Here are the results of the gridwalk poll:
As noted in the comments, Mitch is normally painted as the good guy, and I had thought the gridwalk would be a sure thing, but as a die-hard racer, Mitch is more professional than that, and Pierre wins his attention. So, on with the chapter.
Mitch waved a hand at the cameras and offered a positive thumbs up, but turned his attention to Pierre. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the crew turn away disappointedly. Mitch knew Melissa was going to be mad at him for passing up a promotional opportunity, but the numbers on Pierre’s clipboard looked far more important.
It had been a while since Mitch had felt this nervous on the grid. Every race start was tense, but being at the front of the field was something new. Mitch tried to settle in, to concentrate, but with no cars in front of him, he couldn’t find a point to focus on. No one ever said there was a down side to pole position, he thought.
Before he knew it, the lights were coming on. That interminable gap between each one. Then all five were lit up, and they were gone. Engines roared around him, and Mitch put his foot down. He was moving forward, but he realised he had no idea what anyone was doing behind him. His wing mirrors showed an unfathomable glimpse of car parts and tyre markings, and then they were at the first corner.
As he turned into the right-hander, he saw several cars running wide alongside him, skidding off into the enormous gravel trap. But he was safely through the first corner, then the second, and onwards. The first major challenge was out the way, and the rest of the race stretched ahead of him.
Almost half distance, and Mitch had caught the back of the pack and was preparing to lap the slower cars. So far he had been unchallenged at the front, after a a long pit stop had dropped Mason back a little. The breathing space had allowed Mitch to revel in leading a race. The feeling was glorious. Knowing you were in the fastest car of the day, when everyone else is struggling to keep up, when everything is working out right. Nothing ahead of you but blue skies and free track.
Now the pressure descended upon Mitch’s shoulders again, like a dead weight being pressed down on him. To navigate the back markers successfully was a skill, one which Mitch had done a few times before, but not one he’d ever attempted whilst leading a race.
The first car was the only running Thomspon, and it moved out of the way neatly for Mitch to breeze through. The next was a Sorpasso. He passed a few more, and then recognised the rear end of a Shuttleworth.
“Is that Bruno?”
Pierre replied in the affirmative.
Mitch couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction as he closed up on his ex-teammate. The Shuttleworth car was out of place, held up by a low qualifying position and some slower cars. Even so, passing him would be fun. The gap between the two shrank, a couple more corners and the blue flags would be waving.
“Mitch, we need you to come in,” Pierre’s voice crackled in Mitch’s ear.
“We’re worried about some of the readouts we’re getting. You may have picked up some debris somewhere. We need to bring your stop forward.”
“No way, I’m about to make a pass.”
“Not for position. And you’ve got enough time over Mason.”
“What about the strategy?”
“It’ll still work, you’ll just have to run the second tyres longer.”
Mitch slammed his fist against the side of the car. “Everything was running smoothly,” he hissed.
There was a pause. “Mitch, are you coming in?”
Will Mitch change his strategy or take the risk on Bruno?