There was one space left in the Tesco car park. I let the engine idle for a second, eyes flitting, quick and assessing over the competition for the spot. A blue Ford Mondeo nosed out of the third lane, sliding slyly into the vicinity, the driver an elderly woman with a grey perm and small glasses that glinted sharply in the light despite the steely overcast day. I narrowed my eyes at her, focussed.
I revved the engine – a threat, a declaration of power. She jumped slightly in her seat, and I clocked the moment of weakness, filing it away to use against her later. And then the race began in earnest, wheels spitting up loose stones on the tarmac, my knuckles white on the wheel as I spun the car into the fourth lane, gunning the engine and leaning forward in my seat to counteract the velocity of speed. My focus was absolute, the world receding to nothing but this strip of road as I bolted along at the top allowable Tesco Car Park speed of 5mph. My reflexes were catlike as a middle-aged man with a trolley wandered recklessly out between two Fiat 500s. I twisted tightly, neatly pivoting the wheels to careen around him in what felt like slow motion – and to him may have looked like it. The car an extension of my body, the two of us, metal and flesh, one formidable entity, working together.
My opponent didn’t stand a chance. It was like she didn’t even know we had entered a race. I executed a spectacular sliding turn into the space and slammed on the breaks, knowing the crowd around me (mainly the non-plussed man with the trolley) were throwing me admiring glances, possibly stopping to applaud.
I shot the runner up a magnanimous smile as I eased out of the driving seat - which she missed as she pulled sedately into a space opposite that I hadn’t spotted. Still, I patted the overheated engine of my yellow Fiat Cinquecento, my champion, my chariot.
The car had been a gift to me on my 18th birthday from the Formula 1 driver Mike Wilds. He raced in eight F1 World Championship Grand Prix, even competing against F1 legend James Hunt in his younger years. He took on the tracks at Le Mans and Silverstone, and his driving prowess seemed to have switched to me with the gift of the car - almost exactly like how Peter Parker was infused with powers of agility and speed having been bitten by a spider and turned into Spiderman.
I didn’t like to talk about it often, but in a way, I was a superhero of the road. A Superheroad.
When out of the car, I reverted to being a normal human without extraordinary skills. I did my shopping slowly, stretching my legs, wandering the aisles at an average speed. Always thinking about my secret life as a competitive driver on the streets on Brentwood, I bought ‘car sweets’, an essential source of energy and electrolytes for when I was competing.
I chose Fruit Gums, Chocolate Buttons, Jelly Tots and Salt and Vinegar Pringles to cover all bases of what I imagined a sports nutritionist might advise.
Back by my ride, I felt my powers flood back through my bloodstream, taking hold of my senses and permeating me with a need for exhaust fumes and screaming tyres on the open road. I climbed back
into the spot that felt most like home and pulled out onto the A1. A sleeping tiger, powerful, lethal, coiled and waiting to be let loose.
Another yellow car zipped past, and scenting petrol, I put my foot on the accelerator. The race was on, the stakes were high, and I let my instinct take over as I drew level with my yellow rival (who pretended not to notice me) and prepared once more, for victory.