

   “Let’s get it done, brother,” I said in his ear before breaking away as Andy gave me a high five. He signaled to the crew to get ready, and I took off my gear before walking over to the car. I clicked the HANS device to the helmet and slid it all on at once. The chaotic jumble of noise suddenly ceased as I stepped up into the car. I slid down into my seat and felt my heart rate rising higher and higher before I flicked the visor down. I exhaled, and the sound of my voice echoed through the helmet. I reached up and flicked down a small port in the bottom part of the helmet that let in some air- even though the outside air wasn’t much cooler than the inside of my helmet. I pressed the radio button and heard the static come on before I spoke.

   “Andy, you got me?” I paused and took my finger off the radio, and heard the line go silent before the static returned.

   “Loud and clear, Jeb. Let’s get it done tonight.” The engine fired up, and I smiled beneath my tinted helmet as I felt the rumble of the car. I gave the crew a high-five, and the car lowered down- the suspension compressing just a bit as it settled down on the ground. I gave a quick thumbs-up and opened up the slot as the other teams scrambled off to either side of the track. The lights flashed with the twin-green lights, and I jumped out of the grid stall with a quick jitter of wheelspin before the car got traction. I went full-throttle and felt the rears spin- laying down a twin-trail of rubber before letting off.

   “Really hot night,” I commented as I went through Turn 1. “Humid, windy, and bright… When’s sunset?” I flew through the slight straight between 1 and two before Andy spoke again.

   “Sunset is going to be around 7:04 local time. The wind is blowing East at 25 mph, with a pretty muggy 79% humidity. Temperature is currently 82º, but the weather is expected to cool off around sunset. By the end of the race, we’re looking at a temp of around mid-50’s with the wind being mostly gone. Might get slightly cloudy during the race but no precipitation is expected until sometime about a day or two after we’re going to be returning home.” I smirked and coasted through Turns 7 and 8. Gosh, I’m going to miss that, I thought to myself as I pulled out of the hairpin turn. I looked at Max weaving behind me and closed the helmet slot a bit- my head feeling a bit chilled.

   “Thanks, Andy. Good luck to everyone down in the paddock. Make sure to stay safe, and stay calm. Be smooth, and I’ll handle the rest, okay?” I gunned the gas through Turn 9 and felt the car sway before I hit the brakes for Turn 10. As I rolled through the turn, I could almost feel the wind on the right side of the car blowing hard. I rotated through the corner and knew that the wind was going to play a big part as the rears got a tiny bit loose on exit. I rolled over the curbs in Turns 11 and 12 before shooting down the straight. The crowd whistled and cheered at us, but I stayed focused.

   I felt time start to slow down and saw the still dark black lines across the track. My eyes wandered and saw a newer, cleaner section of catch-fencing on the top of the wall. They looked right and viewed the final resting place of a familiar blue and white car- now a faint ghost of my imagination. I shook my head, and the ghost car disappeared. I flew into the first part of Velocidad and felt the car sway and push as the weight shifted. I ran up onto the curbing and saw a bright blue square on the wall of one of the buildings. My eyes traced it, and I saw a huge banner that waved a little in the wind.

Turn

14

   It was Phil’s number scheme, and I felt my heart catch before I turned in. I looked left, and the hangar door was filled by a supersized picture of Max and I standing with the K1 trophy in between us. Underneath the trophy, there were big golden words in bold. “TWO DRIVERS. ONE CHAMPION.” I shook my head and sighed. Focus. Focus. You’ve got this.

   “Everything’s looking good,” Andy said as I rolled through Turn 17. The fans were almost all blue, but I had to ignore them while I got myself ready.

   “Feels perfect,” I replied simply before braking for the wide Turn 18. I rolled over the curbing in Turns 19 and 20 before going through Turn 21- the final loop. I shifted down into neutral before moving the engine up into launch mode. I pulled into my grid slot and sighed as the rest of the grid filed in. I looked back in the mirror and saw Max’s car resting off on the left side of the grid, just behind me. The sky was still a fiery orange as some clouds crossed the sky almost lazily. Finally, the grid had pulled in.

   A flag waved in the back, and I lowered the visor shut.

   One light came on the pylon. I exhaled and felt my heart rate building.

   Two lights. I pushed the clutch in.

   Three. I pressed in the gas, and the revs started building. The engine rose in volume as…

   Four. The grid started growing until we were all just one roar.

   Five. My heart was racing as I stared into the five glowing red lights through the visor’s tinting. The grid was now a single yell as all the drivers looked to the lights to get the command.

   Finally, the lights went out on the pylon. I rocketed out of the slot, but Max got an amazing launch as well. We both raced down into Turn 1, and Max yielded- slotting behind me as we flew into the corner. I rolled over the curb, but there was a massive yell from the small crowd behind me- followed by the screeching of tires and the crashing of metal against metal. I spared a look back for a brief second and saw a bright yellow Phantom car flying over the top of a TT Motorsports car while a RedWing speared into the rear of the pure white car. My wheel lit up in yellow as the Phantom slammed into the barrier (still in the air) before flipping over halfway. I started coasting as the engine revved down with Max right behind me.

   “You’re kidding me,” I sighed before going down into Ultra-Lean mode. Andy himself sighed as we rolled through Turn 2, and I couldn’t help but shake my head.

   “Some crazy driver in the RedWing locked up into Turn 1 and sent the Phantom over. He’s just hanging there at the moment- I expect this one to be at least 4 or 5 laps if they don’t red-flag it.” I raised the visor through the tunnel and felt a splash of cold air on my face before I shut it down in Turn 5. The sun glowed over the tops of the roofs, and I could see the small rays shining overhead before I closed the tinting.

   “Got a kind of okay start. Max was excellent off the line though. Almost got me down into the corner.” I turned out of 6 and saw the sun glaring into my eyes before disappearing behind one of the numerous buildings in the KSC grounds. We rolled down into Turn 7 and 8- hitting the apex at the low speeds. I’m not going to bore you with all the technical stuff involving the four laps of Safety Car since it’s boring to live through and I’d imagine incredibly dull to read.

   The Safety Car finally pulled off the track on Lap 6, and I gunned the gas out of the final turn. Max didn’t anticipate the great launch I got and struggled to put the power down- losing ground to me as I flew down the short straight. I flew into Turn 1 and felt the car wash up a little bit, but kept my line with a masterful use of the brake and gas. The right sides just barely kissed the outside curbing, and I cut back down- getting a flawless run down into Turn 2. I blasted through the apex with as much speed as I could, but misjudged it a tiny bit, and the tire threw up a small amount of dirt and grass into the air. I shook the wheel trying to get the car back and managed to get the rears back together by the time I hit Turn 3.

   I shot over the apex curb and felt the rumble of tires over the strip before I shot back up over the exit curbing and back down the track to get in line for 4. Max was losing time to me, but I realized that I was way too aggressive on my car in just the sixth lap. I put the engine down to Standard and started going a little easier on the car as I whipped through Turn 4- riding up on the very limit of the track just an inch from the wall and leaning up against the raised curb. A little bit of dust flew up into the air and hit the roof of the tunnel before I came back down the track to get a run into Turn 5- clipping the apex on perfect point before the road widened out.

   “Very very good launch there, Jeb,” Andy encouraged as I weaved through Turn 5. “Let’s build a gap out if we can now. Long race to go here.” I kept working on extending the gap, but Max remained hot on my tail. I kept mistakes low, however, and maintained somewhat of a gap until Lap 14.

   Max was right on top of me as I flew down into Turn 9- barreling into the braking zone with as much speed as I could. I almost ran wide but just barely forced the car onto the apex as Max closed. I almost got hit from behind as I managed the wheelspin out of the corner. I had to saw at the wheel as we went down the short straight to Tempesta, and Max looked to the left. I had the inside for the first part of the tight chicane and got clear of Max before flying over the curbing in Turn 12. Max opened up the DRS and started gaining massively on me down the straight. I tried to defend left, but he swept around to the right- drawing alongside before the apex and blasting past on the inside of Velocidad. The dirty air washed over my wing, and I had to fight the car hard through Turn 14 and couldn’t manage to catch back up- losing ground down the straight. The crowd roared their approval, and I flew down the straight with rich revs helping me out.

   I flew through Turn 15, and I brushed the grass on corner exit- tossing some dirt up into the air and almost throwing me into a full spin. I weaved and twisted at the wheel to regain control and sawed at the wheel to hang on to the car. The crowd cheered and yelled as we passed them, and Max further extended his gap on me. I was struggling in the dirty air behind Max, and finally got called in on Lap 18.

   “Alright, box in now, Jeb. Box in this lap.” I flew through Turn 13 and felt the G-forces tugging at me as I forced the wheel to turn through the corner. I flew through Turn 14 and rolled as wide as I could before releasing off the corner. I blasted into Turn 18 and almost lost the car in the long sweeper before flying over the 19 and 20 curbing. I hit the mark perfectly and weaved around for the pit entry. We were in the first row of pits, but thankfully the IFR (the governing body of K1 and multiple other racing sports around the world) was going to make some modifications for next year’s pit lane. I stopped perfectly in the stall, and the team got the car lifted in unison. Four tires on, four tires off. Fuel in to top it off and then waiting for the 10-second timer to run itself down. During the stop, I noticed one of the crew leaning over the front wing, but I didn’t question it as I mentally counted down the seconds.

   The team dropped the car down, and I immediately gunned the gas- skidding over the slippery concrete before going. The rears released a tiny bit of smoke as I got going and I fish-tailed out of the stall before rolling down the pit lane. I flew out of the pit exit and took the long way around Turn 1- following the white line and going into the Formula K route before coming out on the inside of Turn 3. A bright white Vitesse car swept around the outside of me and I had to be impressed by the new team on the block. They’d only just joined K1 a couple of seasons ago, and they were a regular in the midfield. It was really good to see them climbing up the K1 ladder.

   I switched up into Rich and got alongside the white car before sweeping up the inside down into Turn 4. I rolled over the curbing and then drifted up the track, pulling off the same move on Jules that I did in the opening of the race. The left-side tires kissed the top of the curbing, and a small amount of dust shot up into the air before I went back down for Turn 5. The car was gripping perfectly on the brand-new tires, and I felt like I had an entirely new car. We were using the updated version of the KSC car from earlier in the season, and it felt exactly like it had earlier in the season. I whipped through the high-speed left-right-left of 5, 6, and seven before slamming the brakes for Turn 8. The only updates we’d made for this race was putting in an updated engine, as well as using the Basil front-wing connectors.

   I blasted out of the hairpin and flew into the canyon section. The engine’s scream echoed off the buildings, and I blew into Turn 9 at full speed. I hit the brakes perfectly and rotated through the Turn 10 hairpin. The car was practically on rails as I flew into the illuminated Turns 11 and 12. The sky was pitch-black with stars scattered throughout like sparkling diamonds on black fabric. I hit the DRS and felt the car start to speed up down the back straight. I started blasting down the straight, and I threw the car down into the kink and Turn 13 at max speed. The car shot over the rumble strips and I cut back down to fly into Turn 14- not even close to the edge of grip as I went up the track to hold the speed.

   I flew into Turn 15 and just barely kissed the apex curbing before coming up and nailing Turn 16 at perfect speed. The lights flashed across the sides of the car as I blazed past, and the engine rose with every upshift down the short straight. I shot into Turn 17 and felt the car flexing through the corner. I practically threw the car down into the multi-width Turn 18 and used the momentum to cut up through Turn 20. I ran up way wide out of Turn 21 and almost hit the wall on the outside before coming down- throwing up dust as I just missed the dirt.

   I used up every bit of EPB I could down the straight, and went down into Turn 1 with as much speed as I could- balancing the car on the edge of grip as Max came out from behind the wall just in front of me. I felt my heartbeat race up as I flew up to the exit curbing of the corner with the aero suction ripping grass up and tossing it into the air. I lost a tiny bit of grip down the straight but flew into Turn 2 with all the confidence in the world. I had to leave room up the inside in case Max exited, but I managed to have the gap and Max exited well behind me. A saw a couple of backmarker cars in front of me before they both dashed into Turn 4 and disappeared behind the wall. I went down into Standard revs to preserve fuel as Max had to twist his way around Turn 3- taking a long and tedious way around the tight, hairpin-like corner.

   I chucked the car down into Turn 4 and felt the tires working their magic through the tight turn. The car felt glued to the track as I whipped through Turn 5. The two cars were dueling hard in front of me, and I knew the results wouldn’t be pretty. They went side-by-side in Turn 6, and I immediately braced for impact as they flew into Turn 7. Sure enough, the Lion Racing car locked up on the inside of the F-Tech Race Team car- spearing into the left-rear. The F-Tech twisted sideways and flew off the racing line before impacting a tire bundle on the outside. The rear was ripped away, and the car started spinning violently back across the track. My eyes widened as I sawed the wheel right- losing the tail and throwing myself into the grass as the black F-Tech car pounded into the bright blue and white Lion. The car bumped and rustled over the grass as the wheel shook. My ears were assaulted by the rattling sound of the grass, and I felt the car jump up into the air before coming back down. I had to manhandle the wheel to keep from spinning out and ended up rejoining the track sideways out of the hairpin. I had to avoid lighting up the rears out of the corner as both of the cars continued their wreck, finally resting up against the inside retaining wall. Dirt and debris was strewn across the track as Max cautiously drove over the grass, almost following the same tire tracks I did as the smoke cleared. I shifted the engine down into Ultra-lean as the yellow lights came on the dash.

   “Jeb, do you have any damage?” I started weaving down the short straight between Turns 8 and 9, feeling the car around for any steering damage. I keyed the radio to respond, not feeling anything wrong with the car.

   “Yeah, Andy, feeling good for now. I don’t know how I didn’t wreck the car right there- I was so close to spinning in the grass.” I sighed and shook my head as I coasted down into Turn 10- weaving and burning off a small bit of speed into the corner. “I mean seriously; they’re almost a lap down, the final race of the season, near dead-last, and they’re fighting like the championship is on the line or something. I almost wiped out there trying to miss them. Just flat-out stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.” I rolled over the curb in Turns 11 and 12 before weaving down the back straight to clean the dirt off the tires and to feel around for any issues.

   “Just let me know if there are any issues with the car. From what the replays are showing you’re in the clear, but we’re looking over the telemetry right now.” I went into Turn 13 at about half speed, and the car felt fine- maybe just a little bit oversteer but I could blame that on dirty tires that were cooling down. I opened up the visor and felt the fresh coastal air blowing against my face as I rolled through Turn 14.

   We all finally caught up to the Safety Car just before Turn 6, and I started backing the pack up. I looked at the two stricken cars off to the side of the track and mentally started counting down. Ten to go, I whispered to myself as we coasted down into Turn 7 and the lights on the Safety Car went out on Lap 24. I started backing the pack up out of Turn 14 as the silver car started speeding away. I shook my head and started warming the tires up down the wide and short straight past the hangar. I felt the nerves beginning to rise, but I tried to push them down the best I could. I saw the field backing up behind me, and I started planning my move. I was going to go in Turn 17. The crowd whistled and cheered as we rolled past and I came up off the exit curbing of Turn 15. I went up into Rich revs to get the engine hot and ready to go, waiting for the yellow lights to switch to green. Finally, as I rolled down into the Turn 17 apex, they did.

   I immediately jammed on the gas, gaining the element of surprise on Max as I went. I got myself a fantastic launch and flew down into Turn 18- leaning hard on the tires to get that fraction of extra grip. I felt the car give way just a little bit but ignored it as I got out into Turn 19. I slammed over the curbing and got out into Turn 20- giving myself a wider run down into Turn 21. The car skittered over the exit curbing, and I felt the car teeter on the edge of a spin before I brought it back to me and flew on to start Lap 26.

   I threw the car down into Turn 1 and felt the front lose a little bit of grip before I got it back to me- the car biting back a little bit mid-corner before I came out of it. The car rotated great through Turn 2, and I spared a glance back to see Max trailing down in Turn 1 with Micheal hot on his tail. I blasted through Turn 3 and felt the car accelerate out of the turn- the tires gripping into the corner like glue. I raced down into Turn 4 slammed the brakes, and the car went perfectly with me into the turn. I felt like the car was able to stick into the ground, and I could confidently throw myself into the corners with ease.

   The crowd whistled and cheered as I passed them through Turn 6 before diving into Turn 7. I hit the brakes and the left-front locked up a bit before I managed to unlock it. I pointed the car down into Turn 8, and the car responded beautifully. I practically coasted through the tight hairpin’s apex and got out of the corner just as Max started his braking. I raced down into Turn 9 and clipped the curbing before hitting the brakes for Turn 10, the car rolling up to the very edge of the track near the wall. Dust came up off the wheels of the right side, and I felt the car gently slide before I got it back together. A small crowd whistled and cheered as I passed them out of 10, and I shot through into Turn 11. I raced over the curbing and threw the car over the bumps in Turn 12- barely lifting the wheels before the car fell back to the ground with a tiny amount of sparks.

   I raced down the straight and felt the car hunker down- slipping through the air and gaining speed. I got all the way up to 160 miles per hour before heading into 13, but something went wrong. Instead of staying glued to the ground, the car flew wide up the track- running both wheels off into the grass before I pulled it back together. Dust was thrown up into the air in a brown wall, and a trail of dirt settled on the outside of the corner where I rejoined. The car understeered again through Turn 14, and I just barely avoided missing the wall. I instantly keyed the radio on corner exit before braking for Turn 15.

   “Guys, something’s wrong with the car. Something’s wrong with the car; I can’t turn.” I fought the car through Turn 15 and just barely made 16.

   “Copy, we’ll look at it,” Andy responded frantically.

   “Please hurry.” I threw myself into Turn 17 and made the corner as Max started catching up.

   “Jeb, we have reason to believe you may have picked up some floor damage. Repeat; we may have damaged the floor.” I cursed below my breath as I wheeled into Turn 18 with Max just now going into 17.

   “Is it fixable? Can we maybe change something on the fly?” I flew over the curing in Turns 19 and 20 before running down into Turn 21.

   “We don’t think so, but we’ll keep looking.” I shook my head as we started Lap 27 and Nine to go. The car felt perfectly planted in Turn 1, and I was shocked before flying down into Turn 2.

   “Car feels good in 1… I don’t know; maybe it’s a high-speed issue?” Andy was on the radio less than a second later as I came out of Turn 3.

   “Jeb, we think that the issue is with a strut on the floor. It’s coming loose whenever you’re turning at high speed, but at low-speed, it’ll work. We’ll see if there’s something we can do from our end up here.” I raced through the tunnel and a crackling radio transmission before flying down into Turn 5.

   “Andy, repeat, I lost you in the tunnel.” I flew through Turn 5 and saw Max enter the tunnel about a second and a half back from me before Andy came back.

   “Jeb, stay off the curbing, repeat, stay off the curbs. If you go over the curbs, the vibrations might rattle the strut enough to come undone, and we’ll risk the floor coming undone entirely. Avoid the curbing as much as possible please.”

   “Okay, any way to make it through Velocidad, or am I sunk?”

   “We’re working on a fix, be advised.” I sighed and hit the brakes hard into Turn 7- feeling the car slow down incredibly fast. Looking back at the TV broadcasts later, I could see the brakes glowing bright red against the tires in the night. The spotlights flashed past as I blasted down the “Canyon Straight,” and I threw the car into Turn 9. “Jeb, we can’t figure out anything up here. Just take the corner easy- we’ll look at the cameras and tell you what we see.” I broke hard for Turn 10, and the car felt stuck to the ground- zooming along the tarmac without any real issue. I flew along the straight and groaned internally before braking hard for the normally-fast right-left of Tempesta. I had to go at practically snail’s pace around the curbing as Max closed up massively- cutting the gap from two seconds down to one and a half through just two corners. I tried my best to pull out of the corner with as much speed as I could, and used everything I had to get a good launch. EPB and Rich Revs were on maximum power as I stormed down the straight with Max trying to keep a tow on me.

   The crowd cheered as we passed, and I saw Micheal going up around the outside of Max down the straight. Good, I thought as I broke for Turn 13. Maybe they’ll slow each other up enough to give me a chance. I went a bit too slow through 13 and ended up having enough room to make 14 comfortably, and I cursed myself quietly.

   “100’s too slow to make 13. I’ll go for 115 or something next time.” Max and Micheal went side-by-side into Turn 13 and drew a massive roar from the crowd as they maintained that side-by-side action through 14. I pushed hard into 15 and barely made the apex for Turn 16- braking just a bit and just missing the curb on the outside of the corner. Micheal and Max went into Turn 15 and almost made contact as I tried to get out of the corner. I shot down into Turn 17 and felt the car understeer just a little bit before I got it under control. I shot the car down out of the corner and had to try and concentrate as the spotlights flashed past the- creating repeating shadows on the ground as I flew past. I understeered a tiny bit through Turn 18 but not too bad as I got over Turn 19 and 20. Max and Micheal made contact in the middle of 18 as the sidewalls of the tires slammed into one another. The crowd roared as the two flew past out of Turn 21, but I had already made a quick dash into the first corner.

   I chucked the car down into Turn 2, and the car gripped like a dream, making me grimace a bit. Max was on the outside and put two wheels off into the dirt- fishtailing down the short straight and giving up the position. Good, I thought anxiously as I roared into Turn 3- More time for me. With just seven laps to go, I could use every last bit of help I could get. I shot over the apex of Turn 4, avoiding the curb and diving down up the corner. I almost hit the rumble strip on corner exit before I quickly snapped the wheel back down to avoid- almost spinning out sideways down the straight. I threw the car down into Turn 5 and went as wide as possible up the corner to carry the speed, and slingshotted through 6 to get the run into the hairpin. As I rolled out of Turn 8, I saw Max locking up on the inside of Micheal- making a tiny bit of contact on the left side but not causing a spin. I did my best to shoot over the corner to get as much speed as possible, and dove into Turn 10 with as much speed as I dared. I flew up to the very edge of the track and watched the dust shoot up off the tires before I came back down the track. I snaked my way through Turns 11 and 12 as fast as I could, still trying to keep off the curbs while keeping the speed.

   “Andy, it’s just too slow through Tempesta,” I sighed as I punched it out of the straight.

   “We’ll see what we can do, but keep fighting. Eight to go here, about to be seven. Max and Micheal are fighting super hard, so it’ll be close here.” I hit the brakes for Velocidad and barely made the corner- just barely kissing the very edge of the outside curbing without hitting the rumble section at all. I fought the car all the way back up the track and managed to hang onto it through 14 as Max led past Micheal into 13. They’re catching up. I shook my head and dove into Turn 15 a couple of seconds later, holding as much speed as possible. The car turned in fine for Turn 16, and the rears chucked up dust that was left on the track from another car in front. Two little contrails rolled off the rear wing with a swirl look as I glanced back at Max and Micheal duking it out. Micheal had tried a look around the outside into 15 but couldn’t make it stick as Max held on tight.

   I threw the car into Turn 17 and felt the suspension flex against the car’s weight. I could almost feel the car dialing back into me, and I wondered if this was going to hold. Max and Micheal continued their duel, but the damage allowed them to start reeling me in slowly. With just two to go, they were right on top of me.

   I shot out of Turn 5 and sparks flew up off the diffuser as I hit a slight bump- sending me into a tiny fishtail before I recovered it. Micheal was hot on my tail, and I saw Max come out of the corner just as sideways as I was. I flew through Turn 6 and shot down to get a good run to Turn 7 and the hairpin, and Micheal stayed right in my tire tracks.

   “Jeb, you’ve got to make this car as wide as possible here, okay? Stay tough here.” I rolled out of Turn 8 and Micheal lost time as he ran up the track and allowed Max a hole up the inside. He didn’t try a move in the corner, but they both went slow as I tried to eke out a small gap to the two as I threw the car into Turn 9. We all went single-file through 9 and 10 as I maintained my gap- even extending it a bit through the hairpin turn. I went down the straight with as much speed as I could before pounding the brakes- following the tarmac as both of the other cars caught up massively. They had to wait for me since my car basically blocked the entire track, but I was horribly compromised for the straight. Both Micheal and Max had the momentum, but I cut them off in 12 before they could swing past. I swept up to the right in a half-attempt to block Micheal, who was gaining with DRS. I held the inside for Turn 13 and managed to hang onto the lead as Max followed me through- clearing Micheal easily down into Turn 14 as I cut back down. The two lost ground to me as they went side by side through the corner and I used the momentum to throw myself out down into Turn 15.

   I blasted the car over the apex as now Micheal got past Max again entering 16. If Micheal could stay ahead of Max, it didn’t matter if I lost the position and fell to third- I’d still win the title. I flew into Turn 17 and managed to just barely make the corner as the grass quickly came up on the right side. I swung back up the track, and the car flowed into Turn 18 smoothly- kissing the white inside paint line of the corner before flowing up into the chicane of Turns 19 and 20. I rolled through 21 with all the grip in the world and saw both drivers hovering back behind me.

   “Final lap, Jeb, this is it.” I bared my head down and dove into Turn 1 with as much speed as I could- practically flinging it into the apex before coming back up the track. I flew into Turn 2 and barely kissed the curbing on the inside- running up the track and feeling the car teeter on the absolute edge. I whipped through Turn 3 and barely ran up to the outer limit of the track with the crowd roaring. Max had gotten past Micheal in Turn 1, but I didn’t care. This race was mine to lose.

   I blasted through Turn 4 with as much speed as I could carry and threw dust up off the left sides before I weaved back for Turn 5. The car was in the zone through these middle-speed corners, and I felt like there wasn’t anything that the car couldn’t do. I kissed the corner apex and ran smoothly out of the corner as I avoided the bump that had caught me out earlier. With the fuel almost gone and the tires at just the right point, I was at my absolute best. Without the damage, I probably could have set a couple of fastest laps.

   Lights flashed past me as I zoomed through Turn 6 and broke hard for 7, with Max and Micheal about a second and a half back from me. I rolled through the hairpin and jammed the gas hard on corner exit, but the rears stayed glued to the ground as I powered out of the corner. I kept my wheel movements nice and tidy down the run to Turn 9 and hit the corner on point before slamming the brakes for Turn 10. The crowd whistled and cheered as I passed them, and I took Tempesta as hard as I could without hitting the inside curbs.

   Max and Micheal gained on me through the chicane but stayed a ways back in my slipstream down on the run to 13. I felt the car fighting against the laws of physics for every last fraction of grip, and just barely made it through the corner unscathed. I carried what little momentum I had left through 14 and came wide up the track right next to the wall before coming back down. I raced down the massively wide run to Turn 15 with Max hot on my heels, but he didn’t try a move before I turned into the corner. I ran right up to the very edge before 16 and cut back down with Max right behind. He faked a move inside, but it was too late as I swung down into the corner. A wave of relief washed over me as I turned out of 17, and started setting up a run for Turn 18. This is it. I came up the track almost in slow-motion, before turning into the corner. Right at that moment, something went wrong.

   As soon as I turned the wheel to point in for the apex, I heard a horribly loud mix between a CRACK, CRASH, and BOOM! noise from the front of the car. I lost what little aero grip was left from the trashed floor, and the car pointed straight on. I threw everything I had at turning the wheel, and suddenly I lost all rear-end control. The engine screamed with a fiery howl as the rears lost the grip, and I looped the car around in a cloud of smoke. The smoke quickly turned to dark brown dust as the car rolled off to the grass on the outside and I hit the brakes hard to keep from backing into the wall. Max coasted past me before accelerating out of Turn 18, and Micheal was on the gas as he passed. Bright hot tears stung at my eyes as I shifted down and drove out of the corner. The car sounded mournful at the low RPM, and fireworks started blasting up into the air as Max crossed the line. I went down through the corner at half speed, opening my visor and trying to figure out what went wrong.

   “I’m sorry, guys,” I muttered, trying to keep myself from crying too hard as I crossed the line. “That’s my fault. I’m so so sorry. You guys deserved so much better than that.” I coasted through Turn 1 and saw Max rolling out of 2- pumping his fist into the air. Fireworks boomed above us, and the crowd roared, but I just sighed and shook my head.

   “It’s alright, man,” Andy replied, trying to be heard over the crowd from the front straight. “Nothing you could have done there. Just remember, Mode 0 when you get back into the paddock.” I sighed and rumbled over the Turn 3 curbing, holding behind Max. He hit the brakes in Turn 4, and we went side-by-side in the Tunnel. He waved over to me and gave me a thumbs-up before I accelerated past him. I waved out to the crowd but kept my visor down as I coasted through the rest of the lap until Velocidad. I pulled off right out of Turn 14 while Max went left. The rest of the field followed him, but he stopped off to the side as they all passed. I stopped the car in the paddock but kept the helmet on as the crowd and the team filed in. With the engine off, I could hear the yelling of Max’s car from behind me as he did burnouts in front of the hangar. I sighed and started unbuckling the harness as the crowd cheered.

   Cameras flashed as I got up and gave Micheal a handshake before walking over to Andy on the barrier fence. I gave him a big hug and tried to make myself heard over the noise of the engines and the crowd.

   “I’m sure gonna miss you, bud,” I said into his ear as the burnout started slowing down. He clapped me on the back and replied, “I’m gonna miss you too, kiddo.” We broke apart, and I saw there were tears in his eyes as he held my shoulders.

   “Win another one for me, alright?” I smiled sadly and nodded before giving him one last hug. “Now get out there, before you make me cry in front of all these reporters.” I chuckled and turned around- walking out to the garage building where the cool-down room was on the KSC Crawler-way for the race. I stepped onto the scale, and an official measured my weight before I stepped off and started walking up to the lounge room. I set my helmet down on a table before grabbing some water. Micheal was right behind me, and I sat down on the couch dripping sweat as I put my head down in defeat. Michael sat down next to me and sighed.

   “I remember my very first season. 2028,” He said, putting his hand on my back. “I had a shot at the championship, and it was a make-or-break race. I still remember the temperature that day at the old Eradica track- 101º Track, 78º Ambient. I dominated that race from the start. Did everything I had to do; Make the right moves, passed the right people, but…” He sighed. “On Lap 18- just two laps to go- I lost the transmission. I tried to see if there was anything I could do, but I was down third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gear in a seven-gear car. But I fought like hell. I tried to stay ahead, but when you lose half of the gears in the car, you’re not going to have a good day.” I turned to face Micheal with tears on the corners of my eyes.

   “Did you at least make it?” His smile spread out a little bit in a reminiscent smile. He leaned back and looked up, remembering.

   “Shoot no. The engine blew up on the second-to-last lap, and that was, as they say, that for my championship. And I was devastated. I sat in my hotel room that night and just bawled my eyes out- I didn’t even speak to the team for another week. I felt like I had done something wrong when it wasn’t my fault at all.” He leaned forward. “See, that was my flaw. I thought that I could control everything. If something was wrong on that car, I felt like it was my job to fix it.” I sniffed and wiped at my eyes.

   “So what did you do?” He clapped his hand on my back, and looked me in the eyes.

   “I learned three lessons that race that I’ve used my entire career. Are you ready?” I nodded, and he sighed before replying with a soft but kind of stern tone. “First off, you can’t control everything. You’re only in control of what you say and what you do. Yeah, you turn the steering wheel and push the pedals and tell the car where to go, but you can’t control what happens. There’s no magic button that suddenly makes those 19 other cars and drivers listen to you instead of them. And you’ve got to be okay with that.” It made sense. I didn’t make those cars in front of me crash. I did what I could, and it ended up with damage- nothing I could have done. But I still knew that there was something deep-down that maybe I could have done. “Secondly,” He continued as if he was reading my mind. “You can’t change the past. Hindsight’s 20/20 and it’s okay to look back at your mistakes. But if you obsess over it, you’ll never get past Turn 3 on Lap 18 of the 2028 Eradican Grand Prix.” I sighed and looked at Micheal.

   “And the third lesson?” Micheal smiled softly and put his hand on my shoulder.

   “This is gonna shock you, but I’m going to let you in on an important secret. There’s a whole lot more to racing than just winning.” You could have pushed me over with a feather.

   “What?” I looked at him in surprise. “The whole point of rac-“ He cut me off.

   “Yeah, yeah, you race to win I know. But listen. You’re not going to win every single race. And sometimes, there are races you can’t win.” He chuckled. “As evidenced by this last season.” I smiled and laughed along. “But you have to accept that sometimes you’re going to lose. And not just to Max. There’s going to be a day where you’re knocked down, and it feels impossible to get back up. You’re going to lose, and you probably won’t be able to control it. But what you can control is how you handle it.” I tried to process this as Micheal stood up and got some water from the fridge.

   “So… What happened next? After Eradica I mean.” Micheal turned around and smiled- stopping mid-step.

   “Well, my teammate, Murray, won the title that season. And I congratulated him for it. And that next season, I went out and kicked his butt so bad Monster promoted me.” I laughed just as Max walked into the room- a beaming smile on his face.

   “Am I missing a party in here or something,” He said jokingly as he gave Micheal a handshake. “Man, great race- that was one heck of a fight. I thought you had me there for a couple of laps there near the end.” I stood up, and Max turned to me. I walked over, and he looked a bit nervous, but I kept walking.

   As I approached him, I braced myself and gave Max a massive bear-hug that almost knocked him over. I could tell he was stunned, and I honestly couldn’t blame him. I broke away, and shook his hand- albeit with a bit of pressure put into squeezing his hand.

   “Great race, bud,” I said, trying to keep the emotion from choking me out. “You… You earned it.” Max looked relieved and gave me an equal-strength bear-hug before replying.

   “Thank you,” He said, sounding like he was about to break up as well. He broke off and laughed a bit before wiping his eyes. “Can you believe it? I mean look where we are right now. We dreamt that we’d be K1 champions, and we’re already here!” I nodded and looked around the room.

   “Yeah,” I sighed. Then, my face broke into a devious smile, and I looked at Max. “Race you to two!” He laughed and gave me a high-five.

   “Oh, you’re on.” Micheal stepped up and put his hands on our shoulders, standing in between us with a huge smile as well.

   “Not if I have anything to say about it,” He replied with a chuckle, and we all three laughed.

   Yeah, I’d lost the championship, and yeah I was still disappointed in myself. But you know what? For the first time in my life, I felt okay with it.

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Alright, it's time go rushrushrush. Computer goes up tomorrow and this final chapter of the school year goes up tonight! I promise, this summer, more than one chapter will be uploaded.

 

Chapter 36: What’s Next?

 

9:30 am, 1 Week Later. OTech (Temporary) Headquarters. River City, Owlia.

 

   I was talking on my cellphone when Alexis walked into my temporary trailer home-like “Office.” I was pacing back and forth in front of a card table that was acting as my desk, while my laptop flashed screensaver pictures. I waved, before continuing.

   “Yeah, sorry, someone just came in. I can head down there next week if the team doesn’t have me doing any sim runs. How much can you put me in for?” I waited for a reply and nodded. “The more time, the better. Heck I’d love to do a full event or two, but I imagine-… Yeah I know, you’ve got professionals that do that stuff. Maybe I could do the first session and just be a backup from there on out?” There was a pause on the other end of the line as Alexis sat down in a lawn chair in the corner. “Awesome. Yeah, just hit me up if you need me to come over and do some more stuff for y’all. Alright? Thanks man; See you in a week!” I pressed the end call button and turned around- walking over to a massive wall calendar I had to the left of my “desk.” The calendar in question was literally bigger than my table, but only had 4 months in it. I paused for a little bit, and found the date I was looking for- next Tuesday, the 23rd. I scribbled down a note underneath the big bold number, and Alexis called from across the room.

   “Whatchya got there?” I kept writing as I put my phone in my pocket.

   “A calendar,” I answered, standing up and walking over to the table.

   “Well I can see that,” She replied, walking over to look. “A calendar for what?” I woke the laptop up and re-checked my emails.

   “My offseason.” Alexis’s eyes widened as she turned back to the calendar. She paused for a bit before speaking.

   “I can see one problem with this calendar right now,” She said, as if I was missing something glaringly obvious.

   “Yeah, and what’s that,” I asked back while I continued to sift through extra folders.

   “I’m noticing a distinctively low vacation-to-work time ratio. What the heck is all this?!” I stood up and walked over to the calendar- checking my work.

   “What are you talking about? I’m out of the country for a lot of what I’ve written up so far!” Alexis rolled her eyes as I looked over the four months before the start of the season at the KSC Grand Prix. I had so far managed to book races in Owlia, Aquaria, the Temple, and a ton of races at the KSC in just about every racing series on the planet. Except for Horses and Bikes; K1 champions aren’t really well-known in those parts.

   “Jeb, are you crazy?!” Alexis turned to me, stunned.

   “Maybe,” I muttered under my breath before she continued.

   “You’re going to be booked solid for four months! Do you know what the word Offseason means? It’s a season, where you’re off! I mean what the heck are you thinking?!”

   “I’ve got to get better,” I sighed dismissively, walking over to my chair and putting my feet up on the card table.

   “Better?! Better for what?!? You’re the youngest K1 champion in history!”

   “If I don’t keep it up, I’ll also be the youngest one-hit-wonder in K1 history.”

   “But this is crazy! This is borderline obsession- look at this.” She leaned in on the calendar- some week mid-December. “You’ve got some sports car race on Sunday at the KSC, a Sim run in Owlia on Monday, an endurance race Tuesday and Wednesday in Aquaria, a filming session on Thursday, and then the All-Star Race over the weekend! Jeb, you can’t do this!” I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

   “And why can’t I? I stood up. “What’s to say I’m not able to do this? It’s my life, my way of doing things.”

   “Jeb, that’s insane! You can’t do this, it’s suicide!” I shook my head and Alexis sighed.

   “Look. I want you to be successful, I do. It’s my job after all. But I’m not going to sit idly by and watch while you tear yourself to shreds.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and shook her head. “I won’t.” She sniffed and walked out of the trailer as I just shook my head defiantly. I’ve got to do this, I thought to myself. …Right?

 

12:30 pm, One Week Later. OTech Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia

 

   Cameras flashed as I stepped out of my bright red car, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious for the upcoming events. Apparently, the OTech Team HQ was getting a significant makeover that had been started in the summer. The old building would be the new home of OTech GP, while we got our very own brand-new building. And now, it was time to unveil the new building to the world. Lewis and Arcazon had already settled into their new offices, which is why Max and I had to work in some mobile-home trailers for the last couple of weeks. Now, however, it was time to see where I’d be living for at least two more years guaranteed.

   “Good morning, Jeb,” Matty said as I walked up to him. We shook hands and the cameras flashed some more, before Max pulled up as well. We both stood on either side of Matty, and waited.

   “Greetings,” Matty said into the microphone on the podium. “Welcome, everyone, to the new OTech Race Team headquarters. We’ve worked on this for quite some time, and now, it’s finally complete! As a showcase of the next generation of OTR, it’s time to show you the factory of the next generation!” He pressed a button and the tarps fell down off the building, and fluttered down to the ground. My mouth gaped open and I stared at the new factory. It was shorter than the old one, but glass surrounded the entire building. I could see inside the lobby, and a bright yellow 50 banner rested inside. The crowd gasped and clapped as the sun glinted off the windows. Matty, with a massive smile, turned back to the podium. “Inside this factory, we’ll make history- both on and off the track. This new factory, with its numerous innovative features, will continue to showcase and produce the most powerful, the most exceptional, and the best racing vehicles in K1.” He motioned for us to follow him. “Let’s check it out.”

   The building was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Max’s car was right in the middle of the lobby, with the yellow confetti still stuck to the body. Off to our left and our right were seating for the waiting area, with a semicircle desk in the middle. The “50” banner stood out in yellow text against the all-blue wall to our right, while the left held pictures of the cars- from 1988 to 2037. The massive room went up both floors, and I could see there was a balcony above the desk for the second floor. A massive staircase rested over to the left, and Matty led us up it- giving information to us as we walked.

   “This building was designed by the elite César Kerman, and we broke ground last Spring. The building was developed in entire secrecy, and I trust you’re pleased with the result.” We got up to the top of the staircase and started walking over to the balcony. “This second floor up here is where the drivers, engineers, and the like will work- their own private offices. However, it’s far from down this hall- and I think you’re going to like what we have in store.” My hand trailed over the stainless steel railing that was above the white frosted glass, and we walked down the hallway. “This building itself cost over $200,000,000 OSD, but the way these guys are stacking up the results, the prize money makes it pretty easy to fund.” There were some laughs from the reporters as we walked out into another massive room from the second level. We all emerged from the hallway and audible gasps sounded from the crowd- myself being one of them.

   The massive room went from floor to ceiling, with the balcony ringing the entire room. Our offices, which had fancy patterns made of frosted glass on the windows, were all around the walkway. However, the true shock factor was below. From our level, you looked down and could see a massive floor with individual spaces for what seemed to be…

   “K1 cars,” Matty said, finishing my thought. “This is where the team will work on tuning the cars- allowing the drivers and the upper staff to get a perfect look at the car they’ll be living with for the next 8-month season. The offices themselves, as you can see, are fairly roomy, but not extravagantly large like the previous spaces.” I knocked on the clear glass door of one of the offices as I passed, before running my hand over the railing. We walked around the garage space, and I noticed that the room wasn’t as… decorated as the lobby.

   “Of course, the building isn’t quite finished yet. We’re still waiting for the final paints to come in, as well as a couple of things back in the Engineering Wing.” At those words, Andy’s eyebrows raised up. We walked down the steps on the other side of the walkway, and through the garage space. Down below, we saw a massive garage door for the cars to roll out.

   “And, of course, what kind of team factory wouldn’t be complete without-“ Max and I both cut him off as the doors opened to the outside.

   “The test track,” We said in unison. We walked out and saw a beautiful circuit unfolding beneath us. It had a beautiful mix of curves, straights, and the technical turns, as well as something Max and I had been begging for since Day One. Alternate layouts.

   “Let’s head back inside, shall we?” Max and I groaned as we walked back indoors, and walked back out in the direction of the lobby. “We’re not going to show off our engineering wing for two reasons this afternoon- One, it’s authorized personnel only, and Two, it’s not quite finished yet.” I noticed a garage door out to the Engineering Wing next to the personnel door, so I imagined that’s where the prototype 2038 car lay. We walked down the hallway out to the Lobby, and stopped. “Up next is the Trophy Hall. Of course, our goal is to stock as many of these as we can, but I feel like even with our incredible drivers, that’ll be quite the challenge.” The long hallway had a massive glass case on both sides, and I gasped. Every single trophy had been moved in, and I could see every single trophy on both walls. From 1988 to just a couple weeks ago, the trophies rested inside the smooth glass. Finally, the trophies ended with plenty of room to spare, and it looked like at least 50 more years of trophies. I smiled a little bit as we walked down the hall to a splitter. Max’s number and my number was on both walls of the splitter- bright blue paint standing out against the white. And, of course, in the “Modern” font. We stepped out into the lobby and out the door, with the reporters muttered remarks amongst themselves. I smiled, and looked around at the lobby. I could easily get used to this place.

 

1:00 pm, One Week Later. New OTech Headquarters; River City, Owlia

 

   A phone rang in the distance as I typed out my schedule for the next week to send out to Andy. He, unlike Alexis, knew that he couldn’t change my view about doing the extra races, so instead he had decided to see when I would be available for sim and track testing. I’d been itching to get just one run on the new track, but Andy had strictly forbidden it for the time being. My helmet was hanging out on the bookcase to my left, and my 2035 K1 trophy sat right next to it. A flatscreen TV was on the right wall, and I could watch it from a small sofa seat across the room. The walls were almost entirely white, except for two patches that stood out. The first bit was my number- 13- on the right wall in bright blue. The second, less noticeable, patch was on the top of the walls near the ceiling, where pictures of my car throughout the years surrounded the top of the wall. As I was filling out my schedule after the All-Star Race (I couldn’t book anything before), I heard voices outside. They were muffled thanks to the soundproofing glass, but I could tell Matty was out there through the sound. I shook my head and continued typing- moving onto the World Endurance Racing Championship 6 Hours of the KSC.

   I stood up and moved a box across the room as noises from downstairs echoed up to my office. I had just put up a picture of Phil and I in uniform at a car launch when the two figures moved across the glass- their shadows standing out against the frost. Suddenly, there was a knock at my door, and I walked over- turning the new metal handle and swinging it open. Matty was standing there with a fancy suit on, and some lady I didn’t recognize was standing behind him. He was wearing an “Impress people” look, so I presumed I would unfortunately have to do the same.

   “Matty,” I said with a smile. “Pleasant surprise.”

   “How’s the unpacking going? I’m assuming that everything made it in okay?” I nodded in response as Matty looked in. “May we come in?” I opened the door up wide and both Matty and the new lady walked in- sitting down in the chairs in front of my desk. She was just a bit shorter than me, and had both a confident and easy-going look on her face. I sat down and moved some boxes away from the desk before turning to them.

   “Jeb,” Matty said, leaning back in his chair to get adjusted. “I’d like you to meet Landin. Landin Kerman.” I reached over the desk and gave her a handshake.

   “How do you do? Just call me Jeb- it’s a lot easier.” Landin nodded and smiled.

   “Will-do. I hear I’m going to be your engineer for the near future.” I leaned back and realized it was time to start my own form of a job interview. I’d had to give a couple of these in the past week- neither of which had quite panned out.

   “So, how long have you been working on cars like this?” She answered without missing a beat.

   “Well, I just graduated from the University of South Rivera with a PhD in Mathematics and Aerodynamic Physics, where I also did some part-time work in the Rivera Street Stock Invitational Series. Before that, I was in the K1 Young Designers program, which I got top-honors in. Prior to that, I did some karts and dirt bikes in small, local series, and before that, I was crawling on the ground in diapers watching K1 with my dad.” There was some silence, and I blinked.

   “That’s…” I couldn’t even think about what I was going to say next. Matty smiled a bit, and gave me some time. I finally came up with the next question.

   “What kind of experience do you have with the new K1 power-plant? The V4-E2?”

   “I think that it’s quite a fun challenge to try to work on. Not only will it be increasing the power, but it’ll also drive up the weight just a tad. This means that we- or, I guess, you- will have to manage the fuel a lot more carefully over the course of the race, despite the increase in fuel. As for experience, the closest I’ve gotten is… Well nothing. I expect Andy and Claire are going to have to help me a lot when it comes to that.”

   “And the new aero package?”

   “Definitely exciting. You’ll have to be at the top of your game to keep from having some issues. Of course, I’ll be able to do whatever setup work you’ll need.”

   “And the final question.” I leaned forward anxiously and folded my hands, looking tense and serious. “Stars or Patriots?” Landin rolled her eyes and smiled.

   “Stars all the way! Both OFL and NSA, of course.” I smiled, and got up- extending my hand.

   “Welcome to OTech.”

 

3:00 pm, three days later. OTech Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia

 

   “Andy, it’s no fair!” I couldn’t help but laugh beneath my breath as we walked down the hallway to the staircase. I swung my helmet with my arms by my side and we trotted down the steps. I saw two cars waiting on the jacks, and Max’s face broke out in a smile. “Y-“ He barely got the breath out before Andy pointed at him.

   “Not yet,” He said, and Max groaned.

   “But why?! It’s no fair that he gets first dibs out on the track and I just have to sit here and watch!” Andy sighed as I got strapped up into the 2037 KSC Mark One car.

   “Look, he needs to get used to having a new race engineer, same as we did when you joined the team with Claire. We’ll have Jeb get a couple runs in, and send you in there to see how she handles. Got it?” Max grumbled as I stepped up into the car and put the helmet on.

   The engine roared to life and I grinned beneath my helmet as the garage door rolled up and open. I shifted up into the first gear and started rolling out of the garage- the engine low and rumbling as I gently drove the car out. I rolled down the path to the garage door exit, and had to blink a couple of times before my eyes got used to the bright light. It was a perfect day- no clouds, almost no wind, and a beautiful temperature hovering in the lower 60’s. A perfect day to go out racing. The run to the track was a bit hilly, but I just rolled over the snaking esses at a low speed as I felt the excitement start to ratchet up. I took a long right-hander and came out to the track, and went straight-on into the pit lane. The pits looped around the massive final corner, which had some spectacular banking on the inside. I rolled around to the pit limiter line and hit the brakes- getting to the right speed before activating the limiter. Landin was waiting in one of the middle boxes, and I pulled into the space. I flicked the helmet up and she leaned in to be heard over the engine.

   “Okay, so for the first run, I want you to get a feel for the track. We’ll only be running the South Circuits today, so that’s the South Loop and the Speed Loop. I want you to get a couple laps on the South Loop first, just to get a good handle on the first half of the regular circuit as well as the final couple corners. I’ll be monitoring the data from the garage in here, but I’ll still have radio comms.” She pointed to a spot next to my left leg, and I noticed there was a sticker with the track map and all the different layouts.

   “Here’s your map. Each circuit is a different colored line, so that should keep you from getting confused. The black line is the main circuit. Grey is the High Speed Loop.” My mind instantly focused on the words “High Speed,” and I felt an insatiable urge to ignore every previous instruction and take lap after lap on the partially deformed oval-looking circuit.

   “Green’s your Outer Circuit, while Yellow is your Inner Circuit. Blue is the South loop- it’s mainly just the numbers that you have to worry about- and the Red is your North Loop. Again, just watch the numbers since some courses tend to run together. We got cones to mark off the other circuits so that you don’t get too confused on where to go, but it won’t hurt to make a couple checks of the map from time to time. Today we’re worried more about learning the course- not setting hot laps.” Yeah, that’s not gonna happen, I thought to myself. I was going to go all-out. Landin checked the car one last time before speaking into her radio.

   “Okay, so just a couple laps just to get a feel for the circuit and how the car reacts. We’ve got the stock car from the start of last season, so it might be a bit more difficult in the beginning trying to dial back in. Remember, work on being smooth first, and then you can focus on the speed after.” I nodded and lowered my visor as she waved me on, and I peeled out of the grid slot. The pit limiter held my car to what felt like impossibly low speeds, and I finally crossed the end line. I rocketed away and started blasting down the road before it quickly turned out to the left. I followed it, and (despite my urges) turned right to go out to the main track. There was a sharp hairpin-like corner at the end of the pit lane, and I pulled out of it before racing down the straight. The tarmac was perfectly smooth, and I could feel the car gripping down into it with the tires. I broke hard for Turn 3, which was a tight 90º left-hander followed by another tight left-handed corner in 4. There was a tiny straight down the run to Turn 5 before the hairpin, which resulted in another left-handed hairpin in Turn 6. There were cones on the outside of 6 that showed I could have gone straight-on, but I turned hard around the hairpin and drove out of the corner down to the straight. I glanced at the map and saw an exciting esses complex was coming up, and I got ready for the fun. Turn 7 was a fast right-hander, with a longer semicircle turn on the right side that was blocked off. Turn 8 was a slower left-hander as I started going up a hill, but Turn 9 was a tight right. The track had loads of grassy spaces off to the sides, but I didn’t dare dip the car off as I sped through an even slower left-right in 10 and 11. The car started going downhill before the track ahead was blocked off, and I quickly turned into the 12 hairpin. The hill got steeper downwards and I rejoined the “Main” circuit before a quick right-hander in Turn 13 that was similar to 7. The track leveled out and the pits opened up on the left, but I flew past them before the long Turn 14. The corner had what looked like a massive field of grass on the inside that separated the track from the pits, and I resisted the urge to touch the curbing. I swung up right next to the wall and saw some dust flying up into the air before I got down to the middle of the track- opening the DRS and speeding up even more.

   I was already in 8th gear before the start/finish line, but this was the KSC car. The KSC has absolutely no long straights, and so we had it set up for a high-drag, low-speed setup. I only managed to get up to around 180 before the engine red-lined, and I flew into Turn 1 with the engine screaming. The track started going uphill in Turn 1A, and I hit the brakes hard for Turn 2. The car went away from me just a bit but I held it together before rolling through the apex and powering out of it. I realized that the run to 3 was actually straight down-hill, which actually brought it level to the front-straight by the braking zone. Of course, the High Speed Loop that I was aching to get my car on was actually below me. I took the corners a bit more aggressively in the second lap- really testing the limits of the track and the car. I was finally called in after a couple of laps. I flew down into the pit access road, testing how fast I could take it. The turn tightened up a bit mid-corner, and I had to take it a lot slower than I had hoped. I pulled into the pit stall and opened up the visor again as Landin walked up.

   “Alright, so we’re going to give you a couple laps on the loop real quick- just to get you situated with that. It’s not too hard- 6 corners, 2 DRS zones, and not very much braking if any. After that, we’ll send Max out with you to get us both some practice on racing situations. Sound good?” I nodded and peeled out again- nervously bouncing in my seat as the car went down the straight. As I rolled down the pit lane, Max’s voice called out over the radio.

   “Hey, what’s the track like?” I crossed the line and coasted down the way to the pit exit corner- this time looping around in a left-hand turn to catch up to the track.

   “The South Loop is alright. The esses are a bit weird that first time you run them, and the chicane feels a little tight but it’s a fun challenge. It’s actually a lot of fun.” I joined the track and immediately felt a big drop as the car went down a couple of quick left-right corners in 2 and 3. “Whoah, watch out for 2 and 3 in the High Speed Loop, the car’s going to really drop out from under you there. I bet that at-speed the aero’s going to catch you but just stay careful when you’re taking it first time.” I rolled down the hill and felt the car speeding up, despite the fact I was literally coasting down the hill. The track finally leveled out and I gently pushed in the gas pedal- the engine rumbling as I went down the track. Suddenly, the track curved out to the right just a bit- a wide, sweeping turn that pointed me back to the main track. I rolled around the wide turn and went up the hill- just slowly investigating the loop for the first time. I avoided the pit lane entry and turned onto the Main Course, which then took me onto the final turn.

   I immediately jammed the gas and started speeding up- using the banking in Turn 6 to slingshot out of the turn and get going faster. I rocketed out of the corner and opened up the DRS- getting even faster. The engine screamed as I hit the limiter about halfway down the straight, and I sighed into the radio.

   “Could we maybe get a car that’s built more for these kind of straights? We’re going to kill the engine in this thing.” I didn’t get a reply and flew down into Turn 1. The aero shoved the car into the ground and I let off the gas before shifting down to fifth- rolling around Turn 1 and shooting out. The car got a bit loose over the quick left-right, but I kept it together before opening the DRS. The car got down the straight right on line, and I grinned before throwing it into the corner- DRS open. I barely got a single quiver of oversteer, and I could tell this one bit right here was meant to help test Kerenna at the Temple. The car stuck perfectly and I flew up the hill with the engine screaming. “This is awesome!” I couldn’t help but laugh as the DRS closed and I shot into Turn 5 with as much speed as I dared before flying down into Turn 6 off the throttle. I had just one thought as I came out of Turn 6 with the DRS open. Money well-spent.

 

4:00 pm, two days later. OTech Race Team Headquarters; River City, Owlia.

 

   I had just gotten out of a sim run for a 2038-spec car when I walked past Matty’s office. Backtrack a little bit. Andy was starting to make me really mad. Even though we’d been running sims for the 2038 car, he wouldn’t let me see anything about it. No concept drawings, no liveries, not even answering my questions on how it looked 1 to 10. Since the All-Star Race was only a week away, he was pushing us non-stop learning the layout. Anyways, back to Matty. I was walking past the fancy OTech logo etched out of the frosted glass windows when I heard some shouting from the other side. I stopped and paused for a second, trying to guess who was yelling. When I finally gave up, I decided to walk in.

   “Matty, I’m not asking you to give me a ride here! I just want you to remind Paddy and the team about my cont-“ I opened the door and the shouting cut off as both turned to me. Arcazon’s spiky black head turned around to me, and I smiled down at him.

   “Hey, kid; great race at the KSC. I-“ Matty cut me off with a sigh.
   “Is there something I can do for you, Jeb?” I looked to him and nodded.

   “Yeah, I’m just checking to see what the schedule’s looking like after the All-Star Race to see if it’s conflicting with anything that I’m doing later. I just booked a couple FBC races with Reliant, so I just need to get your approval on testing and all that fun stuff.” Matty gave a heavy sigh and shook his head, rubbing his temples before looking at me.

   “Why do you insist on killing yourself this offseason,” He asked me tiredly. “Why don’t you want to take a rest? I’m sure that there’s a wonderful beach off somewhere across the world that would interest you.” I shook my head with a smile.

   “I’ll rest when I’m dead. Now what about it, boss-man?” I could almost see Matty ask himself why he decided to hire me before he nodded. I grinned and looked at Arcazon. “So what did you do?” Before Matty could answer, Arcazon answered furiously.

   “Paddy’s relegating me back to OTech GP, even though I’m good enough to be moved up.” He turned to Matty. “Even though I won two races last season. Now I want to know why I’m not getting the K1 drive like I promised!”

   “Because you’re not ready,” Matty said sternly. “You’re only 17 and your driving style still needs to be refined. It’s not because you’re a bad driver, it’s because you’re just not mature enough to handle it yet.” He sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry. Maybe after a year or two in Form-“

   “I don’t need a year in Formula! I’m ready now, can’t you see that?! Two wins this season alone, you can’t ignore that!” I could tell the argument was getting more and more desperate before Matty sighed.

   “Look, Arcazon. There’s nothing I can do. If I step in, Lewis or Saul are going to be in that chair to complain about how it’s unfair that they don’t get the seat next year. It’s either step down to Formula for 2038 or move up as a reserve driver without any drive time whatsoever. There’s no in-between.” Arcazon shook his head and I could see him clench his fists underneath his seat.

   “Fine,” He said, his voice full of spite. “I can see that I won’t be driving for OTech Engineering this season. But I will get a K1 drive, mark my words.” He stood up and turned around- his stern grimace clouding his face as he stomped past me. He shoulder-checked me as he walked out the door, but I stood my ground as he bumped into me. After the door rocked shut, Matty groaned again before looking at me.

   “Is there anything else you’d to stress me out with this afternoon?” I shook my head and he waved. “Just… don’t slam the door on your way out please? I’ve to enough headaches today as-is.” I nodded and softly closed the door before walking out- heading down to my office.

   I sat down in my office and sighed before opening my laptop. I immediately checked my email for any new news. The standard stuff- some tech updates from the factory, some requests for interview on the new rules package- before I saw something that caught my eye. “Thank you for considering.” I quickly opened up the email, and it turned out it was from the OTech Organization for the World Endurance Racing Championship.

   “Dear Jeb,

   “We’re sorry to hear about your decision to abort the 24h at the KSC this January. The team’s been working a lot preparing the car for the upcoming event, but of course we understand that your rest and relaxation for the K1 offseason must come first. We thank you for calling us so far ahead of schedule so that we can now fine another driver who has the incredible talents of yours. If you’re interested in participating in next year’s event, just let us know.

Signed,

May Kerman, OTech WERC Team Captain.”

   I thought for a moment. I never aborted the race… I quickly flicked through some more emails. The Sports Car race at the KSC; the Super Kart championship in Owlia; the BOWL race in River City; even the World Prototype Challenge at the Temple. All gone. I quickly stood up and raced out of my office, running across the hall to Alexis’s office. I stormed into the room as she was typing up what I assumed to be a response to a press request when she looked up.

   “Did you just kick me out of a crap-ton of races this off-season?” Alexis tilted her head, trying to act confused before I continued on. “I just got about 5 or 6 emails from team heads saying that I apparently just called them saying that I can’t race for them. Now would you care to explain?” Alexis stood up.

   “You need a vacation. You’re not a machine- you can’t do this forever. I did this to help you, and the faster you can see that the better.” I could feel my temper rising by the second.

   “But I need to race! If I don’t do this I’ll lose whatever edge I might have over Max! You don’t understand, I need these races!” Alexis looked at me pleadingly and I just shook my head. “How could you even do that? You went behind my back and betrayed me! When I signed that contract to make you my agent, I thought we wouldn’t try and sabotage each other!” Alexis tried to cut in but I forged on. “Honestly, I’m not sure if I even want to be in this situation anymore.” I stopped, and looked at her. “I’m not even sure if you still even love me anymore.” There was an awful silence, and I just looked at her. “You… you do still love me… Right?”

   “Jeb-“ I cut her off.

   “It’s a yes or no question,” I said simply. Tears started welling up in her eyes, and she shook her head.

   “I’m sorry, Jeb,” She cried. “But I can’t watch you do this to yourself.” She wiped at her eyes and quickly walked out of the door- ignoring me and slipping past through the doorway and out of sight. It was going to be the last time I would see her ever again.

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Holy macaroni ravoli. What a roller-coaster. Great as always man! I can totally understand Arcazon's position and in fact that's pretty much how I wrote the Contractual Confrontation of 2038.

holy loveing hell I need to speed up on FTG

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/25/2019 at 1:14 PM, Mukita12 said:

"Welcome along to The first Ever Hermish Grand Prix In K1"

That Would be great Owlia

Now that's not something I've thought of... I'll toy around with it in my head for a bit and get back to ya

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  • 2 months later...
On 6/10/2019 at 12:45 AM, Mukita12 said:

wait this in KP Universe? or Another Universe that used the Same country As KP?

It's a similar universe, with some bits moved around for effect. 

Hello, hello, hello everyone! We are coming to you live from the (If I may say so myself) brilliant, if not procrastinating, universe of Life at the Top! After a long summer, I've had plenty of time to hatch up new ideas, new experiences, and more excitement than ever before! And now, it's time to pick up where we left off- the end of last season! So relax, make sure your seats are in the upright position, your tray tables stowed, and all carry-on baggage stowed underneath the seat in front of you or the overhead storage bins. We're about ready for takeoff.

[NOTE: I apologize for the fairly short chapter this time around- just trying to get back into the swing of things, remember the basics, etc.]

 

Chapter 37: All-Star

11:30 AM, 6 Days Later. Thomasville Circuit; Thomasville, Owlia.

 

   The old V8 engine screamed from somewhere down the pit lane, echoing through the equally old buildings. The 2020 cars were an absolute handful to drive; Less grip, less speed, worse brakes, colder tires, and engines that screamed like an air raid siren if you accidentally revved the crud out of it. In other words, it was terrific. I was squeezed into a replica of the 2020 car of a fellow OTech legend, with the white paint gleaming in the garage and dazzling blue accents. The number seemed to have a shine on it, reflecting the light and looking to magnify it against the matte shark fin. Just below the number, dark blue text showed the previous driver's name as well as some career stats. Max, across the garage, wore the #15 badge of Murray Kerman with pride. The 2021 champion, he had 15 career wins to his name and is highly regarded as one of the best drivers of the 2020s. He had a fantastic rivalry with the driver of my car, and I couldn't think of anyone more fitting to race against.

   "Ready?" I turned and saw Landin carrying in what looked like a 20-year-old notebook with pages and pages sticking out every which way. Of course, considering the car, I guess it made sense. I smirked and nodded, leaning over the side of the thin vehicle. I rubbed the glossy number- a bold blue sticker design that almost felt like my hand stuck to it a little bit. #14, Phil Kerman. I ran my thumb over the driver stats; PHIL KERMAN (2004-2036). 16 YEARS, 5-TIME CHAMPION; 83 WINS. I smiled a little sadly and brushed off a tiny speck of dust that had settled on the "L," just above the left exhaust port. I stood up and looked out the garage at the cloudy sky; slate-grey and cold. Most of the ex-legends of K1 were present for the weekend, including Murray, who was talking to Max. I sighed, thinking about the race ahead.

   "Honestly?" I turned back to Landin with a bit of a smirk. "I can't wait to get back into it."

 

6:00 PM. Qualifying for the All-Star Race. Thomasville Circuit; Thomasville, Owlia.

 

   The OR20A blasted into the 1-2-3 complex, and I gently let off the throttle- straight-lining the curbs and feeling the car kindly lift up on both sides over the curbing. The sunset shone brightly in the sky- dark clouds standing out against the orange light. I broke hard for Turn 4, going from 140 down to about 70 around the short left-hander. Trees whipped past on either side as I dove down into a tight corner complex- a left-handed 90º corner into a 180º right-hander. I rolled over the inside curbing as the engine revved down, before jamming on the gas. I laid down two strips of rubber down on the concrete corner exit and had to feather the throttle to keep from spinning out.

   The car whipped through Turn 7 as I got close up to the wall, and flew down the straight- the engine screaming as it sped up through the gears. I sped up all the way to 6th gear before slamming on the brakes- the car bumping over the track and locking up the inside front tire. I managed to get it unlocked and turned hard into Turn 8 but missed the apex. I rolled back over through Turn 9 and went over the curbing at around 40 miles per hour, feeling every bump before racing down into Turn 10. The car rose up in the apex for the start of the esses and moved the car into position for Turn 11. The vehicle raced right over the corner, and then down to the 180º loop uphill to the left-handed Turn 12. I rose over a crest and flew into the right-handed Turn 13, racing downhill. I went straight past the 14-15 complex that we'd run for Race 1, and down the hill to Turn 14- a flat-out, down-hill right-hander.

   The car flew down the hill to Turn 15, sparking as the track leveled out before the corner. The road flew uphill in the left Turn 16, but the car stayed low thanks to the extreme 10º of banking. The track continued going uphill into Turn 17, and I kept in the banking for the right-hander. I quickly looped back to the left for Turn 18, flying up the track and off the corner to the front straight. I crossed the line and let off the throttle, pulling down to the bottom of the circuit and letting the car roll to a slow. The radio crackled as I put the engine down to its lowest mode.

   "That's P2, P2. Just a bit between you and Micheal; about a quarter of a second." I sped up a little bit, still slow enough to let a pure white TT car past.

   "Is there enough time to get another one in?" Just as I said that I felt a wave of cold air wash through the cockpit, and I noticed the sky got a little bit darker and more threatening. I weaved down the straight, and I saw something wet slap up against the visor. Landin just gave one word.

   "Go." I jammed the gas and started speeding up- trying to shift up fast enough to get the best acceleration possible. I threw the car into Turn 1 and straight-lined the next two corners speeding up before diving down into Turn 4. I hit the brakes and rolled over the apex, lifting up the left-side wheels on the elevated curb. I hit the gas and flew under the trees, getting right up next to the concrete wall. The brakes responded perfectly into Turn 5 as I brushed up right next to the wall before rolling into Turn 6. The right-sides got loose on the corner exit, and the tail kicked out. I sawed at the wheel and saw a bright spark in my left mirror, but kept going. I dove into Turn 7 but locked up the tire. I turned harder, but the car went straight-on, and I let go of the wheel at the last second.

   The car pounded into the wall with a concussive thud; throwing the wheel around, shaking the catch-fencing all down the barrier and crushing the right-front suspension. The car ricocheted off the wall and slid back down to the middle of the track.  The wheel hung limply from its tether. I shook my head and hit the engine switch on the steering column before hitting the radio.

   "Damn, locked up," I sighed as Max tip-toed his car through the debris. A black Monster car- probably Louie- crawled in front of me, opting to avoid the debris on the outside. "I went in there way too hard and just didn't have anywhere to go... Absolutely crushed the right side." I raised the visor as a pickup truck arrived with the safety team in tow.

   "It's alright," Landin replied a few seconds later as I unbuckled. "We'll get it fixed up tonight, be ready in the morning." I nodded and pulled the wheel off the mount as a marshal came up, giving me a thumbs up- to which I nodded. I released the belts and shimmied up, stepping up and hopping off the sidepod. I stepped away and started undoing my helmet with my right hand before jumping through a hole in the fencing. A small motorcycle was waiting just behind the wall, and I hopped on the back as some more drops started falling from above. I shook my head and looked back at the stricken car as the bike started rolling forward. Just gotta be better for tomorrow...

 

10:00 AM, The next day. 2 Hours until All-Star Race 1. Thomasville Circuit; Thomasville, Owlia.

 

   A cold breeze blew in the open garage door, and I shivered a little bit through my firesuit. Outside, the weather had gotten a lot worse- but not in the way we'd thought. A massive cold front had blown in over the night and had brought rain. However, the rain turned from drops to flakes. About three inches of snow had covered the ground from about 10 in the evening to about 4 in the morning. Now, 12 hours later, we had a mixture of sleet and rain. Max sighed from his seat across the garage and looked over at me.

   "So much for practice," He muttered, looking out at the wet mush. I nodded and sighed, my breath making fog in the air.

   "Honestly, the track's probably going to be a bit less grippy since all the oil and stuff has come up out of the track. I was loose in 16/17 to begin with, it's going to be even worse out there in the first lap." Max nodded.

   "Cold tires, freezing track, cars that have absolutely no grip, crazy pack, and now no grip on the track itself." He smirked. "Bet you money there's a lap one wreck involving… let's say two cars at least." I leaned back and thought.

   "I say at least three. Turns 5 and 6 are going to be chaos with the pack all bunched up." Max nodded, putting his hands behind his back.

   "I was really under-steering in the Esses- absolutely no front-end in these things." He looked at his white and blue car with a small smile. "Still beautiful though."

   "I was having the exact opposite issue," I commented, looking at the tarp that covered the car. The team had done a fantastic job fixing the car, especially since the entire front of the right sidepod was crushed by the time it got back to them. Yet, after working pretty much all night it seemed, the car was good as new. The team never ceased to amaze me, but this one was just incredible. They'd put the tarp over to protect the paint, and I leaned forward before addressing Max. "The suspension on this car is so stiff. I'm getting massive tank-slappers on the crests and over the curbs." He nodded and looked at the wheels underneath the tarp- the black rubber quietly peeking out as if to say, Nothing to see here, look away.

   "Why didn't you just loosen up the springs? Claire and I spent hours going over the setup, trying to get it right." I shrugged, trying to play it off. The setup I was running was the one Phil had used at this very track to net his second career win, as well as his only one at this circuit. I decided to honor the memory and leave the car as untouched as possible (Besides the massive screw-up in qualifying).

   Phil absolutely loved this circuit and had asked for its return to the K1 calendar on numerous occasions. Of course, the track was never re-considered. As the sport continued to grow, it soon outgrew the places that created it- Bradley in 2026 and Thomasville in 2021. Bradley, at least, had been lucky enough to host the Pre-Season tests. Thomasville wasn't so fortunate. The city streets continued to be used, but the track's facilities began deteriorating- the small wooden grandstands on the front-stretch rotting away, the old paint advertisement signs on the concrete fading and scratched, and the garage buildings damaged by the elements. From what I had heard, Phil's family had spearheaded a campaign to bring his hometown track back to life, and K1 agreed- going with the retro feel of the event 17 years ago. They'd even managed to bring in the old commentators from the era back into the commentary booth. The track looked just like it had years ago, with the red and white striped paint on the walls, the old signage (some for now-defunct companies) gleaming from the barriers, and the old bleachers up in force for about 15,000 fans. The track just had the feel of nostalgia around every corner.

   "I dunno," I answered with a shrug and slight shake of my head. "Phil won a race in this setup, so if it works for him it's gotta work for me, right?" Max shrugged and looked out at the clearing track.

   "Maybe, maybe not," He replied thoughtfully, thinking. "You two have remarkably different driving styles, so what works for him doesn't always work for you." I leaned back.

   "Really? I always thought we drove kind of similarly. Especially in '35." He shook his head.

   "Nah. Phil kind of finessed the car into corners- taking it slow, not being rough on the tires, smooth and calm. He was an Iceman- no mistakes. He just wore ya down until you did something stupid and screwed up. He knew when to push and when to let off a little bit." He smiled and pointed at me. "You on the other hand." I laughed as he went on. "You have really just one arrow in your quiver of speed. The full-on, max attack, time-trial pushing kind of arrow. You go from no throttle to standing on the thing, but that's where the setup comes in and bails you out. You just can't stand with not being the fastest." I nodded.

   "Sounds about right," I said, thinking. "Is that really such a bad thing, though?" Max shrugged.

   "I mean it's not terrible," he said, thinking a little bit more. "Just that maybe all-out isn't the best way to go all the time." I nodded. Good to know.

 

12:30 PM. The All-Star Race (Race 1). Thomasville Circuit; Thomasville, Owlia.

 

"Built in the shadow of Bradley and forged in the flames of competition, the Thomasville Circuit is a tale as old as time. The final race at this circuit, held in 2021, was a testament to how far the sport had come. A departure from our long-time friend was inevitable- a reminder that even the best of times must end. But, today and tonight, under the crisp winter sun and the dazzling city lights, we'll see our history come back to life yet again.

"10 cars from the past, and 10 drivers- all fighting for the right to call themselves the All-Star of the 2037 season. Driving under the banner of their predecessors, the current K1 crop will take the stage here today. A new field of cars and a green track have laid the foundation for a wild start- but we'll see who can hang on and take the first of the two heats here today. We welcome you to this coverage of K1 racing, and we hope you're just as excited as we are."

 

   The stands were packed with loyal fans, braving the elements in their heavy coats and gloves. I stepped up into the cockpit and did my best to ignore the clicking of cameras from all around. The engine was already running on idle. A steam cloud formed around the entirety of the car from the heat. Steam wafted up out of vents and out of the side-pods, and I jumped a little bit in my seat as I sat down. I clicked the steering wheel into place and checked the radio.

   "Geez, my seat was freezing," I shivered through the mic. Static crackled on the other end, and Andy came over the radio.

   "Repeat?" I raised the visor on my helmet with a smile and waved Andy over. He bent down, and I talked to him through the helmet.

   "My seat was super cold when I sat down- kinda made me jump a bit there." Andy chuckled.

   "Yeah, they didn't really put seat warmers high on the checklist for car design 17 years back," He said, smiling warmly.

   "How cold is it out here?" Andy pulled up his tablet.

   "39º. Wind out of the East and the cloud cover is making it feel like 33º in the air. It'll clear up and warm up by the second round, but we're going to have to keep clean for this first one to get good positioning for the second heat." I nodded and rolled my shoulders, looking up at the pylon with the lights. There was still an old flag stand, which had been meticulously restored. I just felt terrible for the unfortunate marshal that had to stand up there- looking like he was freezing in the little wooden box.

   After a few minutes of waiting, the team set the car down. The team was trying to keep the tire blankets on as long as possible. With just seconds to spare, the team pulled off the blankets and scurried away to the side as the lights went out, sending us on our way for the Formation Lap. Micheal got away, and I followed just a second later- spinning the wheels to get some more heat into them before managing the car and leaping out of the box. The steam blasted off the vehicle and was left behind, some occasional wisps blowing out of the rear venting. I started weaving to gain some heat in the tires, feeling the tires gently slip a little bit.

   After a brief warm-up lap (where we took a kink out of Turn 13 to extend the track by a corner), the field was lined up. Since there were only ten drivers, I didn't have to wait as long- a fact I was grateful for. I watched the lights above, the engine rumbling behind me.

   One light came on, and I exhaled, pushing in the clutch.

   The second light came on, bright orange. I started revving up, the engine bouncing up off the limiter.

   The third and final line of lights came on the pylon, and the entire grid roared with V8 engines bouncing up and down the concrete walls.

   The lights went out, and I immediately let off the clutch- feeling 750 horsepower throw the car out of the box. The tires got some wheelspin but quickly dug in, and I promptly started the upshifting. Micheal got a good start and a clean getaway from the pole position, and I got right on his outside. Max got a good start out of the grid and tried to scoot up my inside, even though he was pinned back by Micheal's rear. We flew into the first three corners with me squeezing Micheal down into the corner and Max right on his tail. Max had enough of a gap to try and cut up the outside of Turn 3 and drew alongside me in the braking zone for Turn 4. Micheal got a clean run down to the corner and got clear, while I got through the inside of Max. Louie was on the left of Max, and I tried to hook onto the back of Micheal. Meanwhile, Alder in the bright blue F-Tech dove down Louie's inside in Turn 6, giving Max a little bump with the left-front on the corner's apex.

   I chased Micheal down into Turn 7, but Max looked up my inside- slowing me up even though he didn't get in. Micheal skipped away, and the car started going up through the gears. Alder and Maria (Not Max's girlfriend, although she was also from Aquaria) flew past on the right-hand side. OTech's car wasn't built for top-end, but for corners- making both Max and I drop positions. We were dropped to 4th and 5th by the end of the straight but held on into the double-hairpin. I rocketed down out of Turn 9 and up the Turn 10 hill, trying to catch up to Maria into Turn 11. We flew up the hill, and I had to fight a wiggle of oversteer. I started heading down into the Turn 12 hairpin on the outside of Maria.

   I rolled down the hill and turned in, but heard a screech from behind. The car suddenly lifted up from behind, and the engine yelped- the vehicle starting to spin. I tried to correct, but the wheelspin had already gone into effect. The car spun around once, sliding back into the grass and gravel. Max was just in front of me into the grass, also backwards with his hand raised in slight annoyance. I quickly jammed the gas and got the car pointed in the right direction, and sighed- gravel pinging up against the floor as I flew away.

   "Aaargh," I groaned into the radio as I shot into Turn 13 and into the kink. It was a fast right-left-right section, testing the limits of the car as the left-hander 14 was a downhill negative-camber corner. "Some idiot spun Max and me out in 12. I don't think I have any damage, but I don't get why someone's trying to go so crazy there on just Lap 1." I raced through Turn 15 and straight down the hill to 16. The car felt planted through 16 and 17 before I flew up to 18 and around the final corner.

   "Copy," Landin replied, and I made a mental note that she didn't start talking in the middle of a corner. "Any damage?" I blasted past the box, the engine howling off of the concrete walls.

   "Doesn't feel like it," I responded, flying into Turn 1 with as much speed as I could. "Just lost some ground to the pack." I got a massive heaping of oversteer out of Turn 4, the wheels skittering off the tarmac. I almost lost the car but wheeled it back, and cursed myself. Come on, don't drive stupid, I sighed to myself, turning into the left-right for 5 and 6. I thought for a few seconds and then remembered what Max had said.

   "Maybe all-out isn't the way to go." I twitched out of Turn 7 and flew down the straight. "Smooth on the throttle." I braked hard into Turn 8 and softly pushed down the throttle out of the corner. Let's see how this one goes.

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  • 4 weeks later...

So I'm going to do this a bit different. I had big plans for the whole offseason, but after mulling it over, I realize: That's not what this story is about. So, we're having a terrible time skip forward to week 1. Good? Good

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nah man I need the poke. I've been going really slow as of late (Working with school and getting frequently side-tracked). I've got big plans for the '38 season though, so I'm anxious to get back into it. Currently nearing the end of the KSC GP, just need to finish the race and fix the issues in Grammarly and I'm all set! Expect the chapter by the end of the week I promise.

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2 hours ago, DarkOwl57 said:

Nah man I need the poke. I've been going really slow as of late (Working with school and getting frequently side-tracked). I've got big plans for the '38 season though, so I'm anxious to get back into it. Currently nearing the end of the KSC GP, just need to finish the race and fix the issues in Grammarly and I'm all set! Expect the chapter by the end of the week I promise.

Great!

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I said I'd get it out by the end of the week, didn't I?

 

Chapter 38: Back in Action

 

6:00 PM, March. Round 1 of 13: The KSC. The KSC.

 

“And welcome, everyone, to the first race of the 2038 K1 Season! My name’s Jim Kerman, and I’m delighted to bring you this race alongside my good friend, Jeremy Kerman. Jer,’ glad to see the old suit still fits.”

“Wh-… Wait a compliment?”

“Yeah…?”
“Nothing, just kind of threw me off there. Anyways, this is the KSC Circuit. Formerly home to the world’s first space agency, the KSC has been repurposed into one of the most well-known and multi-layout circuits in the world. Topping in at just over 2 kilometers, this circuit is the shortest on the K1 calendar. But don’t let that size fool you; this course has history. Jebediah and Max Kerman- the two OTech Teammates- getting their first championships here at this track. This circuit, though updated, has had its fair share of events over the past.”

“And speaking of the track changes, you’ll notice the starting grid has moved. This will facilitate a longer run down to Turn 1, and hopefully generate more action.”

“Don’t forget the cars, Jim. These new 2038 cars have plenty to talk about- but we’d never get to the actual race. So, sit back, relax, and get yourself ready! It’s time for the KSC Grand Prix.”

 

The three jets blasted overhead, white smoke trailing as they broke off. The brand-new cars shone in the lights and looked just as beautiful as I had hoped. The car was low to the ground, looking sleek and sharp with the singular front wing and wedge nose. The rear wings were lower, thinner, and provided less grip than years past. In short, they were awesome. See, the ability to generate grip (downforce) is kind of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows us to take corners faster, giving us faster lap times. However, all this air has to go somewhere. The “Dirty Air” effect was incredibly pronounced from previous seasons, where basically cars couldn’t catch the air if they were too close behind. The reason? Essentially, the car in front was using up all the clean air. It’s complicated and way above my pay grade, so I’ll let you just look it up in your free-time.

The cars weren’t the only new thing from the season. The schedule got a massive shakeup, with 2 more tracks added onto the calendar. The Carthian Grand Prix would break up the Kafrican Power Trio in the early part of the season, splitting Tekkia and Solaria. We’d not gotten any sim data in on it yet, but the track looked incredible- a fast, wide first sector followed by an old city nestled on the mountainside in the second. The old city has brick for the surface, and tons of elevation changes. Max and I were both ready to get into the car and get on this new track.

The NMC race was gone, with the city circuit being moved to Baskay Island, and one of the most packed metropolises in Baskay. Using a combination of bridges, underpasses, and city streets, the track had three crossovers on the track. Also, the Aquarian Grand Prix had been pushed back, throwing the race under the glitz and glamor of night racing under the lights. Another new race, the Feguan Grand Prix, would take place in the coastal nation of Fegeland. It would take the 11th round of the season, another exciting chance to drive. The track had four massive straights, two long corners, and a fast octagon-shaped loop in the final sector. The final part of the newly-revamped calendar came in the form of the newest circuit in the world: The Hermian Grand Prix.

A brand-new circuit in a young nation, the Hermian Grand Prix Circuit is a racers dream. Multiple layouts, sweeping corners, more stadium sections than I could count on one hand, and a 1.1-mile long back straight made the circuit nothing but exciting. And, in a nation almost as rich as Owlia in terms of racing culture, the fan turnout was spectacular in every single series- Go Karts to the inaugural International Endurance Championship race for the 2037-2038 season a few weeks back. Overall, the new circuits looked amazing, and I couldn’t wait to get the season started.

The KSC Circuit had gotten a re-do, with the main blueprint of the circuit staying the same. However, the start/finish line had flipped ends of the track, now on the old back straight next to the massive rocket tower. The old podium space had been turned into the main pit lane, with the old pit lane being the podium.

I stepped out to the car, adjusting my hat and moving my headphones to block out the noise. Everyone was expecting big things out of me this season, and I could feel a lot of pressure. In K1, once you become a champion, everyone expects you to do it again. If you do that in your first season, they expect even more. When you go through a drought, that pressure grows. Everyone ignores the fact I had a good chance to win ’36 if I wasn’t hurt and that Max was amazing last year; if your’e not on the top step, people start to wonder. Can he do it again? Was he just a one-hit-wonder? Is he just a bust? The questions never stop. Some of them, of course, are deserved. I had led the entire championship up to the very last race, basically throwing the season away. However, some were just stupid. He’s not won the last three races; is it time to fire him? Seriously these journalists need to just chill out.

Cameras flashed as I passed, looking at the cars along the grid as I walked by. One car caught my eye- the white, blue, and gold vehicle of the new kids on the block: Carthian Motorsports. Arcazon’s car, number 77, looked like they were basing it off our design, but the body seemed a bit more basic. The car was expected to go somewhere into the midfield for most of the season, but I was hoping that they would be able to get a bit higher. I went farther up, seeing the rainbow of cars. Phantom and Monster had gotten closer to us over the offseason, but both Max and I had the gap over them for now.

I set my stuff down in the bag next to the car, sitting down in the car at Pole. I was lined up next to the right-side wall, which would be the inside for Velocidad. However, because there was a tiny left-hand kink before the corner, that was technically Turn 1; allowing me the inside for the real corner. It’s a beautiful way to game the system, I know. I got myself strapped in and slipped the helmet on, raising the visor to keep cool. The radio crackled and I heard Landin’s voice over the speakers.

“Test test, 1-2-3. 3-2-1, test test. Everything good?” I nodded and put my thumbs up as Landin rolled her eyes. “Can you please let me know if you got it?” I extended my arm further forward, thumb still up. “Listen, I can do this all day if you want.” I laughed and leaned back in the cockpit, keying the mic.

“Yeah, I’ve got ya. What’s the weather looking like?” Landin turned to look at her laptop as the tire warmers went on.

“All good. Not that cold, no wind, perfectly clear. Beautiful weather when the sun comes down, mid-60’s and dry.” I nodded and rocked in my seat a little bit, looking at the clock above the light pylon.

“Gosh, I’m ready to get going.” The clock ticked down, and the car finally got set down to the ground. The engine rumbled at low RPM, just waiting to get unleashed. The lights went out, and I finally launched away. I kept the throttle steady and the wheels bit in easy, shifting me back in my seat with the immediate torque. Max was right with me, launching off with an equal push before we rolled into Turn 1. The cars suspension flexed through the corner but we kept off the curbs, keeping the car safe before the race. The sunset was tinting the sky to the right as we came out of Velocidad, and the lights were already on in the dark areas where the shadows had covered the track. The lights had already come on at the hangar, and I could see the posters out of the corner of my eye.

“Car feels great in the corners. I’ve got a ton more acceleration than before.” I dove into Turn 3 and kept off the curbing, letting the momentum carry me up the track before cutting into Turn 4. The black shaded visor kept the sun out of my eyes, and I turned into the next corner. Shadows flashed past as I continued on, watching the multi-apex Turn 6. I could barely see the skid marks from the last race, but I shook it out of my head as I rolled into the 7-8 chicane. The track had plenty of rubber in it from the other racing series as well as the practices, and I felt confident in the second part of the lap. I decided to start backing the field up out of the R&D canyon, watching the pack behind. We lined up, and I felt my heart ramp up. A flag waved in the back of the field and I shifted in my seat.

One light came on above. I started revving up, feeling the power in the car.

A second light came on. I shifted up to Rich revs and held in the clutch.

Three. The field was roaring- the engines echoing off the walls and buildings around.

Four. I stared at the lights through the tinted visor, training my eyes on them like a hawk.

Five. My heart was racing as I watched the pylon- ready to start.

The lights went out and I immediately released the clutch- flying off of the grid spot as the revs dropped. I managed to get a good run down into Turn 1, and Max cut down into my tire tracks entering the corner. The field all managed to make it through the first couple of corners smoothly, and I held Max behind out of Velocidad. I threw the car up to the far outside down the straight, trying to keep Max at bay. We flew into Turn 3 and shifted up the track, cutting down for 4. The sun glittered off the corner of my mirror as I dove into Turn 5. The outside wheels lost a bit of grip and I let off the gas just a bit; flowing up to the outside of the turn. I threw the car into the double-apex and held the right side tires on the inside white line. Max was hanging onto my tail, not affected by the dirty air behind. He held on all the way into the tunnel, even attempting a dive up the inside. I saw his lunge but he backed out; popping back into line and behind me.

We raced through the R&D section and underneath the bridge; the fans cheered and clapped as we passed. Max almost locked up into old Turn 7 (Current Turn 16), but managed to keep the car together before we flew into the hairpin. I pulled out of the corner and got a great run, but I saw smoke from behind. My wheel flashed yellow but I stayed focused, diving into Turn 18 and braking hard for 19. The wheel briefly showed green before changing to yellow again- black lines bordering the screen.

“Safety Car, Safety Car. Go ahead and slow up, engine to Low.” I lifted out of the corner, saving a bit of gas as the yellow lights started flashing around the track.

“What happened there?” Max followed me through Tempesta as we both stayed off the curbing, avoiding any unnecessary tire wear. The Safety Car was waiting out of Turn 2, and I sped up a bit to catch up.

“One of the Archers locked up and hit Lewis. Lewis collected one of the CM cars, and another car got collected on the outside.” I held my line before flowing into Turn 1, some stars peeking out over the horizon. The Safety Car appeared on the exit of Turn 2, and I slowed up to avoid slamming into the back of the silver vehicle. “We’ll be keeping Plan A, Plan A. I’ll let you know if we change.” I chuckled into my radio and started weaving.

“Yeah, I’d appreciate it if you told me when we change the plans,” I responded.

A few laps later, the Safety Car shot away and we flew down to the straight. Max kept hot on my heels for a bit, but started to fall away after a couple laps. I threw the car through the next few laps, trying to extend the gap. The rears were really suffering, but I was determined to hang on.

“How much do I have left until the pit window’s open?” I was starting to ease off, trying to conserve my car in the tight corners. There was a bit of a break as I flew out of Turn 14 out of the Tunnel.

“If we’re still on Plan A, we’ll be boxing in about B plus 5. We can box next lap if you want Plan B.” I fought understeer under braking, trying to get the car forced into the corner. The rears were handling the wear okay, but the fronts were suffering.

“I’m really having some issues with the understeer. I think B plus 1 could work, but let me know if I have to go A.” The A strategy was a simple one-stop on Lap 15, but the B was a two-stop; one on Lap 10 and another around 20. I flew into Turn 19, rumbling over the curbs. “I could try and manage the tires if you want.” I was all alone on the track, with Max about 5 seconds back.

“You’re currently good on the Pit Stop Split time, you’ll be close to Micheal but we think you’ll stay at least Top 3.” I whipped over the chicane and came up the track, trying to keep the tires from wearing too much.

“My tires are getting pretty worn, I can hang on for a bit longer. Probably can’t make it to the One-Stop.” I crossed the line to start Lap 11 and moved down the track to get a good line.

“Copy. Plan B plus one, Plan B plus one.” I flew through Turn 1 and felt the car straining against the G-forces. I kept racing through the lap, trying to go as hard as possible for the in-lap. I dove into Turn 20 and went straight-on, flinging my car around the complicated pit entry and into the pit lane.

The team was waiting for me as I rolled into the stall, and they quickly lifted up the car. The old tires came off quickly and new ones came on before I was dropped- peeling away from the stall as fast as possible. I grinned and removed a visor tear-off, keying the radio.

“Dang, that was fast! Great job there everyone, amazing stop.” I whipped through the exit chicane for the pits and crossed the line; storming out and slamming up through the gears. I flew through the new pit exit and back onto the track; right behind Louie. As I started speeding up, I saw yellow lights glow on the steering wheel screen. I sighed and slowed down before black borders went around the numbers; flashing boldly against the light background. I sighed and shook my head, punching the sidewall of the cockpit.

 

“Oh and a crash! Crash in the Tempesta Chicane, and that’ll be the Safety Car!”

“Yeah, looks like Arcazon, in the CM car, and his first career start has gone from bad to worse after that first lap collision in Turn 17. Let’s see what happened there.”

Arcazon’s left rear sagged entering Turn 20, throwing him sideways into the barrier outside the corner.

“Looks like a suspension failure on the left rear, and unfortunate end to the day for the rookie out of Thomasville, Carthia. A tough week all around for the team, but ready to fight next race in Tekkia."

 

“Oh you’re kidding me,” I sighed as I slowed up; weaving behind Louie. “If that isn’t the worst freaking timing…” I groaned and went into Turn 3, keeping close to the delta.

“Yeah, that sucks,” Landin agreed with a sigh. “We’ll be restarting around P3; Max and Micheal are basically going to get a free pit stop right here… Just gotta bear down and get to work. Long race ahead here.”

Both Max and Micheal rejoined ahead of me, but Louie was well behind after taking his stop. The race got restarted, and I shot away from the final corner behind Micheal. I weaved and faked a move outside before shooting inside- forcing a hole through into Turn 1. The crowd cheered as I flew past. Sparks went up into the air from the rear as I went into Turn 2, chasing down Max out of the turn. I gave Max a gap heading into Turn 3, trying to reduce the understeer for the corner. I chased him into 5 but locked up. I ran up to the outside of the corner over the rumble strip, barely going up near the wall. Dust came up off the tires on the outside before I came down, and I managed to get it back down into Turn 6. The comms were silent as I chased down Max, but I was always just that little bit off his pace.

I dove into Turn 9 and barely made the turn- rumbling over the exit strip and throwing up dirt and grass. I shot through the tunnel hot on his heels and found a hole up the inside in 14, but the line turned to the outside in 15. I cursed under my helmet and tried to find a hole into the hairpin as Max locked up a small bit. I nosed up the inside and forced a hole on corner exit, clearing Max through the canyon. Sparks flew off the tail as I shot down through Turn 18 and down into 19. I threw the car into the corner and over the curbs, but got a twitch of oversteer on the exit. The rears whipped loose and I barely hung on through the corner- Max closing in on my tail. Max got a stellar run out of Tempesta and used it to sling past me down the straight to cheers from the crowd. I followed him down into Turn 1 as we started Lap 17.

“We’re still on B, right?” I faked a move down into Turn 3 but Max didn’t take the bait.

“Affirm, still on B. B-2, Plus 3. B-2, Plus 3.” I stormed down into Turn 5 before locking up the brakes some more- missing the apex and giving Max even more room on me.

“Might want to make it Plus 2,” I replied before turning into 6 and balancing on the white inside line. I feathered the throttle and nosed inside of Max. I nailed the turn and managed to force my way inside of Max through the 7-8 chicane, and he was forced to let me by. I bounced over the curbs and the front wing sparked over the concrete on the rebound- the car rocked by the trip over the concrete.

Max was right on top of me down the run to Turn 10, but I covered him off before he could make a move into the tight corner.

 

“And an incredible fight here between the two teammates! Shooting down into Turn 11, trying to get a lead here at the start of the championship!”

 

I blasted into Turn 12 and got a tiny bit of oversteer before I cut down to the inside to cover off Max. Dust came up off the wheels before I came back up the track and rolled over the curbing, keeping him behind me. I tried to make the car as wide as possible and fought hard as Max tried to get past me. He locked up into Turn 17 and hit my left sidepod- jumping into the air with smoke popping off the tire. I had to run wide as Max got alongside me, but I had the inside through Turn 18 and got past.

Max was right on top of me for the next few laps, until I finally dove into the pit lane for the second stop. The team was on the money as I pulled into the stall- getting up and serviced so fast the crew looked like a blur out of the corner of my eye. I peeled out of the stall and went down the complicated entry road before rejoining in clean air. The tires were still a bit cold but I leaned hard on them- trying to catch up to Max down the road. My out lap was crisp but I fishtailed off the final corner; losing a couple tenths as rubber got put down onto the track. I flung the car into Turn 1 and whipped around 2, but my stomach dropped as I saw Max blast out of the Pit Lane. I was right on his tail as he exited the pits, and I sliced inside; managing to sneak by through Turn 3. Sparks flew out from behind as I flung the car over the curbs and out of Turn 4, throwing dust up off the right-rear. Max was hot on my heels down into Turn 5, but the aero wake meant he had to give way just a little bit.

“8 to go here, 8 to go. Just hang in here for a little while longer.” The tires buzzed over the apex curbing for Turn 6 and I shot through Turns 7 and 8 over the raised curbs. Max was still struggling to warm up the tires and allowed me to extend a small gap through the R&D Section.

 

“And we’re right back to where we were before- Max Kerman chasing down Jeb through the tight R&D turns. It’s been an astounding race so far, and this battle for the lead is definitely spicing up the action so far.”

“It definitely is, Jer’, but I feel like Max just might have the upper hand in this one. He’s had an amazing car so far in the high-speed first sector, and seems to catch up on Jeb through there. We’ll have to see what happens here with 7 laps to go as they cross the stripe.”

 

The engine howled at max volume as I held on for dear life through Turns 3 and 4. I was feeling the pressure as Max closed into Turn 5- before backing off again. We whipped through the laps in a back-and-forth duel as the laps kept ticking down. I flew down into Tempesta and shot over the curbs with Max hot on my tail- just 2 laps to go as I crossed the line.

Max faked a move inside but cut back up, trying to hang outside through the high-speed Turn 1. I got some oversteer out of the corner and Max closed hard out of the corner and caught me in Turn 2. I went defensive out of Turn 2, but Max went farther down- forcing himself down near the wall and making me need to give room. He flew past inside and I had to slot in, racing down into Turn 5 with a touch of understeer. I raced over the Turn 6 apex and almost forced my way inside before letting Max go over the chicane. I immediately was back on the attack in 9, and whipped down low to try and make a pass down past the flag. I managed to get alongside down the straight and swept past Max through Turn 10.

Max twitched with oversteer out of the corner but was right on me quickly. We flew into Turn 17 with Max hot on my tail but I kept cool- ignoring the dark blue car looming large in my mirrors. We crossed the finish line with Max trying to sneak past the outside with myself down low. I flew down into Turn 1 on the defensive and managed to hold onto the lead through the opening corners. Max tried the same move out of Turn 2 but I dove farther down and made the defense work. Max then shot around to the outside but overshot the corner- running over the grass and allowing me to slice through out of Turn 4. The crowd roared as we passed them in the fight for the win.

The engine was in maximum mode, with Max obviously doing the same. The rear end lost some grip through Turn 9 and Max took advantage- shooting down to the inside to get past into Turn 10. He overshot again and I dove for the gap, but didn’t time it good and hit Max up the rear. Max fish-tailed and I had to slow down to keep from wrecking him out, but I was immediately back on the attack. Max went defensive and I swept around the outside in Turn 13. I drew alongside out of Turn 13 and got past in 14- flying down through 15 and 16 before shooting into the hairpin. The lights shot past as I tried to keep Max back in Turn 17 and we both flew into Turn 18.

As I hit the brakes, the tire locked up and I shot forward into the turn. Max dove down inside and managed to get past as I tried to hold onto him. My left front was alongside him as we dove into Tempesta. The tires bumped through the chicane but we both kept steady, and Max swept past.

“Aaaahahaha dangit!” We both crossed the line to a roar from the crowd and fireworks blasting into the air, lighting up the sky and flashing across the track. “Heck of a race, good job with the pit stops there guys. Sorry I couldn’t close it there at the end..”

 

“And a thrilling finish there at the end! The OTech Teammates battling it out for the final laps, and Max comes out on top!

“Yes, an outstanding race from both of them, and a great start to the 2038 season. Now, will it continue? We’ll have to see. But a wonderful start to this season so far.”

 

“That was crazy,” I grinned as I gave Max a high-five in the podium circle area. “I thought I had you there out of the chicane, but then I lost the rears at 9.”

“Did you hit me,” Max asked as we went to the cool-down lounge, looking back at me.

“Yeah,” I responded before sitting down on the couch. “You went off on the exit of 10 so I tried to shoot the gap. I went down but as soon as I closed you went back on and I hit the rear.” Max laughed and sat down.

“Yeah, I felt the hit and I thought ‘Aaah what the heck was that?!’ While I’m sawing the wheel every way to hang onto it.” I chuckled and took a drink from my water bottle.

“I hope we can keep this up all year,” I smiled, looking at the replays on the TV. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

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