No Fear

Steven Marsh wants to be a motor racing driver- can he achieve his goal? Lets find out together...

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3. Show Time

Steven had waved enthusiastically to his mum and dad, who were at the front of the small spectator's stand, and they proudly waved back. Now it was time to get down to business.

The racers sat in their karts, now lined up on the starting grid, ready to go. Team managers were giving pep talks to their drivers, and the drivers themselves were pysching themselves up for the battle ahead.

Steven was third on the grid, behind one of the Team Unleaded drivers (whose uniforms were green and white in a giant chequered pattern), and the pole-sitter, one of the Elite Dragons (black with gold trim). Nerves bubbled away beneath the surface but he did his best to keep them in check.

No point being nervous now, he thought to himself. It wouldn't help him, so instead he concentrated on getting around the first corner in one piece.

A buzzer sounded- marking one minute to go before the race started. The teams' staff said their good lucks and ran off the track, and engines began to rev up, creating a brilliant wall of noise.

The seconds ticked by what seemed extremely slowly, but then the lights above the track switched to red. When they went green it was show time.

"Five, four, three, two, one!" The loudspeakers blared, more for the benefit of the crowd, and then the lights were green.

Steven slammed his foot down on the accelerator and bolted forward. He was aware to his left that another kart was trying to squeeze in around the opening corner, but Steven wasn't prepared to lose a place so quickly and turned into the corner, leaving just barely enough space for the other guy to try and pass. His opponent wisely decided against it, and Steven was around the first bend, not having gained any places but not losing any either.

Ahead of him the Team Unleaded kart had pushed in front of the Elite Dragon, but the Dragon driver was coming back and the two were side-by-side as they virtually skidded around the next left-right combination of corners. Steven was right behind them but wasn't prepared to get too close, lest one of them cause a collision and get him tangled up in their mess.

Behind him the guy who'd tried to come past at the first corner was still on his tail. Steven caught a glimpse of a purple uniform and blue helmet- he had no idea what team or driver but as they sped toward the first hairpin the guy was once again trying to get the inside line. It was simple enough to keep his kart in front and stop Purple from even making the attempt, but defending his line was letting the top two edge away.

As the pack approached the second hairpin Steven briefly wondered how Peter was doing. His team mate was a nice lad, but had been told he needed to be more aggressive on track. Whether he actually would be on the day was anyone's guess.

So when Steven saw a white uniform matching his own, and the bright yellow helmet of Peter, slip past him into the final corner, he was more than a little surprised. Peter was going for it, but Steven wasn't about to let go of his place so easily.

He was pulling up alongside Peter as they approached the first corner, and tried to scoot past on the outside. Peter held the racing line well, and Steven had little choice but to yield, now out of position to try anything as they came up to the quick left-right combination up ahead.

Steven stayed right behind Peter, not able to get past but not losing any time to him- and both of them were creeping up upon the leaders. The Dragon and the Unleaded drivers had swapped places a couple of times, with Unleaded currently leading but struggling to fight off an aggressive Dragon, who was darting this way and that to find an opening. The advantage for the two Meerkat drivers was that they were stopping each other from truly going for it- as they approached the the second left hairpin on the track Peter was almost within striking distance, with Steven right behind.

It was easy to imagine what Rodger was thinking at this point. His two drivers were third and fourth, right up close to each other, and both wanted it badly. One mistake might take both his karts out of the race.

It was a question of faith. Faith in your fellow driver (regardless of team really) to not do anything stupid. Steven and Peter knew each other quite well, had trained together for a while, and each knew the other's style pretty well. Steven trusted Peter not to run him into a barrier and Peter extended the same trust to him.

The main straight was upon them again. Steven had a little look up the inside as they approached the long curving left-hander that led to the right hairpin, then tried to slip back across the track to get into the inside line for the hairpin itself. Peter was wise to the move though, keeping his kart more or less in the middle of the track, and he even lunged for a gap at the hairpin himself, trying to get past the Dragon, who himself was swarming over the back of Unleaded.

Twenty karts had started the race but only nineteen crossed the line to start the third lap. One of the midfielders, wearing a hideous orange jumpsuit of a team Steven didn't recognise, had pulled over by the side of the track near the first corner, and their kart was still smoking slightly. The engine had konked out- unlucky.

Peter was now going for the Dragon again, as they swept into the left-right combo. He forced the Dragon out wide for the left hairpin, and Steven made his move too, skidding around the corner and forcing his way past as well. He quickly darted to his right, and he and Peter were side-by-side with the leader right in front of them, a Dragon still right behind them, as they sped round the next corner.

The top four were pulling away. Steven felt sort of priveleged- as though he were part of the top group. Peter was zipping up the long right-hand curve and Steven didn't try to attack as he followed- the curve wasn't a good spot for overtaking- and was content to stay (close) behind as they went round the next hairpin. The Dragon was close but Steven was holding the racing line, and the leader was doing his best to keep to the line as well.

To a certain point Steven went into fuel conservation mode. He had to do this for forty minutes, and didn't want to overdo it and run out of petrol before the end. Tyre wear (although not as big a deal as in F1) was still a factor, and he didn't need to wear his rubber down getting into battles he couldn't win. He would bide his time, as the great Alain Prost had done, and wait for the right moment to really go for it.

The laps ticked by. The Dragon appeared to be doing the same as Steven, even backing off a little. Peter and Unleaded dueled a couple of times but the race leader was good at defending his place. Steven kept his distance, leaving around a kart's length between himself and the two battlers.

Soon, on lap sixteen of what would be thirty laps (assuming they lapped at the same pace they were now), a new variable came to light. Slower drivers, who simply lacked what it took, were being caught by the leaders. Two team-mates, in red and blue uniforms, were lagging someway behind rest, and Unleaded was roaring up toward them, Peter hot on his heels. They approached them as they reached the left-right combo, and Unleaded took to the inside line as they came out of the corners, whilst Peter shot past them and took the outside line.

What happened next would stick in Steven's memory for a long time. One of the backmarkers misjudged how close Peter was, turning into the left hairpin but swinging out- at speed- wide, straight into the side of Peter's kart. They both went careening into the barriers at nearly seventy miles per hour, and both karts flipped onto their sides. Bits of the tyre barrier shot everywhere, and dust was kicked up into the faces of Steven and the Dragon as they edged round the corner.

Everyone else pushed on but the marshalls started to wave yellow flags, indicated caution- and no overtaking.

When the karts came back around to the crash again, the driver of the lapped kart was standing up, shaken but unhurt. The marshalls were still gathered around Peter's kart, trying to unstrap him. He didn't appear to be moving.

The third time they came round, Peter was being placed onto a stretcher in a neck brace. Steven felt sick.

After a fourth lap in safety conditions, the green flags were out. Peter was now in second place, with a backmarker right ahead of him, and the race leader just ahead of them.

He wanted to win. He wanted to win for Peter's sake. His team mate had surprised him at how good he'd driven, and he felt he owed Peter a win- so as the karts crossed the start-finish line with seven laps remaining, he immediately shot past the backmarker on the inside line, and zeroed in on Unleaded.

The race leader wasn't about to yield. Steven darted from left to right but Unleaded kept the line. Every lap he tried to dip and dive, but Unleaded held the line.

As they started the final lap, Steven was feeling annoyed. His team mate was hurt, quite possibly badly, and the guy in front of him was making his life difficult. Just get out of my bloody way!

Another backmarker was ahead. They approached the main straight, heading toward the big left-hander beforehand. The backmarker was occupying the middle of the track, so Steven pushed for the inside line, moving quickly before Unleaded could get there. Unleaded was forced to try and go around the outside of the backmarker, and Steven was into the lead as they came out of the corner!

He floored it as he went down the main straight, knowing Unleaded was going to be doing the same, and he didn't let up even as they screamed round the left curve. He only tapped the brakes as they hit the right hairpin, roared down the next curve, took the final hairpin at nearly full-speed, and as he took the chequered flag he pumped his fists in delight. He'd done it, he'd won!

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