ROUND 21

Nürburgring Finale – Nürburgring Nordschleife, Nürburg, Germany

November 16, 2014


At long last came the third week of November, the week that everyone would be going nuts about; the Nürburgring Finale week! The last race of the season was now just a few days away, and there wasn't a single person in the Enthusia community that wasn't talking about the championship duel that Diddy Kong and I were soon to go through. It may not have felt exactly like 2012, but Nissan were, as many times before in the last eight years, the talk of the town.

On Monday, November 10, in celebration of Donkey Kong Country's 20th Anniversary, Nissan/Toyota Racing unveiled a special paint job on Diddy's Nismo GT-R for the Nürburgring Finale. Small bananas had been painted on numerous parts of the car, the Donkey Kong Country logo took the place of the Xanavi logos on the hood and on the doors, as well as on the rear bumper. There was a large "20" on the roof, and the classic DKC logo also appeared on the rear quarter panels. The logos for other games in the DKC Series appeared on the doors, along with signatures from every Kong that supported Diddy tremendously; Donkey, Cranky, Candy, Funky, Dixie, Tiny, Chunky and Lanky, in order to wish their little hero good luck.

Overall, it was well beyond what I had pictured in my head what the car would look like, and I could only say that it was such a gorgeous paint job! Diddy would be driving with that car throughout the entire week in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of his debut game appearance, "Donkey Kong Country"!

Unlike the other tracks, the Nürburgring has practice almost every day of the week, starting on Monday. Shortly after Diddy's Nürburgring car was unveiled, it was in the Nissan/Toyota Racing garage with Diddy ready to get behind the wheel and drive his first 2014 lap on the Nürburgring Nordschleife!

The Nürburgring Nordschleife is Enthusia's only real-life circuit other than the Tsukuba Circuit in Japan. The dangerous "Northern Loop" (German for "Nordschleife") runs at a length of 12.944 miles, making it one of the longest race tracks on Earth. There are nearly 200 turns in all, and because the length of the course is so long, there is no safety car; drivers are instead required to slow to the caution speed limit of 100 miles per hour should someone crash out during the race. The longest straight is Döttinger Höhe, which comes just before the end of the lap, at a length of over 2 miles, making drivers capable of reaching speeds of up to 215 miles per hour before having to brake for the final set of corners where the pit entrance lies. There are so many dangerous sections on the Nürburgring, but none could be comparable to Aremberg, which is around four miles into the lap, and the Karussell, a very tight hairpin that requires perfect skill to master.

The track first opened in 1927, although Enthusia has been using this course as the season's final race since 1965, even during the period of the late seventies and early eighties when the track was being redesigned to improve safety measures.

Today, the race distance for the Nürburgring Finale is fifty laps. That makes the distance at 647.2 miles, the longest race of the year. No wonder it's saved for last!

I've set my marks on the Nürburgring before. In seven previous years, I have won here four times, which ties Al Reder, Jr. for second place on the all-time Nürburgring Finale winners list, trailing only the late Bob Stu, Sr.'s five wins on the Nordschleife. Two of my three championships have been won on the Nürburgring. People thus know me as a "Nürburgring Master", although I've had my struggles here, too. In 2009, I narrowly lost the title race to Bowser Koopa, Jr., marking the end of Nintendo's Enthusia curse. I also finished third in 2010, while I later took second in 2013. This means that I've never finished outside the podium here. Add to the irony, I have never entered the Nürburgring Finale as a driver who has NOT been in contention to win the championship. I have been in contention every year, albeit 2008, when I clinched the title three race early. This is the eighth straight year in which I have entered the Nürburgring race as a championship-related subject.

Diddy Kong has won on the Nürburgring only once, in 2010 in the Toyota Supra. His car, the Nismo GT-R, has never won here. Now, after three straight years of near-misses on the Nordschleife, and two straight near-misses in the championship race, he now wanted more than ever to win this year's Nürburgring race.

This year would mark the fiftieth time the Nürburgring Finale has taken place since the race inaugurated in 1965. This was also the end of the sixtieth season of the Enthusia Professional Cup Series. Add in the fact that this was Diddy's twentieth anniversary weekend, and what we have here is a weekend that could go down in history under specific circumstances!

Monday practice kicked off with Diddy Kong being the first one out in his new paint job! He blazed around the 13-mile Nordschleife with a time of 5:58.309, setting the early pace for Nürburgring week. Having established himself as a top runner on the Nürburgring, the monkey felt very happy with himself.

His happiness continued on Tuesday, when he set an even faster time, at 5:52.019, while I improved my pace by five seconds, to 5:54.835, becoming the second fastest driver on day two.

On Wednesday, Tails Prower made his mark with 5:51.704, while Diddy set another quick time: 5:49.102. It sure seemed that Diddy was going to be in for a perfect week on the Nürburgring!

Day four; Thursday: I take the fastest time with 5:46.934, while Diddy's fastest time is 5:47.019. This ensured that I had the pace to threaten Diddy's championship challenge, should something happen to him on Sunday.

Then came Friday, … qualifying day!

Unlike all other circuits, when you qualify at the Nürburgring, you only get one chance. Due to the track's extreme length, only one qualifying lap per driver is allowed.

To no one's surprise, many of the other competitors turned in laps at just under six minutes, but Diddy's time turned at an astounding 5:42.001, setting the fastest lap time all week! My qualifying lap turned in at 5:42.312, which meant that my chances of showing a chance against Diddy for the championship had taken a small decrease. The Toyotas of Sonic and Tails turned in at 5:45.502 and 5:44.412, respectively, which put Tails ahead of Sonic. Both proved faster than all of the other teams, which meant that Diddy Kong had taken pole position for the tenth time this season, while I qualified alongside him on the front row. Tails took third with Sonic in fourth.

With ten poles during the year, Diddy had proven himself as, once again, Enthusia's best qualifier! I glimpsed at the big smile on his face as he accepted his thirty-sixth career Pole Award. He knew that his weekend was one step closer to becoming a big success! With me being in second place on the grid, he could feel the pressure building up on him towards the race for the Professional Cup title, even though I was just over 300 points behind.

Nevertheless, a sixth place finish or better would guarantee the championship for Diddy, regardless of where I finished!

On Saturday, the only day of the week where Professional Cup activity was not involved, it being the day of the Bridgestone Series finale, Diddy and I were interviewed during the evening prior to the year's final event …

In the press room, the interviewer was Michael Curtis, the main anchor for the Enthusia Racing Network, the sport's broadcasting division.

"Diddy, you've had a great week so far, and it seems that now the pressure is only going to build as the Finale is just a matter of hours away. Do you feel a lot of pressure prior to a race like this?" Curtis asked Diddy.

"I do feel a lot of pressure," answered Diddy, "When you're racing 650 miles at the Nürburgring, just to try to win a championship, everyone feels so much pressure. The fact that it's the Nürburgring, alone, can build up pressure. I mean, it's such a dangerous course, and that can give you pressure throughout the whole week, let alone the race on Sunday."

"You have a 305-point advantage over (DiddyKF1) for the championship race. How do you think this will play out?" asked Curtis.

"I'm sure that if the car can stay reliable throughout the race, and if I can lead as much as I can, like I did in the last two years, then I'm sure it could come down to what we want it to come down to. At the Nürburgring, it's all about lasting."

Then, Curtis turned towards me.

"(DiddyKF1), second place on the grid, and you, too, have been fast all week. Can you do it?"

I adjusted my microphone and gave out my answer …

"I think that possibilities are unlimited when it comes to the Nürburgring Finale, mainly in competition, and sometimes when it comes to the championship. I'm not counting myself out just yet. I would never count myself out until the race is over."

That earned a giggle from Diddy as I continued …

"Sure, I've won here four times, and I've won two of my titles right here on this 13-mile track, so anything can happen, and when it comes to the Nürburgring, more than anything could happen."

"Both of your cars have been performing very well during practice," pointed Curtis, "How do you think this will play out in the race, knowing that this is a pure championship race with no manipulation?"

"Like I've said before, we at Nissan/Toyota Racing don't believe in manipulation," I responded, "It's all-out action right until the checkered flag waves. It'll be a similar situation to what 2012 was. We race until it's over."

"Yeah, it's all about showing what we're made of," agreed Diddy, "Everyone wants to show their talents, and we have lots of talent on the Nürburgring, and oftentimes it can be best to save your best energy until the last minute instead of using it all up within the first half of the race. You wanna be fastest when it comes to the closing laps and you can really challenge for the win."

With these words in mind, Diddy and I were determined to show that we were in for yet another exciting championship duel, despite the 305-point margin separating us.

Finally, we slept through Saturday night, and soon Sunday morning arrived with grayish light from the clouds that overcast the area with the big possibility of rain during the race, much to Diddy's dismay.

Diddy was not the best when it came to racing in the rain, but his determination would not go away. Wet or dry weather, that little monkey wanted nothing more than to win, but so did I. This championship duel would have to be settled in mixed conditions.

Within the first hour after we woke up in the hotel, Diddy and I got ourselves cleaned up, dressed, fed with breakfast, and soon we were ready for our last physical warmups prior to the race.

The race itself was to start at 12:00 PM (CEST), so time was ticking for us to get warmed up before we headed for the year's final pre-race meeting.

After the meeting, we ultimately got our uniforms on for the last time this year, then we headed for the paddock/garage exit, where the drivers were to be introduced to the crowds via speakers set up all over the Nürburgring. Camper vans were parked all around the 13-mile course, hoping to get a glimpse at us in action.

Knowing that rain was in the forecast, I hoped these introductions would get done fast. It seemed to be quite a coincidence that today's weather called for rain. Diddy had failed to brave the rain twenty years ago during his first adventure, in which he tried to guard the banana hoard from Kremlings. It seemed now that he would get another chance at braving the rain. WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

The temperatures were very chilly, too, at the rate of about 44 degrees Fahrenheit. This could only mean that this was going to be one astounding race for the spectators!

Finally, Diddy and I were introduced, and, together, we made our way to a small stage set up towards the exit of the pit lane, only for the Nürburgring Finale's championship contenders. This was the second time in which it was just the two of us contending for the title at this German course. Nissan fans everywhere would be cheering for us now. This was the moment that everyone had been waiting for. Once the German national anthem played for the local crowds, we would finally get to step into our cars for the last time in 2014, for the next six and a half hours!

Once I exchanged one more handshake with Diddy and stepped into my car, I immediately strapped myself in, put my HANS device, helmet and gloves on, and ultimately awaited the moment that the engines would fire. There would be no warmup laps at the Nürburgring due to its long length. The tires and engine are warmed up just an hour before the race in the garage via machines.

This would be the starting lineup for the fiftieth Nürburgring Finale:

ROW 1

1. Diddy Kong – XANAVI NISMO GT-R; 2. myself – NISSAN R390 GT1

ROW 2

3. Miles "Tails" Prower – TOYOTA EXXON Superflo Supra; 4. Sonic the Hedgehog – TOYOTA GT-one

ROW 3

5. Shadow the Hedgehog – AUDI R8 TEAM GOH 2004; 6. Al Reder, Jr. – MAZDA 787B

ROW 4

7. Greg Richards – AUDI R8 TEAM GOH 2003; 8. Knuckles the Echidna – McLaren F1 GTR

ROW 5

9. Bob Stu, Jr. – HONDA G'ZOX NSX; 10. Jean Dubois – Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM

ROW 6

11. Pedro Fernandes – OPEL Astra V8 Coupe 24h

At 11:55 AM, the final command came on the loudspeakers …

"GENTLEMEN, … START … YOUR … ENGINES!"

I flipped my "Ignition" switch up, and, for the final time in 2014, my Nissan VRH35L engine roared to life, ready for 650 miles at the Nürburgring!

Five minutes later, just before the clock hit twelve, a grid girl, dressed in sparkling silver, stepped up to the start/finish line and stood right at the center just in front of Diddy's car.

The woman stretched her arms out and raised them up before swinging them down forward.

This signaled the 2014 Nürburgring Finale was … "GO!"

Diddy took off into the first corner with such an incredible start! I could only watch from second place as he stormed past the Nordkehre and took off with the lead. Sonic and Tails quickly filled up my crowded mirrors as Diddy escaped being bunched in at the start.

After a few more corners, I began to feel comfortable with how my car was performing, and I put my foot down to charge after Diddy. Within almost no time, I was in his slipstream and keeping up with the Nismo GT-R.

Throughout the first few minutes, though, I couldn't find a way to get past Diddy. He seemed to have brought his A-game today, knowing that the championship had not been decided yet.

My first chance at passing him came at Bergwerk, where he almost slowed down enough for me to overtake him, but then he proved that he was fast either way when I couldn't get past!

After six and a half minutes, the first lap was complete, and Diddy was still just ahead of me, having even fended off everyone on the super-fast Döttinger-Höhe straight.

It continued like this until the end of lap seven, when the first round of pit stops arrived.

Diddy had built up a four-second lead prior to this first stop, and his crew was ready to keep him ahead, while my crew was ready to put me back into a position to challenge for the lead.

Diddy's stop went very well, as did mine, but it was no use in keeping me in Diddy's draft. Therefore, I had slipped farther behind him.

Sonic and Tails again filled my mirrors, and this time they were not going to just sit there and let me slow them down.

On lap nine, Tails blasted by me for second at Aremberg, then Sonic passed me at Metzgesfeld to take over third place.

With the famous "Sontails" duo showing their strengths, this Nürburgring Finale was already showing some excitement for many spectators that were watching us tackle the "Green Hell".

Then, just as it seemed that Diddy was about to pull up a ten-second gap, a frightful accident occurred at Metzgesfeld on lap ten …

Al Reder, Jr. locked up his brakes while chasing Shadow the Hedgehog for fifth place going into Metzgesfeld, and the Mazda 787B slid right into the back of the 2004 Audi R8. Both cars went flying over the wall on the outside of the turn and disintegrated!

Debris flew everywhere!

There was no way this race could continue without the use of a full-course caution for lap ten in order to clean up the gigantic mess left by the two cars.

Amazingly, both drivers emerged from the wreck … unharmed!

I could picture in my head, Reder receiving some end-of-season penalty of some sort after such a wreck like that, but it seemed very unlikely.

Once the wreckage was cleared, the green flag waved over the start/finish line at the beginning of lap eleven.

Forty laps to go, and we were once again racing at the Nürburgring!

Diddy once again pulled off with the top spot, while Sonic took Tails for second. I stayed put in fourth, but not for long …

At Kesselchen, Greg Richards blew by me for fourth. It was then that I noticed a symptom of what seemed to be a problem with my car.

My car began to handle badly in some corners, particularly Pflazgarten 2.

Then, I almost lost fifth to Knuckles the Echidna towards the end of the lap, but I kept him back with a block as he attempted to overtake.

I dealt with this bad handling for a few more laps. I even began to think that it was a chassis problem that was causing the handling problems. I quickly radioed my engineer and told him about the handling issue.

Thankfully, just four more laps remained before pit stops came up, so I dealt with it as much as I could by braking early in most corners and building my speed up with fast exits out of the turns.

This proved to be very successful, as I was soon in the draft of Richards before we pitted for the second time at the end of lap fifteen.

During this crucial stop, my crew made some quick chassis adjustments, and, sure enough, once I came back out of the pits, having not gained any places, my handling problem was gone! My car was as good as it had been all day, and I could drive the heck out of it!

Richards then blasted his way past Sonic and Tails to capture the second position, much to everyone's surprise.

I then caught up with the "Sontails" duo by the end of lap sixteen, and quickly challenged them for race position. After all, my championship chances were very slim by this point, and I needed to make it all count.

Diddy, meanwhile, was setting fastest lap after fastest lap over and over. He was running at such a tremendous pace that it seemed that no one could challenge him at this rate, unless another caution came out.

It wasn't until lap nineteen when I passed Tails for fourth at Kesselchen, then took off after Sonic and Richards.

Sonic then passed Richards for second at Hohe Acht, while I followed right behind them.

At this point, Diddy had built up a fifteen-second gap over us, and the race was nearing the halfway point.

On lap 22, we made our third round of pit stops, and I came out ahead of Sonic, but Richards had regained second.

My championship opportunity seemed to slip even further away two laps later …

On lap 24, Jean Dubois, running in seventh, lost his engine, the power unit going up in smoke, and he pulled the car onto the grass at the entrance to Aremberg to retire his Mercedes. Both rookies were now out of the Nürburgring Finale.

This now meant that if one more car, other than Diddy, retired, then the championship race would be over.

I now desperately wanted to make my way around Richards and regain second place should that caution come out.

At Mutkerve, I was able to get ahead of the 2003 Audi R8, but I got no word of a caution coming out, because Dubois had parked in a safe area in the grass without leaving any considerable oil slicks on the track from his blown engine.

The halfway point approached just minutes later, as we got to the end of lap 25.

Still more than 320 miles to go, but I could sense that my championship hopes could still be dashed, because who knew if someone could be bound to retire and guarantee the title for Diddy?

My only hope now was that I could catch Diddy the hard way and hope that something would happen that would force him to drop back. It was now my only hope for winning the title.

On lap 29, we pitted for the fourth time, and, thanks to the quick performance from all of the pit crews, the order stayed the same, except I was finally closing in on Diddy's huge lead. By the end of lap 30, the gap was down to just ten seconds.

Lap after lap, I slowly gained on Diddy's advantage, but I could never really gain a visual on his car. It seemed as if he was just an invisible monkey trying to pull tricks on the last day.

Then came the fifth round of pit stops on lap 36, in which my crew performed faster than Diddy's crew, and this enabled me to take another five seconds off his lead.

Even if every lap took six minutes to complete, and Richards, Sonic and Tails continued to stay close behind, I was sensing my chances coming back.

Add to that, the weather was still dry throughout the race. Perhaps, Mother Nature had decided to behave herself after all.

Then, the end of lap forty. Just ten laps to go! I was finally right up behind Diddy! I could, at long last, see the back of that specially-painted Nismo GT-R filling up my vision. My advantage was beginning to pay off!

Moments later, though, it was all undone …

Greg Richards' rear right tire exploded at the entrance to the blind-spotted Flugplatz corner… and sent him spinning so quickly that it looked dizzying from my perspective.

The 2003 Audi R8 spun directly into a wall and was sent on a one-way course to destruction.

Now that four cars had retired from the race, with Diddy not being among them …

"DIDDY KONG IS THE 2014 ENTHUSIA PROFESSIONAL CUP SERIES CHAMPION! (DiddyKF1)'s CHANCES ARE NO MORE! TOO MANY CARS HAVE RETIRED, AND NOW HE CAN NO LONGER CHALLENGE DIDDY'S POINTS TALLY, AS HE WOULD STILL BE AT LEAST TEN POINTS BEHIND, REGARDLESS! DIDDY KONG, THEREFORE, HAS JUST WON HIS THIRD CHAMPIONSHIP! HE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE TO FINISH THE RACE!"

Just from a simple tire blowout that caused a fourth car to retire from competition, I was gone! Diddy Kong was the 2014 champion! I was eliminated DURING the Finale! No more championship race! The chase was over!

The yellow lights came on, signaling that the next lap would run under caution, because the debris from Richards' trashed car had scattered all over Flugplatz.

I would now spend the final nine laps, simply contemplating on what could have been, had things gone a little differently. I could no longer contend for the title, so I could now just race for the sake of a repeat in Nürburgring glory.

At the same time, though, I felt happy for Diddy. He had deserved to win this, not that I had wanted to let him win it, but I knew how much he wanted to win on such circumstances that were flowing around us as we approached this final week.

However, even though the championship was no longer on the line, there was still the closing laps of the Nürburgring Finale to consider. I could still go for the race win and bring us a very great even result for Nissan in these final laps!

At the end of the caution, going into the 43rd lap, we all pitted for the sixth time for tires and fuel. From here, we would be fine on tires, but fuel was another story. We would all have to pit at least one more time since we could only run up to seven and a half laps at the Nürburgring with the 20-gallon limit, and the tanks running at five miles per gallon.

With eight laps to go, the Nürburgring Finale was green once more, and I chased Diddy out of Nordkehre to begin the last duel of 2014.

Over the next three laps, I constantly tried to pass Diddy for the lead in many of the places where I usually was best at overtaking, but he blocked every single move I made, and I was never able to pass him.

Then, once we approached Aremberg on lap 45, he took off again. I was certain that my car was going rather slow, since Tails soon filled up my mirror as Diddy disappeared from view yet again.

At the end of that lap, Diddy made his final "splash and go" (a fuel-only stop), and barely kept his lead coming out. I was all over his rear end as we began the final five laps, but I knew that I still had another pit stop to consider as well.

I spent another two laps trying to pass Diddy, but again there was no way I could get a chance at looking at his front end in my mirror.

At the end of lap 47, I made my last fuel stop so that I could make it to the end. I was convinced by now that it was all over. Diddy would take off and score an easy win, and the first Grand Chelem in Nürburgring Finale history, as he had led every lap from pole position, and took the fastest lap of the race in the process.

Just these final three laps, and the 2014 season would come to an end.

At the beginning of lap 48, as I came out of the pits for the last time, I was fifteen seconds behind Diddy. Then, a quarter of a lap later, I was told that I was 13.5 seconds behind! Could this be a last chance to catch up to Diddy and challenge him on the final lap!?

Then, once I drove into the Karussell hairpin, the gap went down to 12.8 seconds! I knew by now that Diddy was taking it easy, as no one was there to challenge him.

From there, I put my foot down. I may have lost the championship, but I would NEVER go down without a proper fight!

Two laps to go (just 25.8 miles), and the gap was down to 8.3 seconds.

One lap to go; the final lap of 2014, and I was just four seconds behind Diddy! This meant that a last-minute challenge was possible!

I kept my feet mashed to the gas pedal on every straight where I could build my speed tremendously, and within the next half of a lap, I was just two seconds down.

Then, the final minute of racing arrived.

I followed Diddy out of Döttinger-Höhe, and I set myself up to pull off the same move I had pulled off on Diddy in both of the last two years, on the final lap. In 2012, it provided me with victory. In 2013, it gave me second place in the race behind Sonic. So, how about 2014?

For the third year in a row, I made my go on the final lap slingshot, …

… but …

Diddy weaved to the right and blocked my move, unlike in the last two years.

Two for two, … suddenly two for three!

NO! THIS COULDN'T BE! Now, it was really all over! No one could touch Diddy Kong all day, and now the race was truly his, from start to finish! He led every single inch of counted race distance, and now he was set for the first Grand Chelem in Nürburgring history!

As we drove through the last few corners, we all knew what the outcome was to be …

"SIXTY YEARS OF ENTHUSIA RACING, FIFTY NÜRBURGRING FINALES, AND WHO COULD'VE IMAGINED THAT ON THE WEEK OF THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF 'DONKEY KONG COUNTRY', DIDDY KONG WOULD DOMINATE THE RACE? WELL, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT'S HAPPENED TODAY! DIDDY KONG EXITS HOHENRAIN, … WINS THE NÜRBURGRING FINALE … AND HIS THIRD PROFESSIONAL CUP CHAMPIONSHIP! (DiddyKF1), A VERY CLOSE SECOND!"

Well, … that was it. 2014 is over! Diddy Kong gets to celebrate! He had just won his second Nürburgring Finale, … and his third Enthusia Professional Cup Series championship, three years after his previous title!

2010, 2011, and now 2014.

The little monkey had taken all of the glory on this spectacular day; November 16, 2014. He had once again braved the "Green Hell", as he had done in 2010, and he scored the first-ever Nürburgring Finale Grand Chelem (pole, fastest lap, lead every lap and win)!

I followed closely behind Diddy as he drove his well-deserved victory lap.

"DIDDY KONG, … YOU ARE PROFESSIONAL CUP CHAMPION! THREE-TIME PROFESSIONAL CUP CHAMPION!" I heard Diddy's engineer scream on his radio on the team communicator.

"YEEEESSSSS!" screamed Diddy happily as I picked up a hint of tears of glory on his radio transmission, "OH, MY GOD! YES! YEESS! YEEEESSSSS! YOU GUYS ARE SO AWESOME! I LOVE YOU ALL! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!"

I joined in the conversation by twisting my radio knob …

"CONGRATULATIONS, DIDDY! YOU DESERVE IT ALL! CHEERS TO YOU, AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!"

"THANK YOU SO MUCH, (DiddyKF1)!" replied Diddy joyfully, "I HATED THAT I HAD TO BEAT YOU SINCE YOU'RE SUCH A GREAT FRIEND, BUT I KNOW THAT INSIDE YOU'RE SO HAPPY FOR ME, AS ARE MY FELLOW KONGS! I CAN'T WAIT TO JUMP IN AND SHARE A BIG SMILE WITH THEM ALL!"

"You should, buddy!" I said, "You're the monkey that hardly anyone can beat! You're a real champion!"

I earned a few happy, tearful giggles from Diddy on my radio by saying that.

Diddy spent the next eight minutes running his victory lap around the circuit, greeting everyone who waved to him as he drove by the many camper vans and cabins that were filled with people waiting to congratulate him on his way to parc ferme.

In the final finishing order, Tails held off Sonic for the last podium slot, while Knuckles finished fifth. Bob Stu, Jr. finished sixth, followed by Pedro Fernandes, who was presumably in his last race for now, as the Mercedes-Benz/Opel Racing team had elected to replace him for 2015.

Finally, Diddy pulled up to the start/finish straight and performed some wild donuts and burnouts, producing a giant smokescreen that took up almost the entire area as the wall dividing the Nordschleife and the GP-Strecke was opened up.

It was the GP-Strecke where the celebrations would be held. All of the modern facilities were there, along with all of the trophies and the top authorities of Enthusia.

Tails was already waiting in parc ferme with Sonic when I joined them, soon followed by a victorious Diddy.

In almost no time, Diddy was out of his car and raising his arms in happiness. The Nismo crew reached over the fence to exchange a handshake with the monkey as they congratulated him. Everyone wanted to shake his hand and congratulate him for becoming the youngest-ever three-time Professional Cup champion, and the first video game character to repeat as winner of the Nürburgring Finale!

I got out of my car and gave Diddy a big pat on the back. He looked at me with a smile underneath his helmet, and he hugged me around the chest to show our close friendship.

After a few handshakes with Sonic and Tails, we stepped into the office facilities that would lead to the podium stage, where Diddy Kong would be getting all of that big glory; the Nürburgring Finale trophy, the big cheers and, most of all, the Enthusia Professional Cup championship trophy!

Soon, once we had gotten our helmets off, and we walked upstairs towards the stage, everything was already set up for the celebrations!

Sonic and Tails came out together; Tails finishing third in the race, and Sonic finishing third in the championship point standings.

I came out with the team boss to take the number two step.

Then, finally came the moment that everyone was waiting for, particularly the other Kongs …

Diddy Kong came jumping onto the stage and doing an acrobatic cartwheel across the stage on his way to the number one step on the center of the stage!

Everyone immediately began to cheer loudly for Diddy. It was almost loud enough to consider plugging my ears as they roared strongly.

The Japanese national anthem played, followed shortly by the Nürburgring trophy presentations and championship medals.

First of all, Tails was awarded his Nürburgring third place trophy. Then, I was presented gladly with my silver second place trophy, then the boss was given the Nürburgring Finale owner's trophy. Finally, Diddy was given his second Nürburgring Finale winner's trophy, which he had worked so hard for!

Then came the presentation of the medals for the top three in championship points.

Sonic was delightfully given a bronze medal by one of Enthusia's executives, having it gladly wrapped around his neck. I was then given a silver medal by another executive, and he wrapped it around my neck with a grin on his face.

At long last, the gold medal for the Professional Cup championship was rightfully awarded to Diddy Kong! The monkey bowed his head so that the chairman could wrap the medal around his neck, then he stood tall again and happily waved to everyone with a huge smile!

Then came the champagne!

All five of us, including the team boss, were given huge bottles of champagne, and Diddy was instantly the biggest target for spraying champagne on!

Sonic, Tails, the boss and I each poured more than half of our champagne all over Diddy, turning him into a mess from head to toe! He could only smile and giggle after receiving that big splash!

Then, we all aimed at the large crowds and sprayed almost all of our remaining champagne all over them, earning lots of screams, smiles and surprise yelps from the crowds as we showered them with champagne!

Next was the post-race interviews, conducted on the stage by a historic celebrity of Enthusia. This year's selection was former three-time Enthusia Professional Cup champion Phil Roland of England.

Diddy's words on this interview were among the happiest I had ever heard from him during the seventeen years I had known him …

"I am so overjoyed to have braved everything I could for twenty years! I wanna thank Nissan/Toyota Racing for yet another wonderful year, … I wanna tip my hat to (DiddyKF1), … and … I wanna give a big shout to my family! All of those other Kongs who have supported me during these first twenty years of Donkey Kong Country quests and on my racing career during the last fifteen years! They're the best family I've ever had, (DiddyKF1) is among the best friends I've ever had outside of home, and this is the best team I've ever driven for! I love you all! That last lap did feel like a bravery challenge for me when (DiddyKF1) made that daring attempt to pass at the end, just as he had done in the last two years, but I knew that this time, there was no letting him get away with it! I knew I had to keep him back there for once! The championship may had already been settled by then, but I needed this race win to go with it! This anniversary couldn't be complete without that, and I'm so tearfully happy! For all the DKC fans out there, thank you so much for twenty years of crazy gaming, … and I hope that it'll stay crazy for the next twenty years, too! You're all the best fans and gamers in the world! Thank you all so much! Thank you, Enthusia! Thank you, Nintendo! Thank you, DK, to Dixie, to Cranky, to Funky, and to many others whose lives I've touched over the years! If there are any names I left out, I'm sorry, but I can't name them all in a few seconds! I just wanna thank everyone for another wonderful year, and I'll never doubt that 2014 will go down in history as one of the best years ever! THANK YOU ALL! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!"

More congratulating words for Diddy came from me, Sonic, Tails, our team boss, and the chairman of Enthusia Professional Racing, Masanori Kinoshita.

(A/N: I named him after the game's executive producer and the game's composer for a majority of the soundtrack.)

Then, the biggest moment of the celebrations came …

… the presentation of the Enthusia Professional Cup Series championship trophy!

The big trophy sat on top of another stage, situated right over the start/finish line of the GP-Strecke circuit.

Diddy handed his Nürburgring trophy to the team boss and made his way down the stairs on his way to the championship stage.

I could somehow sense that the little monkey was in for a surprise once he lifted that trophy, but I wasn't completely anticipating that it would happen, even if some might have been.

Moments later, Diddy was on the stage, and he slowly lifted the heavyweight championship trophy with his arms, with a little help from his knees. Sweat ran down his face as he raised his third title trophy over his head, much to the delight of the crowds.

Only a few seconds after the trophy was lifted, Donkey Kong came up to the stage and patted Diddy on the back to get his attention. Diddy looked back and noticed his uncle standing right behind him, only just before the ape playfully lifted Diddy and hugged him. The trophy stayed in Diddy's hands as his uncle hugged him. Then, Dixie popped up from behind DK and kissed Diddy right on the cheek! Immediately, I thought it was such a pleasant sight to see the little guy being hugged and kissed like that while the championship trophy sat on his lap.

The other Kongs then appeared on the stage, and I could swear I saw the hand of every Kong, except Cranky, swinging above their heads! This could have only been one of the happiest moments of Diddy's life, even happier than some of the dangerous, life-changing quests he had gone on over the last two decades. This was the perfect way to celebrate his twentieth anniversary, and now was the time for him to, … well, … celebrate with his family and closest friends!

And thus, … that was that. The 2014 Enthusia Professional Racing Cup Series championship season had come to a happy conclusion. Happy for many, unhappy for very few others who had a dreadful season.

Here is a glance at how the final points stacked up at season's end:

THE CHAMPION IS: … Diddy Kong – 9,865 points!

THE RUNNER-UP: Myself – 9,500 points!

Third place: Sonic the Hedgehog – 8,495 points

Fourth place: Miles "Tails" Prower – 8,195 points

Fifth place: Shadow the Hedgehog (the Rookie of the Year) – 7,085 points

Sixth place: Al Reder, Jr. – 5,680 points

Seventh place: Knuckles the Echidna – 5,455 points

Eighth place: Greg Richards – 4,505 points

Ninth place: Jean Dubois – 4,400 points

Tenth place: Bob Stu, Jr. – 3,400 points

Eleventh place: Pedro Fernandes – 2,950 points


Well, that will be all for the racing action in 2014! Coming up on December 1, our final chapter on 2014 as we tend to the Awards Banquet in Tokyo, Japan … in celebration of yet another fantastic season!

See you then!