Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 56: Imperial Spirit

This is the 56th a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Imperial Spirit, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 26th January 2012

Word count: 856

Theme: race, motor racing, sport, underdog, down to the wire, photo finish, drama

The story:

“You’ll have to manage with fourth,” Rossi said over the radio into Julian’s helmet.

“Easy for you to say,” Julian retorted as he cambered left for the sweeping corner.

“You’re twenty seven seconds up on Garner, just keep it clean and bring the car home,” Rossi instructed.

Julian didn’t reply, he settled into the fight off the championship, this race wouldn’t decide who got the trophy, but it could easily decide who didn’t.

The damaged Mercedes thundered down the straight coming out of the corner, but quickly became the sound of a dying gear box as it tried to find fifth.

Through the next corner Julian barely braked, he wasn’t carrying enough speed to afford the luxury. He sped over the home straight towards the start-finish line and started his final lap.

“Hold it together, and don’t ride the rev limiter on fourth,” Rossi the team principle said.

“I’m trying, I’m trying,” Julian grunted fighting through the first chicane of the lap. “Where’s Garner?”

“Fourteen seconds down from you, he’s fighting off a Renault at the moment,” Rossi reported.

“Great I could end up third, if I can keep this bucket running,” Julian said frustrated

“You’re buying the next bucket, git,” Rossi said scornfully.

Julian didn’t bother wasting time, responding, he was up to turn ten, half way through the lap. He pulled hard on the steering wheel to keep the corner as quick as possible without having to shift gears. Come out of the corner, his speed peaked and he had to coast for what felt like an eternity. He took the corner close and fast again.

“Julian, Garner is four seconds behind you,” Rossi called over the radio.

Julian was already becoming aware as the message came out, his mirrors were filled with the blue and yellow of the Strongium Racing team.  Garner was a lot faster on the straights, Julian was desperately milking low gear sections to keep the quickly slipping away.

“He’s on you,” Rossi warned.

There were four corners left until start-finish straight, Julian kept it close and fast, it was a risk, Garner could gun it and try and take the outside, but that was a risk for Garner too. On the straights between the series of corners, Julian was sliding all over the track, trying to make his car as wide as possible.

Sweeping left, the final corner. Julian drove in close to the apex. Garner made his move, he went wide, gave his car the full beans peeling away from hobbled Mercedes and drifted away.

As they came out of the corner, the Strongium Racing Alfa Romeo had gone too wide, and found grass. Garner was struggling to contain a spin, and get back on the track

Julian didn’t wait, he passed on by. The Strongium Racing car was quick to recover, and pelting up to the finish line, intent on stealing back victory, Julian dashed to the left, covering the racing line. Garner pulled out right, and gunned it.

Then suddenly, they were both over the line.

“Yes!” Julian cried over the radio, convinced he’d won it. It was at the that point the gear system died completely. It didn’t matter, as he coasted the car back towards the pit lane.

Rossi was running up as Julian clambered out.

“Sorry about the car,” was the first thing Julian said as he removed his helmet.

“Never mind the car, it was a photo finish, they’re about to announce the winner,” Rossi said dragging Julian by his arm.

By the podium there was a crowd gathered, made up of the hundred or so spectators, the pit crews, and the other driver that had finished the race and parked up. There was a slow stream of drivers and engineers joining as the back markers arrived and parked up their cars.

“Ladies and gentleman, and race driver, pit crews, owners, the whole lot of you, the British Saloon Car Championship round twelve has a bit of a controversy. We have a photo finish. In the blue corner we have the Strongium Racing Renault driven by Andrew Gardner, and in the red corner we have the Imperial Spirit Racing Team’s Mercedes driven by Julian Jones. Both teams have made a claim they won this race, and our man on the line could not see the difference, so we have a photo finish.

“If you look on this screen, in a moment, you will see the photo.”

The crowd split to give both drivers and their crews space to see.

The laptop screen flicked and a picture from the line resolved. Half the crowd started screaming, but Julian was too busy eating a fist for the image to actual register in his brain.

Several members of the crowd were holding Garner back. Julian picked himself up, helped by Rossi and several others.

“Like I said, controversy. but the photo doesn’t lie. Julian Jones is this week’s winner, against all odds, congratulations to Imperial Spirit Team and Julian Jones.”

Garner’s own team dragged him off, before anything else could happen. Julian was lead away, smiling through several broken teeth and a lot of blood.

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