Life in the Fast Lane III – Part 10

Sincere apologies for the delay in getting this final part up, I wasn’t trying to drag out the ending in a reality show results style, honest. Here’s how the last voting of this series went:

Sometimes we like to play it safe, sometimes we like to take a risk.

Mitch watched as both the cars in front of him peeled off the racing line. In his mirrors, he saw Bruno leaving it late, but then the Shuttleworth also jinked right and was heading towards the pit lane.

“Just me then?” he asked Pierre, who replied in the affirmative.

Mitch closed up behind the safety car and slowed his pace. The silver Mercedes was at it’s limit but Mitch still felt it was going far too slowly. He weaved across the track, desperate to keep some heat in his tyres. He was the only front runner who had avoided the pitlane, but a few of the backmarkers closed up behind him.

They continued to lap until the debris was cleared and the Safety Car was called in. Mitch studied the lights on top of the Mercedes hard.

“Wait for the restart, wait for the restart,” Pierre chanted in his ear.

Before he knew it, the way ahead was clear, and Mitch jammed his foot down. The Mortimer jumped away from the slower cars behind him, and he was off down the home straight again.

“Keep your head,” Pierre advised, as Mitch took the first two corners gingerly. “Good,” the engineer continued. “You’re leading. But the hard work starts now. Build the gap. That’s all you can do.”

Although Pierre couldn’t see him, Mitch found himself nodding. He was ready for the challenge.

Lap after lap.

Pure concentration.

Everything in sequence. Shift here, brake, accelerate. Watch for the kerbing, mind the dip. Remember that lone piece of debris. Avoid it. Brake. Accelerate. Shift. Watch the barrier. Hit the earlier brake marker here. Brake. Shift. Accelerate. Pit board.

Another lap.

Repeat.

“In this lap.”

The instruction rang in his ear, and Mitch knew this was it. Make or break. Now they’d know if he had done enough. Pierre had been giving him updates as the lap count climbed, keeping tabs on where his nearest competitors were. All Mitch knew was that it was going to be close.

He eased across track to the pitlane entrance, slowed and hit the white line exactly on pace. He cruised through the pit lane, aware that most of the crews were tucked away in their garages, watching the action on big screens. Their part of the weekend was done and it was out of their hands.

For Mitch’s crew, the next thirty seconds were crucial.

Mitch pulled to a halt, felt himself hoisted up on the jacks, and around him became a blur of dark blue material. Lollipop down, old tyres off, fresh tyres on, lollipop over, up, and gone.

Having spent so long on the old rubber, Mitch found the cold tyres hard to manage, and as he pulled back out of the pit box, the car slid underneath him. He kept control, kept it pointing where it should go, and continued onwards.

Past the Shuttleworth garage and to the exit, Mitch crossed the white line, and put his foot down. Careful not to cross back too early, he rounded out onto the track and found himself side by side with Mason. They were down to the first corner together.

In his head, Mitch knew that Mason should have the advantage. Warmer tyres, the momentum was with him.

He wasn’t giving up though. He kept his foot down, he forced himself back into the zone that his final pit stop had jerked him out of.

They touched wheels. Mitch held his breath.

Mason was too wide. He couldn’t hold the corner, Mitch had it. He had it.

“I’ve got it!” Mitch yelled, and pulled away. He let out the breath, and glanced in his mirrors.

Mason had settled in behind him.

“YEAAAAAGHHHHH!” Mitch yelled, leaping from the seat, onto the nose of the car. The crowd around him exploded into cheers, flash bulbs went off, people were calling his name. Mitch jumped down, walking straight over to Mason’s car. His teammate was just climbing out, fixing his steering wheel back in place.

When Mason straightened up, he reached out and pulled Mitch into a hug. An official in a blue shirt tugged at their sleeves, ushering them through to the weighing room.

Mitch yanked off his helmet and gloves. “We did it!” he yelled to Pierre, grabbing the engineer into a hug.

Pierre extricated himself from his grasp. “Enough hugging,” he laughed. “You have a trophy to go get.”

Mitch’s beaming smile loomed into view. He was shaking the champagne vigorously, and then the image paused.

“Come on,” Mitch said, “do we have to see this again?”

“It’s the best bit!” Mason laughed snatching the remote from him. He pressed play, and the three of them watched as Mitch moved towards the railings to shower the crowd with celebratory champagne. Unfortunately, he stood too near the edge, and as he shook the bottle, it smashed onto the bar, sending the majority of the glass to the floor of the podium in pieces. Mitch was left clutching just a bottle top and neck, his hand dripping with champagne.

He smiled, sheepishly put down the jagged piece of glass, and waved.

“Classic!” Mason hit pause and rewind, tears falling from his eyes as he laughed.

“Okay, enough,” Melissa said, stifling her own giggles. She rescued the remote and hit the off button. “Sorry,” she said to Mitch.

“You can’t complain, boy,” Mason said, sobering up a little. “You won, didn’t you? Finally your luck has turned.”

“It wasn’t luck,” Mitch said, smiling. “I don’t believe in that stuff. It wasn’t luck, it was you guys, and your support.”

There was an appreciative pause, then Mason cracked up again. “That’s good,” he laughed, “because I dread to think what bad luck a broken champagne bottle is worth. Seven years?”

Life in the Fast Lane III – Part 9

Can’t quite believe this is the penultimate part already. Time flies. As Ian mentioned in the comments, I am still chasing that second unanimous vote but it was not to be this time.

Here’s a bumper edition to see us into the final part nicely.

“Come on,” Pierre said, pushing Mitch back towards the car. “Do you want to give Mason more reason to consider Diaz?”

“What?”

“Get back out there. Now.”

Mitch had never seen Pierre with such determination across his face, and he nodded. “Okay, but we’re not going to be any faster.”

A change of tyres and some tweaks on the front wing made little difference, and by the end of the session Mitch was proved right. The car just wasn’t working underneath him like it had in China.

He took his helmet off, jammed it down on the shelf in frustration, and left the garage.

The sun was beating down in the paddock as Mitch slipped in between two transporters. He rounded the cabs, jogged for a few feet, and then leaned against the outside wall of the medical centre. He took a few deep breaths and shut his eyes, allowing the warm air to wash over him.

“Uh oh,” a voice came from beside him. “Busted.”

Mitch opened his eyes to see Bob stubbing out a cigarette, and he raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Bob?”

“I’m meant to have quit,” Bob said. “Been a tough morning.”

“Tell me about it.”

Bob studied Mitch for a moment. “You know, I heard all about the superstition nonsense Mason has been feeding you.”

“Yea, it didn’t work,” Mitch sighed. “Things keep going wrong.”

“That’s because life isn’t about lucky charms and symbolic rituals. Getting ahead in motorsport isn’t about putting the right shoe on before the left, or patting the airbox before you climb in the car. It’s about making sure you’ve got your head in a sensible place, and you do that by surrounding yourself with the right people.”

“Hmm.”

“I still haven’t forgiven you for abandoning Shuttleworth,” Bob said, “But think about why you did it. You didn’t like the organisation. You didn’t like the structured way we approach things. You went to Mortimer because you suited the people there better. More supportive, maybe. More forgiving. More open. It was about the people, right? Not a lucky rabbit’s foot.”

“I guess.”

“Then perhaps it’s time to get your people behind you again.” Bob patted Mitch on the shoulder. “Makes no odds to me if you don’t believe me,” he said. “Watching you self-destruct is no fun, but it gives us a chance at pole.”

Mitch smiled.

“Let’s tell no one about this, eh?” Bob said, and took a few steps away. He lit up another cigarette, turning his back on Mitch.

Mitch caught hold of Melissa’s arm as she scurried into the motorhome, paperwork and folders clutched tightly in her arms. “Hey,” he said.

“Hi, I…”

“I know you’re busy,” he quickly interrupted. “I just want to apologise for being… well, being a freak the last few days.”

Melissa narrowed her eyes. “A freak?”

“Moody, irrational, I know I’ve been a pain.”

“You’re always a pain,” she nudged him, freeing herself from his grasp, and hurrying away. “Doesn’t mean I don’t love ya,” she called over her shoulder.

He watched her go, then made his way back towards the garage. “One down, two to go,” he sighed.

“It’s fine, John,” Pierre shrugged. “Things get tense. But hey, we think we might have figured out some of the problems. Look,” he held out a clipboard with some equations scribbled on it.

Mitch looked at it closely, then laughed. “I have no idea what that says.”

“Basically, the weather is cooling off a bit, the mid-day sun is not so strong anymore, and we’re a few steps forward on the tyre issue.”

“That’s brilliant, and just in time for qualifying too.”

Pierre nodded, and turned back to his laptop. “We’ll be there or thereabouts,” he said.

Mitch took a few steps over to the other side of the garage, where Mason was chatting with Sandro. “Got a sec?” he asked.

Mason finished his conversation with Sandro and turned to Mitch. “What’s up?”

“Plans to replace me already?” Mitch nodded toward the test driver, who was walking away.

“You better believe it, kiddo,” Mason laughed. “Plucky young driver, ready to show the world how it’s done. Remind you of anyone?”

“Mm, I used to be like that, till I had the sense knocked out of me. Thing is,” Mitch continued. “I need to apologise for some of the things I’ve said.”

Mason held a hand up. “You’re not going to cry on me, are you?”

“I wasn’t planning on it, no.”

“Apology accepted anyway. Just in case.”

“What, just like that?”

Mason shrugged. “I wasn’t mad at you, Mitch. Seems to me you were just mad at yourself.” There was an awkward pause and Mason waved a hand. “This is getting far too deep. Go and do whatever it is you do before qualifying.”

Mitch qualified fifth. Considering how the car had been behaving, he was pleased with the position. Mason was on pole, whilst Bruno would start beside him on the front row.

Mitch talked to the gridwalk crew ahead of the race. It was a hot day, and he was concerned about the tyres, but he put that out of his mind to answer a few questions before climbing in the car. Even though he couldn’t see her, Mitch knew that Melissa would be beaming.

The formation lap flashed by, and Mitch found himself staring at the lights, the familiar rush of adrenaline keeping him on edge. Five lights on, and gone, they were off.

The fourth place car went nowhere, and off the line Mitch was already up one position. Into the first corner, Bruno ran wide, allowing a stream of cars past him. By the end of the first lap, Mitch was comfortably third.

“Safety Car,” Pierre informed him. “Sorpasso crashed and left bits of car everywhere. Careful on punctures at 5.”

Mitch slowed his pace. He had been in the zone, lap after lap being swallowed up as he hit each brake marker and followed the racing line perfectly. He’d made no headway on the cars in front, and Bruno had managed to catch him up behind, but Mitch had found it easy to keep him at bay. The Safety Car had snapped him back to reality.

His radio crackled again. “Mason is coming in. We can stack you, or you can stay out. Your call, Mitch.”

Should Mitch come into the pits now?

Life in the Fast Lane III – Part 8

I was secretly hoping for a repeat of the unanimous vote achievement, but this one was not quite so straight forward.

A couple of people are concerned for Mitch’s welfare, but most want to see him back behind the wheel.

“I’m in!” Mitch yelled, bursting back into the motorhome with glee. He stopped abruptly, when he realised a group of fans were being shown around. Melissa hurried over to him, grabbed at his arm and pulled him out of the room.

“Nice work,” Melissa shook her head at him.

“Well, they’ve got a scoop,” Mitch offered. “You’re always telling me I should be more open with the fans.”

“You make me out to be such a nag,” Melissa sighed.

“Well…” he tailed off. “You’re not even pleased for me now!”

“Of course I am. I told you to come straight to me, didn’t I? I’m just busy.”

Melissa turned and went back through to rejoin the group. Mitch pulled a face as the door banged shut.

In the garage, Pierre stood with him, going over the notes from Sandro’s two sessions. “You’ve got to try the soft tyre,” he said. “It’s burning out too quickly, and we need to figure out why.”

“It’ll be great for qualifying though, a guaranteed pole,” Mitch laughed.

“Qualifying is just one bit,” Pierre said, pushing Mitch’s helmet towards him.

As Mitch prepared himself, he spotted Mason walking across the garage towards him.

“You’re driving then,” Mason said, an eyebrow raised.

“No thanks to you,” Mitch muttered.

“It’s nothing to do with me. It was your head that needed testing.” A small smile played on Mason’s lips. “From the amount of people you’ve aggravated today, it probably still does.”

“It’s not my fault that everyone is being so frustrating.”

“Indeed.” Mason eyed him carefully, then turned away and was soon climbing into his own car.

Mitch was fighting the wheel as the car continually tried to resist his control.

“This is madness,” Mitch yelled over the radio. “What has Diaz done to my car?”

“It’s not Sandro, it’s the tyres. It’s hotter than expected.”

“I’m coming in.”

Mitch slowed his pace, and relaxed his grip on the steering wheel. The car still slid around underneath him, but it was easier to keep it in a straight line at the slower speed. As he rounded a corner, Mitch ran wide to keep off the racing line, and he glanced in his mirrors.

To his right, he saw a flash of colour coming towards him, and he panicked, jerking the car further onto the dirty side of the track. Images of the previous race weekend came flooding back to him. He could almost feel the thud of impact as carbon fibre met carbon fibre at top speed. The helpless feeling as his car skidded unnaturally sideways, and the sensation of pressing at pedals that made no difference at all. Then it was a blank.

Mitch blinked back into reality, finding that barely a split second had passed. He watched as the blur of colour in his mirrors became a moving object at his side and then it was past. He sighed. It wasn’t even Leroy, but Chellirallo in the mid-pace Tanner-Track car. He watched as the car disappeared out of sight.

“Get a grip,” Mitch chastised himself, putting his foot to the floor again.

There was a pause, and then a crackle of the radio: “Better grip?” Pierre asked. “Please repeat?”

Mitch couldn’t help but chuckle.

“It’s just not working,” he banged a fist against the side of the car. He had climbed out to get a better look at the figures, but Pierre couldn’t tell him what he wanted to hear.

“Perhaps another run will be better,” the engineer offered.

“I doubt it,” Mitch said, “this car might as well be scrapped.”

“We’ll change the tyres and get back to the baseline,” Pierre said.

“There’s no point. Let’s finish early. Practice is going nowhere. Better to wait for qualifying and hope things improve.”

“There’s still half the session left. We can fix this. You can’t rely on hope.”

Mitch shook his head.

Will he give up on practice and wait it out?

Life in the Fast Lane III – Part 7

I thought I would throw this poll open as it was great fun when we did that last time. You guys didn’t disappoint.

Sandro was the top answer, the obvious choice really, I suppose. I do love the options, although I’m not sure Mr C has a super-licence at the moment.

Also, I’m quite intrigued by Mason’s cousin. Would that make him Uncle Mortimer’s son, and what kind of family dynamic would happen if he tried to move up to a new formula? Or is there another secret Mortimer brother, and does he bear any grudge to the sport? Interesting. All that is for another time, though.

Mitch stood to one side, arms folded, as Sandro lowered himself into the car. The test driver made some final adjustments to his helmet, then pulled his gloves on. As the mechanics leaned in to tighten his belts, Mitch strode out of the garage and straight towards the pit wall. He hopped up on a seat, pulled on some headphones, and settled back to watch the session go on without him.

It wasn’t as bad as he’d thought. Pierre ran him through a lot of the data in realtime, which made it far more interesting than studying it during the post-session debriefs. Mitch listened in as Pierre gave Sandro instructions, and watched the results appear in front of him, both via the world feed cameras, and the telemetry printing out on screen.

The only irritant was the cameras approaching him to see his reaction throughout the 90 minute session. At first, he offered a half-smile, but after the third appearance from the crew, he visibly rolled his eyes, and pulled his baseball cap further over his eyes.

Mason yanked his helmet off, brushing at his hair to smooth it down. “Hot out there today,” he said, to no-one in particular. He placed his helmet and gloves on a nearby shelf, and made his way through the garage. Mitch was leaning against a partition, arms still folded, moodily.

“What’s it like, then?” Mason said. “Watching from afar?”

“Same as last year.”

“Did you miss it?”

“With every bone in my body,” Mitch sighed.

“Sandro is pretty good, and he’s really keen too.”

“Yea.”

“I wonder what kind of a teammate he would make. He knows how we work already.”

Mitch rolled his eyes. “Look, Mason, I’m sorry I took it out on you.”

Mason shrugged. “We already established you’re just a sore loser.”

“I’m not a sore loser,” Mitch said, through gritted teeth. “I’m sore because I was robbed. And because I crashed. And because it hurt!”

“And you’re still not over it,” Mason shook his head. “Gotta move on Mitch. Too many highs and lows in this game to let them keep on affecting you.”

“Right.”

“Buck up,” Mason started to walk away, heading for the paddock and the motorhome. “Plenty of incidents ahead of you yet.”

“You’re gonna let me race, then?”

Mason turned, continuing to walk backwards. “Not up to me, is it?” he smiled. “But don’t worry, if you can’t, Sandro will take good care of your car for you.”

He laughed, then had to turn away as he’d bumped into a passing journalist.

“You need to try harder,” Melissa said, appearing out of nowhere and cuffing Mitch round the back of his head.

“Ow,” Mitch ducked. “That’s right, hit me there the day I’m expecting test results on my head injury!”

“You’re fine,” Melissa said, straightening up his hair as an apology.

“What have I done wrong this time, anyway?”

“Those camera crews could see how frustrated you were. A little thumbs up every now and then wouldn’t hurt.”

“Liss, I know you are in charge of making the team look good, but ever since we took you on, you’ve done nothing but gripe at me. I’m having a bit of a bad day as it is, can we have less of the lecturing?”

Melissa thought about it for a moment. “Maybe. You apologised to Mason though?”

“In a fashion.”

“And you’re seeing the doctor next?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re going to come straight out and tell me what he says, right?”

“Yes mum.”

“I’ll hit you again,” Melissa warned, but she gave Mitch a reassuring hug as he stood up.

Dr. Burdenski shook Mitch’s hand as he walked in. “Good to see you again, John,” he said, before gesturing for Mitch to take a seat. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine. Good. Perfect,” Mitch couldn’t help but feel nervous. “Did the results arrive?”

“They did. I would like to apologise again for the delay in, well, everything. You know how it is.” Dr. Budenski offered a wry smile.

“I know exactly how it is. The results? Can I race?”

“Everything has come out clear, which is good news. I must say I am still slightly concerned about the possibility of a second accident…”

Mitch hastily interrupted, “Did you talk to Mason today?”

Dr. Budenski looked slightly startled. “I did.”

“What did he tell you?”

“The patient confidentiality thing still exists, even in a racing team, you know?”

“No, what did he say about me?”

“John…”

“Whatever he said, I am fine to race. I haven’t had a headache for days, you said yourself the tests are clear, you can’t stop me from going out there.”

Dr. Budenski chuckled slightly at Mitch’s ardour. “Technically I can, John, but the question is, will I?”

Life in the Fast Lane III – Part 6

Party people! It’s only right to celebrate, no matter what kind of a headache you’ve got! See?

Let us see what a Mortimer celebration is like!

Mitch sat at the hotel bar, watching the celebrations going on around him. Mason and Bella were entertaining a large group of mechanics, regular bursts of laughter drowning out any other chatter. He sipped at his orange juice.

Melissa appeared at his side, and she hopped up onto the stool next to him. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

He nodded. “Fine.”

“Headache?”

“Yea.”

“You don’t feel like listening to Mason’s jokes?”

Mitch let out a short laugh. “They’re not that funny,” he said, snidely.

“Doesn’t sound like you could do much better right now,” Melissa said, pointedly.

“I know,” Mitch shrugged, “I’m miserable, but I had my best opportunity to take my first win today and it was robbed from me by that idiot Leroy.”

Melissa sighed. “Fair enough,” she hopped back off the stool. “Just do me a favour and don’t say that to any of the press.” She walked away, and had soon mingled into a conversation with Bella.

“If I’d known you were going to be this grumpy, I wouldn’t have bothered asking you along,” Mason said, draping an arm around Mitch. They were stood in one corner of the room, watching two of the senior engineers singing a rendition of the national anthem.

Mitch screwed his face up. “If I’d known there was going to be entertainment, I wouldn’t have bothered coming,” he said, pointing at the pair who began imitating trumpets for the chorus.

“It’s tough, I know,” Mason said. “No one should have to hear this stuff.” He laughed. “No seriously, I know what you’re going through. My first year here, I came close to breaking onto the podium six times and never made it. None of them were my fault, and it galls. You just have to keep hoping that one day luck will turn your way.”

“Oh, you and your stupid luck,” Mitch shrugged Mason’s arm away from him. “Carry something personal, don’t talk to the TV cameras on the grid. All your superstitions have brought me is a trashed car and a banging headache.”

“It’s not magic,” Mason said. “You can’t switch it on at the click of a fingers. It’s just something to believe in.”

“It’s nonsense!” Mitch yelled.

The national anthem abruptly stopped, and all faces turned to the two drivers.

Mason simply raised an eyebrow and looked at Mitch. “Sore loser?” he offered.

“I’m going to my room,” Mitch muttered, brushing past the staring crowd towards the lifts.

BSN News – 6th May 2010

Mortimer’s Mitchell May Miss Spanish GP

John Mitchell may have to sit out the Spanish race this weekend, as Mortimer doctors are not 100% happy with his recovery from the accident that he suffered in China. Although the injuries sustained at the time were limited to a concussion and a sore neck, sources say that Mitchell has been complaining of headaches. It is suggested that he would be fully competitive if allowed in the car, but doctors are concerned of the repercussions if a second impact occurred.

Mitchell has had a tumultuous career so far, and missing more races will not make his CV look any better. In 2009, he was forced to sit out no less than eight events thanks to contract wranglings.

Bosses at Mortimer GP will have until qualifying on Saturday to make their final decision, although previous form would suggest that it is one half of the driver pairing calling the shots rather than Mortimer Sr.

“That headline is rubbish,” Melissa said, shutting her laptop. “The alliteration runs out midway through.”

“We know you could have done better,” Mitch said. “That’s why we hired you.”

“Yea, well, I’m going to have a word with Pippa,” she said. “Just because I’m not there anymore, doesn’t mean they can get away with stuff like this. I wonder who the source is.”

“It’s Mason, obviously.”

“Mason? But…”

“But nothing. I made a scene at the party, and he does like to play around. You can never rely on Mason to be your friend forever. I showed him up. Now he’s returning the favour.”

“So go apologise.”

“Maybe I will. That won’t make my head get better faster.”

“It’s not true though, is it? You had a few headaches but that was two weeks ago.”

“Doc needed to run some tests but was mysteriously unavailable for a while. Finally got them sorted and the results will be ready tomorrow. So, either way, I’m not driving in practice.”

“Do you know who is?”

Who will take Mitch’s place?

Life in the Fast Lane III – Part 5

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a unanimous vote before, how exciting!

I hear ya!

Mitch brought the car in, stopping perfectly inside the Mortimer GP pit box. He was hoisted up on jacks, the crew changed his tyres, and out of the corner of his eye he spotted an extra mechanic having a closer look at the rear end of the car. It felt like he was stationery for hours, but in reality it was about ten seconds – longer than a pit stop should normally take, but not so long that he would lose the lead.

As he felt the car start to lower again, Mitch focused his attention on the lollipop resting just in front of him. It flipped over, and then it lifted, and the instant it began to rise, Mitch was on it, zipping back out into the pitlane, and heading towards the exit.

“Good job,” Pierre said.

“Sorted?” Mitch asked, but barely heard the response. He was at the pitlane exit, crossing the line, and up to full speed. Keeping the car firmly inside the white line, he braced himself for the first corner turn. Gliding around the ever-tightening circles at Shanghai, Mitch spotted a car rapidly approaching him. Out of nowhere, it appeared on his right, cutting across the gravel, and before he knew what had happened, he had been pushed off track.

The momentum kept them both going, bouncing across the trap, stones springing up into the air and showering onto them. Mitch felt them hit his helmet, and looked across to see who had lost control of their car. He couldn’t make out the driver amongst the dust that had sprung up, and before he had time to think anymore, they came up against the barriers with a massive bump.

“Safety Car,” came the message over Mason’s radio.

“What’s happened?”

“Mitch is out.”

“Of the race? He was leading!”

But Mason soon saw the incident for himself. A few seconds further ahead, the Safety Car was waiting for him at the end of the pitlane. He reduced his speed, and watched as the train of cars gathered behind him. They took the first corner slowly, and Mason glanced to his right. A tangle of carbon fibre was pushed up against the barriers, a crowd of marshals working to make sense of the mess, and the medical car just arriving.

Then they were past, and Mason had an entire lap to complete before he could take another look.

“Is he alright?” Melissa shouted. Pierre shrugged. The world feed was showing them images of the two cars being separated, and the medical team were getting to the drivers. A marshal stepped into shot, covering the screen in orange.

“Move!” Pierre yelled, gesturing at the monitors.

Eventually, the screen cleared, and both Melissa and Pierre breathed a sigh of relief. Mitch was climbing from the car, one thumb up to the crowds and the camera.

“He’s okay.”

“Good,” Mason replied, betraying no emotion. “What’s the plan now?”

“You’re leading. The plan is to win.”

Melissa stepped out from the shade of the medical centre into the bright sunshine, surveying the waiting journalists. A sea of microphones and cameras swung in her direction, notepads were opened, pens poised.

She cleared her throat. “Mitch is fine,” she said. “He took quite a knock and may have concussion. No other serious injuries.”

“Does he know what happened?” a voice called out.

“We’ve all seen the replays,” Melissa said, “Mitch can add nothing to what’s there for everyone to see. It was a separate collision that sent Leroy’s car directly into ours. Mitch was just a passenger.”

“Is Leroy okay?” another voice.

“As far as I know, he’s okay.” Melissa offered a half-smile. “It turns out Mortimer cars make great cushions.”

The media scrum chuckled, and Melissa excused herself, returning to the sanctuary of the medical centre.

“There he is,” Mason said, as Mitch walked into the motorhome.

“Hey.”

“Feeling alright?”

Mitch shrugged. “Headache. I hear congratulations are in order. You nicked my victory.”

“We won the race for you,” Mason smiled, proudly, clapping his teammate on the back. “Now we’re thinking about a bit of a celebration. Want to join in?”

“‘Sposed to be resting,” Mitch said.

“Yea, but you can rest later. Just a bit of a thank you to the guys after such a tough day. Come on, what do you say?”

Life in the Fast Lane III – Part 4

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.

“What?”

“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?