CHAPTER 1: The Beginning of the Beginning of the End.
I sat on Aer Lingus flight 1014, wondering how in the name of Jesus Harold Christ I had gotten myself in this mess. What I knew about The Grand Tour scared the living, breathing shit out of me, but I was totally sure I knew the worst of it. After all, what could be worse than the penalty of failure being death? Maybe it was all Sam's fault. She knew you were desperate to clear your debts, she knew you were a good driver. She also knew that she was in your will. The contents of your whole bank account, left to her in the unfortunate event of your death. I may only have been 23, but I lived a dangerous life. A will acted as a sort of safety net, keeping safe those around me. Mainly Sam and Ryan.
Ryan Cooper had been a good friend to me since middle school. His father had worked in the old Ford Factory in Detroit, and his Grandfather had overseen the production of the Ford Model T. Real car nut. By the time he was 14, he could rattle off 20 Facts about the BMW M3 E36 from memory, even though no one in the neighbourhood could afford something like that. Ryan had set me up with my first car, an old '69 Chevy El Camino. Me and him cruised the streets of Palmont city in that thing. Sure, we drew our share of attention from the local 5-0, but we didn't care. Cars were our escape from the gang shit that happened around us every day. When we were 18, Ryan got involved in a street race that went badly wrong. He fled to Rockport and proceeded to become one of the most wanted men in America, but we kept in touch. When he heard of The Grand Tour, he knew we had to participate. He would be a sort of manager for me, as Sam was still living it up with the 23.5 million I had won for her. We were supposed to meet her at the race's halfway point. Where that was, I still wasn't sure.
"Jack? You awake?" I heard Ryan's voice in my ear, speaking in the same hushed tones he always had. "Yeah, Unfortunately" I replied. I was not looking forward to this. "After all. We might die." "You have to quit being so negative," came his reassurances. "I know we can win this. I have good cars; you have good driving abilities, what the hell could stop us?" "You're too flippant," I replied, as he was starting to irritate me. "This is putting everything on the line. If we can't win this, the organizers will kill us. If we escape those guys, the mafia will kill us. Unless we win, we're pretty much fucked."
We left Belfast City Airport and got into a shabby looking cab that took us southwards. We must have been going for about 6 hours when the driver said "Your stop, now pay me and get out." At least that's what I think he said, his Irish accent being so thick it was hard to tell. We had arrived at Delphi Valley, or as Ryan put it, "Nature's Asshole." All bogs and thick greenery. There was supposed to be a garage around here somewhere. "Three biggest killers in this part of the world," Ryan said with some enthusiasm. "Drink, Drugs and Association Soccer. In that order." "Gee, real interesting," Came my tired reply. "And where in the hell is this garage? We've been walking for like 2 hours now." I had spoken too soon. It came into view at the end of a desolate road, A place that looked like no one had visited in a good ten million years. "The cars are just in there," Announced Ryan. I initially thanked god, but my heart sunk as I saw the junkers that lay inside. "Higher performance vehicles become available as the race goes on," Ryan explained. "Now pick one." I looked at a Nissan 300ZX, a '95 Volkswagen Jetta GLX, and a scrapheap ready Mitsubishi GTO. But out of the corner of my eye, a gleaming red BMW caught my attention. Ryan looked worried.