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  1. #5
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    Here's the next instalment in the Chronicles, and the first of the rivalry stories...


    Famous Rivalries - Nobuyuki Sato v. Konstantin Rykov

    If you asked me which was the greatest rivalry in AG racing history, my answer will not be what you'll expect. I admit there are some famous rivalries, such as the Tetsuo twins, or the Belmondo-Khumala battles of the 2159 season. But, in my opinion, the most satisfying rivals would have to be Nobuyuki Sato and Konstantin Rykov of the 2070s.

    Nobuyuki Sato made his F3600 debut at the start of the 2069 season. There had been alot of changing around during the pre-season following the retirements of Kel Solaar and Anastasia Cherovoski at the end of the previous season. Sato had replaced Marcus Fairclough after he went to Auricom and was paired with young Italian pilot, Paulo Marino. In his first two seasons, Sato made his presence well felt, with a couple of point scoring finishes in his first season and a couple of podium places the year after. By 2070, AG Systems were the team to beat (following Marino's championship win the year before). Sato continued his phenominal run, winning 5 of the 7 races of the season, giving him the world championship in only his third year of competing.

    Konstantin Rykov came up through unconventional channels. Because of the triumphs of Kel Solaar, most up-and-coming Russian pilots would look to Qirex Industries to enchance their careers. However, Rykov went to FEISAR instead. He later claimed that in associating with FEISAR, he would be given the easiest and purist way to enter professional racing, away from the intrigues of media exposure (after all, Qirex was controlled by the Overtel datacast Corporation). After three years at FEISAR Study, Rykov debuted in 2071 and, like Sato, make a big impact, scoring 3 consecutive third placings in Germany, Russia and the United States.

    Sato and Rykov saw themselves as serious title contenders for the 2072 season, along with the previous year's champion, Marcus Fairclough. With Qirex's decline following Sofia de la Rente's retirement, this was the first time where the champion's race was wide open. At the first race of the season in Canada, Sato got off to a brilliant start, leaving Rykov and Fairclough to battle it out for second. Numerous times the 2nd/3rd positions switched as both pilots tried to shake off the other. This stalemate caused both pilots to catch up to Sato in the later stages of the race, turning it into a three-way battle royale. Eventually, Fairclough face defeat from his younger rivals and settled for third, with Rykov in second and Sato taking victory.

    Throughout the rest of the season, all three pilots showed some of their best races with all three sharing at leat one win each. However, Fairclough managed to put the Canada race behind him to win the 2072 season by 8 points ahead of Sato on 49 and Rykov on 41. After winning his second championship, Fairclough announced his retirement.

    At first, alot of people believed that 2073 season was going to be a Sato-Rykov grudgematch, especially with Rykov moving to Qirex. However, they didn't count on Fairclough's replacement at Auricom: female Canadian pilot, Paige Mercer. Mercer was the pride of Canada; a master of the local circuits and destined for championship success in the F3600 League. She was not to disappoint, managing to pull just ahead of Sato to take the 2073 championship, with 5 wins to her name. Both Sato and Rykov scored respectable finishes, normally filling in the podium finishes. But everyone was starting to believe that the battle between Sato and Rykov was never going to happen.

    This was even more of a reality during the next season, where Rykov spent most of his time racing against his teammate, the Spaniard Matteo Munoz. Munoz had been called the "Fiery Matador" because of his short temper and agressive piloting style, but it was his behavior during the 2074 season that well earned him this title. At the final race of the season at the Firestar Research Station on Mars, Munoz had pushed passed his teammate and was scratching at the afterburners of second placed Mercer. As they approached the last chicane, it was almost obvious that Munoz wasn't going to pass the agile Canadian so, therefore, he should've held his position and been satisfied for second. However, Munoz would do the opposite: he would shunt into the back of Mercer's craft, putting her into the wall, and safely navigated the corner to achieve second palce, behind Sato. To consolate her misfortune, Rykov would alow Mercer to finish in third. Afterwards, Mercer angrily argued with Munoz over the shunt, eventually riling up the fiery Spaniard. In attempting to break up the fight, Rykov was accidently punched by Munoz, breaking his nose. Although the Commission did not disqualify him from the race, Munoz was banned from racing for five years, and was subsequently sacked from Qirex (Munoz's sacking was also as a result of Rykov's protests to the team about Munoz's attitude). Munoz never saw the track again.

    For alot of people, the 2075 season started to bring them the Sato-Rykov battle they had longed for. The Qirex team was harmonious with the signing of FEISAR graduate Makku Eerik, and Rykov pulled all the stops to give himself the best possible chance in winning the championship. Sato too was confident in the season, especially with the pre-season performance of Paulo Marino.

    The first three races saw a full-on battle for victory between the three pilots, with Marino winning in Canada and Germany and Rykov taking Japan. However, Sato was the most consistant pilot of the three, scoring three 2nds and two wins, and led the championship battle going into the penultimate race at Silverstream. But, quite unexpectantly, Rykov managed to find the speed he needed (plus Sato had difficulties finding speed) and pulled a wonderful win, with Marino behind him in second, thus going into the final race with 4 points seperating the leaders. On Mars, Rykov managed to replicate his fine form to take out that race as well as his first world championship with Sato in second (3rd in the race), followed by Marino.

    2076 was nothing but Sato vs. Rykov, even though they had some challenges from Paige Mercer along the way. Both pilots were constantly on the top two steps on the podium, and displayed some of the closest battles of the era. A prime example was the American round at Arridos IV. With Sato initially leading, those two were neck-a-neck throughout the whole race, passing each other more times than can be counted. Eventually, Rykov held out to win the race, beating Sato by six seconds. The final race on Mars seemed anti-climatic, with Rykov holding a firm lead and eventually taking the race by 11 seconds. But on the podium, Sato embraced Rykov, and later said that "Konstantin won this season just as much as I have. I couldn't have a better opponent to fight against."

    Both pilot's dominance would wane over the years. Sato would spent the next few years in the midpack, in the shadow of Paige Mercer (who would replace the retiring Marino at AG Systems in 2077) before retiring at the end of the 2079 season. Rykov would switch to Auricom (which was one of the biggest controversies at the time) and would win two more championships in 2077 and 2081 (with AG Systems) before retiring himself.

    -----------------
    AUTHOR'S NOTE: By chance, I had created and likened the rivalry between Sato and Rykov to that of Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda of the 1976 season (exactly one hundred years prior to the legendary 2076 season!). I had been watching videos on YouTube of this season and Ron Howard's dramatisation, called 'Rush', and it occured to me to turn this championship contest between the two pilots to an all-out rivalry.

    I (kind of) used Hunt's praise of Lauda at the Japanese Grand Prix to reflect the competitive nature between Sato and Rykov.
    Last edited by keg_11; 17th August 2012 at 12:38 AM. Reason: typo

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