The Endless Road
14th June 2011, 10:20 at 10:20 am #129546
Wesley Black impatiently checked his watch. Again. His host – whoever he was – was running late. Trying not to let his frustration show, he took another sip of his Black Russian and tried to lose himself in his surroundings. He was sitting at a bar in London’s West End called Surge, which was as trendy as it was over-priced. There were almost no straight lines in the entire building; everything from the door to the bar itself was made up of curvy, sinuous edges. It was a place to see, and – more importantly – to be seen. Surge was a popular haunt for B-list celebrities and trashy tabloid journalists. At least late at night. Right now, on the cusp of darkness, Black was almost the only person in the bar. Almost.
“I really must apologise,” a smooth, intelligent voice said beside him. Black looked up to see a short Middle Eastern man in front of him. His face was round, and his thick hard place. His jaw was covered by a well-groomed beard that suited him, and a pair of rimless glasses sat on his bold nose. He was well-dressed, but tastefully so; there was no expensive Armani suit for the sake of it. “My flight was delayed. Normally, I would have called ahead, but without a number to call, I hope to hope that you would forgive my tardiness and wait for me. I am both pleased and humbled that you have chosen to do so, especially since – I must admit – my invitation was somewhat vague. Ridwan Amirmoez,” he concluded, offering a hand. Black took it, and was pleased to discover the man’s grip was both firm and confident.
“Can I … but you a drink?” Black offered awkwardly, unsure whether it was polite to ask.
“No, thank you,” Amirmoez declined. “It is not a religious thing, if that’s what you are thinking. I simply do not like the taste of alcohol, and cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of it.”
“There’s no easy way to ask this, but do I know you from somewhere?”
“I should think not. I am not widely known in the West. But I do know you,” he said. If this seemed like a strange answer, Black did not let it show. Indeed, he expected it. In a previous life, he had been a racing driver, and a World Champion twice over. “I was in Germany when you took your first victory. I did not know anything about the sport at the time – it was a sponsor visit – but when I saw that race, I confess that I fell in love a little bit.”
“It’s always nice to meet a fan,” Black said, trying to sound enthusiastic. But he had to admit that he was slightly disappointed. The wording of the invitation, sent to him via an old friend, had seemingly promised more. He did not understand why this bothered him.
“You’re probably wondering why I invited you here. Well, there is no point in wasting words. I have a question that I would like to ask of you.”
“I’ve done this dance before. There is only one question people ask me these days: why I retired.”
“I am aware of this,” Amirmoez said. “As I said, I have been folowing you for some time, both on-track and off. I would not go so far as to claim I know why you retired, but I do like to think I have an idea. No, the question I want to ask you is simple: why did you come to this meeting?”
Black had not been expecting this. He took another sip of his Black Russian, stalling for time. Amirmoez had asked him here tonight to ask why he had come? But as he thought about it, the more sense the question started to make. He had been asked to meetings dozens of times, by sponsors and fools with dreams of starting their own racing teams – especially after he had retired – but he had never accepted any of them.
“I … I honestly don’t know,” Black said.
“I thought it might be something like that. I have a simple proposition for you, and please, hear me out on this. I take it you have been following the sport you left behind you?”
“Yes,” Black lied.
“Then you would know what happened to Precision Racing.”
“Yes,” Black repeated, truthfully this time. It was hard not to hear about that embarrassing episode – one of the teams had been caught running illegal parts on their car and had subsequently been banned from the sport.
“I intend to make a bid for their remaining assets in the very immediate future. I know what you’re thinking; that this is some flight of fancy. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a very serious attempt to join the grid. No, let me rephrase that – this is more than an attempt. Within one week, I intend to buy the remains of Precision Motorsport, and enter it in the World Championship, starting in 2012. There is just one thing holding me back.”
“It’s you,” Amirmoez replied simply. “I have done my homework, and I know you receive an offer from aspiring teams at least once a month, but I have something a little more holisitc in mind. I would like you to work with me on building it.” He reached into his jacket pocket and offered Black an unsealed envelope. He opened it to find a first-class airline ticket to Dubai.
“What is this?”
“It’s an airline ticket.”
“I know that,” Black said defensively. “I mean, why are you giving it to me.”
“I would like you to come to Dubai and see for yourself. If you do, and you are happy, I will go ahead and buy the team. If not, I confess I will be disappointed, but I will find another way. But I would rather have someone like yourself in the team.”
“Alright. Let’s say I’m interested and I come to Dubai. What would that involve?”
“Everything. Hiring staff. Developing the car. Finidng drivers. Racing yourself, if that’s what you want. We have eighteen months to get ready; with you, I think that’s a very realistic timeframe.”
“I have one last question. Whether or not I come to Dubai depends on your answer.”
“Ask way,” Amirmoez said.
“You said you had an idea as to why I retired. What is that reason?”
“Because you were World Champion. Twice. It’s a wonderful thing, but what does one do once you have achieved that? You could have driven for anyone, done anything. Added another two titles to your name, if you wanted to. There are some – I think you might know who I am talking about – who say you retired because you stopped winning. But I think you retired because winning no longer meant anything to you. There was nothing left for you to achieve.”14th June 2011, 12:17 at 12:17 pm #171298
lolwut?14th June 2011, 12:21 at 12:21 pm #17129914th June 2011, 15:10 at 3:10 pm #171300
Dubai, the United Arab Emirates
Two days later, Black found himself hurtling through the deserts of the Middle East behind the wheel of a Mercedes W212, courtesy of Ridwan Amirmoez. It had been waiting for him when he landed in Abu Dhabi, complete with a driver – a lanky older man named Mansur – but he had insisted on driving the large car. It was a hundred and fifty kilometres to Dubai, and even with an open throttle, the trip would take over an hour. Where Mansur was originally uncomfortable with the thought of Black driving his beloved car, he had gradually relaxed. Especially when Black engaged him in conversation.
“So, tell me,” he said almost as soon as they hit the highway. “What is Ridwan Amirmoez like?”
“He’s a good man,” Mansur said stiffly. “He’s the fourth son in a family of seven. Very well-respected here, but not widely-known in America and England. He likes it that way. He made his money first in importing tobacco, but changed to construction when he was uncomfortable with ‘the health side of things’ as he calls it.”
Black grinned. “I’m not looking for his life story, Mansur. I’m more … I’m wondering what he’s like as a person. How you feel about working. What he beleives in. What drives him to do the things he does.”
“He is very good to work for, but he can be … difficult, is the word.”
“Difficult? How so?” Black asked, taking advantage on an overtaking lane to leapfrog slower traffic.
“He is a very intelligent man. Very focused. But once he gets an idea into his head, it is almost impossible to convince him otherwise.”
“Well, that’s good, I suppose. I admit I was a little worried that this project of his was a playboy thing. You know, he fancies himself a racer and entertains the idea by throwing money at it. But if he’s as committed as you say he is, that can only be a good thing. What else?”
“I think he is a little self-conscious that he is Emirati,” Mansur said, referring to the name for people from the Emirates. “A lot of the younger generations are. He will not try to hide his background, but the young people believe that Westerners feel Dubai is a hollow city, little more than an expensive combination of Disneyland and Las Vegas and utterly vulgar.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t know any jokes about Dubai, if tht’s what he’s worried about.”
“He also has very high expectations of others,” Mansur said, starting to loosen up. “I know he holds those same expectations of himself. If the job isn’t done properly, then he’d much rather it wasn’t done at all. It comes from his father. Perhaps you’ve heard of him – Sulayman Amirmoez?”
“I can’t say as if I have,” Black admitted.
“He went to the Los Angeles Olympic Games. 1984.”
“What discipline?” Black asked, genuinely curious.
“Archery. He was seeded, but eliminated in the quarter-finals. I think that is the thing Mr. Amirmoez – Ridwan, that is – is most proud of. I have not known him long, but I do know that his father encouraged competition among his children. Not the vicious kind, of course, but Ridwan has a saying he likes to quote: ‘to dare to find out how good one really is is one of the bravest things a man can do’. He actually tried to qualify for the Sydney Olympics himself, but he was not selected. I don’t think he knows it, but privately, his father is prouder that Ridwan was willing to try than he is of having gone to the Olympics himself.”
“I can’t say I disagree with any of that. Which way do I turn?”
“Left here, then right and right again,” Mansur instructed, now lounging in the back seat of the Mercedes as if Black had been his chauffeur all his life. Black could not help but grin. With Mansur’s help, he neogitated the streets of Dubai until they arrived at what appeared to be a completely nondescript building. Ironically, this only made it stand out among the fantastic shapes of the cityscape. Black climbed out of the car and was instantly hit by a wave of desert heat. Mansur barely even noticed it, swapping the back seat for the front and driving away without another word, leaving Black to approach the building on his own.
It was a large, squat building, just three stories high but appearing smaller because of its girth. Its walls were complete bare, with not even a widnow in sight. The only decoration was a crest set into a low wall alongside the entry – the symbol of the city university. From the looks of things, this had once been a part of the university campus, but the complete lack of people in the middle of a Tuesday morning suggested the university had long since left. Black opened the wide glass doors and stepped in, eager to get out of the heat. If Amirmoez intended this to be their base of operations, he would have to get used to the heat – he was going to be staying here for a while. He was surprised at just how readily that thought came to him.
“Wesley!” a familiar voice called, echoing through the empty hall. Ridwan Amirmoez appeared almost as he silently as he had in London. He darted forward with an easy smile and a hand out-stretched. “You don’t mind if I call you Wesley, do you? Forgive me for assuming your intentions, but you came after all.”
“It’a okay. You can call me Wesley, if you like, though I prefer Wes.”
“Wes it is, then. Which would make me Ridwan. Do you like it?” he asked indicating the building. “I told you we were starting from scratch.”
“I do. We’re going to need something closer to Europe, though. England, if we can.”
“It’s all part of the plan, my friend. But for now, we will set ourselves up here. I don’t want the rest of the world knowing about us just yet. I want a full team to be ready when it comes time to annouce ourselves to the world.”
“I like your plan,” Black grinned. “So, we have a building. And soon, we will have cars. What did you have in mind next?”
“May I be completely honest with you?”
“I have no idea. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted you to join me, Wes. We need some direction.”
“Well, the first thing we’re going to need is drivers. It’s been said that the best driver in the world is a woodcutter in Siberia, but he doesn’t know it, and the world never will. So we’ll have to settle for some established talent. There’s a GP2 race coming up this weekend in Bahrain. I thought we might take a look at some early talent, maybe see if we can find someone we can work with for the next year.”
“That’s fine by me.”
“I was also wodnering if you had time to settle on a name for the team. Before we can have anything, we need an identity to shape it around.”
“I have put some thought into that, toyed with it, if you will. I don’t have a name, exactly, but I do have an idea of what I want. Of what we want. A name that conveys a sense of speed, of agility. Something that sounds beautiful and complex and sounds right when you say it. But other than that, I have no idea.”
“I think I might,” Black said. “There is a wind in the south of France that gets faster the longer it blows. The Mistral. I think that would be a good name.”
“Mistral? I like it. Mistral Motorsports? Mistral Grand Prix Engineering? Team Mistral.”
“How about … Mistral Race Works?”
“Mistral Race Works.”
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