8th of November – Season 3
Jane Deyi – or Plain Jane Deyi as Moodswing had renamed her – was excited! How could she not be? Last week, she’d won the Duchess of Drag title on her debut episode! She’d been excited all week long, having gone to bed with the title. Even at this moment, while being driven to the Fuel Speedway by her boyfriend, she was carrying it on her lap. Her boyfriend, Milo, noticed.
“You know, that helmet is not going to jump out and run away if you put it on the back seat, Jane.”
“First of all, it’s not a helmet, it’s a title.”
“Well pardon me,” he said sarcastically.
“And second of all, it’s Plain Jane to you,” she said with her chin up.
Milo just looked at her. “You’re kidding me, right? You mean to tell me that you’re actually okay with that guy calling you plain.”
“Okay first of all,” she said earning a sigh from him as if thinking ‘here we go again’, “his name is Moodswing. And second of all, it’s just a nickname. You know, like a stage name.”
“I thought your nickname was ‘The Flamboyant Phenomenon’. Isn’t that what that Captain guy said on commentary during your race?”
It was true. Captain Ken Khumalo had a knack for giving racers their tags almost at random. Fortunately, Plain Jane liked it. “No, that’s my tag silly. It’s what they’ll use in the billing, you know, like on posters and billboards.”
Milo rolled his eyes before darting them to something hanging above them. “You mean like that billboard?” On a digital billboard above them was an advertisement for tonight’s episode of Monday Night Fuel. However, instead of the usual adverts which made a point of showcasing all the talent along with, more importantly, the racing action, this one only had two racers on it.
This was unusual outside of the big marketing campaign for the Formula-X Grands Prix where only the biggest draws got to be on all the posters and billboards and got to do all the interviews, talk shows, and radio shows. And added to that the fact that they were doing this for an episode of Fuel rather than a pay-per-view made it all the more stranger. On the advert, was an image of Penny Potgieter and Styles Sithole with big red words superimposed over them:
FIRST EVER SPEEDWAY DERBY
“Doesn’t seem fair, does it?” he said, clearly trying to get a reaction out of him.
Ever since being discovered by Moodswing, Milo had been acting jealous, making note of how she only seemed to care about racing and not about him. But she wasn’t going to let his attitude get her down. “Well, it is the first-ever Speedway Derby.” Just then, smaller words swiped onto the screen accompanied by social media logos. “And look at the hashtag. You see, all women are represented." Milo read the by-line.
Milo scoffed. “I can’t believe you’re buying into that. It’s a marketing gimmick, Jane. And a very clever one by Penny. She’s riding a women’s wave, blatantly using it to get to the top. That’s not about you. Face it, Jane. You’re just a punchline to them. A way for them to say, ‘look, we have even more women in the series now’. They don’t care about you.”
Ouch. That one hurt. “So my winning this means nothing too?” she said, gesturing to the title.
“No, that means something. But then ask yourself: why aren’t you, as a monarch, being featured by yourself on billboards to advertise Fuel? Face it: these guys, Moodswing and even Glen, they have their own ideas of who they want in main events and it’s not you.”
AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY
As if it wasn’t enough that Milo’s words were still stinging in her ear, when Plain Jane got to the Fuel Speedway and made her way through the concourse, she took note of the t-shirts being worn by many a fan. They were black with orange lettering that read:
KOEKSISTERS WILL FRY: 28/11
Jane recognized that date as the date of the upcoming pay-per-view Show-Down at the Capital and recalled the latest spat on the Formulary involving all three Koeks and Devì. Jane recalled how the back-and-forth trash talk had eventually involved the Spell-Castors, Blackcat Mathunzi and Fiona and culminated in the unlikely trio challenging Brenda, Doris, and Teresa to an epic Thirty Lap Three-on-Three Relay Race at the event. There was no doubt that these t-shirts were their doing with the orange lettering making it almost obvious that Devì was involved since orange was something of a signature color for her.
It was after that challenge that Plain Jane had started hearing rumblings of the idea of making that race the feature race of the mainland PPV. This only helped enforce what Milo had said. While she knew that it was his jealousy talking and she knew how to pay that jealousy no heed, it was difficult to get his words out of her head. Do I really have a glass ceiling over my head?
As Plain Jane made her way into the paddock, she worked on shaking these negative thoughts out of her head. Since she was a little girl, she prided herself on her positivity and even in this situation, she knew that she needed to be positive. If the system wanted to put her down, then she’d need to find a way to put herself up.
That’s when she spotted Savana – the other new girl on the block – and had an idea. While it was possible for Moodswing and Glen to ignore her while she was alone, surely it would be harder to ignore both of them. Savana was standing all on her lonesome, once again wearing a plain grey hoody with her hands in per pockets looking out of place among the lively racers.
Plain Jane approached her. “Hey, new girl. What’s up?”
“Nothing. What’s up with you?”
“Me? Oh, nothing. Just looking to make a headline or two. You interested?”
Savana smirked. “What did you have in mind?”
LAP FIVE OF TWENTY…
Jane had proudly announced to Savana that she would be starting the race and had successfully garnered the lead. So it would have been sad to lose it in only her third turn. Fortunately, she narrowly managed to hold onto it and hand it over to Savana.
As Jane sat in The Inyani awaiting her relay partner for the night, she watched on the screen in the pit lane and saw that Savana was one hell of a racer. Jane knew from watching her that forming a permanent relay team with her would be holding her back from greatness because she had something in her that needed to be showcased to the world. Fortunately, Jane had something in her too.
As Jane re-entered the race in Lap 7 ahead of Jim Kieck, she concentrated on making good use of the straight sections of the speedway. That was where she was good. She knew that The Inyani was one of the fastest cars in the paddock from 0 to 100 which was why she’d won last week. After managing to keep the lead during her lap, Jane wore a smile on her face.
The race went on with her and Savana managing to dominate most of the race until the Fourth Quarter where Kieck and Kloof decided to show why they had both held the Formula-X Crown before and held the lead for Laps 16, 17, 18, and 19 only to submit it back to Jane in Lap 19 who handed it over to Savana to win the race.
As they celebrated the victory, Jane wondered if this would be enough for the brass to see that they were a force to be reckoned with. It was unfortunate that their race had been the opening race, though not the opening segment. That honor had been bestowed on the Formula-X Cup Nominations where Styles Sithole had shocked the fandom by being awarded for OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A GAUNTLET RACE.
The nomination had surprised many especially considering that it was Solo Magubane that had survived the first two Gauntlet Races while it had been Queen Stevie who had broken Gauntlet IV. Was Styles’ performance in Gauntlet III that good? Fortunately, there were four more of these nomination sessions to go until all the participants of the Formula-X Cup race were known so Solo and Queen Stevie still had a shot at getting nominated.
While Jane could have easily snuck out of the building now that her race was done, she was glad that she hadn’t as the Club Committee had decided to honor her and Savana each with a segment that showcased their vehicles, complimenting their interviews last week. It was a means to get the audience used to them.
However, the segment wasn’t the reason Jane stuck around. Neither was the race between Dime and Brenda to determine who would challenge her for the Drag title. And while the three-on-three race billed ‘Shadow of the Show-Down’ was good, it also wasn’t why Jane was still here. It was the main event. Jane needed to know if the Speedway Derby was worth all the hype or if Penny and Styles had just been cherry-picked as the next breakout stars of the series.
THE SPEEDWAY DERBY
It was strange being a spectator again, listening to Captain Khumalo and Miss Honeycomb set the scene of the contest.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the Captain, “you’ve heard of the unpredictable One Kilometre Derby; you’ve witnessed the high stakes Twelve Rounds Derby; now, behold the adrenaline-filled Speedway Derby.”
“In this contest,” added Miss Honeycomb, “you’ll find no personal stakes or a pot of gold up for grabs. Instead, in this contest – competed exclusively on the Fuel Speedway – there is something much more important up for grabs: a shot at the most sovereign prize in sports entertainment.”
“Yes indeed, Miss Honeycomb. The winner will receive what is being called a ‘speeding ticket’ which they can exchange for a race against the King or Queen at a time of their choosing right here on Monday Night Fuel. Now here’s how it works. You see those speed trap cameras,” said the Captain just as the screen cut to shots of the bright yellow cameras located strategically before and after the six bends of the ‘L’ circuit, “they are there to record the speed of the racers. And at the end of fifteen laps, the racer with the highest accumulated speed wins the derby and the ‘speeding ticket’. So without further ado, let’s do this!”
As Penny and Styles waited on the start line for the gunshot – a signature trait of all the derbies in contrast to the red lights going off – the crowd stirred itself into a frenzy. It appeared that the hype had gotten to them too. When it went off – BANG – the race was on! Penny broke out speeding, making good use of her drag racing experience from her time holding the title. She managed to clock the highest speed at the first three-speed traps.
Unfortunately, Penny arrested her own momentum at the turns at the top of the ‘L’ and the very bottom, failing to pull out of the corners at high speed. In contrast, Styles used his own experience in navigating bends to power slide through each one of them maintaining decent speeds through them. Knowing that coming first across the finish line meant nothing here, Styles maintained his cool.
After fifteen laps, Penny sped over the finish line first almost a lap ahead of Styles but had to wait for him to cross before the scores were tallied. While they waited in suspense, they received a standing ovation. Their race – or derby rather – had lived up to the hype. The fandom had cheered every time their speeds were displayed on the screen. So when the score came in revealing Penny as the winner, they cheered. She deserved it.
Plain Jane had to admit that it was worth all the hype. Perhaps her boyfriend was just jealous because from watching this, it was clear that this wasn’t about favoritism, it was about competition. And if her winning streak continued and she had any luck, Jane would be headlining Fuel and then pay-per-views in no time.