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Fuel Season 1: Episode 17 - Going All-In

We're 2 weeks into the new year and the top 2 racers in the series are already set for all-out war!

The upcoming pay-per-view will be the first time the Formula-X Title Race will NOT be the feature race of the event as that honour will be reserved for the highly anticipated Scramble Race.

20th of January – Season 1

Mandla was barely listening as Touch Mkhize spoke. It wasn’t on purpose. He was simply distracted. Lucky for him, he already knew most of what Touch was talking about. As one of his guests tonight on Talking with Touch, he was familiar with what Touch was saying, preparing him for the show. But currently, Mandla was more concerned with his other guest on the show… the man who was currently on the middle-stage giving another one of his sanctimonious speeches.

As King Thawn went on to berate the fans in attendance, Mandla watched on from the paddock area. He had yet to become comfortable in the paddock as half of the racers felt he didn’t deserve to be in the series while the other half that did, felt it was unfair that he’d somehow jumped to the front of the line of succession. Lucky for Mandla, he was used to starting out in hostile territory and slowly but surely winning people over. Politics had taught him how to thread that needle. But right now, it wasn’t about the other racers. It was about the racer up on the stage, running his mouth.

“As for you, Mandla,” said King Thawn, turning attention from the crowd to the nearest camera, “I’m standing here, wondering when you’re going to take a hint that no one wants you here. And at The Scramble, I’m going to get rid of you. I would personally suggest that you take your chances in the Qualifiers tonight. Because that’s the only way you’re going to earn a winner's purse in a race this Sunday.”

It was at this point that Mandla had enough and started for the stage. Touch, who had since stopped speaking and watched the King’s speech on the big screen, looked at Mandla making a beeline out of the paddock and called after him. “What are you doing?” He knew the answer to that. “You’re not going out there, are you?” He knew the answer to that too. “Oh c’mon, don’t do this, man. Save it for my show.” That clearly wasn’t happening. “Mandla. Mandla!” Failing to get his attention, Touch used his clan name. “Makhathini!” Nothing. There was no stopping him.

 

ON THE MIDDLE-STAGE

Mandla had to admit that he was moving on auto-pilot at the moment. What he was about to do was unprecedented. In Formula-X, one DID NOT just go onto the middle-stage. If a racer had something to say, they needed to get written authority from Moodswing and Glen. It was a simple form but Mandla didn’t have time to wait for them to decide. He made a point to be on the stage before either of them could stop him, grabbing a mic on the way. By the time he was on stage and the camera had caught sight of him, it was too late to stop him.

Mandla took note of the shocked expression on King Thawn's face and took delight in it. “Thawn Oberhauser, ‘The Impaler’. So, you come out here, you boast that you’re God’s gift to racing, you insult all these good people and then you have the audacity to say that I am the one that’s unwanted. You are the one that’s unwanted, fool.” In high contrast to the crowd response Thawn got, the crowd cheered Mandla’s words.

The King finally recovered. “It’s Your Majesty to you, thank you very much.”

Mandla almost wanted to laugh at this response. “Is that all you have to say? Interesting. Well, this is what I have to say. I heard what you said about me entering the Qualifiers. Your suggestion, that I take my chances in the Scramble Race. And to that, what I think, what I’m going to do is I’m going to ignore your advance.” Mandla took note of the surprised look on Thawn's face. “That’s right, Your Majesty, I’m not going to enter the Qualifiers. I’m not going to the Scramble Race. Instead, I’m going all-in on our race this Sunday. Because, you see, I believe that I’m going to win. I’m going to win and I am going to take that Crown that you cherish so much and these good people are going to get themselves a King they deserve.”

With nothing else to say, and the crowd in attendance cheering loudly from the stands, Mandla did the only thing he could do now that he’d said his piece and dropped the microphone, starting off the stage. However, before Mandla could get down from the stage, King Thawn, not liking being upstaged… literally, decided to negate Mandla’s last word and replace it with his own.

“Oh yeah? Is that so? Is that what you’re going to do? Well, guess what, Xulu. I’m going all-in too.” When Mandla turned around, Thawn nodded like a gleeful idiot. “Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m not entering the Scramble Race either. That’s how confident I am that I’m going to beat you.” When the crowd began to boo him, Thawn seemed to feed off their response, smiling. It was then his turn to leave the stage, but as he walked past Mandla, he couldn’t resist adding one last thing. “See you at The Scramble.”

 

BACK IN THE PADDOCK

While Mandla had expected the earful that he got from Glen, he was surprised to be confronted by a smiling Moodswing who actually patted him on the back. As it turned out, Moodswing loved how everything on stage had turned out. For him, it was something straight out of pro wrestling: a ‘face’ having a final confrontation with a ‘heel’ right before the pay-per-view. Mandla wasn’t really sure what a face and a heel were but he strongly suspected it had something to do with good and bad guy characters respectfully.

After finishing up with Glen and Moodswing, Mandla was once again joined by Touch who quickly reminded Mandla that the King was wrong. “He’s going to see you tonight, on my show.” Touch then made an interesting comment regarding the King even being allowed to enter the Scramble Race. “I figured that the winner of the race would get a shot at the title at The Formula-X Grand Prix.”

For a moment, Mandla was completely confused. Then he remembered back to the conversation with Moodswing about wrestling and it suddenly dawned on him why Touch would think that, recalling a very specific thirty-man wrestling contest that was contested just a few months before the biggest show in wrestling.

“Has anyone ever told you that you watch too much wrestling?”

“What do you mean? This one’s not me. This is all them. They came up with this. I mean, they’re even calling the Grand Prix ‘The Granddaddy of Them All’. I’m just a bystander in this one.”

Yeah, thought Mandla, but they said nothing about title shots at the Grand Prix. In fact, the more that Mandla thought about it, the less like wrestling this was. No, this was pure motorsport. The Scramble Race was the first time that Formula-X actually resembled every other open-wheel racing series in the history of the world. So no, wrestling wasn’t going to claim this one. If the F-X series was copying anything, it was Formula 1; it was IndyCar; it was Auto 1.

The Scramble Race was the closest that the series was going to get to being straight up motorsport and not sports entertainment. But this wasn’t the only way in which The Scramble P.P.V. was unique in the series. It would also be the first pay-per-view that would take place right here in the Fuel Speedway instead of on a unique street circuit. Then again, with the racetrack having been remodelled, the experience would be unique all the same. But The Scramble was on Sunday. Tonight, was the Scramble Qualifiers!

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

It was an interesting sensation to be a spectator again rather than a participant as Mandla watched from the V.I.P. section as the Qualifiers began. For the first time on Monday Night Fuel, not a single match race was contested. Instead, the Qualifiers saw each F-X racer take to the racetrack one by one.

JVZ kicked things off in The Coaster, by setting the time to beat at just over one minute. Styles Sithole was next in The Cursed Conundrum, who fell short by 34 split seconds (leaving a rather frustrated crowd disappointed). Next was Brenda Koek in The Amazing Grace hitting one minute flat, followed by Touch Mkhize in The Moyeni, outpacing them both at 58 seconds and some change. Jim Kieck and Penny, the Duchess of Drag followed but failed to beat Touch’s time.

John Kloof then followed in The Big Boot who, judging from the crowd response, was the crowd-favourite to take the pole position, setting a new time to beat at 55 seconds and some change. While Longitude and Latitude tried to beat his time, it would be the tenth contestant, Darcy Stevens and her vehicle, The Candyfloss, that beat Kloof’s time at just over 53 seconds.

While Dime tried in vain to top that, he ended up performing dismally in his efforts leaving the last contestant of the Qualifiers to try and beat Stevie’s time and capture that coveted pole position. That contestant was Solo Magubane. As a man who was already well established as one of the best in the series, it was a fifty-fifty bet whether he could pull it off. So, when he nailed a time of 52 seconds, the crowd was on their feet with joy. He’d done it. He’d won the pole position which meant that he would start right up front when the Scramble Race began on Sunday.

Unfortunately, Mandla didn’t have time to watch Solo celebrate his victory as he had a talk show to go to. But thinking about what had transpired earlier tonight, Mandla realized that everything he needed to say had been said. He’d do the show out of support for Touch but for him, the time for talking was over. He’d said that he was going all-in on Sunday, so now all that was left to do was follow through. Come Sunday night, he was taking that Crown from Thawn, once and for all.

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Copyright © Copyright © 2020 by Sphu "Beesting" Kubheka
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