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Everything posted by DarkOwl57

  1. Doesn't look like they've been here yet! It's been a while, but I wonder how @adsii1970is doing
  2. Thank you! It's good to be back! Too many moving aero devices Glad you enjoyed!!!
  3. Thank you! It's good to be back, I've missed this place! Hopefully my activity is able to ramp up as I get back into the swing of things! And thank you for the comments on the chapter!
  4. Everyone, I'm so excited to announce that the chapter is FINISHED!!!!!!!!! This took honestly way too long but I'm really enjoying college life and it's just a blast! I'm thankful to everyone for sticking around, and I'm looking forward to this upcoming season! In terms of goals for myself, I'm hoping to finish this upcoming season before the end of 2022, but that's obviously up in the air and I'm not committing myself to anything YET. I'm just wasting your time, however. I hope you guys enjoy the chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. Chapter 43 1:20 PM. Thursday, September 9, 2038. Press Conferences for Round 12 of 13: The Hermish Grand Prix. Inflander Circuit, Hermia The press room was almost capacity, with at least 50 or 60 reporters crowded in amongst the cameras. Cameras flashed as we got ready, and I looked to my left. Louie leaned with his elbows on the table, looking down with a shaking leg. Even though he had won in Basil, rumors about Monster’s second seat being open had swirled around since the Summer Break. After Fegeland- Louie’s home race- the team had announced that the seat was open, just without Louie in contention. Marty Williams and Riley Mitchell were the prime candidates for the seat. Still, Louie hadn’t been confirmed to any rides for the upcoming season. It would be a massive mistake if he were released, but much of the grid had already confirmed their driver lineups. Louie’s leg shook rapidly as he tried to burn off the nervous energy. I put my hand on his shoulder and leaned in to be heard over the chatter in the room. “Are you feeling okay?” Louie looked up at me and nodded, leg still shaking. “Y-yes… Thank you. I am…” he exhaled and moved his hand through his hair. I noticed that his accent was much stronger than usual. “It has been a crazy two weeks.” Though we were on rival teams, I felt terrible seeing Louie go through this stress. “Alright, if we could all settle down, we will get ready shortly!” As everyone got ready, the chatter died down, and Louie wiped at his eyes. It was going to be a rough week for him. “Okay, so this is Jebediah Kerman, Driver 13 of OTech; Max Kerman, Driver 33 of OTech; and Louie Kerman, Driver 10 of Monster. Questions are now open.” The cameras flashed, and there was a clamor for questions before the host pointed out a reporter. “Jebediah, you’re heading into this week’s race with a 19-point lead. You clinch the championship with several scenarios. The most likely of which is a win for you, with Max getting no better than 3rd. What are your thoughts on possibly clinching the championship a round early?” I nodded, thinking it over. “Well, it’s a special opportunity, but I think that we’ll have to see how the car is on track. Max is a talented driver, and he’s not going to go down without fighting hard for it.” There was another clamor for attention before the next reporter was called. It felt as if every reporter in Hermia was here for a Thursday Press Conference. The racing culture in the nation was incredible. “Louie, are you surprised by the decision, and was there any warning this might happen?” Louie’s eyes were wide, and I could tell his heart was racing. The rustle of the camera shutters was almost deafening. Louie took a shaky breath and accidentally bumped the microphone. “Uhm… Yes, I... I was surprised. I understand that I have not been performing as well as I could this year, but….” He sighed, shaking his head. “I thought I had more time, that is all.” “And did you have any warning?” Louie looked down at the desk for a second before looking back up. “Not until after the last race.” There were some more questions for Max and me, but Louie got the final one. “Louie, do you have a seat lined up for the 2039 season? With the end of the year coming up, there aren’t many drives that are still available. Do you know where you’re going for next year?” He looked away from the reporter and shook his head. “No... No, not yet.” I felt horrible for Louie. After a blindside like that, I knew his confidence would be destroyed. 12:55 PM. Sunday, September 12, 2038. Round 12 of 13: The Hermish Grand Prix. Inflander Circuit, Hermia [Jim]: “A massive motorsport culture, the world’s greatest racing, and a title on the line are all in-store today for the first-ever Hermish Grand Prix! Jebediah Kerman and OTech lead the championship by 19 points. Still, there’s no chance his teammate, Max Kerman, is going to give up without a fight. However, this new circuit- the Inflander International Circuit- will throw a curveball into the mix for all of the drivers on the grid. With 17 corners, Hermia’s Inflander Grand Prix Circuit is bound to send drivers for a loop. Welcome, one and all, to this exciting edition of the K1 World Championship! My name is Jim Kerman, joining my esteemed co-commentator in the booth, Jeremy Kerman. Jer’, this is looking to be a thrilling race in-store today. How are you feeling heading into this one?” [Jeremy]: “Ah, thank you, Jim! I think we are going to have a thriller today! The cars are fast, the drivers are ready, and the weather is fantastic! However, not everyone is feeling happy heading into this one. Unless you’ve been hiding from the media for the past two weeks, you’ll know that this man on your screen now, Louie Kerman, is out of a job going into next year. He starts in P3 today, and he’ll be looking to signal his intentions to the other teams around the paddock. Now, who will replace him? According to insiders, Marty Williams and Riley Mitchell are the two prime candidates, and they start alongside each other on the grid in P7 and P8.” [Jim]: “And another big talking point is the schedule for next season!” [Jeremy]: “Yes, of course! The 2039 preseason has been announced, with two new circuits for 2040- Kafrica and Owlia- hosting the tests. We’re looking at two fast circuits with plenty of speed, but nothing has been finalized for whether they will join the schedule. Should the Angel City circuit be announced, it would be a huge blow for the Owlian Grand National Raceway, which has hosted races for over 20 years. However, looking at today, this Hermish circuit is going to give us a fantastic spectacle. With all of this and more in store, it’s time for the exciting Hermish Grand Prix!” … I sat in my vehicle with the engine rumbling behind me as the team finished their final checks. The car had run all weekend flawlessly with an almost perfect aero balance, even though a lot of the teams on the grid were struggling to get the correct setup. “Radio check, radio check.” The comm was a bit loud, but it would be helpful when the engine was going at full tilt. “Sounds good here. You got me?” Landin gave me a thumbs up from my side. “Good copy. All of the data looks good, reading good pressures. How did the recon laps feel?” I adjusted my gloves before responding. “Everything felt good, no complaints.” I did my regular mental exercises, trying to remember the strategy for the race and the defaults. One-Stop strategy at around the halfway point. Nine Hundred Sixty-Four, One Thousand Sixty-Five, Twelve Hundred Twenty-Two… The exercise continued before the start process got underway. “Okay, blankets off.” The team removed the tire blankets and lowered the car, running to the edges of the front straight. As the team moved to the side, I wiggled my shoulders to get ready. The downhill run into Turn 1 was unique, and I was a bit nervous to see how it would go. Still, the Pole position was the best place I could be in for a situation like this. I pushed in the clutch as the light went from red to green. A quick push of throttle and a released clutch shot me forward, and I managed what little wheelspin there was at low power. “Standard stuff, make sure to warm up the tires. Default-Two on the Formation Lap, Default-Eleven on the Launch.” I weaved down into Turn 1 and went over the curbs, trying to test the edge of the circuit. The sky had shown threats of rain earlier in the morning, but those clouds had since cleared out. Despite one of the most challenging weekends of his life, Louie had put the car in third on the grid, lining up on the outside slot just behind me. Max made up the middle spot of the Top 3, but he had only just beaten out Louie to the place. I felt confident heading into the race. Turn 2 was an almost blind hairpin that was downhill, requiring concentration to not mess up. It was followed by a slightly less steep climb heading up a long straight to Turns 3 and 4. The esses of 5, 6, 7, and 8 were easy to take at low speed, as well as the tight Turn 9. The rest of the lap was mainly spent warming the tires and bunching the pack. I exited Turn 16 and got onto the 1.2km long back straight. “Remember, Default-Fifteen on the Start. BB Minus-2 is available if you need it.” I twisted the dials and got ready for the start, jamming the gas to warm the tires. “What Standard default do you want me at?” I weaved into Turn 17, trying to get a little bit extra heat. “Engine Default-Nine, Engine Default-Nine for the opening lap after the start phase. Your discretion from there.” I twisted the primary engine dial and pulled into my grid spot, bouncing in the seat. A win here could practically seal it, but Max was going to hound me all day long. I would need to be perfect. “Final car is pulling in now. Keep an eye on the lights. Good luck.” I exhaled as my heart rate ramped up. One Light. I rested my foot on the gas pedal, carefully balancing it to be ready. Two Lights. Clutch in. A slight push on the accelerator to build the revs. Three Lights. Engine growing in volume, revs building. Four Lights. The steering wheel rev lights began to flash as I hit the sweet spot. Five Lights. The grid was a singular roar- 20 engines ready and waiting for the start. Go. [Jim]: “One light, two, three, four, and now five red lights!.. It’s lights out, and away we go! Jebediah Kerman gets away well from pole, but Max Kerman gets a better one! An excellent start off the front row as Jebediah is pulling back alongside Max; meanwhile, Louie Kerman gets a great launch out of P3, but Jesus Costa is coming into the mix as well! Down into Turn 1, it’s side-by-side- Louie runs wide out of One, maybe some contact- but it’s still side by-” I got wheelspin off the launch and quickly had to recover, but Max was able to grab more traction off the line. I promptly went up through the gears, trying to keep revs in the proper range to give the maximum amount of power. He got the inside line for the left-handed Turn 1, but I tried to hold it around the outside the best I could. Behind, Louie ran wide after correcting an oversteer moment after Jesus put a nose up the inside. A car somewhere in the midfield locked up, but it was nothing compared to the chaos that would unfold. [Jim]: “Louie runs wide out of One, maybe some contact- but it's still side by- OH! BIG ACCIDENT BEHIND THE LEADERS! ONE CAR INTO THE AIR AND FLIPPING AS MULTIPLE CARS GO OFF INTO TURN 1! ONE, TWO, NOW THREE CARS ARE OFF AT TURN 1! THAT’S LEWIS KERMAN HARD INTO THE BARRIERS AS ANOTHER GOES OFF! Safety Car immediately!” At the back of the pack, Eve had moved down to the inside in an attempt to pass her teammate, Lucas White. She cut in front of the Vitesse car of Alexia Ellis, who didn’t see her coming. Ellis couldn’t react in time and hit the left-rear tire of Green’s car. Eve then spun sideways and out of control before slamming into Matthias Blomqvist. The force of the impact was enough to send Eve’s car ramping over the top of the Carthian, which pitched her into the air almost perpendicular to the ground. The car slammed into the ground and flipped off the tarmac before sliding into the gravel trap. Meanwhile, Matthias, who had been blindsided at about 150 miles an hour, speared off into the side of Lewis in the OTech GP car. The bright blue and white vehicle jumped into the air before crashing back down, breaking the suspension at the left rear. He tried to correct it but shot back to the right, sending the car into the tire barrier. Both the left side and the tail were torn to pieces as the tire barrier spat it back out onto the runoff, where he was lucky not to get hit. Matthias was spinning wildly out of control and was thrown backward into the gravel trap. In the chaos, his hand had been slammed into the sidepod during the impact that measured almost 15G. After the contact, Alexia had suffered a broken suspension and rolled past the carnage, pulling off to the side at the Turn 1 Marshal post entrance. However, all eyes were on Eve Green, who had come to rest upside down in the gravel trap after flipping twice- once on the tarmac and once on the gravel. The scene was a disaster. “SAFETY CAR, SAFETY CAR! Massive accident at Turn 1.” I quickly hit the radio after seeing a white car- an Archer, I thought- flying through the air. “Yup, got it. Is everyone okay??” Max was ahead of me as the lights on my wheel lit up, and I let him pass. “Standby. Keep the Delta positive; we’re going to go to Red Flag. Delta positive, Mo- Sorry, Default-Two. Default-Two.” Judging by the tone of voice, I knew it was a big crash. [Arcazon K. Radio] (P10): “This was a big one. That was a big accident. Is he-” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, Red Flag-” [Arcazon]: “Is he okay?” [Engineer]: “We are checking, sta-” [Arcazon]: “Teddy, is he okay?” [Engineer]: “We don’t know yet, mate, standby.” [Arcazon]: “[Blank]… I saw it in the mirrors. I think someone was flying... Who is it?” [Engineer]: “Four cars off. Green is upside down in the gravel trap; Matthias is out… Still no information.” [Arcazon]: “[Blank], okay…” - [Lucas W. Engineer Radio] (P18): “Red Flag, Red Flag. You know the procedure by now; just leave space for the car ahead of you.” [Lucas W. Radio]: “Yeah, okay... Whose car was flipping? Was that Eve?” [Engineer]: “Yes, confirm, it was Eve.” [Lucas]: “[Blank], is she out now?” [Engineer]: “No word yet, standby.” - [Michael K. Radio] (P5): “That’s a big off; tell me if everyone’s okay.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Copy, Red Flag, Red Flag. Strat 0 and keep the Delta positive.” [Michael]: “Yeah, okay, but is she okay? That was Eve, right?” [Engineer]: “We think so, standby.” - [Louie K. Engineer Radio] (P3): “Okay, Red Flag, Red Flag, Red Flag. Big off at T1 for a few cars, so Red Flag.” [Louie K. Radio]: “Copy… I saw a car in the air. Is everyone alright?” [Engineer]: “We’re trying to find out… We think it was Green. I don’t have any other update for now.” - [Alexia E. Engineer Radio] (P22): “Alexia, are you okay?” [Alexia E. Radio]: “Yeah… Yeah, I’m okay…” (Exhale and heavy breathing) “[Blank], was that Eve? Who did I hit?” [Engineer]: “Yes, we believe so. Mode Off.” [Alexia]: “Is she okay? Please tell me she’s okay….” [Engineer]: “We do not know, we do not know.” - [Lewis K. Radio] (P19): “[Blank], that hurt..” [Lewis K. Engineer Radio]: “Are you okay?” [Lewis]: “Yeah.. yeah, I think so… Just came out of nowhere.” - [Matthias B. Engineer Radio] (P20): “Matty, are you okay?” [Matthias B. Radio]: (Groans) “I… Yeah, I think so. I think I hit my hand.” [Engineer]: “Copy, get out when able.” [Matthias]: “Got it…” (exhale) “I don’t know what happened there… Just… No warning.” - [Jim]: “As we go to a Red Flag, all eyes are on Eve Green, who has just had a massive accident. As the marshals get to her now, the rest of the grid is making their way through the second sector. We’ll be right back.” I stopped behind Max in the pit lane and got out, looking at the screens as soon as I took my helmet off. Eve’s car was still upside down as the marshals tried to get her out, and the video boards changed to a replay. Max had a much better launch than I did and took advantage, drawing alongside me before I had a chance to cut down to the inside. I noticed Louie had run wide over the raised curbing on the corner exit, and then the chaos ensued behind. I cringed and ran my hands through my hair when Eve slammed into Blomqvist. Her tire flew about 5 inches above Matthias’s helmet before she floated out over the runoff. “That’s really bad,” Andy said under his breath as we all watched. The screen again changed to show Lewis getting out of the car, which was destroyed. The left side had been flattened, the rear was just shattered into pieces, and everything except the right-front suspension was shattered. He doubled over for a second with his hands on his knees but started slowly walking down the track to the Turn 1 Marshal Post. Alexia pulled her steering wheel off the car and pulled herself up, quickly getting out of the vehicle. She sat on her left-front tire, looking across the gravel trap at Eve’s car. Her hands were on her helmet, watching the scene. Matthias was the last one out of his car, holding his left hand after being lifted out by the safety crews. Finally, after another couple of minutes, Eve could crawl out from underneath the car. She slipped through the hole the marshals dug in the gravel trap and slowly scampered out. The crowd cheered as Eve got to her feet and waved to the stands, which drew clapping from all the drivers in the pit lane. “I saw smoke in the mirror, but I didn’t know she flipped,” Louie said, watching the screen as Eve took off her protective padding. The replay of Alexia came on the screen again while the marshals cleared the race track of debris. It was a 30-lap race, and now four drivers were out before the first turn. “Should be about 10, 15 minutes until we get restarted,” Andy said as I looked over my start. “Just be ready.” I nodded and stared at the tablet that the team had given me. The wheelspin was unexpected and I pursed my lips, upset at the mistake. I would just have to hope that the restart was good enough to get the lead back. Arcazon, who was back in 10th, was still sitting in his car. I noticed that Monster was focusing on the car's right-rear, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. Once the vehicles had been cleared from the gravel and the runoff, the debris was quickly cleaned off the track. The tarmac had scars and marks from the accident, with a trail of fluid that had been dried leading into the gravel trap. When the announcement was given for the drivers to return to the cars, I was more than ready. Landin approached my car from the side before I put the helmet on with a tablet in her hand. “Alright, it shouldn’t be too much longer. Feeling good?” I bounced my legs in the cockpit, trying to get readjusted to the seat. “Yeah, all good. How are we looking for the restart?” The race start had been in Default 15, which had the same power deployment as the MAX mode. However, it was mapped to the higher end of the rev range, which was supposed to reduce the wheelspin on launch. “Looking good, we’ll be in Default-Nine.” She pointed to my steering wheel before looking back at the tablet. “Do not use it past Turn Five, please.” I made a mental note to change the dial back before the esses began. “Overtake Map to Default-Seven on the opening lap, then drop to Three.” I nodded, moving to twist the overtake dial. “Am I allowed to fight? Or am I going to hang back in Map 21?” Landin smiled and shrugged. “Go crazy, bud. I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to race him.” I chuckled and nodded, giving her a fist bump before she left. I slid the helmet on and pulled on the straps. “Radio check, Radio Check. How do you copy?” “Clear copy, all’s good.” I rolled my shoulders in the cockpit, pushing against the straps before the engineers got me buckled in. “Engine fire-up.” The quiet of the grid was broken by the sound of 18 engines firing almost simultaneously in the pit lane. I looked in my mirrors at Louie, who was talking with his crew over some final adjustments. The green #10 seemed to glow against the black nose, which looked menacing, to say the least. I clicked the visor down, and the noises were slightly quieted, allowing me to focus. We would have a rolling restart with the Safety Car leading us to the flag. I did a final check of the steering wheel dials. “Blankets off.” The team removed the tire blankets and showed the shine of a fresh set of rubber. I looked to my right and saw a camera pointed at my helmet, so I gave a small wave. After what seemed like an eternity, the green light at the end of the pit lane came on, and Max got away from his spot. I quickly followed, exiting the pit lane on the inside of Turn 1. “Remember to warm the tires. We did a gear check on the start, but just cycle through before the back straight if you can.” I did the same process as the first start: Warming the tires, checking the fuel, and putting myself in the right mental space. I saw the bright white OTech logo gleaming on Max’s rear wing, and I knew that I would have to pass him at the start to have much of a chance. We exited Turn 16, and he slowed, allowing the Safety Car to get a gap away from the field. [Jim]: “The Top 3 in this race all going for the lead, of course, but everyone with something to fight for. The two OTech drivers fighting for the title, and then Louie Kerman, back behind, fighting for a job next season! It’s all to play for here as we get ready for the restart!” I got a final bit of heat into the tires before turning up the engine twisting the dial. My breathing sped up as I mentally counted down for the release. Max typically didn’t have good launches, which I was hoping to exploit. He jumped out of Turn 17, and I was in hot pursuit, trying to chase him down the straight. [Jim]: “Green flag back out here in Hermia, and away we go! Max gets a good run out of the corner, but so does his teammate! Down into Turn 1, the two teammates keep it single file, running nose-to-tail, but Louie behind is looking to make a threat! Everyone through the corner cleanly, but we’ll see what happens here down the hill! Jebediah Kerman taking the outside line as Max defends, brilliant stuff! Further back, we see Michael Kerman closing in on Jesus Costa, and he’s going to dive up the inside- what a move! The veteran up the inside and stealing the position, fantastic overtake!” I used every bit of power I could out of Turn 2, clawing at the grip on the corner exit. Max had a terrible run, spinning the wheels briefly, which allowed me to slingshot up behind him. He had no chance as I started closing in. I took the left side, which was the outside for Turn 3, but it didn’t matter. Max had to leave space on both ends as Louie came alongside, and we passed on either side of his car through the left-handed Turn 4. The crowd roared as we passed, signaling their appreciation at the move. Max saw both cars split on either side of him and almost lost it in 3. The sudden move by both cars meant that he had lost all the momentum with an overcorrection, which meant that he now had even less speed down the straight into Turn 5. Michael stuck the nose in down in the Turn 5 braking zone, but Max still hadn’t recovered from the shock of the two overtakes. He left the door wide open for Michael into 5, where he eventually got past. [Jim]: “Now, Max leading from Jebediah, Louie, and Michael Kerman, up out of the corner, and Williams has made up places at the start- BUT HERE COMES JEBEDIAH KERMAN!!! HE’S NECK AND NECK WITH HIS TEAMMATE! JEBEDIAH ALONGSIDE AND NOW AHEAD- LOUIE IS ALSO AHEAD AS THEY ARE THREE-ABREAST OUT OF 4! JEBEDIAH AHEAD OF LOUIE, AHEAD OF MAX, AHEAD OF MICHAEL AND COSTA! Down into Turn 5, Michael Kerman gets alongside and ahead at the corner, but now Max has the inside for Turn 6! They are side-by-side still out of 6, but now, in Turn 7, Max gets put onto the grass, the veteran takes the place! WOW, what a thrilling move that was!” [Max K. Radio] (P5): “Last time I give that [blank] any space. That was [blank]ing stupid! He forced me off track!” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “Focus up here.” [Max]: “[blank]!” I didn’t have a second to rest on my move, though, since Louie had stuck behind me the whole way. He lunged up the inside at Turn 9, forcing me high. Further behind, Max locked up in the off-camber corner, allowing Jesus to slip clear before the apex. I managed to switch back on Louie on the corner exit and drew alongside out of 10, using the momentum to get by. The steering wheel alerted me to the charge levels, but I couldn’t afford to reduce the engine modes now. I turned up the Harvesting mode into Turn 11 before slamming the brakes, but Louie did a better job of going deep. He slid past at the apex, and I was forced to cut into line. “We should start worrying about charge, Charge Critical.” I turned the deployment mode down slightly, but I still wanted to attack. “I can fight him; let me try this, please!” Louie moved inside to break the tow, and I followed, weaving down to follow before Turn 13. I was able to keep getting to the outside, but he squeezed me up the track to get a better line for himself. He swept past on the inside, and I had to give way to avoid running over the sausage curbs on the inside apex of Turn 14. I lost time to Louie ahead and groaned, eventually backing off. Michael was looking to make a move to pick up the pieces, but he was too far back to do anything down the straight. I went deep on the brakes in an attempt to gain positions, but Louie was too far ahead after a clean run through Turn 14. “Charge is less than optimal here; we need you to conserve deployment down straights. Max has fallen to P6, so this position is critical.” I turned the fuel mix up to compensate for the reduced electric deployment, moving to the inside as Michael started to close. The massive straight was perfect for slipstreaming, and I knew that any defense would be difficult at best. Michael used the slipstream as I ran to the white line on the right, trying to make any move as difficult as possible. He ran to the left of the track, and I followed as he drew alongside, trying to get the best line into Turn 17. I got the better dive on the brakes into the hairpin and stayed ahead, using the run out of the corner to get clear. “Car ahead, Plus One-Point-Five. How does the car feel?” The electric deployment cut out briefly before I crossed the line, and I cursed. “D-Rate! What’s happening, guys?!” Michael gained as my engine briefly stuttered, but I wasn’t challenged as I swept into Turn 1. “We hit the D-Rate limit, no worries. All telemetry is good. Keep fighting.” Michael weaved behind me to the inside to dummy me out, but I didn’t bite since I had the momentum. I again got a better run, now free from worrying about the electricity. Further back, Max dove up the inside of Juan into Turn 1. Sparks flew from the floor as he pulled the move off, running up onto the exit curb after clearing him. [Max K. Engineer Radio] (P5): “Excellent move, that’s P5 now. The car ahead is Costa, Costa car ahead.” [Max K. Radio]: “I don’t really care about Jesus. Where’s Jeb?” [Engineer]: “Jeb P2, fighting Michael.” [Max]: “How far?” [Engineer]: “Four-Point-Three.” I continued my push to try and close in on Louie, but he wasn’t making many slips that gave me time. The gap stayed consistently at around 2 seconds, which was just enough to remain within visual range. Even through the pit stops, the gap remained steady. Michael was beginning to fall back, which gave me a good opening behind. [Jim]: “So with the pit stops all finished, we’re looking at a fantastic race finish on the way! We’ll see if Jebediah can get a bit closer now with the fresh tires, but the Monster of Louie Kerman has been amazing so far in this race!” [Jeremy]: “He’s driving possessed at the moment, which-” [Louie K. Radio] (P1): “Okay, I am feeling a bit of oversteer starting to come in. I lost grip out of Turn 1 on that last time.” I shot up the hill through Turn 4, barely paying attention to the expansive runoff to my left and right. Louie had a slight wiggle out of the corner, and I took it as an opportunity to close in just that little bit extra. “Car ahead is starting to lose some time. Complaining about oversteer.” I slightly turned up the engine, still aware of my fuel and charge levels while continuing to push. He had a couple more oversteer moments, which drew me closer. With a little over 10 to go, I knew that I had to make a move- quick. Max had already gotten past Jesus, and Michael would soon be in his crosshairs. As we crossed the start/finish line to start Lap 19, I noticed that I was closer than ever before. “You’re within a second; the gap is Plus Zero-Point-Nine.” Another wiggle out of Turn 1 drew me closer and gave me a slipstream into Turn 2. A small puff of smoke emerged from the inside front as we entered the downhill apex, but he still hit the apex to cover me off. The dirty air in the esses would be devastating to my run if I couldn’t make it stick. [Jim]: “And here we go, another mistake out of Turn 1 has given Jeb the run! Out of Turn 2, the OTech is going to try to tuck into the slipstream!” [Jeremy]: “He’s not going to pull out until the last possible moment, so expect for the dive into Turn 5 to be a big one!” The engines roared in time as we accelerated up the hill, racing towards Turn 3. I knew that I had to get a big run through the next two turns, and I was ready for it. I kept in the draft of Louie, closing in as a few sparks flew from the underside of his car. They briefly flicked into my visor, but I didn’t pay much attention to them before we rocketed into the corner. The suspension flexed as we both climbed, with me now just 50 feet behind the black and green car. We turned in for the next corner- the left-handed, uphill Turn 4- but something went wrong. [Jeremy]: “He’s not going to pull out until the last possible moment, so expect for the dive into Turn 5 to be a big one!” [Jim]: “They haven’t been this close since the opening lap; what’s going to happen here?! The OTech, gaining on Louie as they enter 3, look at that! As they negotiate- Oh a wiggle AND A SPIN BY LOUIE WHO-” {Tires squeal} [Jeremy]: “oh my god.” There was a puff of tire smoke from the right-rear of the Monster. Louie wiggled, corrected the car, and nudged the rumble strip on the outside of the corner. A wall of sparks shot from beneath the car, and I pulled hard to the left just as Louie’s car disappeared behind a wall of dirt. He had overcorrected and spun to the right-hand side, heading into the runoff. I saw it almost in slow motion as his car turned, creating a brown cloud behind it as the vehicle slid over the grass and eventually the dirt. Louie was helpless as the car slid sideways. The tires skipped over the gravel and barely slowed down due to the angle the vehicle was traveling. A split second later, the car was in the tire wall. There was an explosion of dust and debris as the vehicle slammed into the barrier, lifting the entire wall about three feet in the air in either direction. I could hear the booming sound above my engine, and the crowd at Turn 5 dove for cover. My dash immediately went Yellow and Black, and I fumbled over the curbs at the apex- shaken for sure. He was there one second, and the next, he was into the wall. The car hit the tires with enough force to push back the concrete retaining wall behind the tire barrier before the vehicle bounced back. After being ricocheted, it finally came to rest about five feet from the now-destroyed barrier in a haze. The car had hit left-front first by a small margin, sending the car into a minor spin and barely reducing the impact force. Both vehicle and barrier were lifted into the air by the power of the crash, but Louie thankfully avoided flipping. When he landed, the car was obviously totaled. The right-hand side had some significant damage from the landing, but the major damage was at the rear and left of the vehicle. The impact to the Left Front had ripped the wheel off the suspension and essentially backed the car into the wall. The rear wing was gone- likely in a literal million pieces- and the Left-rear tire had been torn free of the tethers from the crash, and the right rear suspension was broken with jagged rods poking up. The major indication of the crash was the nose, which had been bent at about a 5º angle to the right. [A few seconds of silence as the camera focuses on the hanging dust cloud on the outside of Turn 5. A loose wheel rolls across the track, covered in dirt, before flipping to rest in the middle of the track.] [Jim]: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just seen a terrifying crash at the exit of Turn 5; Louie Kerman… Oh my gosh.” “Please tell me he’s okay. That was a massive crash. Please tell me Louie is okay, guys.” My steering wheel turned red as the Marshalls ran from their posts, sprinting towards the car. “Standby.” I turned the engine down to minimum revs as my adrenaline faded, making my legs weak against the pedals. The rest of the field came upon the crash at a heavily reduced speed, owing to the waved Red Flags. [Michael K. Engineer Radio] (P3): “Okay, Red Flag, Louie has gone off. Major accident at Turn 4, major accident. Marshalls will wave you to the left.” [Michael K. Radio]: “Is Louie okay? Is he alright?” [Engineer]: “We’re not sure yet, mate. Go Strat 0, please.” [Michael]: “Guys, I’m seeing it right now.. [blank]... Please tell me, is Louie okay?” [Engineer]: “I don’t know, Michael. I’m not…” [sigh] “I don’t know.” - [Max K. Engineer Radio] (P4): “Max, there’s been a massive crash at Turn 4; a car has hit the barrier at Turn 4. Go Default-Two, we’re going to red flag it.” [Max K. Radio]: “Uh, okay, copy. Who was it?” [Engineer]: "Standby, for a moment, please." [Max]: "... It's not Jeb, is it?" [Engineer]: “We think... Okay, Jeb is still on track. It looks like Louie has gone off.” [Max]: “Copy.” - [Louie K. Engineer Radio] (DNF): “That looked like it hurt... Are you alright?” [Louie K. Radio]: [Warped static] [pause] [Engineer]: "Louie?" [pause] [Engineer]: “If you can hear me, help’s coming. Marshalls are on their way. Just hold tight for me.” [Louie]: [Static] [Engineer]: “Are you okay?” [pause] “Answer me if you can, Louie.” [Louie]: [Static, Interference] [pause] [Engineer]: “We’ve got a lot of people in the garage that are really worried about you, mate..” [pause] [Louie]: [Warbled static, interference] “.. ugh-” [More static] “I-” [exhale, groan] “I..-” [exhale] “Yeah, I’m… I’m okay…” [exhale] “Aah, Dieu….” [Engineer]: [sigh, relieved] “You had us all worried there, mate.” [Louie]: “I... I’m sorry…” [exhale] “No, no, no….” I had returned to the pit lane and put on a headset to listen in. The marshalls were surrounding the car, trying to help Louie up. After an impact like that, I understood the need to not move for a while. [Louie]: “I don’t know what happened... I just… I’m sorry, guys.” [Jim]: “And absolutely great to hear those words coming out of Louie’s mouth, that was a monstrous impact.” [Jeremy]: “Jim, I’ve been looking at the replays; it looked like a connecting arm on the suspension failed. You could see the right-rear sag just a little bit before the car went, and I believe that’s what caused the crash. Just no warning at all, devastating crash.” I could feel the wave of relief washing over the paddock as everyone got the news. Upon watching the replay, I cringed from the impact. My onboard was even more startling, especially in real-time. Landin walked up to me as I was staring up at the screen. “So we’re going to be P1 at the restart. We checked the telemetry, no issues with D-rate.” I nodded, checking the screen. Landin said something, and I shook my head. “Wait, what?” I turned to Landin in confusion. “Sorry, what?” I had zoned out, watching the screen as Louie exited the car. “I said, ‘What are you thinking about for the restart?’” I shrugged. “Go fast, win the race.” She chuckled and discussed some with the engineers while we waited for the race to resume. … [Jim]: “And the Safety Car is in, Jeb is to the line, and away we go! The final 10 laps of the Hermish Grand Prix are underway!” I dove into Turn 1, sparks shooting off the diffuser with the Monster of Michael hot on my heels. Max was following in the slipstream, and it was going to be a close race to the finish. I swept to the left of the circuit and nailed the apex at Turn 2. Michael got a poor run out of the corner, which allowed me to pull out a gap and leave him to defend himself. [Jeremy]: “An excellent run, then, out of Turn 2 for Jebediah Kerman, and that will surely make life easier for his teammate down the straight.” [Jim]: “It’s now a single-file train, Michael leading from Max, who has a narrow lead over Costa down the straight-” [Max K. Engineer Radio] (P3): “Get on with it.” [Jim]: “Max Kerman, following in the path, and look at that a dive to the inside! Michael squeezes him all the way to the grass! They are side by side now and now down into the corner, this is going to be tight!! The squeeze, Michael doesn’t back out of it, and contact! There’s smoke between the two, and Michael Kerman goes straight-on at Turn 6! Cutting through the grass, and I think that's a big issue for the Monster! Max goes over both curbs slowly, but the car, I think, has damage!” [Jeremy]: “It was wheel to wheel, I think, but I did see debris fly- Puncture on the Number Three!” [Jim]: “Yes, Michael Kerman weaving through Turn 7! That is devastating for Monster!! Max Kerman now going through, and Michael is FURIOUS at the young OTech driver!” [Max K. Radio] (P2): “Why did he close the door?! He did that to himself.” [Michael K. Radio] (P3): “[BLANK]! WHAT A [BLANK]ING IDIOT!” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “We’re seeing-” [Michael] (P4): “Yeah, yeah, puncture! I can’t [blank]ing believe that!” [Engineer]: “Be very careful coming back to the pits.” [Michael] (P6): “Yeah, yeah, copy.” I saw Michael cut the course at Turn 6, and I was about to get on the radio to complain, but he quickly tumbled down the order. I soon got the message from the wall. “Okay, there was contact between Michael and Max; we think Max may have some damage. Just hit your marks.” I ignored the message and hit the Turn 9 apex, which was deceptively tight. Later in the lap, Michael came into the pits, now at the very back of the drivers on the lead lap. He took the pit stop to change the tires and went on a tear. Meanwhile, Max’s car did have damage, slowly dropping back off of my pace. The laps ticked down; seven, six, five... [Max K. Radio] (P2): “Really struggling, guys!” [Jim]: “And now down the back straight, Max coming under attack from the F-Tech of Jesus Costa! Costa, DRS open, and sweeps past! Absolutely nothing that Max could do!” “Max has fallen to P3. Come on, we can do this.” I nodded my helmet, trying to stay calm. Four laps to go. Another lap made three. Two. One. “Okay, mate, we’ll see you at the line. Next car is Plus Eight, no threat. Default Standard, and let’s bring it home!” I made sure to take everything in as I rode through the lap. The massive hill down into Turn 2, the flat-out run back up 3 and 4. I felt the car rise and fall through the esses, letting the suspension flex with every twist. Then, the run back downhill. Out of Turn 10, the track fell away, giving a good-sized straight to power down out of. I could pick an Owlian flag out of the mass of fans at the grandstands of Turn 12, celebrating with bright blue smoke that drifted over the track. There was no trouble into the chicane as I flew through, and now there were just two more corners to go. [Jim]: “The last two years have been devastating in terms of championship losses. A devastating injury in 2035 ended his hopes, and then last year, a last-lap car failure. But now, he’s out of Turn 16, just one more to go!” “Max is 4 seconds back from Jesus; we’ll see you on the line!” The crowd celebrations in the stands were just beginning, and I could hear air horns honking to my left. I turned the engine down to its default and raised the harvest mode to its maximum before braking for Turn 17, taking the corner easy to not cause much of a risk. As I exited the corner, I could see the finish line with the team all on the fence, ready to congratulate me. They held a pit board through the gap, which I could barely make out. I got closer, counting myself down. 200. I went all the way to the right of the circuit, moving towards the grass on the edge. I was as close to the crowd as possible, hearing their cheers. 100. I now moved back to the left, grinning beneath my helmet. I saw Jesus exiting the final corner in my mirrors. Max was nowhere to be seen. 50. I was as close as I dared to be on the left, trying to be right next to the team on the wall. 0. I could read the sign perfectly now. JEBEDIAH #13 LAP 30/30 P1 WORLD CHAMPION “CHAMPION, JEB!! GET IN THERE, THAT WAS BRILLIANT!!!” I stuck my fist in the air as I crossed the line. “YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! YES, YES, YEEEEESSS!!!! WE DID IT!!!” I punched the air in celebration as Jesus crossed the line for P2. It was over. Andy came over the radio quickly as I shouted in celebration. “Jebediah Kerman, YOU ARE THE WORLD CHAMPION!!! Absolutely amazing drive all season; we are SO proud of you! You fought brilliantly all year, and you’ve earned this one!” “ANDY, MAN, WE DID IT!! YOU..” I yelled some more and let myself finally let it out as Max crossed the line, releasing some more nervous energy. “You built one heck of a car this season, man. Thank you so much. This one was for last year.” I made my way back to the pit lane, waving to the crowd as I passed them. The marshalls waved their flags as I passed, and I made sure to give them a salute. They’d definitely gotten their work in today, and I respected them for it. The team was ready to congratulate me as I unbuckled my belts upon parking. I couldn’t get out of my car fast enough and practically leaped off the nose of the car. I pumped my fist as I jumped and ran towards the team, jumping into the mass of bodies separated from me by a metal barrier. “Jeb, you absolutely deserved that one, buddy!” Andy gave me a massive hug, hitting the back of my helmet. I shook my head, shouting over the noise. “No, not me; This was all you!” He grinned and hugged me tight again, looking up at the podium. “Go up there and get that trophy for us!” I nodded and turned around just in time to see Max standing up in his seat. He waved to the crowd but kept the helmet on. I walked over to the car. He looked down briefly at the car before unclipping his helmet. The staps hung limply at the sides as he turned to me. I extended my hand to help him out of the car, which he took, and I wrapped him up. “You deserved this one.” He shook his head and hugged me before releasing me. I could see his eyes through an opening in the visor, and I could tell he was hurting. As we were standing next to the car, I heard a shout from behind us. “Hey! Max!” Michael had gotten out of his car and was glaring at Max. However, upon seeing the two of us, he extended his arms in a “What was that” gesture at his sides. Max gently put his hands up, and Michael instantly backed down. Max turned around to me as we walked back into the cooldown room, patting my back. He tried to say something to me, but I couldn’t hear anything. It was okay. The message was loud and clear regardless.
  5. This is turning into one chapter a year almost, BUUUUUUT I'm back at this again. School has been fun but it's also really limited my time. Combine that with other projects, and.. yeah. STILL, I'm committed to this! I'm back working on the chapter, but I won't commit to a return time because we all know how well that ends up. Hoping to finish soon, though, because I have TONS of plans for the next season!!
  6. Bacon is absolutely amazing! I have it almost every day with breakfast. TUBM: had a good weekend!
  7. Chapter 42 4:02 PM, Tuesday, June 15, 2038. The Home of Jebediah Kerman “Okay, come on, one more.” Kim laughed and shook her head, rolling the ball between her feet. The summer sun was glaring down on us, causing me to sweat. Still, I enjoyed the break playing some soccer for fun. Kim was in her own offseason at the moment, relaxing after a strong season that earned her the Bronze Boot, which signified the most goals in the Division. However, her strong performance in the regular season just wasn’t enough, and River City missed the playoffs. To keep us both in shape, I had volunteered to defend some penalty kicks from her in the yard. Needless to say, she was proving why she had the silverware on her shelves. “Are you sure you can handle it?” She was trying to hold back a smile, holding her hands on her hips. I nodded, clapping my hands together. “I’ve got it this time, 100%. Hit me with your best shot.” She arched an eyebrow and chuckled. “My best? You’re sure?” She looked over at Max, who was on his phone. “Can you believe this guy?” Max looked up and shrugged, smirking. “He’s crazy,” Max said, looking at me. “I say go for it.” Kim took a glance at me out of the corner of her eye and nodded. “You wanna film it?” Max grinned at me, swiping on his phone. “Oh, you bet!” He set up to get a good angle of both of us and gave the thumbs up. Kim took three steps back and two to the left, lining up her shot. I saw her eyes go to the bottom left corner, so I got ready to jump. She took two steps towards the ball, and I leaped, but the ball never came. I hit the ground as Kim moved off the stutter-step, sending the ball screaming into the back of the net. Kim covered her mouth to muffle her laughing, but Max wasn’t remotely interested in protecting my feelings. His full belly laugh echoed through the neighborhood as he went to his knees. “You good?” Kim looked over at my limp body, walking in circles to blow off the giggles. I gave a thumbs-up from the grass, face-down. “She absolutely-” Max was cut off by a ding from his phone, which drew a raised eyebrow. “What in the name of…” He looked at me and back to the phone, confused. I slowly pushed myself off the ground and made my way over to him, brushing grass off my shirt. Before I got there, he looked up at me. His face was confused, and I slowed down. “Is something wrong?” He looked at his phone and shook his head in confusion, running his hand through his hair. “I.. I really don’t know… Where’s the TV again?” Before I could answer, Max was walking off inside, leaving me confused. I shook my head and grabbed my phone, checking notifications. I noticed a strange cluster. ‘Message- Michael has added you and 28 others to the chat.’ ‘Message- Michael: Watch RaceTV at 4:20. Big news, lads.’ ‘Message- Riley: Not all of us are in your time zone, mate.’ ‘Message- Eve: 4:20 Owlia time, I’d guess.’ ‘Message- Jesus: So in 15 minutes?’ I grabbed my phone and typed out a quick message. ‘What’s going on?’ The chat participants were all of the K1 drivers, as well as a few former drivers. ‘Message- Michael: You’ll find out in 14 minutes.’ I chuckled and rolled my eyes before a new message came up. ‘Message- Michael: : )’ Kim followed me inside, where I saw Max already on the TV. I sat in my usual spot on the couch, wiping some sweat from my forehead. “Any idea what this is about?” Max shrugged, turning back to the TV. They were just coming back from a commercial. “Welcome back, everyone, to RaceTV, I’m Michelle Briggs, and we’ve got a full slate of news coming up for you today! In a bit more than 10 minutes, we have some news coming out of Monster Race Team! We’re hearing that they are having a press conference, but first, we have a quick run-down of the Silly Season! It’s already been announced that Matthias Blomqvist of Carthia is leaving the team at the end of the year to retire to greener pastures. However, Matt, what other changes do you see coming?” “I expect a shakeup at Monster, for sure. I've heard some rumblings through sources that their young driver, Louie Kerman, is falling out of favor with the Angel City Team. If you look at the results, Louie Kerman has just not been cutting it recently, and that team is in win-now mode. What has he given them so far this season? A P5 in Carthia, a race he had a good opportunity to win at one point? A P11 at the Aquarian Grand Prix? With Michael Kerman challenging for wins and podiums throughout the season, he needs to step up. Obviously, the team won't outright say it, but that is what I have been hearing. I think that the press conference coming up is going to be something to do with their 2039 driver lineup- or at least one of them.” “What’s the midfield looking like for you?” “It’s obvious that Adam Gardner is absolutely not happy in that car, so I expect him to be announced as out by the time we reach the Temple. Of course, looking around, I think that Emily Walker might be staying put, but I’m hearing a lot of rumblings about her teammate, Riley Mitchell! Mitchell has had an outstanding season to this point, but Walker has been really kind of struggling. I think that you can count that to being the backup in an all-rookie lineup, but I think we might see an open seat in Kindia. Otherwise, I don’t see a lot of changes, except for perhaps the Archer team. They’ve been languishing down there at the bottom of the field, and Lucas White, let’s face it, isn’t getting younger. If I were Lucas, I’d definitely be considering hanging up my helmet after the final fireworks are off in the KSC.” “What about next year’s rookies?” “Kelli Blue has gotten massive amounts of hype coming out of Fegeland, and, if my sources are correct, she’s all but signed for Carthia on the dotted line. Meanwhile, I see Carlos Kerman slowly moving up on teams talent boards, which not many people expected! However, if Blue falls through, Hayden Bryce from Carthia is a perfectly reasonable driver for Carthian Motors to pick up to partner Arcazon. If this happens, it will reunite their K3 lineup with the departure of Matthias Blomqvist, but insiders have told me that-” “I’m absolutely stunned that you haven’t brought up your favorite driver yet!” “Well, I’m saving the best for last, Michelle! Arcazon Kerman has had the best rookie season out of anyone on the grid and quite possibly in one of the weakest cars on the grid. It’s been a fantastic experience just to watch him! I value loyalty, but I think this kid could have pretty much his pick of the litter when it comes to open 2039 seats. “Oh, come on now.” Max scoffed at Arcazon through the screen, shaking his head. “Yeah, he’s so good, holding me up for 20 laps.” Arcazon’s comments after Baskay had really gotten to Max, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Max was an extremely prideful person, and the rookie had pretty much called him out. I noticed the segment wrapping up and checked my watch. 4:19 already. The screen changed over to the Monster Race Team headquarters, and both Max and I sat forward. Kim was scrolling through her phone, chuckling at the video of me turning into spaghetti at the stutter-step. ‘Message- Marty: What did I miss?’ ‘Message- Juan: Nothing yet, amigo. Patience.’ Cameras flashed on the screen as some of the MRT executives walked to the podium, joined by Michael. Max and I caught each others eyes at the same time. He was the first to speak. “That’s a lot of brass for an extension.” I nodded, staying silent. There was some shuffling of paper. “Hello, everyone,” Michael said. His voice was a bit deeper than usual, and I could tell that he had a lot on his mind. “It’s.. uh… It’s great to see all of you here today... Wow, this is a lot harder than I thought.” He chuckled and looked at his notes before glancing at the executives to his left and right. He had a sheet of paper in front of him, and it rustled beneath the mic. Michael was typically calm, cool, and collected. Now, however, he looked distracted and nervous. “Sorry, um… Yeah, I’ll just get started with all of this, then.” Realization slowly dawned on me. We’re going to have a grid without #3 next year. “When I started out in K1, it was 17 seasons ago. If it was a person, my career would legally be able to drive. It’s been so long, now, that I’m the only one left from my rookie class. And even the class after my rookie class. Looking back, this career has been one that... That I will cherish forever. I’ve been grateful to have the support of the people around me. Of course, Dominic, who brought me back to Monster a couple of years ago. However, I am also thankful to others who work a bit more behind the scenes. My wife, Estella, has put up with me so much more than she should have, and I can’t express how much I love her for it.” He turned to his wife next to him and grinned before turning back to the paper. She patted his hand. “Of course, our two little ones, Emily and Ethan, who have been my absolute biggest fans for the last 8 years..” He wiped his eyes before continuing, his voice starting to get tight. “When I started racing, I had one goal in mind. I thought that there was winning and losing and nothing more. And I wanted to win. Badly. And I did. There was a lot of early success, which I can’t begin to express my thankfulness for. I’ve been lucky enough to call myself a two-time world champion, which is something that a rare few have gotten to do.” “Every time I got into the car over the past 17 years, I’ve felt unstoppable, like I could go forever.” His voice began to crack as he looked at the next page of his notes, occasionally looking up to the reporters. “Well, forever has finally happened. After talking to my family and friends, team, and fellow competitors, I’ve made... Quite possibly the hardest decision of my life..” He exhaled deeply, and all three of us leaned forward. “After the final race in Kafrica, I’ll be hanging up the helmet for good. I know that the numbers say that this has been a great year for me, and it has felt just like any other. But I know that my time has come.” “17 years ago, I walked into K1 ready to take on the world. And I did. But in turn, it changed me. I gave my heart to this sport and especially to this team, and I wouldn’t trade a single second of it for the world. Even though I’m not going to be a part of it after this season, I’m sure that this team has a bright future ahead. Dom told me that I had a big part in making this team what it is, and for the longest time, I struggled to believe him. Today, however, I can’t help but smile when I look back at times I’ve shared. To my fellow drivers, past and present, you’re what has made this time so much fun. The battles we’ve shared will be with me forever. I’ve done everything that I could do as a driver, and now it’s my turn to do everything I can as a person.” “I know that this might not be the news that you all were expecting, but it’s the news that I have. I’m happy to finally have this weight lifted off my shoulders, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life. I’m going to miss seeing the boys at the factory every day, and I’ll for sure miss the racing, but I’m thankful for the time that I’ve been lucky enough to spend in this sport.” Michael wiped at his eyes and cleared his throat, looking at the reporters. “Any questions?” There was an explosion of noise as Max, and I threw ourselves back on the couch. Michael, retiring? He had been a stalwart of the sport for years- someone that seemed ageless. Even with the long resume he had compiled, he acted like there was a never-ending supply of energy in the tank. “Michael, what caused you to make this decision to step away, and when did you make up your mind?” Michael sighed and thought for a moment. “Honestly, my mind wasn’t entirely made up until the crash in Carthia. Even though it wasn’t a particularly big hit by normal standards, especially compared to what Jesus had later in the race, I realized how dangerous this sport can be. Yes, there have been massive strides in safety over the last few years, but..” He looked at his wife, pursing his lips. “I don’t want anything to hurt Estella or the kids. Even if it’s not the worst-case scenario, there are still ways that could limit my future. I’m not going to do that.” “This one is for the team; Is there already a replacement lined up, or is the seat open for the taking?” My phone buzzed with some notifications from the drivers. ‘Message: Marty: here we go!’ ‘Message: Louie: I can safely say that the seat is not open.’ ‘Message: Chris: Thank you for your years, Michael! Best mate on the track.’ There were some slight smiles on the screen among the team members, and it was clear that they were holding onto something. ‘Message: Hannah: Alright, who hasn’t talked yet? That’s who might be getting the seat.’ ‘Message: Emily: The OTech boys haven’t said anything yet… Just saying.’ ‘Message: Lewis: If that means I can get Jeb’s seat, deal!’ ‘Message: Max: LMAO’ ‘Message: Jeb: Yeah, sorry guys, we’re leaving the best team in K1 over a text message. Much love! ;)’ 'Message: Matthias: You guys are going to be very surprised by the decision, I promise.’ 'Message: Lucas: Matti, how would you know?' “We’ve found our driver for next season, yes. We had a short-list, and we have already signed the contract until 2043.” There were sounds of surprise from the reporters. A four-year deal was nearly unheard of, especially for a team like Monster with high turnover. “We’ll take a few more questions before introducing you to our 2039 driver lineup.” ‘Message: Saul: Arcazon’s been really quiet..’ ‘Message: Arcazon: I’m always quiet.’ ‘Message: Saul: Nevermind.’ “Michael, what is going to be your favorite memory of K1?” “These last few years have been absolutely amazing, but I feel like my first championship is a memory I’ll have for a long time to come.” “What is your motivation to keep pushing for the championship?” “Very high.” “Final question.” Michael looked around at the room and pointed at the final reporter. “What do you think your legacy is going to be?” Michael smiled and shrugged. “That’s for the historians to decide.” There was a slight buzz in the room as everyone wrapped up the press conference, preparing for the driver announcement. “Who do you think it is?” Max thought for a few moments. “Marty has been great this year in that LakeFront... Riley is on pace for a good year… Maybe one of the F-Tech guys?” The crew on the screen began moving around, getting everything sorted. Michael was off to the side, shaking hands with some team members and reporters. The lights dimmed, and a video was pulled up. “Here goes nothing.” Max chuckled at the statement and crossed his arms. Lightning struck across the screen as an echoey voice came on. Between each voice line, it showed slow-motion images of the circuits we had visited so far in the season. “This kid is a future star in the making!”... “And WHAT A MOVE!”... “Superb drive! Making it look easy out there.”... “Younger than anyone else out there and definitely braver!” As the shots went on, the pace intensified. Music began to come in, rising in intensity. “He’s side by side what a fantastic pass!”... “A superb race by the rookie!” The lightning flashes sped up in time with the music, and my mind raced to figure out who it could be. Kid? Rookie? Surely not one of the current rookies, right? The lightning and music stopped, showing a black screen. Then, a bright, neon-green number came up on the screen. 77 “WOAH, WAIT!” Max and I both leaped to our feet, scaring Kim. She yelped and fell off the couch, sending her phone into the air. We both looked at each other as Arcazon walked onto the stage to a blinding glare of camera flashes. My phone was going crazy with notifications, but I didn’t notice. “Are you KIDDING me?!” “He’s just a rookie!” “He’s had a fantastic season, but Monster?” “He’s going to-” I was cut off by the TV as Arcazon got up to the microphone. “Arcazon, what are you hoping to do with Monster in 2039, and what led you to choose them?” He shrugged with a slight smile. “I’m going to drive the car. Hopefully, I can drive it fast. What led me to choose them? They asked me to drive, I said yes.” “And what are your thoughts on next season?” He looked at Michael to his right and nodded. “I think that next season will be exciting.” … 2:54 PM, Sunday, July 18, 2038. Round 9 of 13: Kolusian Grand Prix. Lap 13 of 22 “And now 12 laps completed here, we have just 10 to go in one of the longest races of the season in terms of distance. Michael Kerman, leading from Jebediah Kerman in the OTech, and a stunning performance by LakeFront’s Marty Williams sees him in the Top 3. However, Max Kerman in the other OTech is closing fast, and I expect that we’ll see an overtake here before too long.” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “You’re closing by almost 2 seconds a lap; this is fantastic pace. Jeb is Plus-Seven from the car ahead.” [Max K. Radio]: “Copy that. Keep me informed on the gaps.” “Remember, of course, Max won the previous race at the Temple, and if he can win today, that would extend his championship advantage to just a tad over 10 points. Which, in this tight championship between the two teammates, could be the difference!” I attacked Turn 30 and climbed the hill, racing to the top of the straight. The engine roared through the upshifts, and I powered down the almost mile-long straight. “Michael is almost 10 seconds up the road. Let’s try and start clawing it back a little.” I shook my head and turned up the Harvesting once I reached top speed. “I can try. I don’t want to burn through my tires too quickly into the stint, though.” I changed the differential up before hitting the brakes for Turn 1, going from almost 200mph to 70 in the span of just 150 meters. “Understandable. We’ll do what we can.” We had just made a pit stop, but Michael had used an overcut to his advantage to gain on us. I managed the power out of the Turn 3 hairpin and started down the straight. “Things up front appear to have calmed down, but look at this midfield battle! LakeFront is on a tear at the moment, and they have two cars in the Top 5! Adam Gardner, being chased down by the F-Tech of Jesus Costa! Down into the Esses Hairpin, Costa around the outside! Gardner defending- OH contact!! Costa goes around in the esses! He gets it facing the right way around, but that is going to severely harm his chances of a strong result!” “Nothing Gardner could have done differently, there, Jim. He had the line, and Costa just didn’t give him any room.” “We’ll see what race control thinks of that, but it looks just like an incident of two cars into a space meant for one.” [Adam G. Radio]: “What the [blank] was he doing there? Can you check if I have damage?” [Adam G. Engineer Radio]: “Copy, we’re checking. We are checking.” [Jesus C. Radio]: “COME ON! That’s the second time he’s done that this race! He runs us wide in the exit, and then he spins us at the hairpin! [BLANK]!” “Be aware we might have debris in Turn 24. Looks to be off-line, but everything looks okay for now.” I raced through the Oval circuit’s 15º banking, feeling the suspension react on the high-speed bend. “Got it. Tell me what you need me to do on pace.” “So we’re looking at that replay, David; what are your thoughts on the incident?” “Well, I feel that we’re not going to see a penalty coming out of this one from Race Control. Gardner had the line and left more than enough space on the exit, and it looked like Costa just turned down into him.” “We have some radio from Gardner, now; what’s happening to the LakeFront? Damage, maybe?” [Adam G. Radio]: “Okay, I’m not getting the same response from the car as I was before… What damage do we have?” [Adam G. Engineer Radio]: “Adam, we appear to not have any damage from the crash. Repeat, no damage from the crash. The brakes are very hot. We need to cool them if possible.” [Adam]: “Okay, what do you want me to do?” [Engineer]: “Balance Plus 5, move Brake Balance to Plus 5. We need extreme cooling on the rears.” The double-chicane was a strange one to navigate, but I took it as aggressive as I could over the curbs. Essentially two bus-stop chicanes, the corners went right-left-left-right into another left-handed hairpin. The car reacted well over the curbs, and I flew out of the hairpin, ready to attack down the central straight. Max had closed to under a second on Marty for P3 as they exited Turn 9. I was preparing for a fight to be on my hands by the end of the race. However, at least for a little while, I had a chance to extend my gap. After reaching over 190mph down the central straight, I flew into the double-apex of Turns 14 and 15, testing the car's limits. However, there were issues behind. [Adam G. Radio]: “Guys, something’s wrong. My pedal is going to the floor.” “Oh dear, that’s not good; we could be seeing Adam Gardner, out of this race! As he goes through Turn 7, what- Was that smoke? Out of the rear of the car, I think I saw some smoke from the left-rear.” “Well, it appears to be out now, down into Turn 8. We’ll see if he can make it back to the pits, but this looks terminal.” “All eyes on Adam Gardner down into Turn 9, and under braking for the chicane... Oh, big flame out of the rear of the car! Gardner goes straight on at the chicane, fire coming out of the left-rear!” [Adam]: “Brakes failed, brakes failed!” [Engineer]: “Copy, Copy!” “Oh dear, oh dear! Gardner pulls off to the side of the circuit, and he is out of the Kolusian Grand Prix! Heartbreaking for LakeFront, on track for their best result of the season before this.” [Adam]: “[BLANK]!!! GOD[BLANK]ING [BLANK]! TWO TIMES IN TWO [BLANK]ING RACES!” “Gardner, heated after the retirement, throws his wheel out of the car, absolutely livid!” “Car off at 13, brake failure. It will not affect our position; it looks to be a local yellow situation. The car is far off-line.” Down by the runoff for Turn 13, Adam was still furious. He screamed into his helmet as he walked off, kicking the gravel on which his car was resting. The spectacle of fury was enhanced by an angry punch to his own helmet that was so hard, it knocked the visor up from its resting position. After retiring from the Temple Grand Prix from an early gearbox issue, Adam had been forced through a rough second half of the season. I continued trying to chase down Michael, but he was too quick. After the retirement, Max’s overtake for P3 was really the only exciting thing to come out of the remaining part of the race- until Lap 18. “As the laps start to tick down here, we’re looking at Eve Green, who, as rumor has it, is looking at a drive for next season, possibly with the likes of TT or maybe even PhantomTech. She’s had a good race so far, P11 at the moment, and if things hold up for her, it’s looking like a solid result for Archer- the only team who hasn’t scored a point so far this season! The chicane of Turns 4, 5, and 6 have been a good spot for overtaking, of course, with DRS, but Green is just a bit too far behind P10, Arcazon Kerman. Kerman, of course, has already been confirmed for the Monster Race Team drive for 2039. The door was opened after the retirement of Michael Kerman was announced just- OH MY GOODNESS, GREEN IN THE WALL! Eve Green goes hard into the wall, almost flips over! She lands back on the track but a massive crash! As the car slides down the banking and into the grass, the Safety Car is out immediately!” “That was a massive hit for Green; it looked like she just got a snap of oversteer and overcorrected directly into that wall.” “We’ve seen drivers enter that turn at over 150 miles per hour, a huge accident on the banking. It looks like Green is moving around in the car, which is good, but all attention is on her after a massive accident on Lap 18 of this race.” [Eve G. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, Eve, let me know that you’re okay, please.” [Eve G. Radio]: “Ah, ow…” [exhale] “[Blank]...” [exhale] “I.. I’m sorry.. [blank] that hurt. I got a puncture, I think.” [Engineer]: “Alright. Are you okay?” [Eve]: “Y-yeah… I think so. [blank] sorry guys.” On the replay, Eve was driving on the bottom line of the oval, accelerating through the corner. As she got to the apex, the left-rear suddenly stepped out. Eve instinctively countersteered, which sent the car into the wall. The car hit the wall so hard that it almost lifted over the barrier. After reaching the end of the banking, the right-side wheels landed on the ground. Eve slid down the circuit and rested on the grass to the inside. Some flames licked out of the rear of the car before extinguishing themselves. Eve got unbuckled and put her head down. “Safety Car deployed, heavy crash at Turn 7. This might do it.” I turned the engine down as the safety car boards started flashing out of Turn 26. “Okay… Is everyone okay?” The Safety Car caught Michael out of Turn 2, creating the start of a queue. “I think so. It was a big crash from Green, I think. Car is off-line; Marshals are getting to her now.” Max was just a couple of seconds behind me, and I could tell he wasn’t happy. “Let me know when you can, please. Thanks.” The Safety Car stayed out for the next few laps, effectively neutralizing the race. As we passed on the final lap, Eve was finally out of the car, walking gingerly off to the side. The assembled crowd on the high banks cheered as we passed, though undoubtedly a bit upset about losing a thrilling battle between Max and me. I waved to Eve as I passed before exiting off the banking. “Alright, so the Safety Car will come in, stay out and cross the line.” I weaved, trying to pass the time down the central straight. Michael ahead was waving to the fans, and I smiled. He hadn’t had the best race in the Temple, but a win would likely make him forget all about it. The Safety Car went down into the pit lane, and we all got a quick get-away for no real reason. Michael darted to the inside of the circuit, accelerating towards the team. “And across the line, Michael Kerman wins the Kolusian Grand Prix!!” [Michael K. Radio]: “Aaah, yes! Thank you! Thank you all so much! We did it!!” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Michael, fantastic work, mate! Winner of the Kolusian Grand Prix, well done!” “Jebediah Kerman in second place, now just 4 points behind his teammate, Max Kerman in the standings. This battle is heating up, and we can’t wait to see how the remaining four races turn out!” “Hey, congrats to Michael on the win. That was nice. Good job, everyone, and great work all weekend.” I waved to the crowd down the front stretch before looking up at the clouds. 3:25 PM, Sunday, August 22, 2038. Round 11 of 13: Feguan Grand Prix. Lap 13 of 29 Lightning forked in the sky above me as I went down the straight, but I had hardly a second to look before braking into Turn 4. The tires slid over the water on the track, forcing me to attempt a correction through the hairpin’s braking zone. The rain was so thick that I couldn’t even see the barrier past the runoff until hitting the corner's apex, and by then, I couldn’t spare the time to look. “Down into the hairpin, we see Jebediah Kerman leading still, with his teammate Max Kerman just behind! No one really wants to take action here, in these treacherous conditions, but it will take just a single slip-up by either of the Top 2 to blow the championship open!” I broke early for the Turn 5 hairpin, allowing plenty of room to account for a possible lockup. The full wet tires had been in use for the whole race, and I knew that they could last for a long time. Still, though, I didn’t want to remove any tread through a stupid braking mistake. As soon as I got out of the corner, the radio beeped. “Jeb, what is the weather doing? We’re looking to the options of going onto inters later in the race.” I fought wheelspin to try and get away from the corner, even though my engine was down in one of the lowest possible modes. “It’s too wet,” I said quickly, trying to get the car up to speed. Max, who was a couple of seconds behind, was hidden by the massive spray that the tires were kicking up. “Too wet for inters?” Another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, rumbling a few seconds later. “Too wet.. period.” The car got a snap of oversteer in Turn 6, and I had to make a rapid correction, almost running wide off the circuit to recover from the slide. “This is dangerous, guys.” “Yellow flags in Sector 1, that’s Hannah Van Kerman going off out of Turn 2! Spins it around a couple of times, but keeps it facing the right direction and will continue!” [Hannah V. K. Radio]: “Guys, it’s super wet out here..” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Okay, grip is… It’s there, but it’s really hard to find.” [Juan K. Radio]: “Okay, this grip is pretty bad, especially out of the corners.” I went through the 8-9 right-left S, using the curbs in the low-speed section with what little confidence I had. I saw a flash of blue in my mirror before braking into Turn 11, showing that Max was closing in. He was leading the championship to this point and was trying to pressure me into a mistake. In these treacherous conditions, it wouldn’t be difficult to make a costly error. “Down now into the sweeping Turn 6, it’s Arcazon Kerman with excellent pace, following the more experienced Aquarian of Jesus Costa! Now the rookie closing in, he moves to the outside! Arcazon goes off the racing line, and they’re side-by-side! The rookie on the outside and spectacular move! He’s alongside at the apex, and now he’s through on exit!” “He just goes and finds grip where there isn’t any! He just challenged Costa, and said ‘Right, you’re going here, I’ll just go around you over there, then!’ He’s just so much so much braver than everyone else, with so much less experience!” “Just so you know, Arcazon up to P4 now.” I ignored the message as I coasted into Turn 12, letting the car understeer a bit to reduce the chance of it snapping around on me. “Okay, honestly, I don’t really care too much about Arcazon at the moment..” I went through the high-speed Turn 14, which was usually flat-out but required careful throttle input in the conditions. “I’m more focused on finishing this race.” Braking through Turn 15 resulted in a small lockup, but it didn’t affect my run into the Turn 16 hairpin. As I exited the corner, the car lost a bit of grip over a puddle. “Sorry if that sounds aggressive, but I’m just really fighting the car here.” Lightning forked through the sky, and I cursed. “It’s dangerous out here, guys.” “Copy. Just so you know, Max is closing by around half a second per lap. We believe he’s starting to push. Just be advised.” I shook my head down the straight, both dismissing the message and working on getting that extra bit of water off my visor. “I don’t care. If he wants to pass me, he can pass me.” I broke for Turn 2, narrowly flirting with the edge of grip as the car threatened to break traction. “Jeb, it’s critical that we maintain our position over Max. We need this spot for the championship. Repeat, mission-critical for our championship.” “We already clinched the Constructor's last race. It’s hard enough to keep the car on the road; I have bigger things to worry about right now. I need to focus on the race.” I could feel my anxiety ramping up as the race dragged on. If Max came close, I wouldn’t let him pass. He’d have to fight me for every inch of ground, just like any other race. But I wasn’t about to throw my chances away trying to push a gap. [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, you’re closing well, but don’t try anything risky. Recommend overtake at Turns 4 or 5 if possible.” [Max K. Radio]: “Is he going to let me pass? I can go faster than this.” [Engineer]: “Standby.” [Max]: “I’m not going to make a move that’s going to make us crash. I’m just saying that I can go faster.” “Jeb, Max wants to pass, but we need to stay ahead.” I shook my head again, keeping my eyes on the road but still annoyed. The rain felt like it was coming down harder than before. “If he’s faster than me, then he’ll pass me. I’m not going to crash trying to stay ahead.” I caught a slide at the apex of Turn 5 as the track leveled out from its slight climb. “Rain is definitely getting worse.” “Okay, we’re checking. It’s not going to ease up any time soon, so just keep fighting out there.” I looked in my mirror and saw Max behind me, barely visible through the rain that was pouring even harder than before. The wheels spun over the water, clawing for what little traction was in the road. We had lost the track. “This is genuinely the worst experience I’ve had in a race car in a very long time… maybe ever. This is freaking dangerous, guys.” I sawed at the wheel, barely able to keep the car on the road. Water had soaked through my gloves, making everything slosh. I coasted into Turn 6, letting the vehicle catch itself up before turning into the corner. Max was more aggressive than I was and closed up into my spray. Screw it, I thought. If he wants to brave it on point, let him. “That’s Jebediah Kerman, giving the lead to his teammate out of Turn 6! Jer’, I don’t think that was planned!” “Well, Jim, he’s slotted into line, so I don’t think it was a mechanical issue on that 13 car.” [Max K. Radio]: “Tell Jeb thanks; I owe him one.” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “Copy. We’re in Default Map 1-2. Let’s get on with it.” “Jeb, is the car okay?” I followed Max’s tire tracks, letting him disperse the water before I came through. “Yeah, it’s okay. I just couldn’t stay in front.” Max led through the S and immediately had to fight a snap of oversteer. If the situation wasn’t so dire, I would have chuckled. [Michael K. Radio]: “This is getting dangerous. I’m hydroplaning on the straights! We need to red flag! Absolutely ridiculous!!” [Louie K. Radio]: “The tire grip is sooo bad… Undrivable.. This is scary, guys.” [Chris K. Radio]: “If you guys can find some way to seal my visor if we stop again... There’s a lot of water starting to fall in.” [Hope A. Engineer Radio]: “Do you think it is too wet for inters? We are thinking about changing over if we can.” [Hope A. Radio]: “I think it is just too wet totally. No grip.” “Starting Lap 16, and this rain, Jer’, I think has only picked up! You hear the complaints from the drivers, and how long do you think it’ll be before we see the series taking action?” “Well, personally, I don’t see this race making it to the flag. This rain is only going to get harder, and you’re seeing drivers going off at dangerous parts of the tra- One off in Turn 1!” “It’s the number 3! Michael Kerman is off at Turn 2, and he’s tumbling down the order! Keeps it out of the gravel, but he finds himself all the way down in P13! Look at all the water that Michael’s driving through!” “It’s like a lake out there, and let’s check that replay..” Michael is going into Turn 1 and brakes a bit later. The left-front dips off the racing line, and the car goes straight on, locking up and losing all grip. Michael quickly snaps the wheel back, but not before the vehicle is sliding off towards the gravel. Only a combination of spectacular driving and luck is what keeps the car out of the trap. “Once you go off, it’s just like ice out there. These conditions are far worse than ideal.” “You say that, but look at this! Arcazon Kerman, the rookie, up the inside of Juan Kerman into Turn 5! The rookie dives to the right- Oh, he loses grip! Sliding off the mark, and he outbroke himself! Now Juan, with the chance to take the position back, they’re side by side down the straight! Neither giving quarter, this is what we were waiting to see from the young rainmaster!” “That was brave, but Turn 6 is coming up!” “Juan holds it on the inside, and Arcazon plows through the water! There’s absolutely no grip out there, but the kid doesn’t care!! He stays alongside at the apex and finally gives way! Now the cutback, Arcazon through the spray and to the inside! He’s moving to the right and dives to the inside of Turn 7! This is thrilling stuff to wa- Juan loses the grip! He manages to keep the car under control, but not before giving the place to Arcazon Kerman! That was incredible, especially in these conditions!” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Yes! Oh my gosh!” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, that’s P3! What are the tires doing?” [Arcazon]: “Honestly, the grip is horrible now.” [Engineer]: “Okay, well, if you’re struggling, then everyone else is worse off, just remember that. Keep this up, kid; we’re in an absolutely perfect position here.” [Arcazon]: “Okay.” More lightning forked through the air, illuminating the circuit with light that I had struggled to see before. I hadn’t noticed how low the visibility was now, and I was shocked that the officials had allowed the circuit to get this bad. We raced through Turn 13 with just a second between us, and my eyes widened. Max ran a quarter-inch too wide at Turn 14 and nearly lost the car, having to fish-tail and fight the car. I tried to carry the momentum to the inside at Turns 15 and 16, but Max closed the door. It was a risky move, but Max was struggling. Even with the clean air, Max was working without a guide to follow. “Max Kerman, at this rate, is gaining well away from his teammate, but- Oh, he loses the rear! Almost around, what a save!” “Watch for Jeb!” “Jebediah Kerman to the inside, he sticks the nose into Turn 15, but Max closes the door! Oh, almost disaster for the two teammates, but they get through unscathed!” “Okay, Max almost crashed right in front of me... If he wants me to take the point, then I can.” I stayed in the slipstream down the front straight and thought about diving up the inside but didn’t make a move. [Max K. Radio]: “Okay, the car has gotten much worse out in front… I’m really struggling now.” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “Is it the setup, or-” [Max]: “It’s the track! The track is too wet!” I followed Max’s tire tracks, letting him fight through the water. The tires felt like they were skating over the water, and I felt the car almost hydroplane into Turn 4. Thunder rumbled through the sky, still audible over the engines. “Car ahead, Plus 4 seconds, Green in the Archer. Plus 4 seconds.” I turned the engine up and moved to the right, but Max shadowed me the entire way. I couldn’t go too far off-line and risk a crash, and I knew that the rain was picking up. “Okay. I’m really struggling with grip still, but I can overtake.” I let Max go down into the T5 braking zone, following his path through the hairpin. “Can we go Default Map 2-1?” I followed Max through Turn 6, letting the car understeer to prevent a slide. “You’re cleared to race; Max has been given the same order.” Game on. I feinted to the right out of the spray, and Max went to defend, opening up the racing line. I could out-brake Max on the line, but he held the inside at Turn 7, keeping me at bay in the double-apex. The right-left chicane at Turns 8 and 9 kept me behind Max for the time being, but I was already preparing for my next move. We went into the short straight (The Poto Tika) and then the twin-lefts of Turns 10 and 11. The circuit dropped downhill out of Turn 10, and we both locked up, sending us wide and slowing down further. “The track is dangerous, guys. There’s too much water.” I had a better run out of the corner and looked for a run, but Max had the inside covered well. I knew that Turn 12 wasn’t a heavy braking zone, even in this weather, and I decided to just follow in his path- conserving fuel and electricity by using the slipstream. The spray was blinding as I pulled out of line, just in time to see the corner approaching. I missed the apex as Max hit the curbs flawlessly, getting a stellar run. He was aggressive, trying to prove himself in this weather. “A thrilling battle, but Jeb runs a bit wide! That’s going to cost him time, and it has! Max Kerman extends his lead into L’anneau! These two aren’t giving any quarter here for the lead!...” I had lost time in Turn 12, but, in hindsight, it’s what saved me. Max made the same mistake as last time, running just a fraction too wide at the apex of Turn 14. The left-rear tire caught the curbing, taking away what little grip he had. The rear stepped out and swung to the left, but Max quickly recovered it. The car then again broke traction, with the rear shifting right. He made a final correction, but it was too much load for too little grip. The car shot to the right, and the spray in front of me cleared as Max went off. “...These two aren’t giving any quarter here for the lead! Max leads into L’anneau, and- OH NO! MAX KERMAN OFF! THE LEADER IS OFF!” Max’s vision changed rapidly. The car was planted one second, and the next, he was facing the barrier. Water flew through his vision as the tires skidded over puddles before finally entering the grass. The wet surface was like ice, sending him rocketing towards the barrier. The car slammed into the inside barrier at Turn 15, hitting a tire wall. The entire left-side suspension was now in tatters, with the tires flinging wildly at the sides of the car. The car lifted into the air and spun before slamming back to earth in an explosion of mud, water, and grass. After spinning twice over the grass, the car straightened and kept its momentum, sliding back towards the hairpin. Eventually, it came to rest on the inside grass at Turn 16, right on top of a FAITO Aerospace logo. From my vantage, the track suddenly cleared as I exited Turn 14. I saw Max’s car sliding sideways towards the wall before slamming the barrier and pirouetting in the air as I passed it. I hit the brakes before Turn 15, not wanting to go off. I punched my steering wheel in anger as the Safety Car lights came on. “MAX KERMAN INTO THE WALL, HARD! Spinning once, twice, three times now, and finally coming to rest on the infield grass! Almost returning to the circuit, but he stops just short! Absolutely disastrous for the championship leader as the Safety Car is deployed!!” {Max’s car} Rain pounded down on Max’s helmet, running down the visor and popping off of the glossed surface. Max’s breathing was short and ragged, trying to hold back both rage and tears. His arms were crossed across his chest, hands shaking. He looked down at his legs, not wanting to look at the track. “Max? Max, are you okay?” Max didn’t respond, trying to collect his thoughts. "I..." He exhaled, heart racing. "I don't..." The rain pounded, almost deafening. "I don't know what to say..." "Max, are you okay?" The marshals, in their orange uniforms, ran towards the crash scene as the cars drove past. "Yeah... [blank]. Sorry, guys. I'm so [blank]ing sorry." His mind raced. It’s not fair. I had it. Sadness turned to anger, which turned into rage. He punched the steering wheel and screamed, repeatedly slamming his legs into the footwell. “GODDAMNIT! IT WAS TOO. [BLANK]ING. WET! I’VE SAID IT FOR THE LAST THREE LAPS!” He shouted an expletive and ripped the belts off, pulling himself up from his seat. Thunder rolled above as he extracted himself from the straps. The marshals arrived on the scene as he ripped the radio cord out. He stepped off of the sidepod, stomping down onto the ground. The car was leaning on top of the grass, with the left-rear tire hanging by its tethers and the left-front sitting on the nose. Mud caked the sidepod and body of the car, with chunks of turf wedged into gaps and on the bodywork. Max walked past a marshal who tried to form as an escort before Max pushed his hands away. He turned around to stare at the ruined car. “Damn…” The surface of the left side-pod was torn away, and the rear wing had a massive chunk taken out of it. He dropped to the ground in a squat, holding his hands to his helmet. “I can’t believe it, Max Kerman, out of this race!” “The track was just too wet where he dipped off the racing line. Those curbs, the paint has almost no grip when you walk over it, and these drivers are taking the turn at almost 150 miles per hour in these conditions.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Safety Car, Safety Car. Max has had a big shunt out of Turn 14, lost it on his own.” [Michael K. Radio]: “Yeah, well what the [blank] did I say?! What did I say?! I [blank]ing called it, didn’t I?!” [Engineer]: “Copy. Slow down, keep the delta positive. [Michael]: “Is he okay?... Is Max okay?” [Engineer]: “He’s out of the car; he’s moving.” [Michael]: “We should have Red Flagged it 5 laps ago. I can’t [blank]ing believe that.” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Is Max okay?” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Yeah, he’s okay. Lost it on a curb.” [Arcazon]: “Surprised… I’m surprised we all lasted so long before a crash. Didn’t expect to see him out.” Max stood up, looking at the sky before turning. He walked down the pit lane entry road, splashing through puddles as cars rolled past. The engines rumbled at low revs as they passed, throwing up spray. The rain fell heavier as the wind gusted, blowing water into his body through the fireproof suit. He passed the pit attenuator, kicking the tire wall next to him. He looked down and shook his head right before a squealing sounded. He looked up and saw a white Archer skidding head-first into the front-straight barrier. The impact shook the catch-fence with a concussive boom, sending debris into the air. Max jumped back just before the shockwave hit the part of the barrier that he was leaning against, watching the fence and wall shake. The car spun multiple times down the straight before coming to a rest in the middle of the track. Max threw his arms up into the air in exasperation. “Of course.” Too wet. “One car off! It’s Eve Green; what happened? This is on the front straight, and Green is out!” On the replay, Eve comes out of Turn 16. She accelerates before turning in for Turn 17. The car snaps to the right as she overcorrects, straight into the pit lane barrier. [Eve G. Radio]: “[Blank]...... I crashed…” [Eve G. Engineer Radio]: “What happened?” [Eve]: “I… I don’t know… I just… I just lost it.” “That’s not Eve’s fault, I don’t think. There’s too much water out there to hold the car.” “Jer’, in a situation like that, what goes through your head as a driver?” “Honestly? You feel horrible. She’ll know that it wasn’t her fault when she looks at the replay, but at the moment, it’s a lot of hurt.” Max jogged towards the area of the pit wall that Eve had come to rest near, going past the PhantomTech pit box. She had just gotten unstrapped from the car as red lights flashed down the front straight, signaling that session had been halted. Eve looked at the Turn 17 curb and shook her head before trotting across the circuit towards a hole in the fence. Max extended his hand for Eve to grab, and he pulled her over the wall. “You good?” Eve nodded through the helmet, turning back around at the car. She took her gloves off before removing the helmet, leaning on the concrete wall. Her hair fell to her shoulders, and she scowled. “I have no idea what happened… Damn.” She leaned over and shifted the legs of her firesuit before letting two gel kneepads fall from near her shoes. She picked them up and threw them in her helmet, still looking over at her car. After removing two elbow pads, she turned around and stared up at Max with a raised eyebrow. “What happened on your end?” Max shook his head as the rain fell harder. “Just too wet.” Eve nodded as the Safety Car approached from the pit entry. They both watched as the cars rumbled past before stopping in the queue. Max looked at me roll past and sighed. Damn. {Jeb} I took my helmet off and looked around as the team worked around me. I stood and immediately saw Max off on the side, walking back into the garage. I decided to leave him be as I got out of the car, walking around my car a couple of times to survey it. There was no damage to the body, aero, or suspension; the lack of grip was 100% down to the water on the track. Andy and Landin both approached me. “Max went off on his own. We didn’t get anything on the telemetry before it happened.” I nodded, shaking my head. Andy put his hand on my shoulder, looking at the timing board. “I don’t think we’re getting the race resumed,” he said as more thunder rolled. I saw the fans beginning to file out of the stands and nodded. The puddles on the track were reflecting the amber lights, and the water pools were only growing. I shook my head, walking back into the garage. Max was nowhere to be seen, but I noticed his gloves had been hurled at a cabinet. I heard a loud yell from inside the driver's lounge and a smash behind the door. I turned around, giving Max his space. I walked out of the garage and immediately was met by the press. One reporter came to the front, Claire Rivers. She had the TV camera in tow and was the first to ask the questions. “Jeb, you were talking on the radio for a few laps about the conditions; how bad was it out there?” My mind thought back. The series had let us out in those dangerous conditions, with all the standing water, and had let us go on. I shook my head, trying to keep from saying something that would hurt later. “It was…” I sighed, unable to say much. “I mean, you saw it. The conditions out there were… Yeah.” The thunder rolled overhead. “You went back to talk to Max after coming in for the Red Flag. What did you talk about?” I shook my head. “I didn’t talk to him. He needs his space, which I understand.” An announcement came on the screen that the race had been called on account of the weather. I shook my head. “It’s just not fair to Max.” The rain pounded off the umbrella. “Just not fair.” 8:00 PM “I’m sorry, guys.” Max’s murmur was barely audible over the sound of the aircraft’s power unit on the tarmac. The car had been smashed into an unrecognizable wreck on the left side, and it had taken a flatbed to just get it onto the cargo plane. He watched the replays again, shaking his head. I reached my hand across the aisle to give him a shake, and he weakly hit my fingertips. “It’s not fair, man. I know it.” Max nodded, pausing the video. “You deserved that one.” He shook his head, staying silent for a moment. After a few seconds, he looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “Were you following team orders when you let me pass?” I chuckled and shook my head. “Heck no, Landin wanted me to stay ahead of you. I just knew that I couldn’t stay ahead in those conditions. I figured I’d let you go ahead, realize how bad the grip was, and then call for Default Map 2-1.” Max nodded, looking out the window at the storm before turning back to me. “If they had just stopped it one lap earlier…” He paused, sighing. “It just doesn’t feel fair.” I shook my head and reached across, putting a hand on his shoulder as the aircraft began pushing back from the gate. “Nothing you could have done, bud. You deserved the win.” He nodded, leaning back in his chair. “Yeah.. But that’s how it goes sometimes.” I now had a 19-point lead heading into the Hermish Grand Prix at a brand-new circuit. The engines began to rise in volume as the aircraft prepared to take off into the stormy evening sky. With a win, I could lock the title if Max finished third or below. I sighed and looked at the trophy in the seat next to me. I didn’t really feel like I had earned it.
  8. Hello, everyone, and good morning to you all! I've been working off an on through University, and now I'm finally ready to release this chapter! Quick information, this is a chapter that I've been looking forward to almost since I started writing this story. I hope it won't disappoint.
  9. Chapter 41 9:00 AM, Wednesday, April 21, 2038. National Circuit of Azenia, Azenia (NCA). Mid-Season Tire Test I shivered beneath my jacket, rubbing my arms as my breath fogged up in the air. The air temperature of 40º was making everyone cold since we were used to much warmer temperatures on race-days. I looked at the newer tire compounds (Marked as “Compounds” One through Five) piled next to the car, as well as the base prototype car that everyone had been given to test. Each team had been given one prototype, which mimicked what the series expected our 2039 cars were supposed to look like. It was a massive departure from anything I’d seen before, with a newly re-designed front wing and a smaller rear wing than before. The back end was more tightly packaged on these cars, with the unfortunate removal of the shark-fin design. Even with all of these changes, everyone’s attention was drawn to one piece of the vehicle. The Aeroscreen. Despite calls from teams and drivers that the design wasn’t needed, K1 had mandated the new windshield design for the upcoming season. This would serve as the first time the device had ever seen the track. “Are you ready to get out?” I turned to see Andy, who was bundled up in a heavy jacket. I looked at my watch and checked the time. We still had 30 minutes until the official runs could commence. “It’s a bit chilly, but yeah. I guess this’ll be a good test for the colder rounds, I suppose.” “For sure. Just make sure to be more careful than usual for your opening runs. The tires are going to have no grip for a while until everything gets rubbered in.” “Even then, it’s going to be terrible.” I looked out of the newly-constructed pit building and out at the track. Built on a former airbase, the NCA was a circuit that would really test everyone. Two high-speed right-hand corners would make the tires really stress, but the long straights on the old runways would serve to break up the fast corners. I was excited to be testing at this circuit, which couldn’t have hosted our first Pre-Season test due to the weather. The newly constructed esses were exciting to look at from a distance, rising from the ground like a snake before dropping down to rejoin the main straight. 19 turns- 10 to the right and 9 to the left- made up a fantastic circuit. I was excited to race for next year’s Azenian Grand Prix. “Who’s getting first-go?” Max bounced up, trying to keep himself warm. With a slight wind on the track walk, my feet were still frigid. “Jeb will get the morning; you’ll get the afternoon,” Andy said, looking at me. “Unless you want to switch it.” I shrugged. “I can take the afternoon. The track will at least have a little bit of rubber down, then.” Max nodded and looked at the car. “I guess that means I’m first,” He said before leaning over the cockpit area. “This screen looks weird.” I looked at the sky, which was cloudless but cold. I was thankful that, for this two-day test, I wouldn’t be the first one to test the waters. 3:00 PM “Okay, how’s the grip?” I dropped out of Turn 2 and shifted up, attacking the circuit as hard as I could. The raceway had a classic design, with grass runoff on the exit and walls close to the line. Some areas, like Turns 1, 5, and 9, had lots of runoff in the event of a big accident. However, others, like Turn 4, had walls that were close- ready to catch a driver that tested the limits. “There’s not a lot of grip,” I radioed in before slamming on the brakes for T3. “What compound is this?” These prototype tires were very lacking in grip, but that’s what testing was for. “This is C4, second-hardest compound,” Andy responded. The car created a trail of sparks as I swung through Turn 4 at full-throttle. I went up onto the tarmac runoff and almost lost the rear. I corrected the car but ran past the white line, drawing notice from the stewards. As I climbed the track to the next corner, Andy was back on the radio. “Okay, that’s another warning, Jeb. Just be aware.” I endured the long loop of Turn 5 before responding. “My bad. There’s just no grip on these tires.” The circuit dropped away from me from the 7-8 chicane, and I fought the car through 9. The rear started to swing around, and I tried to correct, but it only added to the force of the slide. The vehicle went onto the dusty runoff on the corner exit and swapped ends, covering my view with a cloud of white smoke. I got off the gas as the car looped around. The squeal of tires changed from asphalt to gravel, and I eventually came to a stop with the engine at idle. I sighed and keyed the radio. “Spun out of 9. I don’t think I have any damage, though.” I shifted down to first and tried to find the engine mode select. To go with the stock cars, we were given stock gear- steering wheel included. It was a bit of an adjustment. “Alright. We were nearing the end of the run anyways,” Andy said back in the pits. I found the gear and got myself out of the gravel trap before spinning myself back around on the tarmac. After making sure that I was clear behind, I rejoined the circuit. Obviously, these prototype cars weren’t what we would be getting for next season- probably not even close to it. Still, I almost enjoyed the challenge of a new car. This vehicle really made me work for everything. I would love to embrace the challenge. 6:30 PM, May 16, 2038. Round 6 of 13: The Grand Prix of Baskay. Baskay Island, Baskay “The sun has gone down, and the stars are out to play! Here on the majestic Baskay Island, the playground of the famous becomes the playground of the fast. After his win last race in a dominating Owlian Grand Prix, Max Kerman will try and expand his lead in the points on this fourth street race of the season. However, sitting at just one point behind, teammate Jebediah Kerman will hope to capture just his second win of the season! On this tight and technical circuit, however, anything can happen! Rookie Arcazon Kerman scored a fantastic 6th-place finish in Owlia and will try to solidify his name as a street circuit master. Still not too far out to make a difference, Michael Kerman and the Monster Gang will be making an effort to claw back some needed points. With storylines aplenty and an opportunity for anything, the Grand Prix of Baskay is coming up on KNSSports! “Good evening, afternoon, or morning to you wherever in the world you are and thank you for joining us here in Baskay. In the third evening race of the season, Baskay Island plays host to Round Six of this 2038 championship! 31 corners- 13 to the left and 18 to the right- make up the longest race on the calendar in terms of turns. With four crossovers, drivers will get plenty of opportunities to view their competitors; and multiple overtaking points are sure to throw up a lot of action for the drivers today. Again, good evening, everyone. I’m Jim Kerman; thank you for joining me and my partner in the booth, Jeremy!” “Thank you, Jim, it’s fantastic to be here in the city, and what a race we’re going to have in-store today! 34 laps, 31 turns, plenty of places to make mistakes on this chaotic circuit. Elevation changes coming on and off of the highway, wide streets mixed with tight roads- this is the definition of a street-circuit hybrid!” “I can tell you’re excited, but what about the weather?” “Well, the rain we’ve had off and on for most of the day seems to be clearing up finally, but the circuit is still soaked. The problem with racing in the city, of course, is that you use these streets for more than just racing. When it rains like this, the oil, the rubber- it all comes up off the track and creates havoc for drivers. I can honestly expect to see some chaos at the start of this race.” “Who do you think has the best shot to win today? Brand-new circuit, the craziness of a street race, plenty of room for chaos.” “I think that Jebediah Kerman has a great opportunity. He’s on pole, he had a good race at the last street circuit we went to, and many things are going for him. Obviously, anything can happen, but I’d definitely put some money on Number 13.” “If you were a betting man, obviously.” “Oh, of course.” … I scraped my shoe over the tarmac and brushed some water away, looking up at the sky. The rain clouds had dispersed, but it was still difficult to see through the remaining wispy clouds. The recon lap had been clean, but I was still nervous with the start coming on the intermediate tires. The rain had been present all weekend, but some dry running in Practice 1 showed promise when the track dried off. The crazy weather all week had thrown the grid into a bit of chaos. Arcazon, our newest wet weather prodigy, had blasted up to P5 in qualifying and would have gotten further if Riley Mitchell hadn’t run wide out of Turn 12 and looped it out of the corner. The circuit was challenging to get a hold of in the dry, but even more so in the slightly wet conditions that we were experiencing tonight. Braking for Turn 2 would be chaos, and I honestly expected a struggle when overtaking during the race. We were running a medium-downforce package for the race weekend, which really would help in the high-speed sections. The car had proven effective down the main straight, which was pretty much the only thing keeping us ahead of Monster. “Any idea what visor you want to use?” I turned around to see Max, who would be starting in P3. He had just barely been beaten at the line by Michael, who had finished behind me in every session during the weekend- All 3 practices and all 3 qualifying sessions. I looked down at my helmet and shrugged. The lighting later in the race would mean that a clear visor would be more beneficial, but the early race rain and the sunset brought the need for tinting. “I think the first tear-off sheet is tinted,” I said as I fiddled with the flap. “The rest are clear.” Max nodded and looked at his helmet before turning back to look at the rest of the grid. “I think Michael’s gonna be quick off the start. Same for Jesus, probably.” “If you can pull away, then I’ll be able to keep on his tail. He can’t stay ahead forever.” Max had gotten ahead at the start of the Owlian GP and never let go. I was hopeful that I could repeat the same thing here tonight. Max and I separated to our own cars, and I got ready. I stepped into the car and got situated before one of the engineers strapped me in. “Check Check, can you hear me, okay?” I connected the steering wheel to the column and keyed the radio. “Loud and clear. You got me?” There was a brief pause before Landin came back. “Got ya. Three minutes to the formation lap.” I bounced in the seat as I waited for the race start. “Remember to be careful on the start. Tires are going to be very cold off of the grid.” The bustle of the grid seemed to calm down and organize itself before the start, and I could occasionally see through the masses and look at the Medical Car behind. “Copy. I felt good on the formation lap, but the first sector was a bit hairy.” I adjusted my gloves as the team scattered to the side of the track. “Okay, just make sure to keep the tires warm on the Formation Lap. We’re expecting the circuit to be dry by Lap 8 or 9, and we’ll make the switch. Probably going to aim for a 2-stop if that’s okay with you.” The formation lap lights came on above us, and I got away from the line. “You’re the boss. The grip is pretty bad off the line.” Spray started to fly up off of the tires as I went down the straight. “Alright. Is it about what you expected, or worse?” I weaved down the highway to warm the tires, sending more water into the air. I checked the mirror and saw the fog of spray from the cars behind as well. “Oh, it’s what I expected,” I responded, rolling into Turn 1. “It’s just terrible.” There was a dry line that had been formed from the recon laps, and I followed it through the hairpin. “Copy. Just stay on your toes.” I turned the differential down on my wheel climbed the ramp into Turn 3. Once I got into the dry line, I was able to find the grip I needed. Overtaking was going to be difficult or impossible at the start. I went through the lap and had a surprisingly good grip in the second sector. “I’m actually pretty happy with the tires in the back half of the lap.. Not much standing water around here.” The spray was still heavy, but the tire grip was there to attack. As we neared the end of the formation lap and crossed the second bridge over the canals, I ran over a large puddle. “Lot of water on the bridge. I think it’ll take a little bit before we’re able to move onto slicks.” I got the car ready for the launch, twisting the knob to Default Seven. With a slight blip of the throttle, I coasted into my grid spot and waited. When the final driver stopped in their slot, I shut my visor. One Light. I pushed in the clutch, heart pounding. Rain throwing in a wild card for everyone. Two Lights. I exhaled, pushing the throttle down just a bit. One mistake at the back… Three Lights. The revs climbed and shook the car. …Sends everyone flying. Four Lights. I put the engine into the sweet spot and waited. Blinding spray hiding the view ahead. Five Lights. 22 engines on the grid roared in unison as we waited for the lights to go out. One opportunity to get it right or wrong. Zero. I released the clutch and powered away from the line, immediately throwing water into the sky. I rocketed through the upshifts and kept the wheel straight as Michael accelerated. He kept alongside me, and I had to leave space as the circuit tightened up in Turn 1, and we went two-wide into the first corner. “Lights out and away we go as everyone is slow off the line; it’s a fairly even start between the front two! Spray starting to come up off the wheels as we get up to speed. At the front, it’s wheel to wheel down the straight and heading into the first corner! Michael Kerman, third in the championship, right alongside Jebediah Kerman in the OTech! Neither will give quarter here, and they fly into Turn 1 with the Monster on the inside!” Michael got past me inside Turn 1, and I fought to see through the spray, but he left room on the inside of Turn 2. I rolled into the apex of the hairpin and keyed Overtake, getting back past the Monster on the corner exit. He kept a wheel next to me outside, and I had to give the space, but I finally got past in Turn 3. He sliced down right behind me through the apex of the corner, ignoring the spray that I was kicking up and trying to get past me. “Jebediah Kerman, on the inside of 2, and gets by! He’s not quite clear yet, and this is a fantastic battle to watch! The OTech finally gets clear, and Michael slots into line with the rest of the pack following! Behind, it’s Max Kerman in the OTech, and a heated battle for P4!” Michael hinted at an inside move in Turn 4, and I covered the apex, which defended against a possible attack. I bumped the apex curb at the hairpin and moved back up the track, keeping Michael behind. “Look at the rookie, Arcazon Kerman, getting the move done in Turn 4! Brave in these conditions, and the 18-year-old makes the move stick in the hairpin!” [Arcazon K. Engineer]: “Good start, that’s P4. The car ahead is Max; let’s pick them off here.” We flew down the hill, and I broke early for Turn 6. “Be aware, crash behind. Local yellows.” I got a bit of oversteer on the corner exit but used it to fly into Turn 7. “Copy.” Michael was hot on my heels, and I moved to the left to defend the inside for Turn 8. “Crash in the back, that’s the Archer! Lucas White and he’s out! The two teammates come together after White locks up, and he’s done after contact with the barriers!” Michael moved outside but couldn’t make a move stick in the wet, which I was thankful for. I kept the engine mode high out of the corner and extended a small gap out to Michael, but he made it up again in the next corner. Already in a bit of a hole, Max appeared from behind the inside barrier about a half-second behind our battle. “Overtake has been mapped to Default-Three. Go Engine Default-Nine when you can.” Default Nine had been mapped to our Rich power rating, with the engine deployment being at 60% of the engine power and 55% of the electric power. The lighting in Turn 11 threw me off a little, and I missed my apex, but Michael didn’t have enough room to attempt a pass. The black and green car had the grip on the corner exit and closed onto my rear just enough to take a look. The circuit was too tight to make a pass, and I held my position- for now. I turned the engine up to Overtake down the short straight before releasing it, shooting into the 120º Turn 14. The tires kicked up much less spray than in other parts of the track, giving me a clear view in my mirrors. Michael dove to the inside and didn’t let up on the corner exit, taking the lead for himself. “Focus, let’s get this back.” He cleared me on the apex, but I had a better exit, closing on him under the bridges. The engine echoed off the concrete before I dove to the right under braking, stealing the position back. I ran a bit wide, and Michael tried the switch-back. We climbed the crest, and I barely held onto the position through the left-handed Turn 17. The spray was a lot more apparent in this part of the track, where the drainage wasn’t as well-developed. I followed the racing line into Turn 18 and under the hospital tunnel- a feature that, as you might expect, was a tunnel that went through a local hospital. Michael went wider over the curb and onto the ambulance runoff before returning to the racing line, taking a risky path due to how the wall stuck out. If you want too wide, you made contact with the wall before making it to the runoff. Not wide enough, however, and you just ended up weaving and possibly opening up an overtake for cars behind. I broke for Turn 19 and was cautious on exit, not going next to the wall. Michael had to correct his vehicle and allowed me to get a slight gap that I immediately erased on braking for Turn 21. A double-apex right-handed hairpin, Turns 21 and 22 were difficult to get right even in the dry. I went deep on the brakes at Turn 21, and Michael took advantage, sweeping past me on the inside of Turn 22. “My fault,” I said over the radio, fighting the spray and getting grip to sling into the left-handed Turn 23. I could see through the mist as we went through Turn 24 at almost full-throttle before the braking zone for Turn 25. “Keep your head up; wait for him to make a mistake.” We both went under the highway bridge and into Turn 27, still throwing water into the sky in our battle. We whipped through the right-left-right of 27, 28, and 29 before flying up the hill. The spray was most intense as we climbed the arch-like bridge, but it was wide enough for me to quickly make a move if I wanted to. I held in the slipstream of Michael but didn’t make a move, instead biding my time and looking to set up a pass down the straight. I followed him through the apex of Turn 30 before we shot uphill, joining the highway through Turn 31. We had a brief reprieve from the water before coming out from beneath the overpasses, and I was hit by a wall of water. I kept my eyes on the flashing lights of the car ahead before pulling out at the very last moment, taking the left side down the long front straight. The slipstream had allowed me to pull alongside, and, with the help of Overtake, the engine helped me get a nose out on Michael. “Absolutely fantastic battle here down the front-straight, as Jebediah moves to the outside! What can this engine do as we see Max Kerman now exiting Turn 31 and coming up the hill about a second back or so, with the young Arcazon Kerman behind! Now on the outside, they’re wheel to wheel in the first corner!!” I held my line on the outside and had to give way as the water offered no grip. Michael took the advantage and held the lead through Turn 2, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, behind, Max was engaged in his own fight- trying to chase us down while Arcazon hounded him for the final podium position. I kept behind in Turn 3 as we crested the hill. Michael did the same thing to me that I did to him on the opening lap- covering off an attack by defending the apex. It made for a bad run on the corner exit, and I took to the right side of Turn 5- a left-hander that went downhill on exit. I almost lost the rear and had to gather myself after giving him a gap. I closed down the straight and was right back on the attack, managing to keep the pressure up. [Michael K. Radio]: “I’m going to need something more here if we want to keep Jeb behind.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Copy. If you can hold the position until the dry phase, then we can authorize a higher power mode.” [Michael]: “Got it.” We both whipped through Turn 10, and I chose a more aggressive inside line for Turn 11, which paid off. I got my nose on his right side on the corner exit, which granted me the outside for Turn 12. [Max K. Radio]: “Okay, what’s the gap behind?” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “0.4.” [Max]: “Copy… He’s so quick, I don’t know how much longer I can hold him.” [Engineer]: “Car in front 1.2, we need to close. Let’s do this, come on.” Max held onto the car through Turn 11 but dipped the right-side tires into the water on the next corner. The rear snapped around, and Max had to go full opposite lock to avoid a spin, which he barely did. Arcazon flew past him on the inside of Turn 12, granting him P3 in the race. Max’s view was covered by spray as he fell into line behind the rookie. “As we look away from the battle for the lead, the battle for P3 is still hot, as the Rookie Arcazon Kerman is hot on the heels of last year’s champion Max Kerman- who has a MASSIVE moment in Turn 12! That’s all Arcazon needed for the initiative, and he flies past on the inside! What a move by the kid!” [Max K. Radio]: (Groan) “[Blanked]!” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Fantastic job, that’s P3. Let’s get the guys in front now, gap is 1.6.” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “Let’s get him back, come on, Max.” [Max]: “I’m trying!” “That’s a massive mistake there, very rare to see from the OTech driver.” Max was getting frustrated, and I could feel my jaw start to tighten up with some nerves as well. I dove into Turn 14 right behind Michael, taking advantage of the minimal spray underneath the trees. Michael defended the inside of Turn 15 but was too aggressive, locking up the inside-front. He ran wide on the exit curbing, and I breezed past before flying under the bridge. “Fantastic, let’s capitalize here.” Landin’s voice sounded excited before I dove into Turn 16, taking advantage of the mistake. Michael was about half a second behind now, forming a middle buffer between Arcazon and me. [Michael K. Radio]: “Crap, that’s my fault, guys. I’ll try to get him back.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “You’re faster in the corners; we can make the place. Strat 6.” We raced under the tunnel with the engines roaring. I understeered a bit as the tires shed water before flying out of Turn 19. I moved the differential down and tried to get a good run out of the corner, which worked pretty well on the acceleration run to Turn 21. I broke for the double-apex hairpin and rolled around on the curbing, feeling the car trying to get away from me even at these low speeds. “How’s the grip?” I powered out of Turn 22 and flew under the shadow of the buildings before responding. “Still not that good,” I responded, fighting wheel-spin at T23. “Copy. We anticipate the grip will remain about the same with tire deg.” I slammed through the gears as Landin spoke. “Dries will be viable at the point we talked about according to the estimates. Still on Plan A for now.” Her second statement was unexpected, and I missed the apex- sliding and losing time on the corner exit. “Copy. Please no talking in the corners. I almost spun.” There was no response, and I focused on holding my spot. I turned the engine up a bit over the bridge, attempting to generate a gap. The right-front resisted the brakes, and I had to run a little bit wide. I turned the engine up down the straight and used overtake for some extra power. “What power mode can I use?” I moved to cool the tires off away from the racing line before returning. “Overtake set to P-Seven. Default mode no higher than P-Six.” I had to go easy through Turn 1, which made it easy to slow for Turn 2. The crowd, though a bit damp, cheered as I passed with Michael right behind. I could see Arcazon starting to close just a little bit- chasing us down in an inferior car. I had to admit, the kid had guts. The sun glinted in my mirrors before we raced into Turn 4, hot on the brakes. The curb was still slick and nearly sent me into a spin, but I managed to correct it just in time. Water droplets stuck to the visor at low speed before blowing off through Turn 5. Michael followed in my line, waiting until we got into the second sector. We raced alongside a railroad before turning across it. The floor briefly scraped on the concrete before lifting over the metal, generating a brilliant flash of sparks. I could tell that the conditions were improving, but there was still a lot of work to do before the transition onto dry tires. “Keep an eye out for debris in Turn 25; one of the LakeFront’s just spun.” I followed the dry line through Turn 9 and used the momentum to ride the curb through Turn 10. “Yellow flags in Sector 3, and that’s Adam Gardner around! Doesn’t look to have too much damage; let’s see the replay.” The orange and white LakeFront car is behind Eve Green, the sole remaining Archer driver. Gardner dives to the inside of Turn 25, which isn’t much of an overtaking spot, and spins after his left-front tire makes contact with Green’s right-rear. The LakeFront does a spin and a half, facing backward but coasting off the racing line. He finds a gear and spins around, returning to action. “Jim, I don’t know about you, but that seems like it was Gardner’s fault. He’s in a faster LakeFront car that his teammate Marty Williams has up in P10 right now, and Gardner could have just taken the position in Turn 27- or, even better, down the bridge straight where that Kerrari engine can really help out.” “Jeremy, I was just about to say the same thing, as we have radio from Eve Green.” [Eve G. Radio]: (chuckle) “What’s he trying to do there? That was never going to work.” [Eve G. Engineer Radio]: “No idea. Do you need to box?” [Eve]: “No, we’re good. Just a dumb move.” “Well, at least we know that Eve isn’t upset at the move.” Neon lights on the nearby storefronts signaled the beginning of the night, and I spared a brief second to look up. Even through my tinted visor, I could see the shades of pink and red lighting up the city skyline, with the skyscrapers and towers reflecting a gorgeous orange sunset. I trail-braked through Turn 20 and pointed the nose into the corner. The car reacted well and rotated through Turn 22, which allowed me to get a good run. I noticed that Michael had closed up on me through the second sector, which ran from Turn 10 to Turn 24. The Monster was magnificent in the twisty middle portion of the circuit, which was the only reason they could keep up. “Going to David Kerman in the race control booth, what did you make of that incident between Green and Gardner?” “Well, Jim, I think it was just Gardner being a bit impatient. It-“ “Hang on, team radio.” [Michael K. Radio]: “I like Plan One. Maybe go A, as well.” “Apologies, David, just had to listen to some strategy comments from your old team. Please, continue.” I flew up the bridge and back down the arch, with Michael sat right behind. I went easy on the tires through Turn 30 before we got into the underpass. The spaghetti network of roads above us created a small area where we were shaded from view, which meant that the water patches were unpredictable. I felt myself compress as I went up the ramp and through the small left-right chicane that wasn’t even marked as a real corner. “Car behind, 0.4 seconds. P3 is closing. The gap is 1.1 seconds..” I held the right side down the front straight and turned the engine up, trying to keep Michael behind. He tucked in the slipstream and got a big run on me, but I was saved by the inside of Turn 1. Michael had to let off and disappeared behind a wall of water before braking for Turn 2. Our battle continued like this for the next couple of laps- Michael coming close to me in the second sector, but me just barely able to keep ahead thanks to the bridge straight in the third sector. Arcazon joined us a couple of laps later, which made the battle even more exciting. “Okay, Michael is focusing on defense against Arc. Try to capitalize.” I powered out of Turn 2 with Michael hot on my tail, but Arcazon was itching for a fight. He looked inside of Michael into Turn 4, and he didn’t defend, which led to the rookie taking the line. Michael had to give way, and Arcazon rolled past without losing any time to me. We raced downhill in Turn 5, and I held my ground in 6 and 7. Michael latched onto the slipstream of Arcazon and blasted past around the outside. I had to take the defensive line down the straight and into Turn 8, which bunched all of us together. Michael re-took P2 but couldn’t get past me for the lead, while Arcazon held back. The spray that had once blinded cars behind now was little more than a mist, and it was challenging to keep the tires from overheating. “There’s almost no spray.. I think it’s time, guys.” We went single-file through Turn 9, but Arcazon was determined to get ahead. He lunged up the inside of Michael in Turn 11 and made the move stick, fighting oversteer from the big move. He got the car under control and set his sights on me, which I was impressed by. Far from the best car on the grid, Arcazon should have been back in the midfield at best. He impressed everyone. “Okay, everything looks good. Can you manage for one more lap?” We ran through Turn 12, and I got a touch of oversteer on the exit after dipping a tire off into the wet. “Yeah, I can hold off for one more.” Arcazon held behind me in Turn 14 and used his momentum to attempt a move into Turn 15. I moved to the inside and forced him wide, allowing me to hold my position. With the track drying out, he didn’t have much time before the pace started to fall off. [Arcazon K. Radio]: “What can I do here?” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Scenario Six, Scenario Six.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Authorized Strat 7, let’s go.” “Okay, everyone’s going to be going crazy trying to get past you here.” I defended into Turn 16 and kept Arcazon behind me as Michael eyed a run. “What’s my power?” I hit the crest through Turn 17, and the car got light before we ran down to Turn 18. Arcazon thought about a look but locked up and was forced to commit to the move. He ran a bit deep into the tunnel and slowed up massively, allowing Michael to get past in the ambulance runoff area. “Default-Ten, Default-Ten.” I twisted the dial out of Turn 19, which moved the engine to the Rich revs mode. The Electrics were primed to “High,” which gave me a bit of a boost as well. I reduced the differential lock a bit to counter for the extra power, which helped with grip. Michael caught up to me under braking into Turn 21, which meant he was back on my tail. “B-B Minus-1, front tires are getting hot.” I quickly pushed the button on the wheel before flinging the car into Turn 24. Even though I was still throwing up a little mist, I had confidence in the car. The sun shone off the visor at the apex before it was blocked by a building, and I found it challenging to keep my concentration. We ran onto the wide street out of Turn 26, and I took an aggressive line, which was easy on the drying track. “What’s Max doing?” I went to the right into Turn 27, but Michael went further, allowing me to sweep up the track to get a better line. Michael went past but ran wide, allowing me a better exit out of Turn 27. We went side-by-side in Turn 28 (me on the outside, him inside), and I finally got past in Turn 29. I turned the engine up to Overtake and defended down the massive bridge, which was almost impossible to do. “Max is P4, Plus 7 seconds. No threat.” I cursed under my breath before throwing the car into Turn 30. Max was supposed to be a rear gunner to bring a fight to Michael- maybe get him off my back a bit as the race progressed. The “No threat” message told me that his race had really soured. “Be advised, we think that the car behind is going to make some adjustments to keep up with us. Not sure what it is yet.” I faked a move into the pit lane before moving close to the wall, trying to grab every bit of water that I could. I turned the engine up and got the car ready for a defense against Michael. The tires threw up what little water was left on the circuit, and I knew that it was likely past time. “Yeah, there’s no water. Repeat, no water.” I looked in my left mirror and saw Michael setting up behind me, but Arcazon made the first move. As Michael moved to the left to attack me, Arcazon did the same- sending us three-wide into Turn 1. Arcazon was the first to back out and followed me through Turn 1, but Michael actually held his line reasonably well. I was just able to clear him out of Turn 1, but he out-broke me into 2- forcing me wide at the hairpin. Arcazon took the initiative and stuck his nose in as well, getting alongside me out of the hairpin. “Michael Kerman to the lead of the Grand Prix of Baskay, what a great move! Now the rookie Arcazon Kerman trying to get past on the inside to Turn 3! He’s alongside, but Jebediah has the inside for the hairpin and makes the move work!” “Jim, DRS is now enabled, and we’ll see it here on the Tram Straight!” “DRS enabled, you’ll have it out of Turn 7.” I grinned and flung the car into Turn 5 hot on Michael’s heels. Sparks hit off the front of my visor before turning into Turn 6, and I dialed the engine up. I pushed the button and the rear flap opened, giving me a huge boost down the straight. Michael moved close to the wall, but he was a sitting duck as I flew past halfway down the straight with Arcazon in tow. The floor sparked on the railroad as I leaped over the tracks, and I noticed that the Carthian Motors car was now in P2. “What an incredible move by Jebediah Kerman to move into the lead! The 20-year-old is showing no signs of backing down against the veteran Michael Kerman, and he gets through! Fantastic stuff!” [Michael K. Radio]: “Pass along my thanks to Race Control… That was so stupid. If they’re going to enable DRS, don’t do it two turns before a DRS zone.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, let’s focus here. Get him back.” “Fantastic overtake, good job. Remember, Plan A.” I hit the curb at Turn 9 and kicked the rear out just enough to get some extra rotation, which helped me fly through the corner. Arcazon used his momentum to stay with me, but it was getting more difficult for him to hang on. Michael swept past him through Turn 10 around the outside and set his sights on me. [Eve G. Radio]: “Guys, something sounds funny with the engine..” [Eve G. Engineer Radio]: “Keep going, we’re looking.” I attacked the Turn 12 curb on the left side and quickly swung up the track to touch the Turn 13 curb with my right-side tires, which made me smile a bit at the speed I was able to carry. “Car going slowly down the front-straight, and it’s Green! We heard the radio earlier; what’s happened here?” [Eve G. Radio]: “Guys, something’s wrong. It won’t… Something’s broken.” [Eve G. Engineer Radio]: “Cycle Abort Modes if you can. Try to cycle your Abort Modes.” [Eve]: “I can’t; it’s broken! Anti-Stall.” [Engineer]: “Marshall Post in Turn 2 if you can make it, Marshall Post in 2.” [Eve]: “I’ll try.” “Archer running slowly down the front-straight, keep pushing. This may be a Safety Car here.” The car got light in Turn 17, and I quickly moved to defend my position, which Michael was making very difficult. I realized that Archer was supplied by Yama Motors, the same engine company that supplied Monster and Carthia. “Green in Turn 1, now, and that’s got to be an engine problem.” [Eve G. Radio]: “Guys, there’s smoke, something’s smoking.” [Eve G. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, stop the car, stop the car. Pull off at a Marshal Post and stop.” [Eve]: “Engine just died.. I can’t believe this..” “And that’s race over for Archer! Two cars, two DNFs, and there will be a lot of explaining for the team to do after this race. A crash at the start after contact between the two teammates, and now a terminal engine issue on Lap 8!” “And we have a Safety Car!” “Safety Car, Safety Car, Default-Two. Safety Car, Safety Car, Default-Two. Watch your delta.” I twisted the dial and exhaled, coasting into Turn 27. Michael had been right on my heels, and this yellow flag protected me from an attack. “Okay, so Plan A, right?” I weaved through the corner, trying to pick up what little water remained. “Confirm.” I went way off-line over the bridge, which yielded a little bit of water but not much. [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Plan One, A Two.” [Michael K. Radio]: “Negative, A One. A Two for second box.” [Engineer]: “Copy. A-M One.” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Teddy, we’re doing this, right?” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Confirm, Strategy One.” I was on top of the delta down the bridge and had to let off just a little bit down the straight. Even though the Safety Car was out, I attacked the corner to test the grip on the curbs. The car didn’t snap on me, and I felt confident to move onto the slick tires. “I’d prefer to stay ahead of Monster if you guys can do it,” I commented before climbing the ramp. Monster was a team with two significant factors in its competition with OTech: Their Chassis and their Pit Stops. The Monster GP car had a much better weight balance than ours on the inside and a much more powerful aerodynamics package on the outside. Combined with their wonderful pit-stops, the team had been a thorn in our side for the last five years easily. If they could just get a solid engine behind them, the championship would be wide-open. I got into the pit lane with Michael on my tail, just close enough to cover himself in the mirrors but not close enough to be dangerous. Arcazon was the first car to break rank, going into the second box on the grid. He got ahead of Max by about two car-lengths with a squeal of rubber on the low-grip concrete. Michael and I dove into our respective pits at the same time. Four intermediate tires went off, and four dry tires came on, along with a reduction in the front wing angle. The crew got me serviced seemingly as fast as usual, but I was held as Arcazon’s car went past. Michael hadn’t been forced to wait for as long and got a good launch out of his box, which meant that I had to wait for both cars to pass before I could release. I was out of the box about a second before Max arrived. I spared a quick glance back at my mirrors and saw the team quickly servicing the car. “Sorry about that,” Landin apologized over the radio. “Cars behind had much faster stops than we anticipated.” “It’s all good.” I released the limiter and got away from the pit lane. I short-shifted down the exit road before catching up to Michael and slowing down. “Just means we’ll have a bit more fun.” I quickly grinned under my helmet before tearing off the heavily-tinted rain/sunset visor strip. Max was the next driver to join us out of the pits, followed by Louie, Jesus, and Marty in the LakeFront. The scene reminded me eerily of Carthia just over a month ago: Carthia, Monster, and then me. I shook my head, dismissing the thought. This one wouldn’t slip away. “Remember, be careful in Sector 1 and Sector 3. The Bridge won’t have much grip, so keep your head up.” I tested the off-line grip in Turn 3 and felt some grip- not enough to be confident in a move, but some. “Grip feels okay for now. How is the fuel number looking?” Despite the high lap number, this was a long circuit. I was worried that fuel might be an issue if the race had an intense closing stage. “Fuel appears okay, but we will keep you updated.” The team frequently over-fueled the car to allow for overtaking maneuvers throughout the race, and Safety Car periods definitely didn’t hurt our attempts at fuel saving. The Safety Car period lasted a bit longer than usual due to some fluid concerns, but we finally got ready to go again at the end of Lap 13. “Okay, P-Nine authorized on the restart. Main at your discretion.” I twisted the Overtake selector to the MAX setting and put the primary mode on P-Six. The Safety Car drove off as Arcazon slowed the pack, trying to control the pace. I kept the gearbox one gear lower than I needed, letting the engine ride at high RPM. Arcazon leaped away from the pack in the middle of Turn 30 and rocketed away, grabbing a gear and launching away from the apex. I remembered the restart from Carthia and started to see a pattern emerge. Arcazon was very unpredictable with his restarts, which made it difficult to know when was a good time to launch. I was impressed but also annoyed. “Green Flags in the Grand Prix of Baskay, and away we go again! Fantastic launch by Arcazon Kerman, and he’s away as we enter Lap 14! Behind, it’s the Monster car of Michael Kerman looking to charge back against the rookie, with both OTech’s making up positions 3 and 4!” I turned the corner and caught into the slipstream of Michael. He was trailing Arcazon’s car and got a little help against me, but not enough to keep me behind. I darted to the right and got alongside but hit a wall of air and stalled out. Michael gained ground on me and thought about a move past Arcazon, which didn’t work as we all dove into Turn 1. Arcazon led us down into Turn 1 and held his line, which made Michael follow through. Even though our cars were faster, he wasn’t about to open up the inside of the tight hairpin. Max thought about a move on me but didn’t take it, which was good since I didn’t notice the look until too late. We dropped through Turn 5, and I looked to the left, to no avail. Michael held a crisp line through 6 and 7, which kept me behind. The tires had so much more grip than the inters, which gave me the confidence to whip through the corners. Michael got a fantastic run on Arcazon and made his move. “Now, Michael, to the right side! Arcazon defending down near the wall on the straight, side-by-side with the two Yama-powered cars! Michael Kerman has the run, the car, aaaaand… Can’t get past in Turn 8! Opens the door for the OTech on the inside, but the Monster with the momentum on the outside, still not giving way!” I was on the inside of Michael in Turn 8 and bottomed out over the railroad crossing, sending up sparks and making me lose a bit of grip. I slid up the track and almost made contact with the car on my outside, but Michael thankfully got a bit of a jump on me mid-corner, and I was clear to wash up the circuit. It was the first time that I was happy to be slow. Michael was still on the outside of Arcazon as we dove into Turn 9 and used his aerodynamic grip to sweep past. Arcazon attempted a defense but couldn’t do anything as Michael took his car up to the white lines. “What an overtake! The Monster clears the rookie and now trying to get away and extend the gap!” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “That was nice!” [Michael K. Radio]: “Woo!” [Engineer]: “Let’s just get a gap now, Strat 5.” Arcazon was flustered now, and I could tell that this was the best chance to strike. The streetlights were on now, and the reflections glinted off of the glossy metal and carbon-fiber paints. I jinked to the inside in Turn 11, and he reacted as I expected, cutting to the inside in defense. The move slowed him up and forced him to take a less than optimal line in the corner. He was slow on the corner exit, which allowed me to breeze past on the right side out of the corner. He slotted into line behind me, and I exhaled before shooting down into Turn 12. I trusted the tires to do their work, and they delivered. The car tilted over the curb before dropping back down. “Good overtake, let’s keep it up.” I flew down the street at full speed, trying to get as much of a run on Michael as I could. Max was behind the both of us, eyeing up a move on Arcazon for third. “A fantastic move by Jebediah, but look at the other OTech behind! Max Kerman has fallen off a little bit, but Arcazon is dropping like a stone in water! 2 positions in 12 corners with possibly another coming soon!” [Max K. Radio]: “I swear, this guy.. We’re losing time behind him.” [Max K. Engineer]: “Well, let’s pass him, come on.” [Max]: “I’m trying!” I followed Michael through Turn 14, looking at a dive. Even though the tires kicked up spray, I found a lot of grip as I attacked the right side. Michael didn’t defend, and I made the lunge, grinning like a maniac beneath my helmet. I had to give him room on the outside, which allowed him back past. I tried to keep the position, but he just had too much of a run, keeping me from staying alongside. “Worth a shot,” I said, looking at a chance to overtake into Turn 16. I followed Michael’s path but got a wash of understeer in the corner. I could tell that I had the better engine by a landslide, but the light construction of the Monster allowed it to keep ahead of me in the corner. The understeer kept me from making a move in Turn 18, but I kept searching for anything to give me a chance. The car was beginning to feel the effects of the dirty air, which annoyed me to no end. I got a fantastic run out of the hairpin, which gave me the bravery to attack. “Be careful; we’re looking at possible overheating on the fronts.” I followed hard through Turns 23 and 24 before closing hard in 25. The closure rate was so fast and sudden that I almost ramped off the rear of the car. I shot to the right side and flew past with more speed than I could have imagined, shooting past the Monster like it wasn’t even moving. The sudden change in direction caused me to almost lose the car's back end, and I had to saw at the wheel to keep control. I was cleared before Turn 26, and my heart was racing. “WOO! That was cool!” I shot into Turn 27 with an excellent quarter-second lead on Michael. “Jebediah Kerman, can he try the overtake he- HERE HE GOES!” “Oh my goodness, what a move! Jebediah Kerman to the inside, and it’s like Michael wasn’t even there!” “That was an absolutely incredible overtake, but I’m more amazed by the car control by the OTech driver!” [Michael K. Radio]: “Woah! That.. That was… Yeah, wow.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Alright, let’s bear down and focus now. We can still get this position back, now.” “That was a great overtake, Jeb! Let’s get moving here.” I hit the apex of the turns before punching the gas, trying to distance myself from Michael. I was trying to use the engine to maximum effect, but this brand-new Yama unit that Monster had brought in was really doing something special in this race. The DRS was closed for the first 3 laps after green flags, which was just enough to keep me ahead as he attacked down into Turn 1. This back-and-forth continued for the next few laps as I kept Michael behind- even with the DRS that helped him. However, the battle behind was far more interesting. As Michael and I dueled with each other ahead, Max was involved with his own struggle. “As we look away from the midfield, we land here, in this battle for the podium! Arcazon Kerman, the rookie for Carthia, has done a FANTASTIC job of holding off the OTech of Max behind! The restart was nine laps ago, now, but last season’s champion is finding himself really struggling to get past.” “Jim, he’s been losing time behind the rookie for quite some time now, and I’m shocked that an overtake hasn’t happened yet. Even though the Carthia team has been good to this point, I don’t think anyone expected this level of performance out of the first-year team! Of course, his teammate, Matthias Blomqvist, he’s down the order in 17th at the moment, so how much of that is the car or the driver? We really can’t tell.” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “Max, if we want to keep on this plan, we need to overtake. P2 is starting to break away at an unrecoverable rate.” [Max K. Radio]: “I’m freaking TRYING! It’s not like I want to be behind!” [Engineer]: “Well, then let’s get on with it.” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Driver behind is starting to get upset; we can take advantage here.” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Hopefully, he starts to crack soon. I’m burning these tires like toast.” I controlled the car over the bumpy surface in Turn 8, almost losing my handle of the steering wheel but maintaining control. Michael was hot on my tail, though, anxious to get a look at me. I could tell that he was still upset about the overtake I had performed earlier. After attacking the temporary curbing at T9, I keyed my radio. “How far back is Max?” The car almost over-rotated on me in Turn 10, which caused a swift correction. “I could really use that help right about now.” Michael slid up the track onto the exit curb, sacrificing the ideal line but maintaining control without a correction. “Max... will not be able to assist.” I shook my head and dialed up the engine a notch, trying to regain a gap in the middle sector where Monster was so strong. He was able to close up on me in the corners, which made it very difficult to defend as we went from corner to straight. “He’s just so much faster than us in the corners.. Really not sure what I can do, to be honest.” I attacked Turn 12 and barely skimmed the apex curbs at Turn 13, which caused a snap of oversteer from the elevated curbing. The temporary curb was about 8 inches high and essentially just a painted slope to keep us from impacting the standard street curb at high speed. The paint, which still had a bit of moisture, was incredibly slick. Combine that with the general slipperiness of the surface in normal conditions, it was challenging to take. My tires were starting to drop off heavily, which was allowing Michael to catch me up. The snap oversteer was just one mistake, but it was starting to add up. “We think we can stay out to the end if you need to. Is tire wear too bad?” I darted under the bridges before diving into Turn 16. The car rose over the crest into the next corner, getting light as the tires lost their traction with the road for a brief second. I kept the car stable and ran next to the wall. “If you had told me that a couple laps ago, I could have done it, but now..” I whipped through the Tunnel at Turns 18 and 19 before entering the divided street. Michael locked up behind me at Turn 21, which helped me to get a small gap. He wasn’t far behind, but the mistake was just enough to give me a breather. “If we are going to stop, we’re looking at doing it within the next couple of laps.” That way, we could push hard to the end. I rose over the bridge before dropping again as the lights reflected off of the metal. The engine pulled the car into the corner before I jammed the brakes, sparks shooting out from behind me. We raced back uphill with the floor bottoming out, and I made an early defensive move to the right. “Grip is pretty poor under acceleration. I don’t think we’ll be able to make it to the end on this set alone.” Michael wasn’t close enough to make an attack, so I drifted towards the left-hand side to get a good line into the first corner. I was quick on the curbing, which allowed me to fly into the braking zone for Turn 2. “We’re all assuming that this race is just down to the Top Two, but if there’s another pit stop like we hear there might be, this could be far from over yet!” “Both the OTechs and the Monster in P2 have made complaints about their tires, but Arcazon Kerman in the final podium position has been pretty quiet on the radio to this point.” “Whether his tires are fine or whether he’s keeping up the poker face is up for debate, but- Oh, yellow flags in Sector 3. What’s happened- Oh, crash in Turn 21! Emily Walker, into the wall and out of the Baskan Grand Prix! And now we have more yellow flags further down the track! It’s the OTech GP car of Saul Kerman!” [Emily W. Radio]: “GrrrRAH! Are you kidding me?! I’m out! DAMNIT!” [Emily W. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, go Fail Safe-One, hold confirm on the wheel for 2 seconds, and then turn Default to Zero-Zero. Sorry about that.” [Emily W.]: “AGH!” “Walker, obviously frustrated, but- oh, radio from Kerman.” [Saul K. Radio]: “Damage, damage. I think the left-front suspension is damaged.” [Saul K. Engineer Radio]: “What happened?” [Saul K.]: “Emily just turned in on me at 21. I think the-... Yeah, left-front is broken. Damn, sorry, guys.” [Engineer]: “Okay, pull off at Turn 24 if you can make it. Remember, Default Zero-Zero.” “Jeremy, that’s a catastrophic blow for both teams- Walker and Kerman were in P8 and P9, respectively. Those points that they’ve thrown away; could be the difference in a midfield Constructors battle come the end of the year.” “Right you are, Jim, but let’s see what happened there to cause this incident.” From Saul’s car: Emily in the pink Kindia car is ahead, but Saul is closing fast. She leaves the room on the right side exiting Turn 19 to set up the run through Turns 20, 21, and 22. Saul takes the inside line into Turn 20 and gets alongside but loses ground before entering Turn 21. Emily turns down for Turn 21, but there’s contact. Saul’s left-front tire impacts her right rear, which sends her into the outside barrier. [Saul K.]: “Where was she going with that?... Ugh. Just turned into me like I wasn’t even there!” “Okay, Virtual Safety Car, Virtual Safety Car. You have a delta on your wheel. Keep it green, please. Slow down to match the delta.” I cursed and punched my wheel out of Turn 4 as I jammed the brakes, trying to match the slow time that the series had set. “And so the first time we’ve seen the VSC in this series, and a pretty good time to use it. Jim, what does it do?” “Well, Jer’, the VSC, or Virtual Safety Car, essentially acts as a Safety Car, but it keeps the gaps between the cars the same as it was before. This way, drivers are slowed down for the safety of the Marshals on track, but it won’t bunch the field up like a traditional Safety Car.” “What are we doing?” I weaved into Turn 5 before dropping down the ramp. “We need to stop this lap; there’s no way we can make it to the end.” The yellow lights flashed on the marshal post boards and on my steering wheel, but I did my best to focus on the track ahead of me. “Box box, box. We can take advantage of the slow delta.” I broke to maintain the delta, and the screen went green yet again. “Alright, confirm.” “So as we see Walker getting out of her car, it looks like we’ll be getting that third pit stop that we were thinking might happen! We already have some in the pits; Ward and Anker have just pulled into the pit lane, and we’ll see who follows them in!” [Michael K. Radio]: “Okay, what are we-” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Box Box, Box Box, we will go A-M One.” [Michael K.]: “Negative, I like where we’re at; no adjustment.” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Alright, kid, let’s do this. You’ll be boxing this lap.” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Got it. The car feels great so far.” [Max K. Radio]: “We need to find some way to pass this guy or something. This is getting outrageous.” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “We’ll box this lap, move you onto a better set of tires.” “So it looks like everyone in the Top 4 at least will be coming in, Jim, and I think that this race is anything but over!” I rolled through Turn 15 and coasted, allowing myself to save a little bit more fuel. I pushed the button on my dash to show the fuel value, and I checked to make sure I hadn’t pushed too hard. Our delta was good, but if I wanted to go hard towards the end, I would need some more fuel saving. “Be careful of debris on the racing line at Turn 21 if you can. Marshals are trying to clear it, but some pieces could pose a threat.” I weaved the car down the straight into Turn 16, still racing harder than I would under the standard Safety Car, but while allowing the delta to catch up. I had to weave to avoid large chunks of debris, but I still ran over a few pieces that crunched under my wheels. An endplate was lifted into the air by one of my tires, and I knew that there would be damage. I saw Emily’s car off to the side of Turn 22 and Emily standing a bit further behind the temporary tire walls. The left side of the vehicle was sunken into the wall with both wheels off the suspension, and the right rear wheel was hanging loose. Emily shook her head before I disappeared behind the wall in Turn 23. "That’s a lot of debris in 21. I think we might have tire damage.” I kept the wheel straight through 23 and into 24, using as little steering input as possible. “Copy, we see it. Boxing this lap, just be cautious.” The rest of the lap was uneventful, and I hit the pits ahead of Michael. The team was quick and precise with the wheels, and I was out of the box well before Max arrived. “Fantastic stop, boys, thanks for that one!” I shot out of the pit lane and exited just behind the Carthia car of Blomqvist. “Let’s get the tires up to temperature. The debris is off the racing line, so we’ll be ready to go back to racing soon.” I weaved in Turn 3, having to brake for the car ahead. “Surprised Matthias didn’t box, he’s going to get destroyed on this restart.” I checked the brake bias and electric modes under the slow pace, and I made sure to lower everything. “Yeah, we’ll have to make sure to pass him quickly when the VSC ends. Otherwise, we’ll get held up into the car behind.” Further behind, there was slightly less.. Civil communication going on. [Max K. Radio]: “[BLANK]! [BLANK]! COME ON!” [Max K. Engineer Radio]: “Max, we can still get P3 here. It’s not over yet.” [Max]: “The hell it isn’t! We could have won this [blank]ing race if we hadn’t been held up.” [Engineer]: “Remember emotions. We’ll talk about it after the race. Head down, focus.” [Max]: “Yeah, yeah.” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “That VSC was a lifesaver. Excellent stop, guys.” The destroyed #8 car was hanging from a crane when I passed the scene again, and I knew that it was almost time to go back to racing. I kept the tires warm through Turn 26 before the yellow lights began to flash. “VSC ending soon, keep below the delta.” I went to a lower gear to raise the revs as the fuel and electricity mapping changed over, preparing to give me the best amount of power on launch. My heart was racing as I watched the lights. We got out of Turn 29 and onto the straight just as the lights went green, which I took with a head of steam. Matthias quickly got out of the way, and I waved to him as a thank you while passing. The engine roared up to speed, with Michael falling back down the stretch. “And we are back underway here in Baskay! Jebediah Kerman with a great launch down the Bridge Straight, and he’s away well from his rival Michael Kerman in the Monster! Meanwhile, further behind, the rookie Arcazon has had a pretty poor start against our Championship Leader heading into this race, Max Kerman, in the OTech! Max going for the move to the inside, Arcazon to cover, and last year’s champion flies past on the left-side to take P3!” [Max K. Radio]: “[Blank]ing finally.” [Max K. Engineer]: “Let’s get after it, now.” “Okay, let’s get it moving here. Great launch.” I dove into turns 30 and 31, utilizing the brand-new tires to my advantage. The engine was coming into its own now, and I was hopeful that we could keep the speed up. Michael had slipstream off of Matthias, which he used to good effect down the straight. He closed in, which forced me to defend into Turn 1. I took the left side of the circuit, and Michael went right, sweeping alongside me. However, the inside of the hairpin allowed me to slip back ahead, clearing the Monster at the apex of the corner. “Just so you know, Max is back in P3 now. Plus-Six, unlikely to assist.” I used the curb on the exit of Turn 8, which let me carry speed up onto the lowered sidewalk. “What happened?” Three quick downshifts led into Turn 9 and 10, but Michael was hot behind me. “He encountered traffic; we’ll explain afterward. EH-Six, please.” I rolled my harvest mode up a click, which essentially reduced the effect of the electric hybrid power and lowered power consumption. “Alright. Tell him to get up here if he can.” I powered past the statues to my left in the plaza out of Turn 13 before flying into the street between two buildings. The lights blazed above us while the engines echoed, creating a dazzling effect of light and sound. Even though we were traveling at over 150 miles an hour under the bridges, I could still see the detailing on the number 3 just behind me. Flecks of gloss paint reflected lights and stood out against the matte paint of both the number and the nose of the car. Monster’s paint scheme looked fantastic in the night lights- jagged, neon green lines stood out against the black canvas of the body while flowing lines of black gloss followed the curves against matte black. As the laps ticked down, I began to gradually extend my gap. With the weight of the fuel slowly burning off and the tires still fresh, I was able to keep up with the Monster, which was superior in the corners. Max, now free from Arcazon, was beginning to close in on Michael, but I knew that it would just be too little too late. The gap, which was around 8 seconds when he got past, would end up being too much to surmount. We opened up into the final lap, and I turned the harvesting dial up. “Alright, final lap, just bring it to the line. The gap behind is two-point-seven, Default Standard.” Though I knew the race was pretty much over, I attacked into Turn 1 and took the optimal line out of the corner. Sparks flew from beneath the car down the back straight as the suspension was pushed to its limits, creating a dazzling display behind me. Before I knew it, the final corner was in my mirror, with the finish line edging ever closer. 200 meters. I let off the throttle a touch, getting as far to the right as I could. 150 meters. A dive to the left, slight application of throttle. 100 meters. Finish the weave, close in on the left side of the circuit to the team. 50 meters. I raised my arm and pointed to the flag, grinning beneath my helmet. Zero. Fireworks blasted into the air as I passed beneath the checkered flag, illuminating the night sky and casting multicolored shadows across the already well-lit circuit. “Yeeeah, boys! Yes! Ahaha, that's what I'm talking about! Thank you!” I passed beneath the team on the wall before returning to the center of the track, pumping my fist in the air. Michael behind me saluted his team as well, getting close and waving to the crew on the wall before joining in my path. “Jebediah Kerman, amazing drive! Fantastic work, all weekend! That’s the Grand Slam, mate, well done!” I turned the power and electric deployments to Zero, which would give practically no engine power but would preserve the unit for later. [Michael K. Radio]: “Thank you all for the hard work this weekend; I really appreciate it. Sorry I couldn’t get him there in the end.” [Michael K. Engineer Radio]: “Hey, it’s all good, mate. You did everything we asked all weekend, couldn’t ask for more. Strat 1 on entry, you know the drill.” [Max K. Radio]: “Aaah, good race, guys. I’m really sorry about that one. I just couldn’t pass. Y’all deserved better.” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “That’s P4! Amazing job, mate! Way to go, kid!” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Yes, boys! That was fantastic stuff! Woo!” I pulled into the pit lane and the podium paddock, following an in-lap of waving to the crowd beneath the lights. Max was visibly upset as we sat in the podium lounge, shaking his head. “Just couldn’t get past him at all!” He watched a replay of their battle and shook his head. “Sorry about that, man.” I gave him a pat on the shoulder as the highlights showed a midfield battle. “It’s okay, bud. Kid’s fast.” The camera showed a slow-mo replay of Arcazon’s car driving over the curbs at Turn 13, kicking up droplets of water in the wet weather. Michael looked at the screen with a face best described as serious- not exactly happy, but not scowling either. “You almost had me,” I said to Michael, snapping him out of his stare. “Huh? Oh.. oh, yeah. I could have gotten you if the VSC didn’t happen.” I grinned and shook my head, pinching my fingers together. “Barely, maybe. You guys were pretty fast on the straights. Did y’all get an updated Power Unit this week?” Michael smiled and shook his head. “My lips are sealed.” I laughed, crossing my arms and chatting with both Max and Michael until the podium celebrations. On the top step, I looked down at the team, giving them a thumbs-up with a grin. However, I noticed a mixed color with the Monster crew- a dark, navy blue pair of overalls. Arcazon was talking with Dominic Fischer, the Director of Motorsport for Monster. The conversation was very animated, with Arc waving his hands and a smile on his face. I turned to look at Michael, who was staring down at the pair with a stern face. He nodded at the two back down on the ground beneath us before looking away, back to his own car. Two thoughts crossed my mind. First, something was going on with Michael. And the second: Arcazon wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. 10:30 PM Cameras flashed in front of us as the reporters got ready for their question session, and I took a drink from the water bottle in front of me. Max and I had just come out of a lightning-fast debrief with the team (Andy, Landin, Claire, and of course, us) before coming to the press room. Max had been held up behind Arcazon for almost the entire race, which led to us missing out on maximum points. I was confused by the issue, but Max was just flat angry. "Alright, so if everyone's ready, we'll begin." The room quieted down as the K1 Press Director came up to introduce us. "Remember, questions relevant to the 2038 Grand Prix of Baskay, about the Interviewees. Left, Michael Kerman, Monster Race Team, Second Place; Center, Jebediah Kerman, OTech GP, Winner; Right, Max Kerman, OTech GP, Third Place. Begin questioning." There was a rush to be the first question, and it wasn't long before a reporter stood up. "Charlotte Peters, Motorsports.com, to all of you. How did the Baskay GP circuit feel to you, despite the challenging conditions?" We looked at each other for a bit before I cleared my throat, nominating myself to go first. "It was fun," I said, leaning forward onto my elbows with a nod. "It was pretty much we expected from a street circuit- technical corners with not much room, but that's just part of the challenge. The front-straight is longer, so we had to set our cars up differently. It gave the team plenty to work on, and it gave us plenty to adapt to, but it was enjoyable for sure." Michael nodded. "Just to follow up on that point, it is an absolutely fantastic track. The weather added to the difficulty, but that's just what we do. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It was no different here today." We both looked at Max, who shrugged and looked at Charlotte. "It's a street circuit, so there's always a lot of... difficulty that goes into it. Everything you do, it feels magnified. The speeds, the precision, the risk.. all of it. I enjoyed it, though, if that's what you're asking." There was another clamor for questions before the next reporter stood up. "Matthew Decker, WTK1.com. This question goes to Michael in particular, but anyone can answer this, really. Conditions today were incredibly tough at the start, and even then, we saw mistakes from other drivers. How did your experience help you?" The corner of Michael's mouth twitched into a smile before he nodded. "Well, of course, it wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but that's half the fun. Sure, there was a lot of experience involved in keeping the car on track, but there was also a lot of trust in the car. Even then, I still made a few mistakes here and there that I need to iron out." I raised my hands to signal "No comment," and Max did the same. "Steve Banner, Racing Today. Max, there was a lot of radio chatter back and forth between you and your team regarding difficulties faced against Arcazon Kerman. Care to elaborate?" I saw Max tighten up a bit before leaning forward to speak into the mic. "Yeah, sure. There were obviously some difficulties getting past today, and I got a bit heated. I felt like he was holding me up, and I was getting upset. Overtaking is hard on a street circuit, and it's really hard when you're going against a kid who's that aggressive." The corners of his mouth twitched in anger, and I tapped my heel on the ground to let him know that he couldn't get too riled up. "After the race, Arcazon was quoted as saying, 'If he wanted to pass, he should have gone faster.' Care to comment?" Max clenched his teeth and nodded a few times angrily before staring the reporter dead in the eyes. "Arcazon said that?" The reporter nodded, and Max rolled his shoulders. "No comment."
  10. Well, everyone, today is a very sad day indeed. I have begun the (heartbreaking) process of storing all of my files for the inevitable loss of this laptop. For the last 6 years, all of my stories have been on the wonderful Apple application known as Pages. Now, however, I feel that its time is coming to an end. As I transition to college, I do not know whether a MacBook will continue to be my trusted typing tool. These keys, a bit faded and very well-used, have been my messengers to the world. Do not worry, LATT will continue. I'm just sad to see an old friend go. If formatting gets messed up, it is because I am moving over to Google Docs for my writing, at least for the time being. HOPEFULLY this comes with minimal changes, but there's always the possibility that something goes haywire. As with everything, though, I'll do my best to power through it
  11. Okay, so I believe it's all ready! Sorry for the delays, but we are ready for Round 4! I'm not going to do the full season- instead, I'm going to just do specific races from the schedule that are the most important ones. Hope y'all enjoy! Chapter 40 5:01 PM, April 4, 2038. Mallingham, Carthia. Post-Race for Round 3: The Carthian Grand Prix. “So, are we flying back tonight?” Max and I walked into the lounge, carrying the trophies and grabbing our things. “I thought we had that tire test thing in Kafrica on.. Wednesday?” Max adjusted his P3 hat- one of the many that he had already received so far. “No, that’s after Solaria. 21st I thought.” Just then, Arcazon walked in, still wet from the champagne, and sat down on the couch. He buried his face in his hands, and I walked over to him. “Are you alright?” The kid nodded and held the trophy tightly. “Yeah, just… thinking about this crazy year.” I chuckled, remembering the meeting where he had blown up at Matty. “When I started this year, I didn’t know if I would be in K1 for the season... Heck, I didn’t even know if I was going to have a drive!” He laughed and looked down at the cup. “This is absolutely insane.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “It’s yours. You earned it.” I heard chanting outside, and Arcazon lifted his head. We’d been off the podium for a couple of minutes, but the crowd didn’t sound like it had dispersed. He smiled and stood up. “5 more minutes, and I promise I’ll do my interviews.” I shrugged, and he grinned before bouncing out of the open doorway to a roar from the crowd. This was a high he wouldn’t be coming down from for a while. 6:00 PM “It looked like the F-Tech’s had your number today, especially in the rain. Do you think they will be a threat to the dominance you’ve established so far this year?” I shifted on my feet and heard a puddle slosh under my boot. The lights glared around me from both the cameras and the city as the sunset had begun to turn into darkness. Thunder rumbled far off into the mountains. “Well, they just had a good car today. We had some issues with the balance this week, and we lost time in the second sector. I think that I would have passed Juan regardless of any engine issue, but they built a good car for this week.” Cameras flashed as I spoke. Before the next question, I took a drink from my bottle. “You were on pace to catch Arcazon Kerman by the end of the race, but a mistake threw it all away. What happened there?” I clenched my jaw briefly in anger. I had been asked the same question at least ten times so far in the last hour and a half of interviews. “Yeah, it sucks. I just pushed too hard, and I locked up. It is what it is, and I’ll try to make sure to avoid mistakes like that in the future.” I counted to ten in my mind and tried to calm myself down. “So there wasn’t anything wrong with the car; it was 100% driver error?” I shook my head and gripped the bottle tightly. “I already answered that question. Next?” There were more camera flashes but no more questions. “Awesome, see y’all in a couple of weeks.” I walked off and shook my head, joining Max, who was waiting up for me. “That took a bit longer than usual,” he said with a bounce. I nodded and grabbed my phone, clearing about a hundred notifications of texts and tweets. “It felt like forever.” Almost every question I was asked was a variant of either the weather, why we were slow, or my lockup. It was getting annoying, but I understood why the press wanted to try and dig into me. “I can imagine.” Max nodded and jumped over a puddle, landing silently on the other side. “So, Solaria in a couple of weeks. I think our engine should be able to keep us alive through there.” “Probably, yeah.” I looked up for a brief second and saw Arcazon. He was lying down on the track, staring up at the sky. The trophy was next to him, gleaming in the street lights. I stopped and smiled. Max joined me and chuckled. “I wonder what’s going through his head right now.” Thunder rumbled through the hills. “What did you think about when you won your first?” We resumed the walk back to the car. “Probably something to do with how stupidly lucky I was.” I laughed and gave him a light shove on his shoulder. “That would have been… What, ’36?” Max thought for a moment and nodded. “Tekkia. I got you on the final corner.” I nodded, remembering the close finish. “Gosh, that would mean we were… 18?” I sighed, thinking back. “Yeah, 18. So I was probably also thinking how I could impress a girl with a trophy.” Max grinned, and we both chuckled. I felt a buzz in my pocket and checked my phone. Andy had scheduled a debrief for the following day at 8. I was happy for Arcazon, but I had to shift my focus. I’d gone six races without a win, now; the longest stretch of my career. I could feel the clock starting to tick, little by little. 1:00 PM, April 7, 2038. New OTech Headquarters; River City, Owlia I flipped the page on the Race 4 packet, which showed the track, details about the race, our car updates, and the expected performance of other teams. The track detail was especially thick this week since the Solarian GP circuit had undergone a big re-profiling since the last time we had visited the circuit. As such, Andy made sure that we got even more studying in for the upcoming race weekend. As I looked at the new attack angles of Turn 19, I heard a knock at the door. “It’s open,” I called out, looking at the simulated view of the new uphill attack of the corner. The fact that we had these reports every week made me a bit nervous about the state of our printers and the health of forests. “New report for you,” Andy said, popping his head in the door. I groaned and put my head down on the desk. He produced a document about half the size of the one I was reading, and I shook my head. “What’s this one about?” I set down the race week document and thumbed through the newer packet. “Engine modes,” Andy explained, making me look up at him. “I thought that we already decided to keep our power modes through to the Summer Break.” With the further advancements of the electric hybrid Power Distribution Systems (PDS’s for short), the teams had been able to open up more to newer power modes that provided more deployment flexibility. Instead of a simple on/off switch, the Power Modes had turned more into a slider. Judging by the packet, I felt like the slider had just gotten bigger. “Yes, but I figured we could use a refresher of the Fail Modes.” I looked up at him in surprise. “Fail Modes? Why do we need to worry about Fail Modes?” Our car had been practically bulletproof the last two seasons, and even our affiliates (OTech GP and Racing Line Kindia) hadn’t suffered many technical problems over the season. “Firstly, you pushed the engine pretty hard last week, so we want to be prepared in case the engine blows. Secondly, it always pays to be prepared. Third, I’m-“ He was interrupted by a voice from outside. “Remember, everyone, no cameras down on the workshop floor, please! This is the Executive Hall, where our main employees- the drivers as well as the race engineers- have their offices.” A tour! I stood up and made my way to the door. “Jeb, I’ve just got a couple more-“ He was interrupted by the tour guide’s voice outside. “Now, this office right here is for Jebediah Kerman, who’s been with the team for three years now.” I pointed both thumbs towards the frosted glass, which had silhouettes starting to appear on it. “Gotta go,” I said, leaning towards the door. “Can’t we-“ I opened the door a crack. “Five minutes, I promise.” He rolled his eyes and shrugged, sitting down in my chair. I grinned at him and poked my head outside, still smiling. “Hello, everyone!” I had completely forgotten that the team did guided tours, but I was grateful for the distraction. “Hi, Jeb! We’re not interrupting anything, are we?” I shook my head at the guide, who had a name tag that said “Grace.” Three years and I’m still learning people’s names. “Nah, nothing at all! I was just about to go to lunch.” My stomach growled for extra effect, drawing a few laughs from the tour group. “Can we get your picture?” One of the kids in the group spoke up, and I smiled. “Of course!” I leaned up against the glass and posed as a few of the tourists came up for photos. With how much work Andy was piling on, I wouldn’t have much free time for the rest of the week. 12:35 PM, April 18, 2038. Round 4 of 13: The Solarian Grand Prix. Stellar City, Solaria. “Welcome, everyone, to the fourth round of the 2038 K1 season! Today we say hello to Solaria: Home of space travel and a stunning race circuit nestled on the coast of this Kafrican nation. Following a thrilling race last race, rookie Arcazon Kerman is looking to rekindle the magic after claiming his first career victory- at his home race, no less. While the rookie rose, the veterans faltered. The race exposed the big dogs of OTech and Monster, who are looking to return to form following a wild race in the rain. “No rain expected here today, though, in this gorgeous city. With 20 turns- nine to the left and eleven to the right- this circuit features some of the more dramatic elevation changes on the calendar. Renovations over the winter have re-profiled four sections of track, which will only add to the excitement that’s in store for us today. Good day, everyone, and welcome to the commentary booth! My name is Jim Kerman, and joining me is 2025 K1 Champion Jeremy Kerman! Jer’, welcome!” “Jim, it’s fantastic to be here. The final race of the Kafrican sweep, Solaria, played host to a thrilling race last season, where the OTech Teammates put on a whale of a show for us. This track, I think, will really favor the current championship leaders, who last week demonstrated that their 2038 engine package is incredibly strong.” “For sure, and we’re looking forward to it! The Solarian Grand Prix, coming up!” … “How’s the car feel?” I took my run through the re-profiled chicane and sped up, letting the car push through The Loop. The recon lap so far had been uneventful, besides a little slide in Turn 2 where the track rose over a curb. “Feels good; everything’s going smooth. Gears feel smooth.” The track fell away through Turn 17, but the car didn’t lose grip. Because of the long straights, our engine was allowing us a massive advantage. Combine that with a low-drag aero package, and everything was looking good for Max and me. “Alright, just keep it easy. The telemetry looks good, so you can come to the grid if you want. Remember to deactivate your Fails on entry.” I did my best to limit strain on the engine by shifting up extra early and coasting and running the added Fail Modes. Even though it was just four races into the season, the team had been busy with upgrades- 11 modes for both Engine and Electric power, eight specific default modes, and over 20 fail modes that we probably wouldn’t even need. I was grateful for Landin’s help in managing everything from the cockpit. As I coasted down the hill, I noticed a slight dissipating cloud in front of me. I turned into the banked Turn 18 and felt the rear slip out a bit, despite going so slowly on practically fresh tires. “Hey, there might be some fluid or something on the track in Turn 18. Not sure, though.” I exited 18 and climbed the hill to Turn 19 before noticing yellow flags. I slowed down and crested the hill just as I passed a slow CM car off to the side. It looked to be coasting as the emergency lights had come on, but I didn’t focus too hard on it. “Coming to the grid.” “Oh dear, what’s this? It looks like we have one car going slowly.. That’s- that’s Arcazon Kerman, the winner of the last race! The Carthian Motors car has gone slow, here at the top of the hill, what’s happened?” [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Uh... I just lost power. No power on the back straight. What do I do?” [Engineer]: “What happened?” [Arcazon]: “I don’t know. I was going down the straight, and I suddenly went into Anti-Stall.” [Engineer]: “Can you shift?” [Arcazon]: “Yeah, but there’s no power. I’m pushing the gas, and it’s just grinding.” [Engineer]: “Okay, bring it back to the pit lane, and we’ll take a look. Do you have any response?” [Arcazon]: “Negative.” “Oh no, that’s so unfortunate for the rookie, who looks like he won’t even make the grid! What happened on the replay?” I arrived at the grid, and the team lifted the car, moving it to the grid slot as I undid my gloves. The Jumbotron to the left of me showed a replay of what had happened. He was going down the straight perfectly fine before I noticed a slight puff of smoke exit the exhaust. A small trail of smoke came out a second later, and I could tell the car was done. I raised my visor and pointed at the screen just as Andy walked past. “Engine issue?” Andy leaned down to hear better, and I repeated the question. He looked up at the replay for a few seconds and nodded. “Most likely. They pushed hard trying to catch us last time; I bet that’s what caused the issue.” The replay ended to show Arcazon limping through the pit lane, barely keeping the momentum from the downhill out of Turn 19. A small trail of smoke was still coming out of the rear, and I knew it wasn’t going to be good for the team. I shook my head and listened to the team radio for a little bit before stepping out of the car. A few cameras clicked and rustled as I passed, but it was mainly silent on the short walk to the start-finish line for the anthem. I looked back at my car, which had a black engine cover for today’s race. Over the two-week break, Walker Murray, a long-time commentator for K1, had passed away. The teams up and down the pit lane were doing something to recognize him. Monster had removed their logos to make a (mostly) blacked-out car; OTech had painted over the engine cover; F-Tech had painted their nose black; on and on the tributes went. It was a fitting touch for the legendary voice of the sport. “Welcome back, everyone, we’re just 5 minutes away from the Formation Lap, and the big news is in the pit lane! Tiffany, what do you know down there?” “Well, Jeremy, the 77 car of Arcazon Kerman had an issue during the recon laps! He lost power down the Bradley straight, and he had to be pushed to his pit box! As you can see behind me, the team is working frantically to diagnose the issue, but it’s not looking good at the moment. The engine cover is off, and the team is working frantically, but I don’t know what they’ll be able to do to fix the car in time for lights out.” “I can see someone’s legs sticking out of the back, there- has anyone confirmed whether it’s a gearbox issue or a power unit issue?” “Well, it appears to be a Power Unit issue. We saw on an earlier replay, some smoke came out of the rear of that car, and- Oh, here’s Arcazon now. Arc, we saw smoke coming out of that car on the recon lap; what happened?” [Arcazon]: “I’m not sure, frankly. The car was going well, and then I lost power.” “Do you think you can get back out there for the start, or is this game over?” [Arcazon]: “If anyone can get it done, it’s these guys.” “So we have 5 minutes to formation lap.” I adjusted my gloves, which were a bit hot from sitting in the sun. “Conditions are clear, no weather threat.” I keyed the radio as the team worked on their final checks. “Alright... My hands are a bit hot; I forgot to put my gloves in the seat. I’ll be good, though.” As soon as I finished speaking, a cloud drifted over the circuit. I sighed and looked up at the run into Turn 1. The team kept going through their checks, and it was finally time for the formation lap. The car got away well, and I began my work of warming up the tires. “Good launch, everything looks fine on our end. Get-away will be about that off the start.” I weaved down the straight before negotiating the first turn- a tight hairpin with loads of runoff but little grip. Turn 2 was an uphill, nasty corner that had a raised curb on the exit. The car got light on the apex, and I knew it would be difficult to make a move- or even hang onto the car with worn tires. Our first re-profile came in Turn 4. It was tighter than before, but the banking had been raised to help us speed through the corner. However, one benefit was that Turns 5 and 6 had been re-profiled to have less of an aggressive bend, which would help maintain speed into Turn 7. I let the car drop on the apex of 5 and dove through 6, and the car bottomed out just a little bit on the corner exit. The second re-profile was the 9-10-11 double-hairpin. The Turn 9 hairpin had been entirely removed, making the entire corner a lot more flowing and easier to manage. I was glad that the clunky right-left hairpin was finally gone, as it opened up a new opportunity to carry momentum. The uphill straight of 11-12 felt even more dramatic this year, but I enjoyed the aggressive climb. Turns 13 through 16 had gotten a new look as well, with the chicane essentially being smoothed out to allow for more speed through the Loop. “Grip feels good. The tires are nice. I’m really liking what the car is doing right now.” I weaved out of Turn 17 and let the car coast down the hill. “Copy. Temperatures should cool down a bit; we’re looking at overcast conditions for much of the race.” The crowd to the outside of Turn 18 cheered as we passed, waving flags and taking pictures. A Solarian banner had been placed at the end of the grandstand, and it lightly waved in the breeze. We crested the Turn 19 hill and went past the new viewing tower constructed for the fans. “Remember that Default-Eight is available at the start. Good luck.” I hit the throttle to get some wheel-spin before entering the final corner. I moved the Default dial to its highest setting before going down into my grid spot, halfway down the front-straight. The rest of the cars lined up, and I lowered my visor. One light. I felt my heart rate beginning to rise. The run down to Turn 1, chaotic and unpredictable. Two lights. I pushed in the clutch. No room to breathe for the midfield. Three lights. The engine started to hum as the RPM climbed. Stacked cars exponentially multiplying the risk of chaos. Four lights. The engine was in the sweet spot of power and torque, and I held it steady. Nowhere to go in the event of a disaster. Five lights. My breath sped up as I watched the lights glowing. Where a race can be won… Or lost. Zero. I got a perfect start and leaped away from the grid, taking advantage of a late reaction from Max. I moved down the race track to cover the inside run to Turn 1 and made the most of my start. The engine rapidly rose with every short shift as the field accelerated. “One light, Two, Three, Four, and now Five! It’s lights out and go, go, go! Jebediah Kerman, what a start from Pole position, leaping away from his teammate in P2!” I held my inside line, and Max moved up the track, simultaneously stopping an attack from Michael behind him. I wasn’t bothered in Turn 1, and I let my breathing begin to relax on the corner exit. There was a slight lockup from one of the cars behind but no significant contact as the field started to thin out. Max led from P2 away from Michael, Juan, and Lewis, who had leaped up from a P7 starting spot. The car got light over the rise in Turn 2, but I kept it pointed in the right direction before Turn 3. Max was trying to close in, but the dirty air wasn’t helping at all as we climbed the hill into the Stadium. I exited the long corner and heard a loud noise from the crowd as a cloud of smoke appeared in the second corner. The lights on the steering wheel didn’t change as I took Turn 4 for the first time at speed. Before I could dive into the corkscrew corners of Turns 5 and 6, however, the steering wheel lights turned yellow, and my display flashed in the Safety Car pattern. “Safety Car, Safety Car. Back down Default-Two, keep fuel for the restart. Watch the Delta.” I groaned and turned the engine down before the corkscrew. “That was a fantastic start, by the way.” I let the delta on my steering wheel turn green before I pushed the throttle in and accelerated out of the corner. “Heading down out of Turn 2 and into 3, everyone navigating that hill- Oh a spin! One car around and a big shunt! Lucas White, in the Archer, that’s a massive accident at the back of the field! Safety Car deployed, that looks like the Vitesse Courses car of Ellis as well!” “Tires had good grip,” I responded as the rest of the field bunched up behind me. I saw the other cars in my mirrors: Max, Michael, Juan, Lewis, and Louie, and Jesus before I lost track. The opening run through Turn 7 wasn’t as dramatic as I had expected due to the delta, but I still enjoyed it regardless. “What happened at the back?” “Someone got into Ellis in 2, and she spun across the pack. Got hit by one of the Archers. Both drivers got out.” I took the car through the chicane and noticed how thin the line would be at speed. With the Safety Car ending on Lap 4, we resumed action. I was in Turn 17 when I got the message that the race would be restarting soon. “Alright, Engine Mode P-Nine available on Overtake. P-Nine on Overtake for the restart.” I weaved down the hill on the back straight as the Safety Car drove off, growing a gap. “Okay, what Default is that going to be?” The field bunched up behind me. “Default-Seven is authorized. Go to P-Six and E-Four on your Default mode.” Default-Seven would map the Overtake button to the MAX mode, while our non-overtake mode would be set to Rich. I turned the dials that I needed to and got ready for the restart. The crowd cheered as we passed through the shadow of the Tower, and I saw the Safety Car disappear around the final corner. “Safety Car is in. You control the pace.” I felt my heart start to speed up as I rolled downhill towards the last corner. Max jutted forward before braking into the final corner, and I took my chance. I utilized the higher engine mode to get away well, launching out of Turn 20 and down the front straight. Max wasn’t able to put the power down as quickly as me and lost ground. “Green flag is out as we start lap 5, and what a start by Jebediah Kerman in the OTech!" The engine climbed in RPM, and I didn’t even feel the need to make a defensive move into the first corner. Max was too far behind as we entered the braking zone and focused on playing defensive against Michael. I attacked the curb and exited the corner right in the middle of the rumble strip as Michael came under attack from behind. I navigated Turn 3 and tested the limits of grip out of the corner. Max couldn’t keep up, and by the time I broke for Turn 4, he was already over a second back. “Overtake has been re-mapped to Default-Three.” I dove through Turn 5 and ran wide on the curbs before I responded. “Got it.” I spun the thumb-wheel to reduce the normal engine mode, transitioning out of the restart phase and into the race phase. The car reacted well through the high-speed Turn 7 as I carried all the speed I dared. I touched the curbs on the exit and went back up the track to get ready for Turn 8, braking smoothly. The apex was smooth, and I made sure to use every bit of curb that I could since we knew from practice that it wouldn’t cause a risk of spinning. The wall on the exit wasn’t a concern, and I stormed through the chicane as hard and fast as I possibly could. “Fantastic stuff, the gap is already growing. This is a great pace.” I flew up the hill and let the car get light before slamming the brakes, bringing the car back down with the help of aerodynamics. The car flowed through 13, and I powered out of the corner to fly through The Loop. I turned the engine up to Rich to get as much speed as possible, combining the strength of the power unit with the gravity from the hill. Sparks came off the rear of the car as I hit the bottom of the hill. I ran through the banked Turn 18 and immediately got going back up the hill. The left-side tires got up onto the runoff curbing, which created a loud buzzing sound before I came back on the racing line. “Grip is absolutely fantastic,” I radioed in before rising over Turn 19 and then diving back down the hill. I felt the car get a little bit loose over the crest, but I held the wheel firm and kept the nose pointed forward. The braking for Turn 20 was clean as possible, and I attacked the curbs both at the apex and on the exit. As I crossed the line, the radio beeped. “Alright, that’s the fastest lap of the race. Max 1.9 seconds back, let’s settle in, now.” As I kept ticking off the laps, Max kept dropping further and further back. The battle behind him had gotten incredibly tense, with Louie storming up from 6th place at the restart and applying the pressure. However, the biggest surprise was Lewis, who made the engine work a treat down the long straights and actually took the fight to Michael in the battle for P4. By the time I had reached Lap 10, the gap was out at about 12 seconds back to Max. “How are the tires feeling?” I flew down the second straight before responding, taking Turns 7 through 11 to get a feel for grip levels. “Everything’s good so far. Not really feeling any grip loss so far.” I slammed the brakes for the bus stop chicane and was already on the back straight before getting a response. “Alright, fuel levels are good. Let’s just keep this pace if you can.” The car held its grip over the dip out of Turn 17 and rocketed down the straight. “Got it.” I raised the harvest mode on the electric dial, which raised the amount of energy that would be collected by the electric generator under braking. A red light on the back of the car began to flash, but no other car could see it before I flew into Turn 18. The fight behind had calmed down- Max led by a second and a half over Louie, who himself led over Michael and Lewis. “You can go Default-Nine if you want. Just a thought.” I flew over the curbing at 19 and keyed the mode, which turned the engine up just slightly. “Alright, thanks.” With how well the tires were lasting, I could see the strategy easily making a 1-stop. Tire wear was much better than we expected, which helped me blast off fast times even after 11 laps. I dove into Turn 1 and rolled over the curbing that had already started to develop a fine line of rubber. The car shook over the exit curb at low speed before putting a tire past it and onto the runoff. The smoothness allowed me to accelerate up into Turn 2, and I cut down onto the apex curb. The rear got loose, and I fought the oversteer before flowing uphill into Turn 3- my heart beating just a little bit faster than before. The curb was terrible to attack, and it had almost cost me. “As we enter Lap 11, the battle for P4 has really started to heat up, as the young Lewis Kerman is taking the fight to the experienced veteran Michael Kerman! Meanwhile, further back, we see that Juan Kerman has just been overtaken by Riley Mitchell in the Kindia car, and it just doesn’t look like F-Tech is having a good weekend at all; they are really struggling for pace, so far.” The engine howled down the straight as I pushed the limits down the straight before I lowered the engine mode. The dial clicked into place on my steering wheel, and I smiled before throwing the car into Turn 7. The tires and suspension flexed under the weight and force of the turn. I kept setting down fast laps until my steering wheel went yellow in Turn 18. “Safety Car, Safety Car, box this lap. Go to Default-Two. Big crash in Turn 7.” “Safety Car has been deployed, here, what- Oh my goodness! One car has just been buried there into the tire wall, trying to see who that is now... That’s the Number 99 car, Matthias Blomqvist! It's a double-DNF for Carthian Motors, not at all what they wanted to see after their first win last race! That is an incredibly nasty accident here at Turn 7, and we have the Safety Car deployed on Lap 14.” “From the way that car is angled, Jim, I’d have to say that it was a mechanical failure or a tire failure from the look of it. Absolutely massive accident, but... I can’t tell, but is he moving around?” “Yes, Jeremy, I think so. Let’s try to see what happened here and piece everything together..” I pulled into my pit stall, and the team got the fresh tires on perfectly, sending me out. On the big screen behind me, a replay showed Matthias barreling into Turn 7 before the right-rear lost pressure. The car snapped around sideways hard and fast and impacted the tire barrier with a cloud of smoke and enough force to throw the tire wall up into the air. Another replay showed Arcazon watching the screen, shaking his head. “Good stop, guys, that was great.” I exited the pit lane and wormed through the long exit road before rejoining the circuit. I spun the steering wheel dial to maximum conservation and started working on getting heat into the tires. “And now it looks like Blomqvist is moving around, and.. Now he’s out, that’s a wonderful thing to see, and obviously, he’s winded after that massive shunt into the barriers.” I caught up to the Safety Car and weaved to warm the tires before I got a radio message. “Alright, you don’t have to warm the tires yet; this is going to be a fairly long Safety Car period.” I kept in line with the Safety Car through the corkscrew at Turn 5 as the rest of the pack began to catch up. “Alright. What happened?” I checked the driver lineup behind me; Max, Michael, Louie, Lewis, Mitchell, and Jesus. “Looks like a puncture into Turn 7. The driver walked out okay.” I coasted over the skid marks from the CM car and saw the crash site as I emerged from around the corner. The entire side of the car had been crushed into the barrier, and I noticed that the tire barrier had been moved by the impact. Suspension arms littered the impact area, which was surrounded by flame retardant and fluid drying powder. I briefly saw the driver- Matthias- sitting next to the barrier. He was obviously still a bit shaken by the accident. “Was it a tire failure or what?” The left-rear had a lot of force going through it, with some of the fastest corners on the track being right-handers. If it was a tire issue, it meant everyone on the grid might be in trouble. “We believe there was contact earlier in the race. No issues with the tires.” The Safety Car broke for Turn 8, and I followed neatly, trying to keep everything warm. “Alright, thanks.” The Safety Car period took longer than usual- about 6 more laps- but we were finally ready to resume racing after Lap 21. “Default-Seven authorized on the restart. Primary engine mode is at your discretion.” I spun the thumb-wheel to a high default mode that would assist me when I wasn’t running overtake, and I weaved up the hill as the Safety Car drove off. “Copy.” I coasted into Turn 20 before grabbing a gear and leaping away from the apex- laying down a couple trails of rubber on the racing line before turning the engine to Overtake. The get-away was perfect, and I gapped Max out of the corner, utilizing the engine to further my advantage. The engine roared with every upshift, standing out from the 18 others that remained in the race. “Green flag here to start Lap 22, and away we go! Another fantastic launch by the OTech, but this time Max Kerman gets a good launch away from the cars behind as well! Meanwhile behind, that’s the MRT car of Louie Kerman taking the fight to his older teammate and getting past down the straight!” I moved down the race track to cover a potential dive that never came before sliding back up the race track for the optimal line under braking. I flung into Turn 1 and over the curbing, letting the wheel wash up the track. The suspension flexed over the curbs and around Turn 3. I noticed the rear aero holding firm, which signaled that the car wasn’t side-slipping through the air and that the rear was perfectly in line with the front. I smiled and went deep into the braking zone of Turn 4. The car made sparks off of the bottom of Turn 6 with Max in my mirrors. Behind the order was Louie in P3, Michael P4, Lewis in P5, Riley Mitchell in 6th, Jesus Costa from F-Tech in P7, Williams from LakeFront in P8, and, astonishingly, the lone remaining Vitesse car (Hope Anker) sitting in 9th ahead of Juan. Max had managed to create a small gap ahead of Louie, while Michael was being hounded for fourth by Lewis. I kept the car on the limit and gained away from Max. By Lap 25, I had gained a couple seconds. “Just keep hitting your marks; that’s 10 to go.” The battle behind was hot, with Lewis finally passing Michael by flying up the inside of Turn 1. Michael tried to defend by holding the inside, but the rookie threw dust into the air off-line. The two navigated the tight apex, and Lewis ended up getting the power down just a little bit better. “The rookie is going to go for it! Lewis moves to the right- now the left! The Monster goes to defend but look at this! Lewis Kerman almost at the wall and now alongside!! Through the apex, and he gets the move done! What a great battle, and now Michael is going to try to come back on the outside!” Marty was working on attacking Mitchell ahead and actually got the move done into Turn 7. However, with DRS, Riley was able to fly past into Turn 7. While my race was boring, the action behind it was fantastic. Hope and Juan were able to catch up to the battle ahead, turning a three-way battle into a five-way. Juan locked up into the chicane and made contact with Hope’s right-rear tire, which sent everyone scrambling. “Here we go, JUAN KERMAN’S GOING FOR IT! Down the inside into the hairpin! Oh, this can’t work! CONTACT! The F-Tech into the side of Anker! Everyone moving to avoid and what’s happened?! Anker is going slowly through the Loop as everyone gets away!” [Hope A. Radio]: “What was he doing?!?! Mon Dieu, qu’il est idiot!! Qu’est-ce qu’il a fait?!” [Hope A. Engineer]: “What happened?” [Hope]: “He just hit me in the corner! [Blanked out]!” [Engineer]: “Okay, box this lap; we have a puncture.” [Hope]: “C’est des [Blanked out].” While the battle for P6 was ongoing, Hope almost lost the car in Turn 17. She had to run wide and onto the grass, which sent the tire carcass way into the field. “Okay, be careful. There might be debris in the Loop. One car got a puncture. Repeat, be careful of debris in the Loop.” Max was a couple of seconds behind, which allowed me to turn the engine down. “Copy.” “And now the question we have: will that be a penalty? As Hope Anker is limping back to the pit lane, Juan Kerman is keeping on! Still, a fantastic battle going on, here, with Mitchell now getting past the F-Tech of Costa!” [Juan K. Radio]: “Ay ay ay, I think we have damage. That car just turned down on me into the corner! Where was I supposed to go?” [Juan K. Engineer]: “Okay, we are looking.” I navigated the chicane and didn’t see any significant debris- just a few small pieces of carbon fiber. The battles behind continued, but I kept my pace. The laps ticked down. Six laps. Five laps. Four. Three. Two. One. “Default-Double-One, Hit the marks.” Max was three seconds behind and didn’t pose a threat, allowing me to go into the reduced engine default. “As the battle behind has kind of cooled off just a little bit in the back, we look at the leader, Jebediah Kerman, with a massive lead over the rest of the field!” I attacked Turn 1 but didn’t go all the way to the outside of the curb- electing to go easy on the car. The rise over the hill was smooth before I exited Turn 3, trying not to focus on the crowd to my left in the Stadium. Even with the worn tires, I managed to attack Turn 4 and hit the exit perfectly. A couple of sparks came off the rear as I bottomed out in Turn 6 before rocketing down the straight. “Slow car 5 seconds up the road. Shouldn’t be an issue, but be aware.” I shot into Turn 7 and could feel a slight wash of understeer as the tires began to fade out. The tight runoff out of the corner set me up for Turn 8, which I managed to take in 4th gear. I flung through the chicane and attacked the curbs before coming out onto the straight. The slow car ahead was the Vitesse of Anker, and I was a bit surprised to see her up the road. She locked up into Turn 12 and ran off into the escape route as I navigated the chicane. Hope didn’t put up a fight and let me pass on the inside of Turn 16, and I spared a quick wave to her behind me. I used the DRS out of Turn 17 and flew down the hill, moving the power modes up just to get a little bit of an extra bump for the speed trap. The crowd on the outside of Turn 18 cheered me on as I flew past them and back up the hill. The sunshine glared over my visor over the crest before I dropped back down the track. The brakes responded well through Turn 20, and I ran up the curbing. Out of the final corner, I held my fist high, weaving down to the bottom of the track and then back up next to the wall to get close to the team. They were already out of the garage, waving and pumping their fists on the fence. Dust flew up from the tires as I moved, and I saw the finish line in sight. “And now, after losing last year’s championship in heartbreaking fashion, after coming so close last race weekend, Jebediah Kerman, out of the final corner, wins it for OTech!! What a dominating race all throughout, and a fantastic job this weekend! Jeremy, what do you make of that drive?” “Well, it was never really in question, was it? That car was on rails all race, and they really made the most of it. Astounding performance by Jeb, and a great job with the victory here today.” I laughed into the radio and sighed, pumping my fist into the air as I slowed the car down. “Wooooohohohoo! YEEEAAAHHHH!! That’s what’s up!! Thank you!!” I turned the engine down to its lowest setting and moved down the track (towards the stands) as Max crossed the line. “That was amazing! P1! Congrats on breaking the streak!” Landin’s voice was ecstatic, and I remembered this was her first race win. I beamed beneath the visor and keyed the radio. “How’s it feel to be a race winner?” Landin laughed and went silent before I heard a familiar voice over the radio. “Jeb, that’s fantastic! Career victory number 15, amazing job!” Andy’s voice was a bit loud over the radio, but I didn’t mind. I waved to the crowd to the left of the circuit, beaming beneath my helmet. “Thanks, Andy! I appreciate it; you did one heck of a job building this car! Thank you all so much, fantastic race!” I waved to the fans as I went around the track and eventually pulled into the paddock. I stopped in front of the #1 sign, and Max was close behind with #2, but I noticed a flash of white behind me in the general parking area for the other cars. Hope, the driver I had lapped, was pacing in front of her car, and she looked livid. I shook my head and turned to the team, who had assembled by the barrier. Landin was already there, grinning as I hugged her. “Amazing job!” The other drivers filed in as I high-fived the crew, and Landin got to join Max and me on the podium as the team representative. As we were walking back, I saw Arcazon, already in his “Street Clothes” (non-race gear), and gave him a high-five. “Man, what happened out there?” Arcazon shrugged and patted Max on the back as he passed. “I don’t know, the thing just blew up on me! I’m pretty sure it was something in the engine. I pushed it too hard last race, probably busted a rod or something. The guys said everything in there was totaled.” I nodded just as a loud noise came from the crowd, followed by angry yelling. Arcazon laughed as I turned around to see Hope being led away from Juan’s car, shouting in Feguan and waving her arms. “Oh gosh, she hit him,” Arcazon chuckled, looking at Juan, who was yelling back, even though the two were separated by 3 or 4 team members. “You ruin my race!” Hope yelled through her heavy accent, holding her hand out at Juan. I could understand where she was coming from. Vitesse had always been near the back of the standings, and they needed every point they could get. A P6- even a P9, if she didn’t come out on top of the battle- would have been incredibly beneficial for the small team out of Fegeland. I shook my head as the arguments went on. Just another day in the office.
  12. So that was a lie. Apologies, everyone! Things came up Saturday, and Sunday was a totally filled day. My Dad invited me to Arlington for a Texas Rangers game (Suite tickets, somehow!) and I jumped on the chance. After a thrilling 1-0 victory in 10 innings (MATT LOWE YOU MAJESTIC CLUTCH MASTER), I'm finally back on the writing path! Should have the chapter out soon-ish!
  13. Update for everyone, Chapter 40 has been finished! Now to send it to Grammarly, get a proof-read, and do some final checks before publishing! Should have it out either today or tomorrow if everything goes to plan!
  14. Good news everyone! After the success of the last chapter, I'm continuing work on Chapter 40! I hit a brief snag of writers block earlier, but now I'm back at it! A quick little Q&A I've prepared, to pass the time: Q: How do you decide what the tracks look like? A: There are a few tracks that I have saved to my computer that I use, but most of them come from my head. I have the custom tracks drawn out on (very worn) sheets of notebook paper that follow me wherever I go. Q: What are the teams? A: Fantastic question. In the 2038 season, the teams are OTech Race Team, Monster Racing, F-Tech Velocidad, LakeFront Racing Team, Carthia Motors, Racing Line Kindia, PhantomTech Engineering, OTech GP Racing, TT Motorsports, Vitesse Courses, and Archer Motorsports. Q: Who are the drivers, and is there any analogues to real-life drivers? A: To get a full list of drivers for the 2038 season, I have a spreadsheet that also has all of the season results for each race. However, I can't share that with y'all, since it would spoil the story! I can, however, tell you some analogies. Max Kerman (OTech) is obviously drawn from current F1 driver Max Verstappen, but only on the racing side (Aggressive and bold). Louie Kerman (Monster) is semi-based on current F1 driver Pierre Gasly. Juan Kerman (F-Tech) is a comparison to current F1 driver Charles Leclerc, while LakeFront's Marty Williams is based off of former F1 driver Mark Webber. Riley Mitchell (Kindia) is a loose tie-in to current F1 driver Sergio Pérez, and fellow RLK driver Emily Walker is a female tie-in to Romain Grosjean, former F1 driver and current IndyCar driver. Mark Kerman (TT) takes the role of 7-time NASCAR champion and current IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson, while Lewis Kerman (OTech GP) takes the role of, you guessed it, 7-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. Some drivers share their numbers with current F1 drivers (Michael Kerman: #3 (Daniel Ricciardo); Max Kerman: #33 (Max Verstappen); Jesus Costa: #22 (Yuki Tsonoda), etc.), as well, but some coincidences are unintentional. I will spoiler a full list below. Q: How do you keep up with what happens in a race? A: The spreadsheet that was mentioned before, mainly. In big events like crashes or retirements, I comment what happened to cause the event. This includes a brief description of the incident, as well as lap numbers, where they retired, and what actions were taken (Safety Car, VSC, Local Yellow, etc.). This helps a lot when it comes to races that are way off in the future, so that I know what happens! Q: Is there a place I can understand exactly what's going on? A: I'm working on a dictionary. That's all for now- back to the racing!
  15. I'm sorry for being late! It's a long shot, but... @adsii1970perhaps??
  16. It's here. After over a year... It's back. Honestly, I'm as surprised as y'all are. When I left this a little under a year ago, I thought, "This is it. LATT is finished." I never thought I'd be back. I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue this, but I'm even more grateful to those that are still reading this- old or new. For the new readers, it's great to have you, and thank you for taking the time and effort to look into this story. For the old ones, I can't express enough how glad I am that y'all stuck around. The support and excitement I've seen regarding this return- not just on the forums but on Discord (where I also announced my return)- has been overwhelming to say the least. After reading through what I've done and finishing the chapter, I'm excited along with you. When I left, I thought "Oh, just a couple hundred more words and it'll be good." in a frenzy, it quickly grew to almost 6,000. But you guys didn't come here to listen to me; you came for a story! Thank you all, for supporting the comeback. Here we go, again. Chapter 39: The Rookie 2:00 PM, Mid-April. Round 3 of 11: Carthian Grand Prix. Mallingham, Carthia. “And welcome, one and all, to the third round of the 2038 K1 season! You join us here in the beautiful northern city of Mallingham, Carthia, for one of the most unique circuits on the calendar this season. My name’s Jim, and joining me in the commentary booth this afternoon is my good friend and long-time resident of the homeless shelters, Jeremy Kerman!” “You used that joke last year; you could at least put in the effort to try something new. Anyways, this is a simply beautiful circuit, with a blend between the ancient and the advanced. Teams have been struggling practically all week to figure out what their setup will be. Whether they’re looking for a boost on the straight or fast cornering in the technical middle and final sectors, the teams and drivers are in for some excitement with this amazing venue. The circuit is just filled with beautiful corners, and I do not doubt that this track will become a classic within the next few seasons.” “And speaking of the track, let’s do a rundown, shall we? Drivers come flying down the main straight, topping out anywhere from 170 to 200, depending on the setup. Then it’s a heavy braking zone down through the Highway Chicane, two 90º corners that throw the drivers downhill into one of the most fantastic camera shots we’ll see all year. After two left-handers, the drivers fly into an unbanked 180º corner that provides one of the highest lateral G’s on the entire circuit with the next three turns- 6, 7, and 8- sending the cars through the park and under the trees. “After whipping through the Terrace Chicane, the drivers fly down into the Old City- a stunning brick road that has been in this town for hundreds of years. One of the action zones, Turns 14 through 19, fast S-like bends that the drivers have practically been straight-lining all weekend, with a massive bump down on the corner exit. Another action zone, Turn 21- a deceptively tight left-hander out of the tunnel. There’s some slight camber down out of the corner, and then a dash out of 22 up the hill.” “Jer,’ this is a great race track and an almost perfect setup for the first race in a country that’s got loads of motorsport heritage. Arcazon Kerman, driving the 77 car, has had an up-and-down season so far, after DNF-ing at the KSC in the first round and scoring his first points last race in Tekkia after a stunning wet-race performance.” “And it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a repeat of last week’s wet race- perfect conditions for this afternoon’s race. And so, with that out of the way, it’s time to get going! The Carthian Grand Prix, coming up!” … I looked up at the mountain’s peaks to the west and admired the way the sun glistened off the snow-capped tops. The teams were all working on their cars, with the grid up on the bridge. Carthia has to have the most unique pit lane I’ve ever seen, with the actual pit lane under the front straight, thanks to the overpass bridge. The race grid was just as unique as the circuit, with an F-Tech on the pole. Max and I were in second and third, respectively, and Arcazon up in P6. This was following up a weird race in Tekkia, with Michael taking the win in a race that required intermediate tires all night. As I looked up to the skyscrapers, Arcazon walked up with Max next to him. “Ready to start your first home race?” I turned back to look at Arcazon, who smiled. “I’m feeling pretty good,” he replied. “This weekend, we’ve been pretty good on pace.” Our cars were struggling in the old city portion of the circuit, no matter what we had done. “Fans this weekend have been amazing,” Max said, waving to the grandstands and drawing a loud cheer from the crowd. “Yeah, they’re pretty into racing,” Arcazon responded, giving a wave and getting an even louder cheer. I glanced back to the cars on the grid and saw the CM car shining in the afternoon light. The car had gotten a repaint to a more pleasant blue livery that reflected the environment with a chrome shine. Silver streaks were present on the vehicle’s edges, while gold-yellow numbers highlighted the rear driver numbers and names. Overall, a beautiful design. “The track’s amazing- kinda annoyed we haven’t been here sooner.” Arcazon nodded and looked around. “It’s a beautiful city all around- you guys should come by and hang out sometime.” An announcement called for the drivers to head to the cars, and he waved. “I’ll see you post-race, alright?” He turned and started jogging back to his car to join the team. Max and I walked a slightly shorter distance to get to where we needed to go. “Jesus is good, but I think it’s just one-lap pace,” I said to Max as we walked over the bridge. “Honestly, if we can get a good start, I see us with a 1-2 before the Old City.” Max nodded, and we hit our helmets together. “I think I’m stopping first, but we’ll see. Good luck, man.” We gave each other a high-five before separating; Max to his car in second and myself back to my car in third. I nodded to the team and hopped into the car. The team started pulling on the belts as I slipped the helmet on. The world went silent for a bit, and I relaxed as I tightened the strap and pulled the gloves on. A far-off whining filled my headset as Landin came over the radio. “Radio check, radio check. You got me?” I opened the visor and let the sound come in. A cameraman turned a camera for the TV feed at me, and I gave it a brief wave before responding. “Yeah, I got you, Landin. How do I sound for you?” I gave the engineer a thumbs-up and a handshake as he finished the belts. I shifted in my seat to feel the limits of the harness. “Crystal clear,” she responded with a lift in her voice. “No rain expected for the race, clear skies throughout, and a slight wind is coming out of the west. Temperatures in the mid-60’s all day.” I smiled and looked around in my mirror before shifting into an announcer’s voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is a simply beautiful day for some racing. Sit back, relax, and let’s enjoy the show.” Landin chuckled. “Hey, if this whole racing thing doesn’t work out for you, I think you’d make a great game show host. Just saying.” I laughed as the clock showed one minute to the Formation lap. “‘And your very own brand-new car!’” I laughed over the radio. “Something like that?” The team scattered off to the sides after I got set, and I watched the lights for the formation lap start. I got a good grip out of the grid and came off the line with ease before tucking into line behind Max and Jesus. We were surprisingly off the pace all weekend in Carthia, and nothing seemed to work. The aero grip we’d held both this year and last had seemingly jumped out the window- leading both Max and me to run more wing than we’d prefer. We would have the same cornering performance as the others, but we were down on the main straight at top speed. Meanwhile, Monster was stepping up its game- scoring a landslide win in Tekkia from the pole. The whole race had sprinkles that never really cleared up, and the city streets at night couldn’t drain the water away to give either of us much of a chance to close in. As we went under a highway bridge in Turn 3, we passed one of the larger grand-stands on the track. They cheered us on and waved, and I heard at least a couple of air horns from the side. The trees provided some shade in the 7-8 turns, and I felt the G-forces tugging at me through the corners. The skyscrapers towered over us out of Turn 8, throwing a shadow over parts of the track. We weaved past a drain cover and into the 9-10-11 chicane- going under a large awning and out of the corners. Even as we rolled over the esses’ curbs, the track felt slightly slick just because of the bricks alone. The car slammed over the dip and bounced off the track. The bump was rough on the car, but we glided over it at speed, so it didn’t hurt the car too bad. As the grid got set up, I exhaled. The wind shifted and allowed me to get some air into the helmet, allowing me to cool down in the shade of the skyscrapers. I saw a green flag waved in the background, and I closed the helmet- looking up at the light tower. One light came on, shining bright on the back metal. I pushed the clutch in, and time felt like it slowed down. Two lights and I shifted up into the MAX engine mode. We had added the new mode in the offseason, and it gave us a bit of extra power. We only used it for the start since the fuel requirements were so harsh. Three lights and the sound of engines started roaring down the grid. Four. The revs rose, and the lights flashed on my steering wheel. Five. I focused hard on the lights- quickly glancing forward to the first corner before looking back. The lights went out, and I dropped the clutch, getting away from the line clean. I didn’t get any wheel-spin at all and shot away. Jesus couldn’t get the power down, and I swept past him on the inside. Max got a good start, but I drew alongside him down into Turn 1. I couldn’t get past, so I let him go down into the corner and entered the first turn single-file. Jesus was under fire from behind by Michael. I rolled over the temporary curbing and shot down the hill, flying down out of Turn 2 with a full head of steam. We shot underneath the bridges, and I tried to make a move inside into Turn 4. Max sliced down, and I couldn’t get by on the inside. I understeered a bit as we flew down into Turn 5, but I managed to get alongside out of Turn 6 on the inside. I flew past and managed to keep the advantage in 8, with Michael just behind both of us. He dove inside on Max in Turn 9 and managed to get alongside. Max slid up out of Turn 10 and cut him off, but I ended up running wide out of 11- slowing up both of them and then bringing the rest of the pack up to us. Max dove up my inside and managed to get by, but Michael was trapped outside in Turn 13. He ran off the track on the bricks and flew up into the dust, almost spinning and losing valuable spots as we dove into the opening esses. “Amazing start up at the front for the OTech cars, with Max Kerman taking the gap out of Turn 13. Michael losing spots there on the outside; what a save! Jeb in second being hounded by the F-Tech of Jesus Costa, Michael Kerman in the Monster with P4, and the Carthian Motorsport car of the Rookie, Arcazon Kerman, in P5!” We raced over the curbs in the esses, and I dove down into Turn 19- gritting my teeth as the car flew over the dip. I got a bit of understeer through Turn 20 and had to cut back to make Turn 21 as the sun blazed into my visor in the middle of the corner. As I pulled out of the corner, I heard a concussive thud and a squealing from the tires as the mirror behind me showed nothing but tire smoke. “OH AND A CRASH! Crash in Turn 21, that’s Michael Kerman in the barriers, and everyone’s stacking up! Three, four, now five cars here out of the tunnel! Safety Car deployed as one car’s in the air; that’s the Monster of Michael Kerman. A few cars have a lot of damage- there’s the LakeFront of Adam Gardner with major damage as he limps it back to the pit lane minus the front and rear wings. They’re going to have to retire that car.” “Yes, Jim, and now the track’s completely blocked, they’ll have to red flag it for sure here.” “Track’s blocked,” Landin radioed as I flew through Turn 22- racing up the hill and trying to catch Max before the Safety Car was deployed. The lights came on just as I dove inside, and I had to back out of it into Turn 23. The steering wheel went red, and I sighed, weaving up into Max’s line to get around the corner. “Control wants everyone down into the pit lane; we’ll wait there until the debris is cleared.” I looked back in the mirror and saw Jesus’s car, the white and red F-Tech, weaving behind me. I looked a bit farther back and saw Arcazon’s dark blue CM car gleaming in the light. As soon as I got out of the car, I went over to the computer, seeing the crash’s replay as the team got the car sorted. Max joined me around the computer as I watched. Michael had gotten jammed to the inside into Turn 21 and hit the wall, smashing the left-front. The suspension on the tire broke, and he shot to the right, hitting the LakeFront outside. The orange car spun back across the track and collided with another vehicle as Michael went straight-on, blocking off 4 or 5 cars. The camera changed to show Michael getting out and shaking his head, the radio wire dangling from the helmet. “You know, that uniform does look pretty good,” Max said with a smirk as the replays showed the view from Michael’s car. I could understand how Michael was a bit frustrated- there was nothing he couldn’t have done differently. As the cars backed up, he ended up getting jacked up into the air up off of another car's nose. I shook my head and stepped back, turning to Max. “Great start there. I almost hit you in 4, which I bet wouldn’t have been good.” I glanced back at Arcazon’s car back in P4. “Kid’s doing pretty good for himself.” Juan of F-Tech was behind him, with Arcazon still sitting in his car talking with his crew. I noticed that the team was focusing heavily on the right-rear of his car. Curious, I turned to the replay screen. He had managed to slip underneath the carnage, but there was contact that almost spun him around. I could only assume that it was the LakeFront of Gardner. Following a 15-minute break, we re-fired the engines. We had just one warmup lap behind the Safety Car before we got back running. The green flag waved, and we got off to a flying start down into Turn 1. I shot down the inside, but Max managed to play the defensive, keeping me behind as we went through the first corner. Jesus hounded me through Turn 2 but couldn’t get past, darting back and forth to try and find a hole. Max got a slight lead out to Turn 5 and peeked through the turn as Jesus tried to go outside. I could see Arcazon getting passed into Turn 5, but I couldn’t focus on it too long as I defended through Turn 6. Max got up close to the wall of Turn 7 and lost time. I dove down the inside in Turn 8 underneath the trees, sweeping past as Max slotted into line in front of Jesus to cut him off. I nailed the Turn 9 apex as Jesus tried a move outside in the hairpin. He just managed to roll past on the inside of Turn 10. Jesus followed me close throughout the Old City section, and I had to play defensive in the wide streets of the New City. I held the inside of Turn 28, and he had to run wide, cutting Turn 29. He gave the position back but had the inside of Turn 30- forcing me up wide and taking the place. “Come on, he cut the corner! He’s got to give the position back!” I shot inside into Turn 1 and got alongside but couldn’t get by through the chicane. Max was already about a second back, but I didn’t focus on him- instead just concentrating on catching Jesus. Within a few laps, the sunshine had gotten a bit darker as clouds started rolling in over the mountains. I was ready to set up my move out of Turn 11. The engine echoed off the wall as I edged closer- feathering the throttle to get traction in the off-camber corner of Turn 13. I went up the track near the white line to get a good run, but the rear stepped out on corner exit. The tires buzzed over the bricks as I threw it into the esses- the cars created sparks off the bricks as I skittered over the curbs. I rolled over the Turn 19 curbing, and the car bounced on the dip, sending up a loud crash from the rear. I lifted off the throttle and let the car coast through Turn 20, feeling the cool air of the tunnel going through my suit. I could see the skid marks on the tarmac from the first lap crash, but I ignored them- diving down into 22. I focused on the red tail of the F-Tech in front of me, still aware of Max closing in from behind. We broke into the Traffico corner, otherwise known as Turn 23. The engine echoed off the centuries-old buildings, rattling the old windows. I flew over the dip between Turns 25 and 26, gently holding the throttle with the tires losing some grip as they separated from the ground. The sky was getting darker with each passing minute, and I could feel the air turning cooler with some wind. “Hey, if the weather’s holding up, I’d like to get off these tires,” I radioed in, barely over-steering out of Turn 27 over the exit curbing. “Rears are starting to go off.” I shot down inside into Turn 28 but couldn’t get alongside, and we maintained the single-file running out of the chicane. Max dove into the pit lane, and I tried a fake into Turn 30. Max had started ahead of me, so I understood why he had come in first. I lost the rears on the corner exit but had the DRS run, drawing close. Jesus covered the inside, and I cut back outside. The crowd whistled and cheered as we flew down the hill single-file. “Having trouble putting down the power.” We blasted through Turn 4 and into the Fountain Curve. The aero dropped as I got into the dirty air of Jesus, but I held on- leaning on the tires as hard as I could. “We’ll pit you in this lap; No rain from what we see down here.” I threw the car out of 5 and into 6, a rapid 1-2 punch over the curbing. I looked up the inside of the Velocidad section, actually getting the nose in through Turn 8 (Velocidad 2). Jesus, however, held the inside in the hairpin at Turn 9. The back and forth continued throughout the lap before we shot into the pits. I dove down into the heart-stopping pit lane entry and pulled into the underground pit lane, the lights flickering a bit underneath the bridge. I followed Jesus into the pits, turning left into a hairpin-like curve to the actual pit lane. He quickly pulled into the stall, and F-Tech got the car serviced quickly. Come on, I sighed to myself. Let’s get this done. I pulled in perfectly on the mark as the team lifted me, pulling the tires off and putting on new ones in a blur. The team held me as Jesus slipped past, but I jammed the gas and caught onto his tail out of the pit lane. The engine echoed through the tunnel, but I could still hear a massive roar from the crowd. We exited the pits, and I immediately began my pursuit of Jesus. We buzzed over the bricks on the exit, flying up to meet the track in Turn 4. Jesus didn’t leave an inch of space, so I looked outside around the fountain. I peeked on the inside into Turn 6 but couldn’t get a look. Instead, I was just biding my time until I could get by- trying to force a mistake. We both rocketed through the trees as darker clouds started to roll in over the mountain’s peaks. I dove into Turn 9 and got the inside under the awning, but Jesus held the line for the tighter Turn 10. I tried to keep on the inside through Turn 11. I lost a little bit of ground and managed to cut down to only just beat me out of the corner. “Where’s Max,” I asked as I raced down the hill into Turn 12. “One and a half away from you two; he’s in P2 at the moment.” The rear twitched out of Turn 13, but I didn’t lose any time at all, keeping in the tire tracks into the esses. “Who’s the leader?” Sparks flew out of the back of Jesus’s car on the dip as I chased him into the narrow tunnel. “Ar..on… ea..er..” The radio crackled in the stone covering, but I was too focused on chasing Jesus in Turn 21. He spun the rears on exit, and I caught onto his tail- forcing a hole inside in Turn 22. I flew past and managed to get clear before the corner- cutting up to the outside brick wall reinforced by ARMCO steel. “What?” I waited until the Classico straight to re-ask the question. Landin responded quickly before I raced into Turn 23. “Arcazon is the leader, about 2 seconds in the clear from Max. Max plus-2 to Arcazon.” I chuckled as I broke into Turn 23. Just as I did, a fat drop of water hit my visor with a splat. I quickly wiped it off, trying to focus on catching up to Max. His tail disappeared into the Furioso section as I pulled out of Turn 24. “Huh?” I asked in bewilderment as a few more droplets fell. I flew through the Curve Grande, running up the track and buzzing off of the curbs. I tracked right up next to the wall and came back down, feeling the new tires at work as a couple of sparks popped off the bottom of the floor. The droplets stopped as I went down to Turn 28, and I exhaled a bit. “I had some raindrops down in the last few corners of the Old City.” I dove into the chicane and kept an eye on Max ahead. “Please keep me updated on the gap.” “You’re closing a bit, but Jesus is going to be on the attack. Max said the same thing about the rain; we’ll keep monitoring it.” I flew out of Turn 30 and saw Jesus open the DRS behind. I glanced at the pit board and saw I was down by only about a second, but I was focused on keeping the bright red car behind. I knew that Juan- the other F-Tech- was multiple seconds back from us and that Jesus was probably trying to back me up into his clutches. I blocked the inside, and Jesus shot left- electing to try the outside instead of risking a dive-bomb. I held the position into the chicane and went down the hill- Jesus still behind me. I spared a glance at the mountains as we flew through 132L, the nickname for Turn 4. Small streaks of rain off on the horizon were starting to fall, with flashes of lightning up in the peaks. I dove down into Turn 5, and Jesus backed off a little bit. “Did we just screw up?” I threw the car into Turn 6 and got a twitch of oversteer as I pushed. “Did we screw up the strategy by making an early stop?” The radio buzzed as I flew out of Turn 8. “We need to go hard here, Jeb, push. Rain’s on the way; repeat, rain is on the way. Get everything out of the tires; we won’t need them in a couple of laps anyway.” I shook my head before diving into the Hotel chicane. “Any chance it’s just going to pass us by or something?” I tried to be optimistic, even as the water droplets started hitting the visor. “Afraid not,” Landin replied. “We think it’ll get worse in just a few minutes, so push hard now.” I turned the engine up to Rich and dove down into Turn 12. Jesus was hot on my tail, but I kept the car steady out of Turn 13. The drops were coming a bit faster now- streaking up the visor in the wind. “Sprinkles are getting faster on the South end of the track. The grip is okay for now.” I flew over the apexes in the 14-19 series of corners, feeling the tires at work. The engine was working as hard as possible, practically flying over the curbs. I shot out of 22, and the sprinkles seemed to stop- likely blocked by the buildings to the side. Jesus, probably after getting the same message, started his push after me. The sprinkles weren’t much worse than little dots now, but I could feel it getting worse. “How’s Max doing?” I noticed the blue and white tail getting closer as I flew out of 27. The rears almost let go but held as I set on my hot-lap pace. Jesus dropped back a bit on exit- likely leaving space for an attack down the front straight. A flash of lightning briefly lit up the sky, its low rumble barely audible under the roar of the engine. “Max is closing on Arcazon for the lead,” Landin replied. “You’re gaining by about half a second per lap; we’ll double stack you when you box. Keep pushing and keep us updated about the weather.” I pulled out of Turn 30 and opened up the DRS. I was too far back to make a move on Max, but Jesus wasn’t- diving up my inside. He shot past, and I had to move up the track, trying to get a better run down the hill. Sparks flew out from behind as the car bounced over the bumps in the road, and I tried to make my move. The trees waved when I passed as a light breeze briefly kicked out the rear in 7. The drops were starting to get bigger as they hit the visor, filling me with anxiety. We both shot under the building cover and out over the drain strip, and I could feel the tires start to give up a little bit of grip. “Losing the rears on power,” I reported as we flew down the hill. Jesus locked up, and I went inside, but I only lost time in Turn 13. I could see the white and red car of Juan starting to appear every so often in my mirrors- the Aquarian closing in just a bit as Jesus held me up. The F-Tech was surprisingly good in the corners this weekend- a part of the track we’d been having issues in all week, surprisingly. The tires shined with a little bit of moisture in the tunnel, and the wind howled. I forced the car through Turn 21 and had to manage wheel-spin out of the corner. “We need to pit,” I radioed in, darting around to see if I could pass Jesus. “Tires are done. It’s too wet.” I tried to make a move in 23, but he had the inside in the next corner. “Copy, box. Boxing this lap onto wets.” We went through the Furioso section, and I gave a gap out of Turn 26. The rain was coming down hard, and I almost lost the rear- the tires spinning in the water. We raced up to the high-speed right-hander, and all heck broke loose. Jesus held flat through the corner, but I let off the gas- letting the rears catch a break. Suddenly, Jesus broke sideways at the apex, sliding towards the wall at a little over 160 miles an hour. My eyes widened as he hit the wall with a concussive thud. Debris shot off the car as it rebounded against the wall- skidding across the track and right into my path. I went up the track over the curbing and managed to squeeze between the ruined car and the wall. The tires buzzed over the wood and the curbing, sounding like a yell as debris and curb sparked off the floor. I went back down the track and fish-tailed off the slick curbs before regaining control. Jesus slid off to the side of the track without any of the left-side wheels. The left-rear was buried in the wall and the front hanging limp over the nose. The side of the car, once a vibrant red, had white paint caked all along its face- the side-pod torn to shreds. The yellow lights lit up on my wheel and around the track as I dove into the pit lane, my heart racing. “Oh, and a huge off there for Jesus Costa out of the Curve Grande! Safety Car out immediately, but a massive shunt there for the number 22 car. There’s his teammate, Juan Kerman, getting past there, an-“ “Looks like he’s moving around there, it does look like- yes, I can see it now, Jesus Costa is moving inside that car.” “And a very good sight; very, very lucky he wasn’t hit when the car came back across the track.” [J. Costa Engineer Radio]: “Are you alright? Confirm you’re alright, please.” [Jesus]: “Sí, I’m alright… Sorry, guys. I just lost it.” “Let me know if Jesus is okay,” I breathed, my heart racing as I dove into the pit lane and hit the limiter. “That was a massive hit. Is he alright?” The team finished with Max just as I arrived, and they lifted me right on point. “Jesus is moving around; he’s moving,” Landin replied, easing my worries a bit. The tires kicked up water as we went through Turn 5, and I went a bit offline. “Everything looked good on the stop in terms of damage. Let me know if you need another stop if something feels wrong.” Arcazon’s car weaved ahead of Max- its blue/red/silver paint scheme gleaming in the street lights that had come on around the track. Lightning forked in the mountains high above us, and it felt like the downpour only sped up. “Old City’s going to be awful with this rain. It just came down so fast.” I weaved over the puddles out of 8 and heard the tires splashing through the water. “Make sure to stay off the curbs; we don’t need a spin.” The field- now down to 17 of the 22 starters- rolled through the Turn 9-10-11 chicane and got a slight break from the rain before coming back out into the storm. “Do y’all know when the rain’s going to stop?” The slow rumble of the brick rattled the car, testing the suspension as on the uneven surface. “Negative. The front just came out of nowhere; I don’t know if it’s still forming or if it’s got an end or what.” I nodded my helmet and tested the grip in the esses. The car slid for a second in 14 before I got it back under control. The bricks felt like ice, despite the aero working hard. “Alright. The grip is awful in the esses. Feels like I’m skating.” “We gave you some more front wing at the stop- let us know if it works. I went up next to Max on the outside of Turn 22, looking up to the front at Arcazon’s car. A few laps later- Lap 19- we restarted. “Green flag here, and we are back underway here in a soaked Carthian Grand Prix! Arcazon leads from the two OTech’s, followed by Juan Kerman of F-Tech and Louie of Monster!” Max got a poor run out of 30, and I shot to the left. The rainwater flew into the air with the rooster tail, and I slid past Max into P2 before the braking zone. Arcazon covered the inside into Turn 1, and I couldn’t pass- forced to go outside. I held my line in Turn 2, but Arcazon had a perfect launch out of the corner and blasted away. Again, I closed out of Turn 4, but he had the inside in 5- forcing me around the long way. I cut him in the next corner and tried to see through the spray as water assaulted my visor. I dove down the inside of 7, but he was there first, anticipating the move and forcing me to check up. I lost the rear out of 7 and ran up wide as I hit a puddle while Arcazon almost didn’t seem to be affected by it. Suddenly, a red blur shot past my right side as Juan flew by out of Turn 8, capitalizing on the mistake. Damnit, I cursed myself as I slotted into line, watching as the two got some separation out of the corner. I keyed the radio before diving into Turn 9. “Grip is absolutely atrocious. I just can’t stay with him.” I threw the car into the corner, and the rain momentarily stopped under the covering. The tire tracks laid down water lines on the dry tarmac as the lights gleamed- showcasing our cars as we passed the hotel’s entrance. I was back on Juan’s tail out of Turn 11, but both he and Arcazon pulled away out of the corner as I struggled. The rears skidded around out of the corner in the rain. “I can’t put the power down at all out of the corners. If it’s there, I just can’t use it.” Max had given a little bit of a gap- obviously struggling as well. I had already dropped about a second back to Juan but desperately tried to catch up. I locked the left-front into Turn 12 and had to run wide as Juan tried to line up a move. He fish-tailed out of Turn 13 while Arcazon remained stable, seemingly unaffected by the downpour. “Just after the re-start, and it looks like everyone is having issues out here on this soaked track, but the rookie, Arcazon Kerman, is putting on an absolute show here today.” Juan held in line as the spray seemed to diminish- the water on the track running into the brick’s grooves instead of standing on the track. We all took the esses carefully for the first time, but I still ran in a bit hot in 14. Arcazon got a little bit of oversteer, and Juan looked inside before he got some oversteer himself a corner later. I managed to catch up before catching a slide out of Turn 19, almost drifting over the Big Dip as we coasted above it. I dove down into the tunnel and caught onto Juan’s tail, finally hooking up the car. Arcazon finally seemed to experience issues as he lost ground out of 21- spinning the rears a bit and letting Juan close up. I took advantage and looked inside, but Juan went first, cutting me off and moving on Arcazon, who had no defense on the outside. Juan moved alongside and out-broke Arcazon into the corner- running wide as he hydroplaned a bit. Arcazon went to the right, which turned to the outside for Turn 24. Juan managed to slide past over the brick as Arcazon hounded him, pressuring the red and white car. Kid’s got some guts, I thought, dropping back as Juan started pulling out a gap. “Amazing move by the F-Tech driver down in the Old City! Arcazon tried to hold on, but Juan Kerman made that move stick on the inside of the corner.” [Juan K. Engineer Radio]: “Vamos, Juan. P1, P1. 15 Laps to go, push." “Just manage it the best you can. We believe this front might be done in a few laps, and we can switch over to the Inters. Inter running expected in 2-3 laps.” I got understeer through Turn 27 and had to let up, fighting both the rain and the dirty air from Arcazon ahead. Max had closed the gap to me by a small amount as I fought the car, but I kept focused on the blue and red car ahead of me. Juan, now freed from anyone in front of him, got to work extending the gap. I tried to slip past Arcazon by faking him out into Turn 28, but he didn’t react to it- holding to his line and forcing me to go wide. A couple of laps later- Lap 21- I could feel the rain start to slow down. Juan had gotten a good lead in the clean air, and I hadn’t been able to pass Arcazon. I noticed the tire tracks starting to form a bit clearer in the water- a sign that the puddles were lessening and the rain was slowing down. I dove deep into Turn 1 and almost hit Arcazon’s right side as the tires locked up, but he avoided it perfectly and still ended up ahead of me out of Turn 2. “Tires are starting to go,” I said as I resumed the attack, keeping in Arcazon’s tire tracks. “Might want to switch to the inters sometime soon. Feel like it’s drying up.” I lost time through Turn 5 and had to slow my pace- giving Max a chance to close up on me. [Arcazon K. Radio]: "What’s the strategy call here? I can go to dries if you want.” [Engineer]: “If we pit onto dries in a couple of laps, then we can get a Top Five.” [Arcazon]: “I’m going for the win, Teddy. Tell me what you want me to do.” [Engineer]: “Copy. We’re boxing next lap.” I dove into the 9-10-11 chicane and almost locked the brakes as the tires lost grip on the wet tarmac. Max held back and let me slide back up to the racing line. I whipped through the chicane and had the line, keeping just a couple of inches between my nose and Arc’s rear. “I’ll need more power on the straights if you can give it to me.” I dove to the inside of Turn 12 and forced my way through, sweeping past the Carthian. The wet tires kicked spray into the air before I rejoined the racing line- cutting down the track in 13. “Copy. Good overtake, let’s focus on catching Juan now. We think that the conditions will be right to box for inters next lap.” I slid over the bricks and forced the car over the curbs to keep Arcazon behind. Arcazon closed in Turn 20, but I kept my line and forced him to move outside in 21. He somehow held the line and slid past in the next corner. “And what a move! Arcazon Kerman, in just his third race in K1, going wheel-to-wheel with Jebediah Kerman in one of the tightest sections on the whole track!” “And look at that, the OTech lost some ground there after getting forced off-line!” “Third race versus third year, and it’s the young-gun who takes P2!” “Box, Box, we are pitting onto Inters this lap. Box box inters this lap. Watch your delta.” I focused on catching Arcazon all over again. “What’s Juan doing?” I noticed that Louie had joined the fray behind Max, who I could tell was getting anxious at being held up. “F-Tech is getting ready. It looks like it’s the Inters. They are pitting onto the intermediate tires this lap, so we’re on the same strategy. Push hard.” “I can’t push if I’m stuck behind.” Arcazon got a great run out of Turn 27, and I shook my head. “He’s just so quick out of the corners.” I dove into the pit lane and could see the red tail of Juan making the turn. “Fast stop here, guys; I need to close up.” “You will be racing Blomqvist and Williams on exit; Racing on exit.” I pulled into the box, and the team quickly got the car serviced. I noticed that they didn’t change the wings, which I was grateful for. Juan drove past, but I peeled out of the box closer than I had entered. Before I could exit the pit lane, however, the steering wheel lit up with yellow lights. “Okay, Safety Car, Safety Car!” I punched my steering wheel in anger as I released the pit limiter to get up to speed. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” I exited ahead of the two cars that Landin told me I would be racing, but it was still only P7. “This is the second time this race! COME ON!” The radio was silent for a few moments before Landin came over the radio again. “Are the inters okay, or do you want to just take the hit and box now onto the Dries? Everyone who hasn’t stopped is going to be boxing now; I think that all of them are going to be boxing onto intermediates.” I weaved around to test the grip and didn’t feel any significant issues. “Inters are good for now. Still too wet for the dries. Depending on when we go green, I think that we can afford to box onto Dries either the lap after green or on the Green Lap.” “Copy. Just.. Keep me updated.” “Yeah.” Juan sped up to catch the cars in front, and I keyed the radio again. “I wasn’t yelling at you, by the way. I just…” I groaned. “It’s alright. I know what you mean.” There was a slight pause. “Do you want a run-down?” I chuckled before rolling under the awning at Turn 10. “Sure, why not?” “Do you want to go outward or just down the line?” “Let’s go down the line, keep it consistent.” “Copy. So you and Juan are the only ones on Inters. Arcazon leads, with Max and Louie behind him, all on Wets. Chris of PhantomTech P4, then it’s the TT of Ward. Juan on Inters in 6, with you in P7. Behind is Blomqvist from CM, Williams from LakeFront, Lewis tenth, Ellis, Walker, Saul, Anker, and Green in the Archer at 15. White in the other Archer pulled off out of 22, which is why we’re under the Safety Car. Again, everyone except you and Juan are on Wets. Nine laps to go; looks like we’ll go green with six.” “Thanks.” We rolled through Turn 20, and the radio crackled, but I could understand the message. “N.. Problem.” I passed the shut-down #88 car of Lucas White, with Marshals pushing the car towards Turn 23, where there was an available post. We passed the pit lane, and everyone pulled off- except for one. “Okay, so Arc is staying out.” I weaved behind Juan and focused on the Safety Car that had been deployed in front. “He’s still on Wets… He’s going to get destroyed on the restart.” “Free position. Safety Car is probably going to be in next lap; they’re still working on clearing that car.” Max exited the pit lane first, with Louie behind him. Everyone was on the Intermediate tires, but I knew that the race to the pit lane would be what won or lost the race. “Safety Car will be in this lap; I just got the message. Remember to charge your battery. We’ll be using E1 on the jump.” I worked to get heat into the tires while still maintaining the line. “There’s a dry line starting to form. Give it another lap, and we’ll be golden.” “Copy, so we’ll be boxing next lap. I think that’s what everyone else wants to do.” “This restart is going to be spicy.” We rolled through the esses and took the dip slowly, and I almost chuckled at the Safety Car’s suspension throwing the vehicle into the air. “Oh, for sure.” Juan worked to get some extra heat into the tires, and I keyed an off-line radio transmission (One that wouldn’t be picked up on the broadcast). “Tell Max to be right on top of me for the restart. I’m going to send it into Turn 1, so the hole is going to be there.” There was silence before I got confirmation. “Affirmative. You’ll have maximum deployment available. I’ll let you know when we deactivate it.” “Can I just keep it on?” We coasted through 21 as the Safety Car’s lights turned off. “Negative, we need to save the engine.” I groaned and shook the wheel. “Got it.” “And so here we are, coming up on seven laps to go. Arcazon Kerman leads, with Juan and the two OTech’s behind. Jeremy, what do you think’s going to happen on this restart?” “Well, Jim, Carthia Motorsports frankly made the wrong call. The track is too dry for-“ [Engineer]: “You know what to do." [Arcazon K. Radio]: “Copy.” “Be ready for Arcazon to go out of 26. You have the better engine mode to close on Juan.” The Safety Car started to pull away. Arcazon backed the field up in 24. My heart was racing as I turned the engine dial to its highest setting. “Safety Car in 27. Be ready. No overtaking until the Safety Car line.” Before I could react, Arcazon slammed out a downshift and gunned the throttle- leaping away as we tried to recover. Juan got a slight advantage over me, but I took a crisp line through Turn 26 to close up. We were nose-to-tail coming out of Turn 27, and I had to let off the throttle just a little bit to not ram into the rear of the car. Through the wing gap, I noticed that Arcazon didn’t make a move into Turn 28. I didn’t react- too focused on keeping Juan in my sights. I saw Max barreling up to me in my mirrors. “P-Ten, on Overtake. I’ll inform you when to deactivate.” P-Ten, which meant “Power Mode Ten,” was the absolute maximum engine mode we had- full deployment of the Electric Power System and the combustion engine. It used tons of fuel and even more energy, so we hardly used it- even for qualifying. I dove into Turn 30 right on the mark, but Juan was more aggressive and made a small gap on me. I pushed the EPB/Overtake button and felt the engine start to move. Every upshift was right on point, and I grinned as the car began to pull. I stayed in the slipstream as long as I could before feinting left to draw Juan over. As soon as he did, I darted to the right. Spray shot into the air from all four wheels as I went off-line to the inside with Max right behind me. Max was in my slipstream as I got clear and got his wheel alongside in the braking zone. I out-broke Juan and Max followed suit, clearing the F-Tech on the apex. “Green flags in the air, and look at the OTech! Jebediah isn’t letting Juan get comfortable at all, and Max Kerman right behind! Jeb in the slipstream, he goes to the outside- now inside! Jeb to the inside, and he’s clear! WHAT A FANTASTIC MOVE!!!” “Can I use Nine?” We went down the hill single-file, but the F-Tech was coming back on a charge. The engine mode, P-Nine, was the MAX mode- tons of power at the cost of efficiency. “Affirmative, move to P-Nine.” I flew out of Turn 4 and got on top of the curb before responding. “Keep me updated on the fuel.” “What a fantastic restart by the two OTech cars, and-“ [Max K. Radio]: “Am I clear to push, or.. what do you want me to do?” [Claire Radio]: “You’re clear.” “Copy. Arcazon is on dries; it’ll be close. Do you feel good?” Juan’s rear stepped out through 5 and allowed Louie past, but Max was close. “It’s dry. Confirm box.” I followed the dry line in Turn 6 and let the left-rear gently kiss the exit curb- almost spinning due to a combination of high load, high power, and low grip. Louie fell for the same thing and almost lost the car himself. Juan couldn’t react quick enough and had to slow down instead of passing. Max tried a move inside but slotted back into line, making me instinctively shake the wheel a bit before diving into 7. “Hey, tell Max to back off, please.” I had to release the radio through the turn and re-keyed it as I exited Turn 8. “If we fight, it’s just going to slow us down.” Before he could get the message, Max dove up my inside through Turn 9. I held my position and got the place on the switch-back. Louie and Juan were falling back, but I could tell that they were both chomping at the bit to close in. “He has been given the message; he has been told.” I went into Turn 12 on the mark, but Max locked up- losing a little bit of time and creating a small gap. “Thanks.” I got out of MAX and moved the engine mode down to save fuel and energy. We raced through the esses for the first time on inters, and I almost slid up into the wall in Turn 19. The side of the circuit was less dramatic of a drop than the racing line, which made the bump less painful on the car. I flew through Turn 20, not worrying about tire wear or excess heat. “Confirm box.” I went all the way to the edge of the track at Turn 22 before answering. “Confirm. Keep me updated on the gaps.” The gaps had spread out- I was about a second clear of Max, who was a second and a half clear from Juan. He had managed an overtake and was closing in. Fast. We entered the canyon of Turn 24, and I managed to grip a wider line over the bricks. The transition through 25 and 26 was smooth, and I carried all of the speed I could- transitioning from crisp, aggressive lines to smooth, flowing lines that went from edge to edge on the track limits. I braved the curbing in Curve Grande and felt the grip come to me, which gave me confidence for the dry compound. “Watch your speed on the limiter; we’ll be racing on the way out.” Everyone followed me in, and I could hear the echo of 14 engines on the tunnel-designed pit lane. I hit my box perfectly, and the team was on point, but they held me. Louie entered the box ahead of me, delaying my stop and forcing Max to wait further behind me. I eventually peeled out of the pit lane, but not before losing a position to Juan. “Aaah damnit! Sorry, guys.” I followed him down the pit lane and released the limiter. “It’s alright. You are 6 seconds behind Arcazon. He just set the fastest lap of the race. Six laps to go.” “Copy.” “And look at this! Arcazon Kerman, in his third race ever in K1, is leading with just six to go!” [Arcazon K. Radio]: "Give me the gap, mate. I need to know the gaps, every sector." [Engineer]: “Gap is 5.5 behind, don’t let up.” [Arcazon]: “I don’t plan on it.” “Landin, keep me updated on the gaps. I need to know what pace I need to run.” I rocketed out into Turn 5, using the momentum to my advantage. “Just push as hard as you can.” Juan already had a half-second advantage, but I was determined to close. “What engine modes are available?” I kept the car within the racing line and felt the aero wash over the front wing. Still, I was closing in slightly. “You can run P-Nine, but we will not make it to the end running it the whole way. Recommend we run either P-Six or P-Seven.” I moved up to the Overtake mode of P-Seven and utilized the extra energy deployment with the Overtake button out of Turn 8. Juan started to lose ground to me down the straight, and I knew that an overtake would have to be sooner rather than later. “Copy. I need to get past this guy if I’m going to catch the leader.” I couldn’t complete a move into Turn 12 and groaned. With the track being as tight as it was, I’d have to wait until Turn 28 to make another move. [Juan K. Radio]: “Guys, I have an issue. I’m losing power.” [Engineer]: “Okay, we are looking into-“ [Juan]: “D-Limit, D-Limit.” [Engineer]: “Standby, we are looking. Maintain position.” “Okay, Jeb, Juan has an issue, repeat, Juan has an issue, it appears to be the battery. Try and harvest energy if you can wait until Sector 3.” I held myself behind in the Esses, letting my energy charge up while saving fuel. If I couldn’t pass, I might as well help the car out the best I could. I allowed the engine to relax through Turn 20 before turning it up to Rich- trying to surprise Juan with a push down into Turn 23. He was expecting the move, and I had to try an overtake around the outside. Predictably, it went no-where. “This guy is holding me up! Come on…” I stuck my hand in the air in anger as Juan went defensive into Turn 24. [Juan K. Radio]: “This guy is crazy.. Is the issue fixable?” [Engineer Radio]: “Negative, negative, we believe it is a failure in the PDS. We’re working on a fix, standby. Authorizing Mode 6 to counter.” [Juan]: “Copy. Just let me know what you need me to do.” I held station in Turn 27 and looked inside, but the bright-red F-Tech was already on the defensive. I stayed behind and attacked the curbs before taking a wide line into Turn 30, which gave me both momentum and a gap ahead to utilize a run. “Use Overtake.” I pushed the button down and twisted the dial to P-Nine. Electrics on Overtake, fuel on its second-highest setting, slipstream, DRS. I let the engine carry me up to the back of Juan’s car and gapped him before we were halfway down the straight. My heart was pounding as I flew down the road. “Fantastic job, the gap is 6 seconds. Five laps to go; you can do this.” I turned the engine down to Rich and lowered the electrics to help them recharge under braking. “I need the gap every sector; tell me where I’m faster. Keep me updated on the fuel.” Five hot-laps to try and catch the kid, and I could feel the adrenaline shooting through me. I threw the car down the ramp out of Turn 2, keeping the engine at high energy to push. I had one-lap fresher tires and a better engine, but six seconds in five laps was a daunting task. [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, Jebediah has just moved up to P2. Push hard; he will close.” [Arcazon]: “I need to use Scenario Seven.” [Engineer]: “We need to conserve the engine for later, do not advise.” [Arcazon]: “I want this win, Teddy. It’s all or nothing.” [Engineer]: “Affirm.” “Gap is 5.5. Good pace.” I threw the car into the Turn 9 braking zone and attacked the chicane as hard as I dared. The car got up onto two wheels on both curbs, and I went on the attack. Everything was going into the effort, and I wasn’t giving a rest. I was either going to win, or I was going to crash. [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Arc, the engine will not survive this stress.” [Arcazon]: “I don’t care.” [Engineer]: “You need to reduce the engine mode if you want to make it to the end.” [Arcazon]: “Just buy me as much time as you can.” I shot through the esses and flew over the dip- barely getting a hint of contact with the floor as I exited the corner. The car understeered through Turn 20, but I threw it hard into Turn 21- on top of the curb and right next to the wall. I used the momentum to swing through Turn 22. “Gap is 5.4; you’re two tenths off the delta.” I took the car up to the barrier and cut it down into Turn 24, utilizing the aerodynamics to help in the middle sector. “I just can’t go as fast in the middle sector.” I flew up to the curb on the outside of Turn 27- even using what little bit of the runoff I could. Little puffs of spray came off the tires as I turned back onto the racing line with scraping from the floor and sparks from the curbs. “You’re authorized to use P-Nine down the straight to close.” I flew into the final chicane and abused the curbing- trying to go as fast as I could. I was hitting perfect lines and using everything I could to attack the straights. “Gap is 4.9; you’re one-tenth off. You’re losing three tenths in Sector 2, but you were much better in the First Sector. You’re setting fastest laps, but we need more.” “I need more power down the straight. I need P-Ten.” I dialed the engine up to P-Nine and waited. “Confirmed. P-Ten authorized in Sector One.” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Full Power authorized. The gap is 4.9; you’re on pace. Four to go.” I pushed as hard as I could down the straight to make up for lost time without the DRS. I threw the car into Turn 1 and barely got the car under control for the chicane. I got through the corner and raced down the hill, using gravity to help me in my pursuit. “Max just made an overtake for P3, and he is three back. No threat behind.” I moved to Rich before racing into Turn 5, but the engine still revved high. “Fuel is looking good for the time being.” I flung the car into the triple-right before I got the next update. “Okay, that’s 4.2; you gained three tenths on the delta.” “I’m just losing time in the middle sector.” I shot through the chicane and into the Old City, gritting my teeth as the car lost front-end grip. “Just do your best; you’re eating into his gap little by little. You’re faster. Keep it up.” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Pace is good; you’re forcing him to push harder than he wants to. If you want, we can conserve and save energy to draw him close for a counter-surge.” [Arcazon]: “I don’t want to let him get the chance to come close.” I shot into the esses with all the speed I could and had to rely heavily on the aerodynamics to help me through the corners. The car banged over the dip, and I had to recover a slight moment of oversteer before barreling into Turn 20. The car had good grip, but the understeer got me again through 21. I kept pushing through 22. “3.9, you lost a tenth on where we need to be, but the delta is positive. Keep going.” The car responded flawlessly through the Curve Grande, and I went right up next to the wall yet again- testing the limits of the car and the track. By the time I had returned to the track, I was already turning in for 28- utilizing the entirety of the racing surface. The attack was good, but I had to keep it up. The car turned in perfectly through Turn 30, and I went up next to the wall to take as much track as possible in my quest to close in. The tires were holding well, but at this aggressive pace, I knew that they couldn’t have much left before I started to feel wear. “Okay, that’s 3.6; you are on top of the Delta. Three laps to go, you’re reeling him in by over a second per lap.” I moved up to P-Ten and tried to make as little movement on the wheel as possible. I was even hunkering down in the cockpit to reduce the drag. “It’s not enough.. Tell me where I need to step it up.” I again threw the car through the opening chicane and almost lost the rear out of T1 as I tested every limit available. “The second sector mainly, you’re losing about two tenths on the delta there per lap. Recommend B-B Minus-2 to help.” I changed the engine down to Overtake and moved the Brake Balance down a couple of notches. Pushing the brake bias to the rear would help turn into corners, but it made the back slightly less stable. It was a risk I was willing to take. “B-B Minus-2 got it.” I immediately got rotation through Turn 5 and used it well to lean on the tires. [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, your pace is good. Keep this pace; Delta is good.” [Arcazon]: “Copy.” I flew wide out of Turn 6 and let the momentum carry me up to the wall. The buzzing of the curbs blurred my vision for a brief second before I adjusted and got off the curbs. The wall seemed to tower over the low-to-the-ground car, but I didn’t let it distract me. I attacked the inside curb of Turn 7, and I ran wide onto the white painted line. An unfortunate leaf was thrown into the air by the wheel before I again attacked Turn 8. “Three-tenths to the good on the delta, that was a fantastic sector. You’re three-tenths faster than the delta.” Sparks flashed in my mirror before I dove into Turn 9. The lights reflected off the nose of my car as I whipped the car over the curbing. The racing line’s black rubber hadn’t been washed away by the rain, and I followed it over the chicane to pinpoint detail. “The engine can keep this up, right?” I dove into the Turn 12 hairpin and followed the line- missing the apex curb to get a wide entry and gain momentum for Turn 13. “Affirm. The engine is good as long as we keep doing what we’re doing. No unnecessary risks.” The esses flew by in a blur, and I felt like I glided over Turn 19. It was an all-or-nothing lap. I understeered into Turn 20 and lost momentum as I had to slow down for Turn 21. “Okay, you’re back on the delta again. Stay focused; we can still get this.” The mistake was costly- a three-tenths advantage gone in just a corner. I dove into Turn 23 and carried the speed over the bricks. The buzz of the centuries-old surface sounded more like a yell than a rumble. Fans cheered from the balconies above, while a small grandstand on the outside of Turn 24 was making their presence known as well. I kept attacking, trying to claw back whatever time I could. Arcazon and I were about equal in the 3rd sector, while I had the advantage in the third when it came to the delta. My race would be won or lost in the middle. “Two laps to go, you’re 2.4 out. You are on the delta.” The car rocketed up to speed. “If I can just clean up Turn 20, then I’ll be good.” I dove into Turn 1 and immediately gritted my teeth. The right front erupted in a cloud of smoke, and I heard the tire squeal on the pavement. I reduced the pedal pressure and managed to get turned in, but I could see through the apex that the tire was damaged. “No, no, no! Damnit!” The crowd erupted into cheers at the mistake as I weaved through the runoff road- a left-right-left triple chicane into the highway ramp. “Sorry, guys. I screwed it up.” The radio was silent as I ran down through the double-apex. “Can you continue to push?” I could feel a vibration from the flat-spot and had to suffer through Turn 5. Going from 200mph to 40 always carries its risks; a lock-up was one of them. “No… I flat-spotted it really bad.” [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “Okay, good job, you’re holding the delta.” “This race is- OOH, LOCKUP BY THE OTECH! He goes on into the runoff area, at the chicane!” “That’s going to cost him the win, I feel.” “Well, they’re already cheering, in the grandstands, for that one, and it has cost him, big!” “Alright. Engine P-Five to recover, B-B Minus-1. Max is four back, no pressure behind.” I twisted the knobs on the wheel as the Carthian fans started to celebrate. [Arcazon K. Engineer Radio]: “The car behind has had an issue, car behind with an issue. Scenario Three, Scenario Three; Hit your marks.” [Arcazon]: “Repeat?!” [Engineer]: “Car behind had an issue, no pressure behind. Go to Scenario Three. The gap to the car behind is 4.1; there is no pressure behind.” [Arcazon]: “Are you sure?!?” [Engineer]: “Affirm.” “Vibrations are bad. I cooked the tire.” The tire resisted the stress in Turn 12, but I could feel the effect of vibration. Combined with the road’s rough surface, it was not a fun experience. The car understeered off of the tunnel, and I sighed. The gap, which was at just a bit over two seconds, was now at four. “Do you need to pit?” I fought understeer through Turn 23 and briefly locked the right-front again in 24. “No, it’s just… Just really rough on the bricks.” The car created sparks over the dip between 25 and 26 before the track changed to the tarmac, and I was relieved. The surface of the brick was slippery enough- the understeer didn’t help one bit. “Alright. Bring it home here, one lap to go.” I could just see Arcazon’s car disappearing into the first corner as I passed the start-finish line, now over 4 seconds behind. “Gap behind is 3.7 seconds. P-Four is available if you want to conserve the engine a bit.” The Carthian crowd had seen the gap grow with their own eyes, and they were celebrating. Even over the engine, I could hear the air horns and the cheers start to rise. Turn 1 was smooth for the final lap, but I could see the lockup skid mark on the track’s surface. “And now, as he comes through the chicane for the final time, young Arcazon Kerman is just one lap away from winning his home Grand Prix!” [Engineer Radio]: “Okay, just hit your marks here; he’s slowed his pace. The gap is 4 seconds.” [Arcazon]: (Exhale) “Okay, copy.” I raced down the hill and took Turns 3 and 4 at speed to finish the lap on a semi-high note. Even though I had reduced the engine mode, the car was still pulling well. The sky above had begun to turn orange, with the setting sun beginning to shine off what little storm clouds remained over the city. The run through Turn 5 was at speed, without a hint of understeer. I moved the engine down after exiting six and ran hard over the double-apex. Though it was fast, it wasn’t enough. The vibration was starting to get worse- my vision was beginning to blur. The run through the hotel was bright, but I didn’t let the lights distract me. I was still upset about the mistake. Even with the flat-spot, I was able to hit my marks cleanly. I could hear the celebrations starting, and I could see waves of blue smoke beginning to blow out of the corridor of buildings between Turns 23 and 24. Sure enough, the fans in the stands outside of Turn 24 had started their celebrations- waving flags and smoke canisters. I had to smile a bit beneath the visor before turning in for the corner. Even though the sun was setting, I could feel that the party was just getting started. “And now, coming out of the final turn! He had everything against him today, but he’s coped brilliantly! Arcazon Kerman, with the brand-new Carthia Motorsports team, WINS IN MALLINGHAM!!! ARCAZON KERMAN, A RACE-WINNER!!!” [Arcazon]: “OH MY GOD!! WHAT DID WE JUST DO?!?! YEAAAAAAAAH!!!” (Deep exhale) “Thank you… Thank you all so much… I just need a moment..” [Engineer]: “ARCAZON KERMAN, YOU ARE A RACE WINNER! CONGRATULATIONS, MATE!!” “You can just hear the emotion from that radio, a superb job throughout by the team, and what a race by the rookie!” “He did a wonderful job all day, and the celebrations are 100% deserved. The damage at the start, the rain, and to hold off those top cars the way he did- fantastic drive by him today.” “Good job, everyone today,” I said, waving to the team on the wall as I passed the line. “Sorry I couldn’t get it for y’all. You deserved it.” I watched the flat-spot rotate around the tire as I slowed, waving to the massive crowd that had begun the celebration. “Hey, it’s all good. We’ll get them next race. P-One and pick up rubber.” The drive back to the podium was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The crowd was ecstatic, with flags, smoke, and air horns going off all around the circuit. Even though I hadn’t managed to take the win, I couldn’t help but grin at the reactions. The podium was in a unique location- a stand located above the final corner. We took the chicane and pulled into the runoff, and I pulled onto the mark. “Zero-Zero, and you’re good, remember to keep your gloves and helmet. See you on the podium.” I pulled the switch to shut down the engine and stepped out, watching Arcazon sit in his car. After a few seconds, he got out and ran over to the team, visor up and eyes wet with tears. While he embraced the team, I walked over to my crew- giving them all high-fives. On the way to the weigh scales, I spared a glance at Arcazon’s car. Besides the regular battle scars (Paint blackened by dirt and grime from the track, scrapes on the paint, etc.), I noticed that the right rear floor had a gaping hole in it where the aero bits typically were. The rear wing’s bottom was also beat up- likely due to damage from the Lap 1 incident. I nodded. Impressive that he went the whole race like that.. After the weighing, we went to the lounge. “Did Juan have an issue when you passed him?” I turned to look at Max, who had ruffled up his hair to relieve some of the heat. “Yeah, Landin said it was some kind of battery issue. What about you?” I sipped on my water bottle and laid down on the couch. “When I passed, he was super slow, but then he started to come back towards the end. How close did you get?” I shook my head, and a few beads of sweat went through the air. “Two seconds, I think, before I locked up. I was on pace to get him before I messed it up.” Just then, Arcazon came into the room, wiping his eyes with a grin. I stood up and went over to him, wrapping him up in a big hug. “You earned it, kid. Heck of a drive.” I grinned at him, and he nodded, still a bit too choked up to really talk. I didn’t mind one bit. This was his moment. Despite being so close, I was glad to have been a part of it.
  17. Update: chapter finished; now for editing and proofreading. *Opens grammarly, sees 408 notifications* “Ay Caramba.”
  18. Much of yesterday’s work was rewriting and revising to update everything to my newer writing style and fix the way things sound. Today has primarily been working on the new content. Schedule: Today: Continue working on content Tomorrow: Continue working on content; Edit in Grammarly. Tomorrow/Thursday: Finish Editing; Send to Editor. Thursday: Final Proofread, Release.
  19. I forgot how thrilling it was to write LATT.

    It’s been a while since I’ve felt an adrenaline rush just from typing!:D

  20. Hello, friends. I know what you might be thinking: “Hey, this guy sounds familiar.” Well good news: you’re not getting random deja vu. I’m here for 2 reasons: 1, to say hi to all the new members that have joined in my absence; and 2, to say just a couple words. Before we get there, however, I’d like to introduce myself. My name’s DarkOwl57. Most say “Dark,” a few use “DarkOwl”, even less say “Owl” and to this day I’ve never had anyone use my full name (number and all) when referring to me. I’m a writer- or at least was- on this forum. About a year ago, I decided to unofficially call it quits from the forum, and stop my writing. To everyone that remembers me, it’s great to see you again. To those that don’t, it’s good to meet you. But to everyone, I have just two words. I’m back.
  21. Oh gosh, there’s a lot of them. If I had to choose one? Probably the time (last weekend) I managed to replicate a replica of an F-4 Phantom from a couple of pictures. Either that, or the first test run of my ETR-84GP, a fully stock F1 car.
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