The Trans-Gal One Endurance 1Mil race, as it is known officially, is one of the most gruelling and testing races in Galaxy 1. Called the Commander Williams Enduro Cup by race fans, it is known as the Dicky-Bow Run by true fanatics and the racers that compete in it because of the shape that the most direct course takes.
The race starts in the furthest most South-west at Laeden and the first leg goes diagonally across to the furthest most North-eastern world Ribilebi. Leg two goes straight to Sori at the uttermost galactic South-east before leg three back across the galaxy to Cemave in the North-west. The final Leg is back to Laeden and the big finish.
The less formal title, the Commander Williams Enduro Cup, comes from the first man to perform the incredible journey across the length and breadth of the Galaxy, Commander Giles Williams. The story goes that Commander Williams was relaxing in the Traveller's Rest tavern on Laeden's second Coriolis station, quietly celebrating his newly-acquired Elite Rating with his friends, when he was insulted by a pair of loud-mouthed Bounty-hunters. Knowing that killing them would result in his becoming a Fugitive, he instead challenged them to race him to the furthest reaches of the Galaxy. Not wanting to seem belittled in front of the crowds that had gathered around, they accepted and the race was set. To make sure that the competitors went to each location, they had to personally buy a souvenir item from the main stations at Ribilebi, Sori and Cemave as well as send a message to Laeden, showing them holding the souvenirs. The tale of Commander Williams' exploits became legendary as he made his run, keeping that little bit ahead of the hunters as well as the various pirates and aliens that sought to impede him. Finally, he returned to the Laeden system, his Cobra Mk. III showing all the damage of a long journey with little time for maintenance. He was just that bit ahead of the two bounty-hunters' ships and about to pass Laeden's station for the win, when the two pilots launched missiles at him. Commander Williams reacted instantly, his battle-honed skills bringing his ship around so fast that he destroyed one of the missiles with a burst of his Military Laser. GalCop Vipers responded quickly, disabling and boarding the two Bounty-hunters, but everyone could see that, even without turning back, Commander Williams was the winner and a legendary race was born.
The first Dicky-Bow Runs were often anarchic affairs, with teams of disparate racers and technicians roaring through systems, leaving trails of angry traders who had to abort their docking approaches because some hot-head cut in, irritated police trying to manage several dozen ships all clamouring to dock at the same station at exactly the same time and GalCop Magistrates and Justices of the Peace with potentially fatal migraines trying to figure out what to do with the sudden glut of Offenders that had to dock at his space station, because they all had to buy a holo-globe. But as time went on, a committee of veteran racers sat down with the GalCop authorities and hashed out a series of guidelines and promises that the racers would have to commit to. This formation of a 'governing body' gave companies who wanted to advertise a point of contact with the Trans-galactic racing community. Thus sponsorship of the race and a prize other than the fact the winner crossed the line first were established and continued to the present day. Now many independent teams petition sponsors, usually alcoholic drinks and 'recreational products' companies, for capital to start their bid to race.
All along the route of the race there are check-points, which are normally located near to the planet's primary station. These check-points are adapted racing loops with inbuilt scanners that log the time each registered racing ship passes through and issues time penalties to ships that pass through after the lead ship. If a ship fails to pass the check-point within the allotted forty-eight hour time limit after the first ship through, it is disqualified. At some check-points (usually in Corporate States where the public Pay-Per-View channels televise the race), there are a number of racing loops scattered around the system, each needing to be passed in the correct order before the check-point loop may be passed. At these systems, squadrons of converted Hatchling BoyRacer ships wait at the Witchpoint Beacon, each bearing a number of camera pods to chase the racing ships as they make the run through the racing loops and the final, often exhilarating, dash to get the best time through the check-point. It is this that has gained the race it's afficionados, since the racers are not prevented from attacking each other, even in the most lawful systems. These televised dashes are among the most hair- (or tentacle-)raising times, when pilots are pushed, and indeed push their ships, to the extreme to avoid missiles and laserfire from other ships, while still keeping their eyes on the check-point. Once a ship passes through the check-point, the stage ends and the 'clock' is stopped. At this point, the racer meets up with his support crew to rest, repair their ship and review their position and the best tactics for the up-coming stage. During these meetings, the pilot and his crew chief decide which systems he should jump to and when, if ever, he should meet up or make contact with the support ship. It's normal that the crew chief verbally tears the pilot apart for the damage that's been caused to the ship, regardless of the circumstances at this point. Once the allotted time passes, the race is re-started. The lead ship takes the green light and passes through the check-point to 'restart the clock'. Each ship that came after the leader then waits out it's time penalty before they too pass through the check-point and continue the race.
There are no restrictions as to which ship a competitor may use, and indeed, many different manufacturers' ships are regularly raced. Manufacturers even enter their own race teams with ships of their own construction, crewed by test pilots and supported by development technicians and engineers. These racers tend to be testing new propulsion units and manoeuvring arrays. Even the fitting of ships is entirely up to the race crew, although race officials have deemed that Escape Pods and Scanner Targeting Enhancements are required in the qualification rules and Fuel Scoops and Witchdrive Fuel Injectors are a must for any real contender. Meanwhile, the 'Torus' in-system drive is not so much banned, but those competitors who use them tend to be looked down upon by professional racers as 'only in it for fun'. Of course, in a competitor sport such as this, energy bombs and Quirium mines are devices that, if found to be fitted to a racer, will result in the team not simply suffering disqualification from the present race, but a permanent disqualification from the running of future races and any previous awards being stripped from them.
The most dangerous part of the Dicky-Bow Run is that each ship is expected to defend itself against any dangers, thus the allowance for any equipment (excepting the E-bomb and Q-bomb) that can be fitted to the ship. Many teams maintain a number two race ship, that according to the rules must have the same fittings as the number one, just in case the first racer is destroyed or damaged beyond recovery. However, most teams refuse to switch to their reserve ship, since there is a 10,000 credit bonus to the winner if they cross the finish line in the ship they left in. This, and the team's professional pride, means that any damage short of total destruction results in the identical number two ship being cannibalised for replacement parts!
Pilot deaths are rare, since the competing ships are required to have escape pods as standard and all racer support ships are called upon to recover any pods they come across, but there have been fatalities. Some have been due to pilot error (such as Jad Xeclo's spectacular collision with the rotating boom of the Transhab station over Estusi while trying to overtake another racer) and others were due to hostile acts (like Iz Lito's valiant death fighting a group of pirates who had attacked another team's support ship). Each loss is lamented and most racing teams will sacrifice an hour of their race time as a mark of respect to the lost racer. The new Dodec station over Laeden has a plaque on its hull over the docking port recording the name of every racer who died while competing.
Just as there is no standard requirement for ships, there is also no standard requirement of pilot experience. As long as a pilot has passed out of the Lave Flight Academy, he is deemed fit to race. There is a fraternity of 'Rookies', young pilots whose Elite ratings are usually between 'Harmless' and 'Average', who compete in the race to raise their ratings, both in the race standings and the Elite Federation. In the years it has been run, only one rookie, Lighting-fast Fas McMadden, has ever taken first place.
The 1Mil mentioned in the race's official title is actually the normal prize that the race sponsors are expected to provide to the winner, that being 1,000,000 Credits. However, this is almost never the amount that winning racers receive, since the cost of one (if there is no back up) fully-kitted ship plus a large support ship (usually either an Anaconda, Boa or Boa Class Cruiser), plus support and flight crew wages, spare parts, food and drink, replacement clothing, bail, fines and the sundry other expenses of travelling to the four corners of the Galaxy means that the winner usually ends up with a purse of around 20,000 Credits at the race end, which goes up to 30,000 if he crosses the finish line in his original ship.
The race, is still a 'marginal' sport when compared to Zero-G hockey or Hi-Grav Wrestling. But its popularity and media exposure are increasing, just as its sponsors are becoming more influential. One of the sponsors of the winner's purse were the Pan-Galactic Credit, Checking and Loan Bank (PGCCLB Ltd.), who instituted the Williams Cup, presented to the racer who had the quickest average time at the end of the race. This prize is a gold cup and a 10,000 Credit purse to the racer who, while not necessarily the winner of the Trans-Gal One Endurance 1Mil race, accrued the fastest average time between check-points.
So each year the 'Dicky-Bow Run' gains a larger following of fans as ever greater the challenges the racers face. There are great things in store for the winners of the race, as well as ignominious ends for those who don't measure up. But for many, the rewards far outweigh the risks and the roll of registered racers grows ever longer.