My name is Toad. It’s a common name in the Mushroom Kingdom but that doesn’t make it any less special. At the end of a long year in the 2015 Mario Kart World Championship, we’ve arrived at the second last race of the season. I’m in a heated battle for the title with Mario and Villager. Mario leads the championship by 1 point over me, with Villager trailing by 10 points with an outside chance. This is my first championship and from the start my goal was to be champion. People laughed at me and said things like “You’re just an average Toad” and “It’s Mario Kart, not Toad Kart“, but here I am, well in the fight. Even the cutest, most average Toad in the world can chase their dreams and that is the point I’m here to prove. I remind myself every day that I am Toad, and I can do anything. So far I’ve won some races, lost some more, and picked up a lot of points with clever strategies and hard racing. I never give up. I’m firmly in the hunt for the championship and these final two races are going to be the biggest of my life. The pressure is mounting but I’m not scared. I feel a duty to represent all the Toads and Toadettes of the Mushroom Kingdom. I’m going to do it for them.
I keep this letter with me for inspiration at every race weekend. It was my first fan letter from the start of the season, and it reminded me of myself when I was a little Toad. I watched Toad Senior race in the 1992 championship and it made me so happy to see a Toad out there. He was in the championship hunt until the very end, but unfortunately took a shell pummeling to lose the title with a 4th place. I wished for a way to show Toad Senior my support, but Mailtoads weren’t as advanced then. This little Toad believed in me and it was all I needed. I have a lot of reasons for doing this, but this letter helped me find clarity and filled me with certainty. Whenever I doubted something I would open the letter and say, “I’m doing it for THIS Toad”. Everything made sense. I knew if this Toad saw what I could do, he would grow up with the same passion to do anything he wanted. I could do all my physical and mental training with this thought fueling me.
The second last race of the season was to take place in Bone Dry Dunes. A lot of coins had gone into the promotion of this event and the Shy Guys had their wallets out. There were rumours around the paddock that Wario and Waluigi had developed a new engine spec with “Fire Hopping” technology. I’m not sure what that means but they are not contenders for the championship, and I’m happy with my little go-kart. It’s not the most powerful in the field, but my little feet can push the pedal as hard as anyone. We were quite far from any Toad neighbourhoods, but I welcomed the isolation. It was so important to focus right now. I felt a little of the pressure had been lifted and I could think hard about the race and do what Toads do best, get down to business. There would still be thousands of Toads watching at home on Mario Kart TV, it just felt like I had some breathing room. Mario had won this race last year and was acting a little cocky about it, doing his usual interview routine. The fans were all lapping it up. Fair enough, Mario had already proven himself with multiple titles under his belt. I just wanted to be quiet and focus on the race. All the chatter before the race didn’t matter, it’s results that matter.
I had studied this track well and knew I could be fast here. The sharp corners suit my little body more than most, and I felt especially confident in the last section of the track. As we’ve seen a lot this season, a race win is often decided on the final lap and that’s when your brain really needs to be switched on. I’m pretty sure one of my red spots got a little bigger as my squishy toad head went into overdrive thinking up strategies. There were a lot of potential situations to assess. Would I drop back into 2nd if a Blue Shell was coming? Which corners are best to do that? Should I throw a shell back, or hold it? What were the key spots to defend? I had plans for every situation. Bad things can happen on any track, but as long as I was prepared, I felt confident.
The race was about to start. Lakitu checked our vehicles and asked if everyone was ready. Mario was revving his motor already and I just tried to ignore it. If I’m going to win, I have to think about my own race. Wario was the driver starting from pole position, but I wasn’t too worried about him. He was trying to impress some oil investors in the dunes, no doubt for a new business opportunity, and his kart was probably set up for qualifying to grab headlines. I gave Lakitu the thumbs up and I was focused, ready.
3, 2, 1!!! Off we go!!! I got a great start as Wario stalled on the line. It was too early to look behind me but I was in 1st, and aimed myself right at the first item box on the inside line. Dododododod… my first item is… a COIN!! Oh no! This was bad because it made me vulnerable. I looked back in case a shell was coming and saw Mario get hit by something. YES! Before I could celebrate too much I saw a red shell coming right for me. I had no defense and knew this would be a long race now. I braced myself and positioned my kart straight at the apex of the corner, I didn’t need to drift because I wouldn’t be able to finish it, so I minimised my racing line on the inside. BAM! I took the red and flipped over. Villager drove past me with a nasty look and claimed 1st. I felt a chill expand through my wobbly head, because he was also in the championship hunt. 3rd place in the standings, but if he won this it would change everything. I shifted all my thoughts to the racetrack as I regained control of my kart.
I was in 6th place now with karts all around me. The next item box was important for survival so I went a little wide for the top box, as karts in front of me fought for the inside boxes. I saw Yoshi get pushed off the side, poor fella has had a miserable season but still looks happy after every race. He got his title in 1995 and liberated Yoshis everywhere, and I was determined to do the same for the Toads and Toadettes. I was now in 5th and the item wheel was turning as we entered the tunnel section, the most dangerous part of the track. Bowser in front fired a shell off the wall and it was bouncing everywhere, I also heard some bouncing behind me. This was extremely dangerous, and Bowser’s roar echoed off the walls to emphasise that. My item was still ticking… it’s a STAR!!! GO GO GO!! I mashed it right away and drove straight into Bowser! YES! Here comes TOAD!! Wayeepbo!! Haaaiii!
Now in 4th, I gained another place as Rosalina got hit by a wild shell. Up to 3rd! I had a lot of speed going into the final corner and decided to go for the shortcut, because the star had just enough time left if I got it just right. With my little arms gripping the wheel as tight as they could, I hopped to the right with immense speed from the star and started to turn in left. Thanks to my little kart and little body, I was able to get a very sharp angle to make the shortcut. The star faded as I was on the sand but I managed to not lose any speed with a little hop to get back on the track. I was in 2nd place now and I could see Villager in front of me. I then looked to the left, and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Some Toads had somehow caught a flight to Bone Dry Dunes and snuck into the circuit to cheer me on. What an unbelievable sight. They were so happy to see me, and the feeling was mutual as butterflies filled my little heart. I felt like I was flying all of a sudden as my kart became the lightest thing in the world. This was so unexpected. I have never seen such fan dedication, this championship had come a long way.
Continuing down the straight, I turned my immediate joy into determination with a hard grimace straight ahead. I had to stay focused. I knew I could win this race and Villager was the only racer in front of me as we started lap 2. He was holding a banana behind and I was watching it very closely, as he had been unpredictable with these throughout the season. I claimed the item box and it was… a red shell!! I had to be smart with this, because I couldn’t hit Villager directly. I looked behind and saw Rosalina had gotten a banana, so luckily I didn’t have to defend. With nothing to lose I fired the red shell at Villager and it broke his banana. Positions remained the same but I was slowly closing the gap with my driving. The next item box was important because he was now defenseless. We both took the inside item box on the twisty section, I was far enough behind that I didn’t have to compromise my racing line. Before we could look at our items I heard a sound in the distance. It could only be one thing.
BLUE SHELL!! WOW, this was exactly what I needed, but I had to be careful because this is a very thin track and I was also vulnerable to it. I dived to the right and just missed the wall, not losing much speed. The Blue Shell whizzed past me and I let out a huge gasp of relief. Villager was at the end of the tunnel and SLAMMED ON THE BRAKES!! OH MY GOD. The Blue Shell was now on target to hit both of us. This would throw the race wide open and I didn’t want to leave things to chance on lap 3. His kart was parked right before the boost, and he looked back at me with the most evil stare I have ever seen.
I looked back to gauge the Blue Shell’s distance but it was right there. I had no choice but to keep going because braking now would lose me just as much time. I couldn’t let Mario catch up. I stared straight towards Villager, directly into his eyes. They were cold, but I could see right through him. I knew his plan. He was 3rd in the championship and needed both myself and Mario to have bad races. He was trying to intimidate me but I wasn’t scared. I am a brave Toad. I drove straight towards him as the Blue Shell took aim at his kart. Before it plunged down, I hit his kart at full speed and hoped the anti-gravity boost would be enough to propel me away. I just had to drive straight towards the ramp and hope for the best. I braced myself and time slowed down. I could see every frame. Villager’s arrogant face turned to shock as he realised what I was doing. He was now behind me and the shell was inches from his face. WHOOSH!! I made the ramp and closed my eyes as I felt the heat of the blue shell explosion on the back of my head. I turned back and opened my eyes to a fountain of blue while soaring off towards the final corner. WOW, I can’t believe that worked. I had little time to process what just happened as the final lap started.
This was it. I looked behind and couldn’t see anybody, but it was an awkward angle through the final corner and I knew anyone could pop out of the side with a star or mushroom. I honked the horn for my Toad friends on the left, and then focused all my will on going straight for the item box. A green shell, good stuff. At the very least now I could defend from a … red shell, and THERE IT IS! Right away a red shell destroyed my green defense. I looked back and Mario was there. How on earth did he recover?! He must have taken the shortcut. I hadn’t seen him since the start of the race but this is what it came down to. We both had no items now, so it was pure racing to the next item box. I don’t know if I was gaining time because I was just putting all my energy into driving and looking forward.
I needed more defense with the next item box… another COIN! Not what I wanted but I couldn’t let it fluster me. I looked back and Mario got a coin too so there was no danger. In fact I was almost out of danger as we had ONE MORE item box to go. I had a big enough lead over Mario that even if he got red shells or mushrooms I would be okay, surely. I was so close now and was opening my final item. It was a green she-BAM-
LIGHTNING!! Oowwwwwchie. My mushy head absorbed the shock and I thought about Mario, where was he? If he got hit by lightning before the last item box I was in danger, because he could get a red shell, or a mushroom. Something. He’ll be big too. Oh my god, jsut drive straight Toad. That’s all I’ve got to do, keep driving.
I looked behind me and Mario had just got an item. It was a red shell. I wasn’t going to give up. I was so close to the line maybe he couldn’t fire it in time. Maybe he would miss. Maybe he’d have to defend. Maybe another lightning. I don’t know, something. Just drive Toad, just drive. Almost there. Allllllmmmoooooostttttt-
Mario had won. I crossed the line in 2nd and my heart sank. My thoughts immediately turned to the Toads who flew out here, but I looked over to the left and they were gone. I’m so sorry. I had gotten their hopes up on the final lap only to shatter them into pieces. Us Toads don’t have the strongest hearts and we put our faith and trust into things very easily. I knew how they must be feeling and I was devastated. Absolutely gutted. I thought about the young Toad who wrote me the letter, and everyone watching at home on Mario Kart TV. It was all too much. I climbed out of my kart and tried to hold it all together, I had to still be strong because I was still in the championship and composure was so important. 2nd would have been a good result on any other day. It was a very important race, but the next one is even more important now. I wanted the Toads to still look forward to the final race, to keep believing. We’ve come this far.
Even though the race was lost, 2nd place is still enough to keep me in the championship. Mario was now 4 points ahead which means I need to win the next race, and he needs to come 3rd or lower. It brought an element of luck into the equation. I had a lonely trip home to think about it all. I went back through the race in my mind, the lightning piercing through my body, the impact on my kart as the red shell shattered to pieces. I thought about what I could have done differently. Should I have dropped back beforehand? No, that would’ve been silly if the lightning didn’t happen. I would have felt much worse about doing that. In the end there was just nothing I could do, a frustrating yet peaceful thought as I look ahead and clear my mind. All my focus now was to go towards the final race at Mario Kart Stadium.
To Be Continued…