The Sugo team had just finished their first PR event of the new Formula E season. All afternoon Hayato and Henri had given informal speeches next to their new car, taken questions from fans, raced against the world in sim-racing, posed for photos and signed autographs in Johannesburg’s largest shopping mall.
“My hand is starting to cramp up.” Henri groaned but still kept a smile on his face (for the fans’ benefit only) as he signed yet another team cap.
Hayato ignored his team-mate. He didn’t want to say that he’d noticed he’d actually been signing about four-times as much stuff as his French counterpart, but that’s what comes with being the face of your series.
Around 15 minutes later the crowd seemed to realise the event was coming to an end. Hayato and Henri sat on the sidepods of their new challenger while Asuka stood by its front wing and Osamu at its rear wing. With the crowd behind them Hayato extended a giant selfie-stick and captured the moment forever.
The crowd eventually grew thinner and continued with their Christmas shopping (something Asuka really wanted to do too) when a young man wearing a red Ferrari shirt and Ferrari baseball cap, jeans, sunglasses and a white surgical mask over his face approached the four of them. The man bowed and thus gave away his nationality.
“I’m sorry for barging in like this but large crowds make me nervous.” His speech was slightly muffled by his mask.
“There’s no need to be nervous. You’re among friends here.” Hayato smiled then noticed the number on the mystery man’s baseball cap.
“Number 63. Do you like Taira Capeta?” he asked.
“Yes.” The man answered. “But I haven’t got his autograph yet. I brought a new book just for racing drivers and I was hoping you’d be the first name Kazami-san.” He continued as he took his new autograph book and pen out of his deep jean pocket.
“I’d be honoured.” Hayato grinned and went over to the fan to christen his book.
“Could you please make it out to ‘your friend’ if that’s not to cheesey Kazami-san?” the man asked.
“I’ve been asked to write and sign all sorts of things worse than that in the past.” Hayato chuckled as he signed his name all over the page whilst the man slowly removed his mask and sunglasses.
“So have I.” he smiled.
Hayato looked up and jolted in shock.
“T-Taira?!” Hayato could say no more for fear of starting a stampede of people who, fortunately for them, were too busy were shopping.
“Holy shit!” Henri exclaimed to himself as the Sugō sibling’s eyes widened.
“Hello Hayato. Good luck this season.” Taira grinned.
“You too buddy.” Hayato gave Taira a man-hug before Taira quickly put his sunglasses and mask back on.
“Any chance of getting Henri and the rest of your series to sign this over the weekend?” Taira asked pointing at his autograph book.
“You got it buddy. I’ll say it’s for a very good friend of mine.” Hayato smiled.
“Don’t tell anyone it’s me though.” Taira insisted. “I want to surprise old man Mifune at an IndyCar event too.”
Hayato couldn’t help but snigger at ‘old man Mifune’.
“How are your kids Hayato?” asked Taira.
“Hinode is still karting. She’s starting to take it more seriously now so we’ll have to see where it leads. Junior has just gone up a class in karts too. I think there may be a Kazami dynasty in Formula E in the future.”
“Will you stop boring him with your children’s exploits and let me sign his book already?” Henri barged in having listened to the two Japanese drivers nattering for what seemed like an eternity.
Henri quickly signed the next page and returned to the Sugo area as Asuka approached Taira and Hayato.
“How are things with your girlfriend Taira-chan?” she asked.
“Noriko is still in Formula 2. She seems to be happy there at the moment. The younger drivers have started telling me they see her as a big sister. She advises them lots too.”
“Well someone has to.”
The new voice belonged to a female who was sporting the same baseball cap, sunglasses and mask as Taira and was currently wrapping herself around his right arm.
“Miss Hata I presume?” Asuka bowed.
“Indeed.” Noriko bowed too, as did Hayato when he realised what was going on.
“Come on Taira. I want to check out that electronics store we passed earlier.” Said bowed again as she began pulling Taira away from Hayato.
“Hayato! Help me!” Taira mocked-screamed and waved his free arm around seeking the help that would never come. All Hayato did was wave and thank his lucky starts that wasn’t him.
Asuka spotted Hayato was still holding Taira’s autograph book.
“Hadn’t you better run after him with that?” she suggested.
“He wants the rest of us to sign it this weekend. I hope it goes better than the last time we went autograph hunting.”
At the opening Formula 1 race of the season Taira proudly showed off his complete collection of Formula E autographs to his fellow Japanese F1 drivers.
Naomi Minamoto, Ryou Shiba and Akira Kaneda were all gathered around the Ferrari paddock area in their respective Racing Point, Williams and AlphaTauri overalls looking at all the signatures in Taira’s book.
“Henri Claytor’s handwriting is appalling.” Akira remarked.
“Then look at Karl Lichter von Randoll’s. He looks like he’s just signed a royal warrant.” Ryou chipped in pointing at the Austrian noble’s contribution.
“Naoki Shinjyo’s is pretty simple.” Naomi commented as his interest began to wane.
“This is my favourite one!” Taira enthused as he proudly displayed Hayato Kazami’s full page dedication.
“Hopefully I’ll be remembered by the racing world as fondly as he will be.” He hoped.