Autoduel Illustrated
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June 11, 2001

This issue of Autoduel Illustrated features the 15K

Stee1 Cobra presents his view of the race
Awards are handed out

Best Laid Plans

by Dave "Stee1 Cobra" McGee

What could possibly compare to one’s first duel? My first romantic encounter generated less adrenaline, and a lot less fond memories (though both would last about the same amount of time - go figure).

I spent a lot of time in the simulators for this. Saturday night’s IDL Event would be a spectacle. A 15K newcomer’s event, it held a lot of promise to draw a large crowd. I was, literally, itching to get strapped into my machine, flatten the accelerator, and sling lead at whichever misfortunate soul happened to cross my sights.

My ride was a beauty. Having saved the necessary $15,000 to build it with, I decided to go small, fast and maneuverable - my favorite style. Like flying a vintage WWII fighter plane - slug-thrower up front capable of pouncing from any direction with the speed to close to firing range (or to bug out and regain advantage), this car would drive rings around the others. Well, that was the plan, at least.

I arrived early to get a few laps in to get used to the place. I carefully popped off a few rounds at the practice targets to get my computer calibrated, and, after my qualifying run, headed back into the garage for a little last-minute tuning. There, I took a few minutes to check out the competition.

Five other teams rounded out the competition. For beginners, there seemed to be some serious firepower wrapped inside some serious vehicles. I wasn’t worried. Blame that on cockiness. I was cocky. Blame that on inexperience.

"Auto Fury" was similar in design to my vehicle, with a slug-thrower mounted front. A notable difference from mine was the electric power plant. Might be an interesting match-up.

Next - the "Bayou Bandit." Gold with a black Fleur de Lis on the hood, you knew he was from the Free Oil States. If anyone, I'd have thought, for sure, that he’d have a gas tank, but he was electric, too. He looked to be going for firepower with a twin-mount front and a single mount rear. No telling how many were fake. I’d have to watch him.

"Frenzied Frenchman Fighting Machine." There’s a name you only needed - or wanted - to say once. A ram-car. If not an incredibly obvious plan of attack, it was an effective one. Take a few thousand pounds, point and launch it, and you pretty much destroy what you hit. You’d think that with that much money, you’d have a gun or two, but maybe he bought all armor.

The "Irish Hammer" was my virtual twin. Figures. Hammer and I are buds. We share the same ideas when it comes to tactics. We also share a competitive nature that clouds our judgment when it comes to teamwork. Maybe, one day, we’ll be able to put that competitive thing to rest and cooperate - nah, too much fun.

Rounding out the field was the "Rath Uv Khan." Pure firepower. Three rocket launchers and two, really big guns. This guy was going for the "Porcupine Award." Damned Trekkies. I’d be avoiding him.

With the race about to start, the field judge awarded me the pole based on qualifying. This also allowed me to choose starting positions for the rest of the teams. Not too shabby. I put the two with the obvious weapons in the center, keeping "Frenchie" on the far side of the arena from me (I wanted a little maneuvering room) and put the other two in the remaining corners.

Revving our engines as we entered, the arena erupted with cheers. What a rush! I gunned it and headed straight for center. I wanted to get across the centerline and get "weapons hot" as quickly as I could, not to mention score a few points. Hammer stayed north and simultaneously went "hot" with Bandit.

Bandit wasted no time in throwing a shot in my direction as he pulled away from center. My heart raced. What if it holed me on the first hit? What if I couldn’t handle the recoil? Miss! No time to ponder luck. Auto Fury went hot, turned, and faced me. Frenchie came up and aimed right at me. I was going to be the goo in the middle of a sandwich. I tried to put the accelerator through the floor. I went hot. Hitting my paint to give Frenchie a second coat, Fury fired at me. Another miss. Intense! My car seemed to sense impending doom and lurched forward. Frenchie avoided my paint, went hot, and dropped flaming oil while his gunner fired a hidden anti-tank gun - at Fury! My rear view went white from the explosion as Fury’s left side rocked from the blast. No simulator could match this. Frenchie finished Fury by nearly slicing him in half. That could’ve been me. Fury’s hulk wound up against the south wall.

Meanwhile, Rath had managed to rip one of his rockets off by cutting a turn too tight around one of the center walls. Cracker Jack licenses just don’t get it. As he rounded the turn, Hammer lined him up. Just as he achieved what I thought was point-blank range, Hammer swerved. Not firing, he apparently wanted to tangle with the Bandit. Pushing the throttle, he headed at the Bandit. The Bandit took the challenge, fired, and proceeded to plow though the Hammer like a hot knife through butter. Leaving the Hammer’s car in a field of debris and seriously damaging his own vehicle, he chalked up the second kill of the night.

I needed points. Rather than go for Bandit (bad decision - cocky), I, instead, pulled a "u"-bie and went for Frenchie. As soon as I lined him up, I opened with my Vulcan. Watching the incendiary rounds pock the ground near his car, I kept the trigger engaged, striving to maintain a line of sight to him. As my rounds started finding his right side, he went around the other wall. My tires screaming, I kept on him. The impact with Fury had slowed him, and I was pulling up fast. Praying for my rounds to induce combustion, I yanked around the corner, released the trigger, and sped north, hoping he wouldn’t be able to draw a bead on me with that ATG. Trying to get his weak side away from me, he jerked his vehicle around, but tapped the wall doing so, slowing him even more. I chose to extend, and gain a better angle.

As I came around the wall, Rath fired a salvo of twin ATGs! They impacted the wall, shooting debris like shrapnel. Ping! I dove left, avoiding the wall and Rath, and, not having a good angle to fire my Vulcan, lit off some paint in his direction. Three shots. No hits. This was insane. I almost wished I hadn’t had so much armor on my car.

Rath avoided the paint and fired again - at Frenchie. He hit wall with one ATG, but the other found its mark, hitting him squarely in the front. That had to hurt after the collision. Frenchie returned fire, to no avail. The impact rocked the arena as they came together, head-on. Frenchie surrendered.

As I was crossing the line a second time, Bandit swung around the other side. Cursing my reflexes for not being fast enough to get off the paint trigger and onto the Vulcan’s, I veered, fighting for control and trying to throw Bandit off line for a ram. Just as we saw each other cringe, I zigged.

I should’ve zagged. Bandit swerved right, and, against every rational, conventional, and even sensible thought, I swerved left. I hit him at sixty miles per hour. Metal armor can absorb a lot of damage. I have that to thank that I was still alive. Taking back my earlier wish, my car came to rest with steam, oil and parts littering the floor.

Amazingly, Bandit was still able to drive. As I ran up the white flag, he reversed around - just in time to see Rath come around and fire. I had no clue who he was firing at. One round went wide of Bandit - the other nearly hit me! (Editor's note - it did hit him) Bandit returned a similarly errant blast, and they closed.

Trading misguided rounds, they came together, demanding that the other give up. Adamant to the end, neither gave quarter. Finally (about thirteen seconds since the start of this match) Rath managed to get behind Bandit and put a finishing round through his car.

As the smoke cleared, I pondered my fate. I had not taken a single round to my car. (Editor: except for that one errant round.) I had designed for speed and maneuverability. I managed to travel the most distance in the duel, but fell victim to my own cockiness when a better, less glorious decision would’ve kept me in it long enough to contend. The moral? I don’t have one. Go figure. 15K Awards

Ambush Autoworks Designer’s Award - Nathaniel Gousset, Frenzied Frenchman Fighting Machine

Nathaniel surprised everyone just before impact when his dedicated ram car revealed a heat packing anti-tank gun. This gun, along with the ramplate, gave Nathaniel the duel’s first kill.

United States Navy Top Gun Award – Curt Lindmark, Rath uv Khan

Curt landed six devastating blows to his opponents, not to mention the heavy handiwork he laid out into the walls. Once Curt crossed the centerline for the first time, he kept plugging away and earned himself the Top Gun award.

Toyota Efficiency Award

No vehicles qualified for the Toyota Efficiency Award during the 15K.  This award is given to any duelist who's car comes in 10% below cost, yet finishes in the top 33% of the field.

Speedy Quick Printing Exit Award – Nate Berkopec, Auto Fury

This dubious award goes to Nate Berkopec, who was sent rolling across the arena floor early in the duel when Nathaniel Gousset marked him with an anti-tank gun, then followed through with a heavy ram.

Raysbestos Lucky Break Award – Michael McNeil, Bayou Bandit

Michael survived a head on ram that confettied Joe Barlow's in the Irish Hammer. Later, he managed again to get in the way of a speeding sub-compact and again scored a kill without disabling his own vehicle.

Cactus Jack Heavy Hitter Award – Michael McNeil, Bayou Bandit

For the second time in a row, Michael McNeil takes the Cactus Jack Heavy Hitter Award. This duel it was for his confetti creating altercation with Joe Barlow.

British Petroleum High Octane Award – Joe Barlow, Irish Hammer #69

Joe topped out at 75 mph in the arena, just before meeting Michael McNeil as they rounded the corner.