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HomeAction Stories Fuel Season 1: Episode 32 - The Sports Entertainer

Fuel Season 1: Episode 32 - The Sports Entertainer

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

Witness the final episode of Season One of Monday Night Fuel as Solo contemplates his future...

Monday Night Fuel will return on the 7th of September - Season 2.

25th of May - Season 1

"Welcome to Monday Night Fuel." Solo Magubane remembered those words as if they'd been spoken yesterday, But, in fact, they had been spoken nine months ago. Solo hadn't expected the series to be such a smash hit success. He really hadn't. Particularly since the series didn't consider itself motorsports at all. Instead, it called itself 'sports entertainment' which, admittedly, had caused Solo to dismiss the series as a circus. Instead, it had reinvigorated motorsport south of the equator. And that's why Solo was sitting here, in a bar instead of on Fuel.

Solo knew from the beginning that this moment was coming: the end of the season. What he didn't know, way back before the series premiered, was that he would want to return for Season Two. From the beginning, Solo knew that this wasn't where he wanted to be. He wanted to be in Auto 1: the biggest open wheel racing series on the continent of Africa. He wanted to be Auto One Champion. He'd only agreed to be in Formula-X (for one season no less) as a favour to Moodswing and Glenwood Jacobs who wanted to use his star power and reputation in Auto 1 to launch their South African series. Little did Solo know that it would blow up to be so big.

It wasn't just the popularity of the series that had caught Solo by surprise but also the level of the competition. It hadn't even occurred to Solo that there would be racers in the series that could not only match him in driving skills but outperform him. While Solo wasn't arrogant enough to say it, he fully expected to be carrying the series with the F-X Crown in his grasp. Instead, he'd been thwarted from doing that by Thawn Oberhauser, Mandla Xulu as well as the other feature-racers – Darcy Stevens and John Kloof – who had continuously given Solo a run for his money.

Solo wasn't alone at the bar as he'd been joined by his friend and agent, Canon Kelly. "So, you don't want to go back to Auto One?"

"Of course I do."

"Well, that doesn't sound very convincing."

Solo looked at him. "You know I do, Canon."

"Good, well tell your face that. Because you don't look like someone who's ready to come home." Canon saw that his words didn't seem to convince him. "The rest of the team misses you, you know."

Solo looked at Canon, unsure. "What is the rest of Team Sasol saying?"

Canon knew what Solo was asking. He was asking about management and how they felt about one of their best racers 'wasting time' in that sports entertainment series. Canon sighed before answering. "They want you to come back. Personally, if you ask me, I think you're lucky that Formula-X took off like it did because if it hadn't, they would have called you back sooner. But if you're gonna start talking about staying..."

"I told you, I want to come back."

"Then what's the problem?"

Solo didn't answer immediately. He was momentarily distracted by what was on a flat-screen TV hanging above the bar. "I also want to stay."

Canon noticed what Solo was looking at. Monday Night Fuel was on. At first, he was annoyed but then, perhaps out of curiosity, he kept quiet and watched on. Onscreen, for the first time ever, all the F-X racers were onstage in the Fuel Conference Centre for a press conference in front of local media and F-X reporters alike. The racers were asked about critical moments in the season, including when they believed that the series was a hit. Most of the racers pointed to Show-Down in Downtown for being when they realized that they were part of something special. From Mandla's arrival and stare down with Thawn to the conclusion of the John Kloof/Jim Kieck rivalry in their One Kilometer Derby, Show-Down was considered a showcase of the potential the series had.

The finale press conference continued with more questions, one of which was which rivalry was the best. John Kloof and Jim Kieck took the cake with that one. The next question was about which title race had been the best. King Mandla vs. Touch Mkhize was the common-consensus answer for that one, much to Touch's glee. But it was the next question that got Solo and Canon's attention: which racer did they believe should get a shot at the title next season? The answer: Solo Magubane, unanimously.

A long moment passed before Canon spoke. "So, is that why you want to stay? You want to be King?"

While Canon had hit the nail on the head, he didn't answer immediately. The truth was more than that. Solo loved the environment of Formula-X. He loved that feeling that anything could happen and that one had to stay on their toes lest they be insulted and then humiliated. But that's not what Canon wanted to hear. "You weren't listening. I don't just want to stay. I want to go back to Auto One and also stay in Formula-X."

Canon looked at Solo as if he'd just spoken gibberish. "You want to do both?"

Solo nodded unapologetically. "Precisely. I want to have my cake and eat it. I want to divide my time between Auto One and Formula-X."

Canon laughed and shook his head. "You're crazy."

"No, I'm talented. It's not impossible and you know it. It just takes good scheduling. And that's your domain, is it not? As my agent, you can rework my schedule to make this work?" Solo saw Canon scratch his head and rephrased the question. "As one of my oldest friend, you can help me live out my dream?"

Canon laughed again. "You want me to reorganise your schedule so that you appear in both series?" Solo nodded and Canon sighed. "I'll see what I can do. Just understand that one way or another, you're going to miss out on some events on one of those calendars. Are you willing to do that, have only half your cake?"

Now there was a good question. Surely if he could only have half of one then it wasn't worth dividing his attention. Did this mean that he had a choice to make anyway? Was he going to be forced to choose? Because he couldn't imagine missing out on half the Grands Prix on the Auto 1 calendar just as much as he couldn't imagine missing any Formula-X pay-per-views. This was more difficult than he could have imagined but he was going to have to make a decision.

 

AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY: IN GLEN'S OFFICE

Solo had decided to go to Glen instead of Moodswing. Firstly because Moodswing was busy putting the final touches on the racecard which included the penultimate race of Fuel: Brenda Koek & Touch Mkhize vs. Jim Kieck & Penny Potgieter as a teaser for the Grand Prix. Secondly, Solo knew that Moodswing would find a way to convince him to choose Formula-X over Auto 1.

"Well, well, well, the prodigal son of Auto One returns," said Glen welcoming him. "I suppose you came here to give me the bad news." Glen remembered what Solo had said over nine months ago about this being a 'one season deal'. What he didn't know was that Solo had since changed his mind.

"Actually, it might not be as bad as you think."

Glen's eyes lit up. "Wait, wait, wait. Are you saying that you've changed your mind? Are you renewing your contract for another season?"

Solo put his hand up to calm Glen down. "It's not that simple. I'm still going back to Auto One. But, I'm also looking to come back to F-X next season. That's if you'll have me."

Glen looked primed to say "yes", but he needed to understand more. "How will that work?"

"Well for starters, I'm going to be late." Solo explained that the only way that he and Canon could think of doing this was for Solo to start the following season sometime in November which would allow Solo to maximise his time in Auto 1, only missing out on the December Grand Prix. "I'm just glad the Auto One season starts in July."

"That is fortunate. Look, we'll still have to speak to Moodswing before we finalise anything but I can't see him saying no. After all, we built the foundation of this series on your reputation." They didn't call Solo 'The Franchise' for nothing. "But," said Glen shifting in his seat, "there's something I need to ask you. Have you considered your reputation?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, when this was just going to be a one season gig for you, there wasn't really anything for you to lose. I mean, no one knew what our series was about so we hadn't earned our reputation as a sports opera yet. So you were just going to go back to Auto One with this being something you were just trying out. But if you stay, that will associate you with us, perhaps for the rest of your career. I know how much you've always wanted to be an Auto One Champion. I don't want us to discredit your reputation by labelling you as a 'sports entertainer' rather than a motor sportsman."

There was another good question. Solo hadn't really considered his reputation. He knew what Glen was talking about. While Auto 1 had always had its credibility, Formula-X had suffered in the beginning because of its insistence on calling its brand of motorsports, sports entertainment. But thinking on it, Solo realized that it had eventually settled on a middle ground in people's minds. While they appreciated the drama and the spotlight on things other than the racing, they also came to respect the fact that the racing was legitimate.

Solo smiled at Glen. "Maybe it's not so bad being a sports entertainer..."

 

AFTER MONDAY NIGHT FUEL

Solo had been fortunate enough to be able to watch the feature race, which would be the last feature race on Monday nights for a while. It had been another relay race, an all-feature-racer relay race between the teams of Thawn Oberhauser & John Kloof and King Mandla & Stevie. It had been a worthy race for the last race of the season with Thawn getting a chance to feel out Stevie – one of his opponents at the Grand Prix – while John Kloof got to face off with the King to get a taste of what he could do. In the end, it was the unlikely team of Thawn and Kloof that managed to pick up that valuable last win of the season. Except that it wasn't the last race of the season.

The honour of being the grand finale of the season belonged solely and uniquely to The Formula-X Grand Prix. It was an interesting situation: last episode of Fuel but not the season finale. Following the end of Fuel, Solo waited in the parking lot to give his last lift to Styles Sithole when a black Chevrolet Impala rolled slowly past him, pausing so that the driver's window was adjacent to him. Inside the car was Thawn.

"I see you decided to show your face around here after all. I thought you would have stayed buried in that hole you climbed into right through the Grand Prix."

Solo smiled cockily. "Not lightly Impaler. I'm going to be around for a while actually; making sure that you behave."

"Hmph. And here I thought you would have thought yourself too high and mighty for us sports entertainers."

Solo, still smiling cockily, shook his head. "Nope. I'm as much a sports entertainer as you. So you best get used to me. Because sooner or later, and mark my words, you're going to be calling me King."

Thawn scoffed, dismissing Solo's prediction. "See you at the Grand Prix, Magubane. I don't care if they're two of you," said Thawn referring to their three-way race this Sunday, also involving Stevie. "Nothing is going to stop me from ending this season as a winner." Thawn then rolled away leaving Solo with his words.

Solo was smiling. Nine months ago he would have been insulted and offended by Thawn's words but not anymore. Now he appreciated them. Because without Thawn and his pompous attitude, the Fuel Speedway wouldn't be the same. It was drama like this that made this place what it was. It may have been a circus when Solo first got here, but now... it was home.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © All stories are Copyright © 2016-2020 by S.T. Kubheka (also known by the pseudonym Bernard "Beesting" Bayede). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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