**[size=200]B[/size]**eing a company that was solely invested in the pursuit of speed, it is only natural that Gryphon Gear were closely affiliated with the racing world. In this case, this outfit has gone out on a limb and formed its own (tiny) racing division, including two drivers who fill the roles of both testing and competing.
…okay, that’s not the entire truth. The truth is, Strop designed the cars, so naturally he wants in on driving them. And he somehow dragged a wild racing driver off the street, and that’s supposed to become our racing team.
We’ll see what happens.
[size=85]Portraits provided by my aforementioned good friend, Cen.[/size]
On paper and in person, Strop does not look much like a professional driver. He has no driving credentials, the sum total of his racing experience prior to entering the racing industry was in computer games (which he was good at), in the staff car park of his former place of work (nothing to do with why he left, or so he swears), and in a backfiring go-kart at some backwater recreational track (this experience left him wholly underwhelmed). In addition, his head is entirely the wrong shape for both seeing straight and wearing a helmet, and he has hooves. Lead hooves, which seem unwilling to feather the throttle, and certainly can’t heel-toe.
It may make more sense then, that Strop never actually intended to be the race driver for the newly formed Gryphon Gear works team. As the one with the original vision for Gryphon Gear, realised through a series of happy coincidences, a gathering of like-minded people and an unexpected windfall, Strop is more the face of the company (not actually the owner, he doesn’t like handling all the money stuff), and its chief designer. But as his wild imagination went from paper to carbon and alloy, his secret love for driving fast (and sideways) got the better of him, and he found himself wishing, as one naturally would, to try out his creations.
Naturally, Strop’s driving matches his company vision: mad, aggressive and above all else fast. But he is ever so slightly tempered by his age, sportsmanship, and respect for life and limb. This doesn’t stop him from braking late, plunging headfirst into the corner, and kicking the back around with all four wheels smoking.
Strop’s fondness for getting sideways is aided by his excellent sense of position, but his ability to navigate tracks crowded by traffic is hampered by his poor visual acuity. And as mentioned before, his favoured driving style and disciplines are probably somewhat influenced by his fondness for, shall we say, “losing traction under power”. Either way, the idea of being in control of something out-of-control suits him to a tee, so long as there aren’t too many other drivers getting in his way. On a race track, patience for others and long term strategy is not his strong suit (unless by strategy one means “attack all the time”), and so he has little taste for endurance races. He’s a much more straightfoward racer, one who relishes the realm driver and machine with as few variables and contingencies as possible, so his preferred opponents are only himself, and the clock.
Where Strop’s hidden strengths come through is in his tactile and technical understanding of the car and how it feels as he drives it, allowing him to tune things to suit his driving style, and, to a limited extent, vice-versa. Many years of martial art training and acrobatics as a hobby attuned both his body and mind to the rigors of extreme kinetic forces, so there’s nothing stopping him from trying to take his machines to the limit.
Despite the name, Kai bears no relation to the legendary Tom Kristensen, seven time winner of 24 Heures de Le Mans. In fact, despite their similar careers, one might wonder if they could be more different. Young, brash, and blessed with a motormouth and wit that far outsizes his slight frame, Kai is the perfect example of a punk with lots of ambition but no vision. He has incredible talent matched, not surprisingly, to a complete lack of discipline, and his track record shows it. After a burst of promise in his teens, instead of being happily sponsored and progressing up the ranks towards the pinnacle of auto racing, a series of spectacular crashes while driving in a Production Car series abruptly lost him his works contract, and he found himself drifting, his career at a standstill. After that, things went from bad to worse, as his driver’s license quickly fell into the hands of the police, so to speak, so he took to illegal street racing in stolen tuner cars to satisfy his speed cravings.
It was in this state of affairs that he ran into Strop, who was minding his own business testing a new prototype on isolated regional Victorian roads when Kai deliberately shunted him by way of provocation, prompting a prolonged heated battle. Normally, any company with its head screwed on right would steer clear of such a liability as Kai. But Gryphon Gear is a company built on risk and madness, and Strop saw in Kai the immense potential, and the opportunity to realise it. Now if only he’d get along with the engineering crew, and stop crashing so much…
Kai is the embodiment of reckless. Speed is like a drug, a vice, an addiction which fuels him, but also threatens to consume him before his efforts come to fruition. When Strop first met him, he saw in him a younger version of himself, full of fire and boundless, poorly focused energy, and deep within him, the beginnings of a great determination. Young and raw at heart, he has the prerequisite obsession and drive to make it in the strange industry of auto racing, but he has first to come to grips with himself.
It may have been a different story if Kai had started out in drag racing. His ability to get the car off the line and down the straightaway is unparalleled. His biggest problem is that he views corners as an inconvenience which he must get over and done with as fast as possible, which means he tends not to use the brakes until “absolutely necessary”, which, in most cases, means “too late”. Things like “racing line”, “apex”, and “linking the turns” are technicalities to him that hamper his driving. It sometimes seems like a wonder that he hasn’t wiped out on the first corner of every single race. Yet somehow, he doggedly hangs on and the car somehow stays both on the road and upright, at least, so long as the tyres hold up. Seeing the car do things that one senses it shouldn’t, creates almost a supernatural impression and the ripples of disbelief spread far and wide. For this reason, some argue that he really is the fastest driver on the track… when his car allows it, but of course, his critics, of which there are many, point out that being the fastest means nothing if your race routinely ends in the tyres, upside down, in a smoking wreck, no, that just makes you a crap driver.
Strop’s hope is for Kai to realise that the key to being the fastest on the track is indeed in the appreciation of everything from track, to car, to driver. That knowledge can inform feeling, and lend credibility to the subjective rush of speed. And while the spirit is willing, his slight frame and poor mental endurance need to be addressed, but here, Strop reckons he can use Kai’s complete lack of self-preservation to Kai’s own advantage. Only if Kai comes to master the broader picture of racing, and how everything fits into it, can he lay a legacy of being a great driver, and more importantly, fulfill his dream of being fast.