CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Final showdown: Yui Takeda vs Nicholas Justinian.
Both drivers shook hands and stared at each other. The tension on the ambient was more than noticeable; the whole crowd, including the organizer, and his sidekick Tora, had gone silent. The racers from the previous races were completely silent too. Martin Todd lit a cigarette; Katsumi Saito and her crew, the Line Sixes, crossed arms, waiting for the race to start; Ram and Evan tapped their fingers against the bonnet of their Kimura; Daniil took a sip from a bottle of an Orbistani spirit; Jürgen and Suzette did some yoga poses, trying to send their positive energies to the drivers; Madoka opened another can of iced tea; Luka scratched his right leg, nervously; Harry and Mike stopped discusing their tunes and silently watched, both sweating slightly; MrChips nodded, still masked under his helmet; and so did Ciara North, who opened the vents on her helmet to allow her to breathe better.
"Name's Nicholas Justinian. Good luck out there." - Said the young man, in a cold voice tone. "Yui Takeda. And the same to you...you'll need it" - Replied the woman, smiling sarcastically. Nicholas walked towards his car, and so did Yui; they strapped themselves to their seats, and ignited the engines. Yui's V8 engine rumbled, idling at about 1000 revolutions per minute; Nicholas' engine rumbled at a slower pace, the pushrods clacking as they oppened and closed the valves.
The organizer lifted both arms. "We're gonna start the countdown!".
"Nine, eight, seven...!" - Nicholas and Yui remembered every opponent they had to face to get here, and how they beat them; their strengths and weaknesses.
"Six, five, four...!" - They started throttling to rev the engines up. Their screams broke the silence of the night, like a warcry coming from a warrior in the middle of a battlefield.
"Three, two, one...!" - Both drivers took a last look at each other, caressing their upshift paddles. The engines reached redline, their rev limiters going off.
(First section's theme!)
Both drivers mashed their upshift paddles; during the first metres of the starting straight, their rear tyres slid and burned out. The place was soon filled with tyre smoke and the sound of the rev limiters doing their best to keep the engines within safety margins. The organizer looked at both, as they passed him; the race had just started. Both cars accelerated, their sequential transmissions taken to the limit; as the cars navigated through the straight, Nicholas started getting the upper hand, thanks to his double clutch transmission, opposed to the single clutch configuration Yui was using. Both cars blitzed towards the first corner.
"So, Mado. Who do you see winning this race?" - Asked Luka, watching both cars enter the first corner.
"Well, you see. From what I've been seeing, Nicholas' car makes more low end torque. When you race in a twisty track like this, you want the 'punch' to be in the lower rpm range. So I must admit bringing a pushrod V8 to the competition was a good choice. He will struggle at the high speed sections, where high end performance is more important, though." - Replied Madoka, sipping her tea can again. "But this...will come down to who is the most skilled."
The cars entered the first corner, powersliding, neck to neck. Their tyres squealed, suffering from the friction, leaving skidmarks behind; Nicholas took a look at his rear view mirror: Yui was keeping up with him. Not a big surprise, though, as she was a world-class racer. Nicholas looked at the front, blipped his front brakes and pushed the wheel to the right, entering the second corner. Yui followed him, drafting and gripping the corner. "I can't understimate you. I know, even if you're a just a kid, that you made it this far for some reason." - Thought Yui, as she followed Nicholas through the corner. The two cars exited the turn, getting on the outside of the road, and approaching the first hairpin at vertiginous speeds.
Martin took a good sip of his energy drink, looking how the cars approached the hairpin, braking into it.
"So, Yasmin. Let's talk about their cornering."
"Well, Martin, as you can see they have completely different styles. Nicholas, on one side drifts very efficiently and I have to recognize that. However..."
"Drifting is not the fastest way to get around a corner. It helps you block some of your opponent's lines, but you're losing valuable speed at the exit."
"Huh, I bet I could corner faster than that kid." - Concluded Martin, giving his energy drink a good gulp.
The two cars entered the first hairpin. Nicholas drifted it by pulling the handbrake, blocking his rear wheels and forcing them to slide; Yui gripped it instead, using the late apex technique. As they exited the hairpin, Nicholas looked at his rear view mirror: Yui had managed to close part of the gap, and was slightly faster exiting the hairpin. As the cars crossed the short straight before the second hairpin, the people on the sides of the road cheered at them, overwhelmed by the exciment of the race. The two cars started braking again, and entered the second corner.
Ram closed the bonnet of his Kimura. He looked at Evan.
"Looks like tonight's race is gonna be a close one, ain't it?" - He said.
"You're goddamn right it is going to be. We have an almost LS - swapped touge monster and a JDM V8 driven by a world class driver facing off. This is gonna be intense." - Replied Evan. "We should hurry and go to the five hairpin spot."
"Yup, let's go".
Nicholas drifted the second hairpin, with the Yajiri gripping behind once again. He started feeling some pressure, having to focus not only on the road but on his opponent too. As they navigated the corner, the Yajiri closed the gap further, being neck to neck with the Interval by the time they reached the end of the hairpin. Both cars entered the first high speed section, flooring their throttle pedals. Nicholas found himself taking glances at the rear view mirror often, trying to keep track of his opponent in each and every second. Yui did not try to overtake him yet, though; as she closed the gap thanks to a better high end performance, she throttled back slightly. "I better save my tyres for the later sections. As the track becomes twistier, I need to save them for as long as I can." - She though.
Nicholas started braking to enter the third hairpin, downshifting through the gears until he reached second. He started drifting once again, followed closely by the Yajiri. As they exited the third hairpin to enter the fourth one and Nicholas braked again, Yui turned off her headlights.
(Second section's theme!)
Nicholas took a look at his rear view mirror, as he entered the corner, but it was now empty. What? Where had she gone? He heard a buzzing sound on the outside of the corner, and looked at his right as he exited the corner. Yui turned her headlights on again: she was on the outside, ready to overtake. Nicholas couln't believe his eyes.
"C'mon Yui! You're gonna overtake him!" - Yelled the spectators, with tears on their eyes, as the cars blitzed past them.
The lack of high end performance was starting to turn against Nicholas; the Yajiri took the lead during the second high speed section, and the Shromet was forced to draft behind in order to keep up.
"Jurgen, honey, looks like Yui managed to expel her negative feelings." - Said Suzette.
"Indeed. But this is not over yet; the stars are not aligned for or against any of the two drivers. We'll have to wait for the race to end." - Jurgen replied.
Nicholas gritted his teeth, drafting behind the Yajiri. "What's that trick? She could've caused an accident!" - He thought. Both cars finally approached the medium speed corners before the fifth hairpin, blipping their brake pedals and downshifting one or two gears. The engines screamed once again, as the sequential gearboxes matched the speed of the engine and the wheels. "Alright Yui, don't let the pressure build up on you now. You survive the hairpins, you win. You can do this." - She thought at the same time she zig-zagged through the "s" bends leading to the hairpin. Nicholas followed her, not giving up just yet. "Alright Nicholas, calm down. You're gonna save your tyres for now." - He thought.
The racers reached the fifth hairpin; Yui entered it gripping, using the late-apex technique as usual. Yui took a look at her rear view mirror: Nicholas wasn't drifting? He was copying her trajectory!
"Don't givings up yet, little man...race still on." - Thought Daniil, as he took another sip to his spirit bottle. "You can doings this. Best defense is good attack."
The two cars floored it just as they entered the last high speed section. Yui managed to widen the gap, but did not leave the Shromet behind, as he kept up drafting all the way through the section. Yui looked at her rear view mirror again. "He's still there" - She thought. Both cars gripped their way through the sixth and last hairpin before the five consecutive hairpins, using the late apex technique. Nicholas' trajectory was less refined, but he managed to copy his opponent's.
"Mike, looks like this is not over yet." - Said Harry, in a thick Australian accent.
"You don't say, Mad Max. This kid is gonna give Yui a good bang for her buck, but I don't see him winning." - Replied Mike.
"For the last time, Mike...just because I'm Australian doesn't mean you can call me Mad Max." - Replied Harry, in a voice tone that clearly showed how annoyed he was.
"I'm sorry...Mad Max." Harry laughed. "You asshole...".
The two cars finally reached the five consecutive hairpins. Nicholas tried to overtake Yui by dropping his wheels into the gutter at the first of the five, but she realized that and blocked the attempt. Nicholas tried again at the second hairpin, failing to do so. Yui started gritting her teeth. "Is this kid never going to give up!?" - She thought, drifting the third hairpin, forcing Nicholas to brake in order not to crash into her. As the cars navigated the fourth and fifth consecutive hairpins, she drifted both hairpins, forcing Nicholas to hold back.
The mysterious MrChips followed both cars closely. "Hmn...looks like this kid is trying to break his opponent's morale. Good strategy."
The cars blitzed through the last consecutive hairpin, exiting it neck to neck.
(Third section's theme!)
By the time they reached the last hairpin, both drivers were sweating due to the pressure. There were only a bunch of corners left. Yui had to block any attempt from Nicholas. Nicholas had to overtake Yui.
Both cars entered the last hairpin, dropping their wheels into the gutter. Finally nailing to copy Yui's technique, Nicholas managed to keep up with her. Both cars entered the last short straight, where Nicholas finally managed to close the gap thanks to his superior low-end performance.
Ciara watched the cars blitz past the straight from her Pulga, parked at the first corner. "Anything can happen now. Good luck, you two. May the fastest win." - She thought.
Yui and Nicholas braked, transfering the weight to their fronts. Yui tried to grip the road, but she then realized she was starting to understeer. "Where's my front tyre grip? Not now!" - She thought, as she saw the Shromet get closer and closer as the corners went on. "Looks like choosing a rear engined car was a good choice. My front tyres are nowhere near as worn ar hers." - Thought Nicholas. "Alright, let's do this..."
Both cars approached the last corner, braking as late as they were able to. Yui started understeering again; Nicholas decided to give his signature move a go...he dived into the inside of the turn.
All of the racers watched from the summit, holding their breath. The people at the finishing line held their breath too. The engines were audible. The tyres squealed. They would be here any second now.
Both cars appeared at the same time. Both drivers floored it: it was a drag race now. The double clutch sequential and a more low-end focused V8 gave Nicholas...the victory. He crossed the finishing line first. Yui let go off the throttle as soon as she was overtaken by the Shromet.
People started cheering at Nicholas. He still couldn't believe it. He...he won! He looked at the Yajiri. Yui was smiling, and she gave him a thumbs up.
The racers wouldn't take long to reach the summit. As soon as they arrived at the starting line, both were greeted and cheered by the racers. All of the racers gathered at the side of the road, some of them having a drink. The organizer's sidekick, Tora, approached the group with a camera and took a picture, sending it to the racer's phones.
(Special thanks to @Oskiinus
for the effort and time put into drawing the group photo!)
Tora then approached the organizer.
"We're done, Koichi." Said the "henchman". "What do you mean "we're done"?". "Means we're done. I'm tired of you and your tournaments, I'm leaving." - Concluded Tora. He got into a Yaris and drove out of the place.
A notification appeared in Nicholas' phone: 9000$ had been deposited into his bank account. He couldn't help but smile.
The racers partied during the night, getting to know each other, forging some friendships and rivalries, doing some friendly drag races and enjoying the car meets; having a good time between car enthusiast before having to part ways again. The crowd cheered: they got to enjoy some great racing, cars, and a great night too.
Special thanks to everyone who took part in and/or contributed to the challenge. Special thanks to those who posted RP after the races, giving us more insight into what their racers were feeling and thinking. I hope you all liked the challenge as much as I did