ENTHUSIA PROFESSIONAL CUP AWARDS BANQUET
December 1, 2014
That wonderful night had come! The first night of December had arrived, and we were all in the massively huge Tokyo Dome City in the Bunkyō ward of Tokyo, Japan! This remarkable entertainment complex seemingly had it all; the sports venues, the entertainment venues and the wrestling venues, but on this starry night, we were going to a fancy hotel that could be used for an auditorium.
I could already picture the inside of this hotel being similar to the Lynn in Las Vegas, or the Waldorf Astoria in New York. I knew that once we were settled in then the comfort level for everyone would be beyond extraordinary! Everyone would get those lovable seats; lovable by means of comfort, and by means of getting the best seats in the house to watch us drivers receive those covenant awards!
As we made our journey through the city streets of Tokyo's metropolis, I could picture in my mind a wonderfully-lit Japanese city course from a Gran Turismo game being run at night. I'd always love to go for a night run on a temporary street circuit under the bright city lights!
By 6:00 PM, we had made it into the hotel after trying to dodge a bunch of photography cameras. Oh, how they desperately wanted to get great pictures of us in our fancy suits and tuxedos as we walked inside!
Above all, nothing could be more anticipated than Diddy Kong receiving that huge golden praise after winning his third Professional Cup championship on the week of his twentieth anniversary. I knew he would be in for a real treat tonight!
At 7:00 PM, everyone had taken their seats, and the president of Enthusia, Masanori Kinoshita, stepped up to the podium to begin the introductory speech.
He spoke in Japanese, so a translator stood next to him and translated his words in English …
"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming on this wonderful evening under the lights of the Tokyo Metropolis. As president of Enthusia Professional Racing, it is with the honorable pleasure to welcome you all to the 2014 Enthusia Professional Cup Series Awards Banquet. We are here to celebrate yet another remarkable year, but not just any remarkable year. This year marked the sixtieth season for the Enthusia Professional Cup Series, and the sport's sixtieth anniversary couldn't have ended any better than it did at, coincidentally, the fiftieth running of the Nürburgring Finale just fifteen days ago. While 2014 may have been another dominant year for those true masters at Nissan/Toyota Racing, they again showed it in a brilliant way, and we are all sure that Diddy Kong, as a three-time Professional Cup champion, will become the next big name in Enthusia lore. Now, let's begin tonight's event with a rundown at some of the top moments of the 2014 season."
The president and his translator stepped aside, and our eyes were soon treated to this year's montage of top moments on the big screen…
The montage began with Diddy's win at the Speediapolis 500. Of course, it couldn't go without Sonic and Shadow playfully shoving the milk down his throat during the podium ceremonies!
The moments ranged from Tails' emotional win at Tsukuba in April to my fiftieth win at BURGENSCHLUCHT in July. However, nothing could compare to Diddy's ultimate triumph at the Nürburgring. It was, without doubt, the perfect end to the season.
As soon as the montage was over, the president stood on the podium again.
"For many, it's a year to remember, and for some, it's a year to forget. For one, however, it could be both, for he wanted performance better than it turned out to be, while at the same time he crushed some competition to receive the best honors for someone in his first season. At this time, we would like to present the 2014 Enthusia Professional Cup Series Rookie of the Year Award … to the driver of the 2004 Audi R8, … Shadow the Hedgehog."
Many applauded as Shadow stood up from his seat and made his journey to the stage to accept the Rookie of the Year honors. I will admit, I was very impressed with how his rookie season started; three podiums from the first three races before that wreck in San Francisco in mid-March. Nevertheless, finishing fifth in the championship is often considered good for some.
The black hedgehog accepted his Rookie trophy and stepped onto the podium to begin the acceptance speech …
"Well, thank you all. It wasn't quite the overall season performance I was anticipating when it comes to all of those championship points, but Rookie of the Year is good enough. It's what everyone at Audi/BMW Racing told me before the season was over. I had wrapped up fifth place prior to the Nürburgring Finale, so I knew that once the final week had arrived, all I had to do was just settle for anything that would happen. Unfortunately, not finishing that last race felt disappointing, but I'm glad to have wrapped up this year as the series' top rookie. I wanna thank the people at Audi/BMW Racing, who have given me the great support all year long, especially during our struggles. When I first thought that I could be a championship contender during the season's first few weeks with those three podium finishes, I was sure that nothing could get in the way, but I learned that the hard way. Nevertheless, I hope we'll have that big shot at the championship next year. It would be great to go from Rookie of the Year to championship contender. That's every driver's dream. I'd say let's follow this up with another great performance next year, and we'll be closer to that top spot. Other than that, all I have to say is thank you to those at Enthusia, thank you Audi/BMW Racing, and lastly I wanna congratulate Diddy on his big win the other week. He deserved it, and I'm sure he'll remember this for years. Thank you."
With that, Shadow left the stage with his Rookie trophy and rejoined his table, then the president spoke again …
"Well, everyone, now that we've started with our Rookie of the Year, it's time to present our next award."
Over the next half hour, many more awards were presented to certain team members and executives, but what really made me smile was Tails winning the Cleanest Driver of the Year Award, having finished every race in 2014! He was very happy to have won something tonight, after he had told me the other night that he was worried that he wouldn't. I simply replied to him that he wouldn't be here in Tokyo for no reason. No one is!
With a happy smile on the kitsune's face, the whole team could now relax, … or could they?
"Well, … it's finally time to begin the big finale of the show: our top three points finishers!"
Everyone applauded happily as the president continued on.
"Our third place driver of 2014: he entered the season as the defending Professional Cup champion, driving a car which he hadn't experienced before. Despite the lack of experience in that car, he went on to show that he was still a man to beat. He won two races this season and finished on the podium ten times. Please give it up for the driver of the 1999 Toyota GT-one, former Professional Cup Champion… Sonic the Hedgehog!"
As SEGA's big mascot made his way to the stage, he received loud cheers and applause from just about every living being in this building!
The executive chairman presented Sonic with his bronze third place trophy, seemingly just like the one he received two years ago, and the hedgehog took the podium step.
"Gee, thank you, everyone! It feels great to be back here in Tokyo as a top-three Professional Cup points finisher for the third time now. It seems that every year, things just get better and better for Nissan/Toyota Racing, which I'm very happy about. I will say this; my first year in the Toyota GT-one felt like starting a new path, even though I was the reigning Professional Cup champion. Compared to the Supra, that red machine was like a machine waiting for me to put my foot down and simply let it ride like a super-fast roller coaster. This has been one heck of a year, and I wanna thank the team for making that happen. I'll also go ahead and give my shout out to my fellow Smash fighter, Diddy. You deserved it from day one, and I'm very happy for you. Great job! Keep up the good work, my friend! I'd also like to recall what my favorite memory of this season. It may or may not surprise you, but finishing second behind my little bro, Tails at Tsukuba! I hope we'll be cherishing that for years to come, bro! It felt especially nice to finally have you as a teammate. That made this year feel so good right from pre-season testing. The only thing I'd like to forget is that race in San Francisco when my career-long perfection of race finishes finally ended. I was very disappointed, but I knew I had to put that behind me, and from there it went to constant podium finishes. Winning at Autumn Mountain this past month made the year feel complete after being wiped out of contention, but I hope that all four of us will be in that big spot next year. If this year was great, then I'm sure next year will be even better! Thank you all at Nissan/Toyota Racing for yet another wonderful year, and I hope we'll be back again next year! Thank you all!"
Sonic shook hands with the president and the executive chairman, then he walked off the stage and rejoined his table where Tails was also sitting. I watched the two rub each others' backs as the president continued.
"Thank you, Sonic, for your remarkable performance as reigning champion, and we're sure you'll be in that big spot next year, too. Now, for our second place competitor, the man in light blue having again showing the possible strength to go for the title at the last possible moment, but again just fell short, as had happened five years ago. Nevertheless, he's still one of the best drivers in the twenty-first century, and we can all be sure that he'll be a big part of the next ten years, too! He won five races and took fourteen podiums in 2014. Please put your hands together for the driver of the 1998 Nissan R390 GT1, … three-time Professional Cup champion, … (DiddyKF1)!"
I felt my heart racing as I stood up and received applause from several hundred people as I slowly walked towards the stage. I made my way up the steps and joined the president and the executive chairman, who then gave me a silver second-place trophy, as had been the case in 2009 and 2011. I gladly took the trophy and shook hands with the executive chairman before stepping up to the podium in front of about three-hundred people, then I cleared my throat and began my runner-up speech.
"Well, … first of all, I wanna thank you all for being here tonight. It's great to have a lot of supporters here. First of all, I must give big congratulations to Diddy Kong. He deserved this championship from the moment the season started, although it felt nice to be in yet another showdown with him. I love showdowns because it makes everyone look good, and because everyone can see what the top competitors are really made of. I may not have had the most competitive Nürburgring Finale of my career, but this year brought us with what I think may be the finest lineup that Nissan/Toyota Racing has ever had. Tails Prower, you've been excellent all year, and I'm sure you'll have a real run at the title next year. It's great to have you and Sonic both driving for the same car manufacturer now! Keep up the good work! I will say that 2014 has been one of the most challenging seasons I've ever been through. I've had things going on at home all year that have often put a negative effect on me, but I've been able to put those negative feelings aside and not let it affect my driving too much. At the end of it all, I'm standing here as runner-up for the third time in six years. It's really the best feeling you can have if you can't win a championship, but on the other side of it, I lost the title in a rather positive way. Diddy and I have been very close friends for seventeen years now, and to have it come down to something like this always brings me positivity, knowing that I can lose to a great friend and a great teammate if I'm not competitive enough. I may have been competitive in many ways, but I've often had to cope with the bad times along with the good. Above all, I still see myself as a future champion once again sometime soon. However, Diddy, you've been a well-deserving champion for quite some time now, and it somehow feels amazing that you're now a three-time champion. It's gonna bring a lot of love from those who support you. Keep it up, and I'm sure you'll be among the greatest champions ever! You, my friend, are a twenty-first century great! Thank you all at Nissan/Toyota Racing for yet another great year, and let's keep fighting to keep our streak going next year, too! We are a team that never quits, especially while on top of our game! Let's keep this going into 2015! Thank you all!"
I waved to the applauding crowd as I finished my speech and exchanged one more handshake with the president before he stepped up to announce the champion, while I stepped down and walked back to my table with my second-place trophy.
"And now, here's our final award to be presented tonight. This young driver, as (DiddyKF1) just pointed out, is indeed a twenty-first century great, and he's proven it once again, winning ten times this year, and finishing on the podium in all but three races. He won the Speediapolis 500, he won the French 500, he won the Nürburgring Finale, and he's ultimately won his third Professional Cup championship. Ladies and gentlemen, would you all please give a huge shout out to our 2014 Professional Cup champion, driver of the 2003 Xanavi Nismo GT-R, our one and only, … Diddy Kong!"
Just as Diddy was standing up from his seat, the whole place went wild with cheers! The little monkey smiled as he began his walk from his table to the stage. I felt happy for him, and I'm sure he felt like the happiest little monkey on Earth! Indeed, he deserved this, and he earned it in the way that many other champions have.
Finally, Diddy made it to the stage and performed a wild cartwheel as he approached the president and the executive chairman. He shook hands with the chairman and happily took another Professional Cup Champion's Trophy, which was different from the one awarded at the Nürburgring. Then, the 2014 champion's speech began …
"Thank you all so much! I don't even know where to begin! I'm just so ecstatic right now! It feels great to be standing here as a three-time Professional Cup champion! What an honor! I feel so thankful for yet another fantastic year! Nissan/Toyota Racing is undoubtedly the best team I've ever driven for! I love you all, guys, and I hope we'll keep this up in future years, too! I wanna give a big thanks to (DiddyKF1) for all the support he's given me, even during that final week at the Nürburgring. I've never had a better teammate or friend on the racetrack than you, buddy. I wanna thank my family and friends on Kongo Bongo for everything they've done for me all year, particularly DK. He's the best ever! It especially felt wonderful to win the Nürburgring Finale on the week of Donkey Kong Country's twentieth anniversary! It made it feel so special that I'll cherish this championship for the rest of my life! I wanna give some more thanks to the guys at Nissan/Toyota Racing for giving us such competitive cars. We were pretty unstoppable all year long, and we couldn't have done this without you, guys! Thank you so much! I'll also give some shout-outs to everyone I've competed with and competed against; (DiddyKF1), Sonic, Tails, Shadow, Kunckles, … Al Reder, Jr., … Bob Stu, Jr., Greg Richards and Jean Dubois. You guys all make great competition, and I can't wait to keep competing with you next year. 2015 should be fun! This is such a wonderful way to celebrate our twentieth anniversary! To win such a dreadfully long race just five days before anniversary day feels like something so special, you could forever reflect on it when you're alone. That could happen to me in the near future. What was such a marvelous year is now just a year to reflect while we turn our attention to next year. I'm somehow ready for the season to start again. I love the many places we go to during the course of the year, and once 2015 arrives, we'll all be wanting to visit those places again … on foot and in those race cars! In conclusion to 2014, I wanna give a big thanks to everyone who supported me on my way to this year's championship. I couldn't have pulled it off without such a wonderful car that was built by such wonderful people! Thank you all, thank you, Nissan/Toyota Racing, thank you, Enthusia, and thank you, my fellow Kongs, my wonderful family and closest friends! I LOVE YOU ALL! Thank you for such a happy ending, and I'll see you all next year! Happy Holidays!"
Diddy allowed a few happy tears to escape from his eyes as he finished his speech before stepping off the podium to receive more hugs and handshakes from the members of Enthusia's executive board, then he walked off the stage, down the steps and back to his table, where DK gave him a huge bear hug while others applauded the monkey.
Finally, the president stood on the podium for the last time tonight.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, this, therefore, concludes our 2014 Enthusia Professional Cup Series Awards Ceremony. Please enjoy the food and drinks we've set up while we're all still here. We hope you've enjoyed this wonderful night of reflection on yet another fantastic season of Enthusia Professional Racing, and we hope to see you all again in 2015. Thank you all for attending tonight's event, and we'll see you next year. Good night to you all."
With that, the executive board members received one last round of applause before they stepped off the stage. Now, it was just about enjoying the many flavors of Japanese food that these people had to offer!
2014 had come and gone in what seemed like a short amount of time. It seems only a few months ago when the season first started with the Speediapolis 500, but ten months of racing have rushed by so fast, how could anyone keep up with how fast the season has flown by? In just two more months, we would be in our race cars again, with brand new 2015 components to improve the flow of competition. Now was simply a time to look back and reflect how competitive 2014 was. Diddy Kong was now a three-time champion, and he could probably be the favorite to win a fourth championship in 2015, but don't ever count me out, or Sonic, or even Tails. They all had their share of greatness in 2014, too, so they could be championship factors next year.
And so, the story of the 2014 Enthusia Professional Racing Cup Series Championship had finally come to a conclusion. It had been some wild year, but we could all hope that 2015 will be smooth yet still very competitive!
Well, I hoped you've all enjoyed this year's Enthusia season. I enjoyed bringing this PS2 exclusive into FanFiction, and I hope to bring Enthusia back to FanFiction in 2015! Until then, goodnight, … and Happy Holidays!