24th of April –Season 2
As Toney Kunene – one of Formula-X's four resident reporters – sat in her car awaiting the pay-per-view racing event to start, she contemplated the night ahead and the work cut out for her, and for once, she was kind of glad that her ex-husband, Temper, was involved in the franchise because it meant her daughter, Katlego could come to the event with him. But that was the only good thing about having him around. Hell, that was the only good thing about tonight for her…
Last month, at Festival of the Fall, Wikus Rothschild – another F-X reporter, notable for being mild-mannered and one of the least ambitious – perhaps, one of the best newsletter articles of the season, and he did it by being ruthless as he had focused on Temper and how his debut had affected her, their daughter and the fandom who had bear witness to his tantrum after losing to Penny Potgieter.
While Toney had been a professional about it and not confronted him, inside she had been seething that someone she considered a friend would stoop that low for a story. It was something that Sherry Detwiler would do with her eternal search for a scandal. And now Toney wanted revenge. And the only way she knew how to get it was to write a killer article of her own.
That was why she was currently sitting in the car, listening to recordings from interviews from the latest episodes of Monday Night Fuel. The one she was currently listening to was from two weeks ago in the Winner’s Circle and it pertained to her ex-husband. Perhaps the best revenge would be an article about his race. “Well to put it simply, the game face I’m wearing right now pertains to Formula-X’s newest recruit,” Darcy Stevens had said. “I heard what he said after his race that he was looking for someone to face at S.N.E. Well, my question is this: who the hell does he think he is?
“First he gets a shot at the Duchess of Drag title upon arrival on pay-per-view and now he’s issuing challenges? I’ve had enough of this guy already. Someone needs to put him in his place. I mean, even Fiona, Blackcat’s whatever didn’t run around here thinking she was all that when she debuted. So you know what, I think I’ll accept that hot head’s challenge.”
While Toney liked what she was hearing, she couldn’t help but think that it was all a bit straightforward, a bit tame for the killer article she had in mind. Of course, it did help that their race had been turned into a 12 Rounds Derby. “The Diamond they call her,” Temper had said in a Formulary video a week later. “That’s cute. But I don’t do cute. I don’t mess around and I don’t showboat. I’m known for two things: I like speed and I like to win. That makes Formula-X the perfect place to be.
“I’m here to make an impact and if ‘The Diamond’ is so confident, then perhaps you’d like to up the stakes and make our race a 12 Rounds Derby for twelve grand.” While Toney could admit that this was all exciting, it still wasn’t the showstopper she was looking for. It also didn’t help that this was the opening contest. That’s when she searched for material on the closing contest...
“I want you to know that I respect you,” had said the Formula-X King, Solo Magubane two weeks ago at the contract signing. “I respect everything you’ve done, both on and off the blacktop. You’re undoubtedly a pillar of Formula-X. But you need to understand this, Styles: I’m the benchmark. There’s a reason they call me ‘The Franchise’. I’m the picture of what a feature-racer is. And while I have no beef with you, you’re not that.”
Styles had had a response that day. “It’s funny Your Highness, but everything you just said is exactly why I believe I’m going to win at S.N.E. I’m going to win because I have to win. I need to win because that’s how I prove that I am feature-racer material. Taking your Crown is the only way I can prove that I belong where you are.” Toney smiled. This was exactly what she needed: a friendly rivalry that had room to become extremely personal. Now it was time to go to work.
OPENING RACE OF SUNDAY NIGHT EASTER
Toney found a quiet place to watch the 12 Rounds Derby. It was fun to see the fans get excited as the PPV got started. It wasn’t long until the first racer made his way onto the racetrack to a chorus of boos. Toney couldn’t help but smile at the response that her ex-husband was receiving. The entrance was immediately followed by Stevie’s which received universal fanfare. Toney wondered if the order of their entrances wasn’t done on purpose.
The Candyfloss and The Black Tantrum stood at the start line with their drivers ready to put R12 000 on the line in a race where every lap counted. Like all derbies, the contest began with a literal bang: a gunshot going off. Temper took an early lead seemingly learning from all his mistakes at Festival of the Fall and wanting his first PPV win. He easily took the first lap, or round.
However, by the time the second lap came to an end, Stevie was fighting back. Temper took his second round – the second lap – Stevie garnered the lead in Lap 3 and took her next three rounds making it 3-2 to her. Lap 6 saw Temper battle back but not soon enough to win Lap 7, allowing Stevie to take her fourth round.
It was Lap 8 that saw Temper regain the lead and take his next two rounds to equalize the scoreboard to 4-4 leaving three more rounds for the taking. Temper took the next round with Stevie fighting hard to battle back. It was only in Lap 10 that Stevie managed to reclaim the lead and took three in a row to end the derby 7-5 to her.
While Toney was thrilled by the race and even more thrilled to see Temper get his ass handed to him, she was surprised by the fandom’s reaction and their chants of “we want more” and “sudden death”. They clearly wanted to see one of these 12 Round Derbies go to that mystical 13th Lap. Unfortunately, tonight was not that night.
THE RELAY BARON TITLE RACE
By the time the drivers in the next race started making their way to the racetrack, Toney was in the PPV paddock, looking to get a word with either the Number One Claimant, Styles Sithole, or the reigning Formula-X King. However, she was nearly beside herself when she saw Wikus talking to the F-X King. However before she could let fury overtake her, she remembered that she could still talk to Styles. But she was interrupted by the ‘Host of Boast’, Touch Mkhize.
“You should know that he’s already spoken to Styles,” said Touch pointing to Wikus. “In case that’s what you were thinking of doing.”
“Then again, he also interviewed them,” he said pointing at the screen where John Kloof and Mandla Xulu were currently deciding who would start the race for their side. “I think he’s trying to find a decent follow-up to that story he wrote last month.” Touch then gritted his teeth as if he realized what he’d just said. “Sorry about that, by the way.”
Toney ignored Touch’s theory. “What happened in that interview? Did he get anything good from it?” Touch shook his head and explained that it was just a retread with Mandla & John explaining that they were teaming so that John could get his finances under control. “Yeah, Kloof needs a win desperately, tonight.”
It appeared that they’d decided that Kloof would start the race as it was him and Longitude standing across from each other when the red flag went down. The race was fast with Kloof showing that he had a chip on his shoulder that he was intent on knocking off. But three laps went past with Longitude showing that he had Kloof’s number. In fact, the duo was proving why they were the reigning Relay Barons and the only two-time Relay Barons. They had led every lap as of the Lap 10 halfway mark of the race and only Mandla had gotten within sniffing distance of overtaking Latitude in Lap 6 and 8.
Fortunately for Mandla and more importantly, Kloof things took a turn in Lap 12 when Mandla finally managed to overtake Latitude and Kloof finally got with the program and maintained that lead against Longitude. While Mandla & Kloof barely managed to hang onto the lead – with Lap 17 proving to be a close call – they managed to dominate right until Mandla crossed the finish line in Lap 20 giving Mandla & Kloof the victory, officially becoming sixth Relay Barons in their first reign.
“Well I’ll be damned,” said Touch. “Well, I hope this means that John’s financial crisis will come to an end. I mean, Relay Barons earn more bucks than the rest of us, right?”
However, Toney wasn’t thinking about John Kloof or their new titles right now. She was thinking about that smile on Wikus’ face and whether that meant that he’d be leaving the main event alone.
ONE MASTER, ONE APPRENTICE, ONE FAITH
When Toney approached ‘The Cryptic Crusader’, she found him more jovial than expected. In fact, he was positively upbeat when he saw her. “Hey, Toney. Here to fill your quota?”
“I’m here to get your side of the story.” Toney’s jaw stiffened at the prospect of being too late. “Or has Wikus already done that?”
Styles shook his head. “No, Wikus,” he said, searching for the word, “didn’t seem to know what to ask me. Looked like he was intimidated by me or something which is crazy. I mean, this is literally my first pay-per-view feature race ever.”
Toney hid a smile. Wikus had blown it. That meant she still had a chance. If he’d been intimidated by Styles then there’s no way he’d gotten the job done with the Formula-X King. “Well allow me to give you the interview you’re worthy of.”
“Sure but as long as you make it quick. I wanna see this,” he said pointing to the big screen which currently showed Fiona and Blackcat making their way onto the racetrack.
Really? You want to see that? However, Toney decided to keep those thoughts to herself. Who knows, maybe he was watching it for the racing because Toney had struggled to get into this rivalry. It was beginning to feel repetitive. “Fair enough. So, how does it feel to be in the main event for the night?”
Styles gave her a playful frown. “Oh c’mon, Toney. I’m sure you can do better than that.”
Toney smirked. “You’re right. Okay, how about this: how do you feel about some of your detractors saying that you’re not feature-race material? What do you say to those that think you should stay in your lane and remain a support-racer?”
Styles didn’t hesitate to answer. “I say that those people have completely missed the point of what it means to be an F-X Racer. This may be sports entertainment but the racing is legit which means if I can go the distance tonight then I damn sure should be a feature-racer.”
“And what about Solo who just two weeks ago said that you didn’t have what it takes?”
Styles actually smiled. “If you’re trying to spur up something of a rivalry between me and my friend then I’ve got news for you: you’re on the right track. Because tonight, after I capture that prestigious Throne, you’re damn right there’ll be a rivalry.”
The interview came to an abrupt end when the race started and Styles turned his attention to The Master Spell-Castor and his former Apprentice. The race itself was surprisingly enjoyable with Fiona getting an emotional victory but Toney was forced to move on and try get a word from the F-X King.
THE FOUR-WAY DUCHESS OF DRAG TITLE RACE
Toney was still in the paddock looking for King Solo but to no avail. Has he gone to get ready already? While Toney thought about leaving to go find him, she thought better of it, figuring that the F-X King was bound to return to the paddock sooner or later. In the meanwhile, she feasted her eyes on the biggest support race of the night: Penny Potgieter defending her title against Dime, Touch Mkhize, and Brenda Koek.
It was a sight to see The Dollar Coin, The Silverback Nickle, The Moyeni, and The Amazing Grace standing on the start line, ready to take home the top price in the drag racing division. It was half a mile between one of them and greatness. Just as the flag went down, Toney caught a sight of King Solo who made a B-line for her.
“I heard you were looking for me.”
Toney nodded. “I wanted to know if you cared to give me a few words before your big race with your carpool buddy.”
“A few words like what: how I’m going to kick his ass so hard that he’ll never come back for seconds?” Toney’s jaw dropped ever so slightly to which Solo smiled, shrugging. “What, this is sports entertainment, right?”
Toney smiled. That mantra was something of an unofficial agreement that “my words are for show and I don’t mean them”. Of course, sometimes those words crossed lines, and sometimes those words were taken just far too seriously. Toney wondered if Styles would be a case of the latter.
Toney continued with the interview, trying hard to ignore the screaming fans watching the race. “So does that mean you think your race tonight is easy?”
Solo shook his head. “Not at all, but that doesn’t mean I’m not confident that I’m gonna win tonight.” Solo then pointed at the screen just in time to see Brenda Koek cross the finish line first and become the new Duchess of Drag. “And that will not be happening in my race. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a race to win.”
Toney watched as the F-X King made his way down to the racetrack but noticed that his eyes were locked with those of Styles who was also making his way down to the racetrack. This one was going to be on fire…
THE MAIN EVENT OF THE NIGHT
Toney absolutely loved how Moodswing and Glen managed to build their PPV feature races (main events in truth by another name). They were built like blockbusters: the reason you paid for your ticket. It was the reason that being a feature-racer was so important to the F-X racers – aside from the inflated paycheck – it was also a shot at becoming famous.
As Solo and Styles waited on the line to decide who would go home with the most sovereign prize in sports entertainment, Toney was joined by the absolute last person that she wanted to talk to. “Hi, Toney. Haven’t seen you all week. How’s it going?”
Toney tried to ignore Wikus but he didn’t seem to take the hint. “I’m busy, Wikus. What do you want?”
Toney had made a point not to look at the mild-mannered reporter because she knew that he had one of the most sorry-looking faces in the franchise: the epitome of pathos. “Is this about my article for Festival of the Fall?”
“What do you think?”
“Listen, Toney. It’s not what you think. I was just trying to—”
“You were trying to make your name by dragging mine through the mud. Now, if you’re quite done, I have my own pay-per-view headline article to write.” Toney then walked away, heading out of the paddock and back to her quiet place to watch the race. And what a decision that had been.
The race was beautiful from the word go with Styles apparently not caring to dial down his style for the sake of being on a grand stage. After tight head-to-head action in the first couple of laps, Styles pulled off a beautiful power slide managing to garner the lead to an electric reaction from the live crowd.
Styles then kept the fans on their feet as he led the race through to the halfway mark. Toney could imagine Captain Khumalo up in the booth saying “could this be; could we be seeing a new King in the making right here?” Of course, she could also imagine the Captain saying “but remember, only the last lap really counts”. However, Solo didn’t appear to be worried about waiting until the last lap.
The reigning F-X King managed to feign a pass just to open a gap and overtake Styles in Lap 12 and then used the next eight laps to prove why he was the absolute best by dominating Styles. By the time the 20th and final lap came about, the fandom wanted Solo to put Styles out of his misery.
As Toney headed down to the Winner’s Circle, she couldn’t help but think of Wikus and whether it was worth it to continue being mad at him. After all, their kids were friends. They were going to the Easter egg hunt after this for Heaven’s sake. Could they not get past this? Fine, I’ll forgive him… but after I write a better article about tonight. The thought made Toney smile.