I really enjoyed the last round of voting. Instead of a moral decision, or something that defines Mitch as a character, it was simply a “what obstacle shall we throw in his path” and you got to make that decision. The voting changed drastically throughout, but there could only be one winner.
It seems as though Mason has got under everyone’s skin, whether it is for good or for bad! Apologies to all who wanted it to be Melissa at the door. We will have to do a more romantic story soon. For now, on with Part 7.
Mitch yanked open the door. “What?”
“Just to let you know, I saw your friend back to his hotel safely.”
“You turned bodyguard now?”
Mason smiled. “Just doing my civic duty.”
“What do you want?”
“I was just curious to see if you have a story cooked up for Rex.”
“He’s not going to be very happy that you tried to beat up his star driver, is he?”
Mitch gritted his teeth. “I wasn’t going to hit him,” he said, for the second time that evening.
Mason continued to smile, mostly to himself. He glanced around the room, taking in the discarded shoes, the open minibar and the folder of race information, unopened.
“The way I see it,” Mason said, finally. “You’ve got two choices. Stay at Shuttleworth, where you’ll never be treated as an equal, or come drive for Mortimer, where you will.”
Mitch raised an eyebrow. “You’re less likely to drive me off the road if I’m your teammate?” he asked.
“You know it makes sense,” Mason chuckled. “Think it over,” he said, turning to leave. Over his shoulder he added: “My Uncle is keen to have a conversation.”
“And yet he sent you,” Mitch called after him.
“It doesn’t look good for team bosses to be hanging round hotel rooms in the early hours of the morning.”
And with that, Mason was gone.
Mitch returned to his position at the end of the bed, elbows on his knees, chin in his hands, weight of the world on his shoulders.
“Radio check,” Bob’s voice in Mitch’s ear.
“Loud and clear,” Mitch replied.
“Are you ready?”
Mitch felt that familiar surge of anticipation, his heart beating loudly, his breaths coming more quickly. Qualifying could sometimes be more exciting than the race itself. You only had one chance to do it right, and if you screwed it up, your weekend could be over before it had begun. At least during a race there was always a chance to redeem yourself.
The first session flew by. Both Mitch and Bruno had done enough to go through to the next qualifying round, and they didn’t need to squabble with the others during the last few seconds. The second round, shorter this time, began, and Mitch was about to go. On Bob’s signal, he left the garage, cruising to the end of the pitlane, then putting his foot down to get out onto the track.
An out lap, and then he was on it. Full concentration. Corner after corner. Up in the first sector. Up in the second.
“Bob, who’s that?” Mitch yelled, turning out of the Swimming Pool section.
“It’s a Thompson,” Bob said, cursing. “Slow it, Mitch. Come in this lap. You can have another go.”
Mitch lifted his right foot, watching the green and blue car in front of him meander round the rest of the track. He pulled into the pit lane, shaking his head as he passed the Thompson mechanics.
“They screwed it for me!” he said.
“It’s okay, Mitch. Keep it cool. You’ve got time for one more.”
A quick tyre change, and he was out again.
An out lap. Then full concentration.
When he was in the zone, there was nothing except Mitch and the car. The feel of the track slipping away beneath him, the beauty of a corner approaching and disappearing. There was nothing more glorious than successfully making it round a corner to find a new expanse of grey stretching ahead of you.
“You’ve done it,” Bob said. “Top ten. Easy. Come back in.”
Mitch slowed for his outlap, careful to keep out of the way of others still competing. A Thompson could ruin his lap, but he wasn’t about to do the same to anyone else. The mechanics pushed him back into the garage, and he took a sip of drink.
Bob was talking to one of the engineers, who was pointing to a clipboard. Bob nodded, patted the man on the shoulder, then leaned down into the car.
“Mitch, the extra lap means we’re down a set of tyres. You can get a banker lap in before going for it, but you’ll be stuck with old rubber. Or we can wait it out and go for a last minute dash. What do you think?
What qualifying strategy should Mitch take?