Here's the first of my articles. More content to follow.

2058 - The Drawn Year

Throughout the F3600 years, there had been quite a few close seasons. But none were as ever close as the 2058 League, where there were three draws within the pilots' and team's championships.

2058 started on a low: the first League race to be run since the death of Chinese pilot Daniel Chang in Japan in 2056.The mood on the first race in Canada was sombre as fans and teams were curious and concerned how would the series will go with the new safety measures that had been implemented by the Race Commission. Although they were assured that AG racing would be safe and secure for both the pilots and spectators, not everyone was convinced.

AG Systems managed to attend the race seemingly relaxed, as if Chang's death had never happened. John Dekka still sat in the lead pilot's position but was joined by British pilot Marcus Fairclough. Fairclough was the first of the developmental pilots to make it to the main league, with special training achieved by both AG Systems UK and the Royal Air Force. Fairclough was instantly acknowledged in the AG community as a possible contender for the championship in the future. Fairclough brushed these praises off with modesty.

FEISAR was another team to have a pilot change for the 2058 season. Lead pilot, Sofia de la Rente, had stood down from the main pilot role to concentrate her attention to developmental roles within the team, as well as other interests. Paul Jackson replaced her as lead pilot and was joined by former AGRC pilot, Ami Nakajima. Nakajima had been FEISAR's main test pilot and technical advisor since the start of the F3600, but her popularity from her time a a pilot has never wained. Her comeback was met with near fanatical frenzy. Some critics were concerned about this move, believing this exposure may hinder FEISAR's championship efforts. But FEISAR's new team manager, Patrick Renaudin, was brimming with confidence "...with one of the best pilots of the AGRC, Jackson's 2nd place performance in the 2055 season, and the adjustments done to the ship during the hiatus would catapult FEISAR to the top of the leaderboards."

Auricom and Qirex opted not to change their lineups, with both teams having full confidence in their seasoned pilots. Auricom had undergone quite a transformation over the 2-year hiatus period, with the debut of the AR2800 Model A, the first dual-hulled racing craft in professional AG racing (their dual-hulled prototype from the AGRC didn't count). This craft is said to improve the stability of the craft, if hit by weapons, as the design can accomodate more gravity repulsionm areas as well as the extra power of the new Pro-Am SR980 stabilising surfaces and space left over for larger engines. Despite using the same engines as their outgoing AR2700, albeit modified in-house, the craft has proved to be very promising in pre-season testing.

Both pilots, Arial Tetsuo and Anastasia Cherovoski, claimed that the new craft has exceeded their expectations in terms of handling, and noticed the considerable improvement in speed as well. Team manager, Emile "E.W." Waters says "that both pilots have come well accustomed to the new craft, and can push through the lumbering Qirex craft with ease." Critics claimed that Auricom is the team to beat this season.

Auricom's confidence resulted in Qirex's anxiety. Still satisfied with their progress so far, they spent most of the hiatus just training and conditioning their pilots. When news of Auricom's revoltionary new ship emerged, Qirex hastily upgraded their craft so that it can ram past the American team. However, in pr-season testing, it is obvious, even with the upgrades, the 2058 Qirex ship is struggling to find speed in the corners. If Qirex has any shot in winning the championship, both pilots, Kel Solaar and Arian Tetsuo, would need to work together (which hasn't always been the case).

At the first race at Altima, both Auricoms blew away all the opposition to come out with a very satisfying win: the first 1-2 finish for the team. But most remarkably, Ami Nakajima proved she's still got it by pushing past 6-time champion Kel Solaar to collect 3rd. As ever, Solaar was outraged of the performance of Nakajima, and demanded that an investigation to be put forwards. Despite the accusations (of overpowered machnes), the charges agasinst Nakajima were dropped.

This set the tone for the rest of thes season, with Auricom constantly gaining the top positions on the podium, and the constant battles between Solaar and Nakajima. But the big battles were between the two Auricom pilots. Arial managed to pick up 3 wins and 2 seconds and Cherovoski took the opposite, gong into the final round in Greenland. Nakajima stayed one step ahead of Solaar by placing third for all but one round of the season (which was in Germany, where Nakajima experienced some control problems towards the end, giving third to Solaar). Going into the final round, the placings were: L. TETSUO [41]; CHEROVOSKI [39]; NAKAJIMA [26]; SOLAAR [17].

There were a lot of expectations at Silverstream. The main assumption was that Auricom would dominate, with a slight bias towards Arial Tetsuo taking the win, and Nakajima in third. Despite Qirex's smear campaign during most of the season, there was nothing to stop Arial's pouplarity amongst fans. Kel Solaar, it was rumoured, to be the most pent up anyone had ever seen him in his 20 year career. A former technician at the time noted that "Kel was so tense that a slight misunderstanding could give you break your nose. I once heard him say "I've got nothing to lose. I'm going to go out there and blitz everyone!"

The race got off to a predictable start, with Arial in the lead followed by her teammate, and further back, Solaar. By the end of the first lap, Nakajima pulled ahead of Solaar, but a series of 'lucky' weapon pads saw Solaar pass and pull ahead of Nakajima, and reach the backburner of Arial (Cherovoski had since passed her). Although Arial used the more manoeverable ship to outmatch Solaar, a mistake at the second split saw Solaar take the shorter route and assume second. The race came down to the wire with Solaar and Cherovoski battling out for victory in one of the greatest battles of the time. At first, it was believed that Cherovoski would win and become the champion. Exiting the shorter of the split routes, Solaar rams Cherovoski out of his way and holds onto the lead as they cross the finish line.

Solaar's determination, which was frowned upon by many fans, had led to three draws in the standings: Arial and Cherovoski on 46; Solaar and Nakajima on 26 in the pilots' standings; and FEISAR and Qirex on 29 (including some points scored by Paul Jackson and Arian Tetsuo in the season) in the teams' standings. However, due to the procedures regarding a drawn championship, Arial Tetsuo became the 2058 World Champion as she had claimed more wins than her teammate. Thrid palce was awared to Ami Nakajima (part because she had been more successful thorugout the season, but also to penalise Solaar for his actions in Greenland) and FEISAR claimed 2nd in the teams ahead of Qirex.

Despite this, 2058 signified the first world championship for Tetsuo, and Auricom.