• Published 8th Oct 2015
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Conquering the Mountain - johnnosk



How did a pony get into the pit crew?

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Introductions

Conquering the Mountain:
Introductions

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in October, the air was crisp and clean, the skies clear of all but a few clouds. For the past week, there had been a festival-like atmosphere as long term, but friendly, rivals wearing red and blue met under the shade of the trees and marquees that dotted the viewing area on the mountain while others prepared Eskys full of ice and amber refreshments. For the second time in recent memory, the followers of red and blue were joined by other friendly followers wearing colours of silver or white or beige. Greetings were shared, friendly bets were made and the cares of the world were put aside, for this one day on the mountain, only the colours mattered.

The followers waited with nervous anticipation, even though it was still early, they knew that the final day of the festival was about to begin. In the valley below, a low roar was heard and the people on the mountain let out a happy cheer. The final day of the festival had begun.

Twilight Sparkle casually flicked an ear as she heard the trucks in the paddock behind the pit area start their massive diesel engines in preparation for the Drivers Parade where the crowd could see the team haulage vehicles and the drivers as they were escorted around the circuit as a precursor to the main event that was due to start in just over an hour.

For the last 5 days, Twilight had been working diligently with the rest of her fellows in the pit crew going over drills and rehearsing situations that only had the most infinitesimal chance of occurring. She played her role in one of the support categories for those teams that didn’t have the budget or equipment to repair their own vehicles.

Twilight had eaten breakfasts with the drivers, lunches with the team owners and had been taken aside and treated to dinners with the wives and families of those who return year after year in the hopes of finally conquering the mountain.

Up before dawn and existing on less sleep than a caffeine addicted college student, Twilight was quickly becoming a minor celebrity with fans and teams alike. Between practice sessions she was autographing merchandise, memorabilia and the occasional body part alongside the other drivers. She had been interviewed for local, national and international news media in print, television and internet sites.

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that relief came when Twilight spied her friends being escorted into the corporate boxes above the pit area and that night the six were treated to a large but simple meal with the event's main sponsor before retiring to bed, where she finally got a good night’s sleep.


Seven months ago, Twilight, in her role as the Princess of Friendship, had been part of a diplomatic delegation in the Victorian city of Melbourne; her purpose was to establish mutual friendship and cultural ties with the Australian government and trade with the Victorian agricultural sector.

By either coincidence or poor planning (or even a combination of the two), her visit coincided with the running of that year’s Australian Grand Prix. This made any diplomatic or trade overtures rushed, as her schedule was altered so that the movers and shakers of the Formula 1 community could have a chance to speak to the Equestrian princess.

In retrospect, it should have come as no surprise - Victoria as a state and Melbourne in particular are an interesting combination of being both sports mad and considering themselves the ‘Cultural’ centre of Australia.

She had been escorted to the Albert Park circuit by a member of the Australian Diplomatic Service who would act as a minder to smooth over any cultural missteps that came from, or were directed to, the Princess, and to generally shepherd her around the various pits, press conferences, marquees and photo opportunities that dotted Albert Park while at the same time acting as a buffer between the Princess and the general public.

Team owners from the headline teams such as Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were polite. and yet, at the same time reserved. They had questions that they wanted to ask, but in the business of Formula 1, there was a proper way to ask questions without allowing other teams to be able to use the information.

The younger teams like Red Bull and Toro Rosso had either not learned the protocol or had decided to ignore it in its entirety and were using the unique opportunity of meeting an Equestrian Princess to their full advantage.

Daniel Ricciardo, the second driver for the Red Bull team, noticed that the young Equestrian was looking a little overwhelmed by the situation and thought it best if he intervened. “Hey there, want to take a break from all this?” inquired Ricciardo to Twilight, “The main tent is quiet at the moment.”

“Um, yes, of course,” stammered Twilight. While the drivers toothy smile unnerved her at first, she realised that Ricciardo’s smile was genuine and he wanted to help.

Inside the Red Bull marque, Ricciardo handed Twilight a can of his sponsor's product . Thirstily, Twilight drained half of the can, the second half she held in her mouth for a second to taste. It was bubbly, sweet and refreshing, but the portion size was far too small.

“Another?” Ricciardo asked as he held up a second can as an offer to Twilight.

“Thank you.” Twilight drank down the offered can.

Wordlessly, Ricciardo offered an already opened third can to Twilight, who wasted no time in drinking down its contents. A fourth can quickly followed the same fate as the previous three.

It should be noted that although Twilight was prone to staying up till the small hours of the morning, she did so without the need for any type of stimulant and was unprepared for the effect that four energy drinks would have on her system in such a short time.

Twilight began to shift her weight backwards and forwards on her hooves as the combination of sugar and caffeine began to be metabolised and she was feeling far more alert and energised than she could easily remember.

Looking around the Red Bull marque, Twilight noticed an odd contraption that was inside of a roped area. Her natural curiosity was piqued and was well within the grip of a nice caffeine buzz. She had to know what was so special about that area.

“Mr. Ricciardo,” began Twilight as she nodded her head in the direction of the roped area, she never never finished her question as Ricciardo was all too happy to explain the details of the promotion that Red Bull was running inside the marquee.

It was a timed simulation of an F1 pit stop. A competitor had to remove the simulated rear wheel of a mock up F1 car, place the wheel on a sensor pad and then reverse the process, reattaching the wheel. The whole experience was electronically timed and displayed in large and bright numbers on a nearby scoreboard.

To this day, it is not known whether it was the many cans of sugary energy drink, Ricciardo's gentle encouragement or a combination of both, but Twilight was soon crouched at the mock wheel, the rattle gun firmly held by her magic, ready to begin the simulation.

The simple nature of the simulation hid a secret that caused the inexperienced to stumble. The combination of rattle gun and wheel weighed in at 15 Kg and for safety, the rattle gun was permanently affixed to the wheel nut

When the buzzer on the simulation sounded and Twilight pushed the trigger of the rattle gun, with a mechanical whirr the gun spun the central nut holding the wheel secure and in less than half a second the nut was free and the wheel able to be removed.

With a pull of her magic, the wheel was lifted off of the axle and moved to the touchpad to Twilight’s right. As soon as the wheel made contact with the pad, Twilight reversed the process and reattached the wheel to the axle, switched the direction on the rattle gun and finished the simulation.

Twilight turned to Ricciardo, intent on asking how she did on the simulation. Any questions that she may have had evaporated when she saw the spectators of various ages crowding the viewing area, their attention not on Twilight, but on the time that she had just posted.

Twilight let out a small, strangled, squeak. That was enough to grab the crowd's attention away from the scoreboard and focus their collective attention onto her. In the crowd, someone moved forward and this action gave Twilight quite a startle.

“Mr Ricciardo, I think I hear my laundry calling,” said a very nervous Twilight.

It was fortunate that Ricciardo was ready to step in and woo the crowd with a combination of his permanent smile, easy going personality and a marker that was ready to sign autographs while the diplomatic minder from the Australian government discretely led Twilight away from the throng of excited race fans and towards the more private VIP area where the corporate boxes were located.

It can be said that the world runs on coincidences - stories of separated family members meeting each other by chance years later at a doctor's office and the like. In the sport of motor racing, coincidences are not uncommon, and it sometimes appears that the sport relies on them!

It was nothing less than a coincidence that Twilight stumbled into a short, heavy set and well tattooed woman wearing a a black and white polo shirt. Twilight quickly regained her footing and in a glance realised that not only had she accidently walked into a person, but if her cultural research was correct, a person of considerable power and influence judging by the overt display of tattoos.

The lady in question was Betty Klimenko, a lady of considerable power and influence had she decided to use her connections, for not only was she heir to the Westfield Group of shopping centres and in the top five wealthiest women in Australia, she was also the owner of Erebus Motorsport and had two vehicles running in the support races before the Grand Prix.

The minder, never relaxing from his job, took the opportunity to make proper introductions between the Heiress and the Princess. Twilight apologised profusely for her misstep while Klimenko mentioned that she was headed to the Red Bull marquee because she had heard that someone had posted a very fast time on the F1 simulator.

This caused Twilight to redden with embarrassment and again it was fortunate that the Diplomatic Service was on hand to smooth things over by explaining how Twilight was the record-setter in question, but was embarrassed and didn’t want the public thinking that she was showing off.

To Klimenko, the revelation that such a person was standing in front of her, but seemingly looking for a quiet place to relax and centre herself was like receiving a break from the Australian Tax Office, something to examine and treasure.

As a canny business woman, she invited Twilight to spend some time in the Erebus garage, and while it was not library quiet, it did offer privacy and Klimenko was of the strong opinion that Twilight would find her time there to be informative and eventful.

While Twilight was unsure, the minder could see the diplomatic potential in such a situation and since the entire garage and pit area had been classed as ‘Secure’ he whispered a few soft words to Twilight and she readily accepted Klimenko’s offer.

Travelling from the VIP area to the Pits was a relatively simple matter of commandeering the golf cart that had been assigned to Erebus Racing and driving past the back of the grandstands on the main straight and to one of the underpasses that led to the lake on the infield of the Albert Park circuit.

During the drive, Klimenko and Twilight chatted about inconsequential subjects like the local food, Melbourne's weather or unique Australian wildlife. The minder was secretly disappointed when Klimenko told Twilight that Drop Bears were not real.

Inside the pits, one of the Erebus cars, the black with blue highlights #9 Mercedes E63, was on stands, its hood up and an engineer studying the readings from a handheld device. To the Engineer, the readings from the engine management system were stable and the car would be able to perform well in the four support races over the weekend. What irked the Engineer was that he couldn’t find the extra bit of speed that the drivers wanted to go from qualifying mid-field to a pole position. He continued to stare at the numbers hoping that a solution would present itself.

For Twilight, the sleek racing car was a mystery that called with a soft, seductive voice that was impossible to resist. With her desire to seek out new knowledge, Twilight threw caution to the wind and trotted over to see what powered the racing vehicle.

“If you are going to look, please do not scratch the finish,” said the engineer without looking up from his device

“Oh, sorry. I just wanted to see.”

The engineer looked at Twilight. If he was surprised at seeing the Princess of Friendship in the Erebus garage, he did not let it show. He tapped a protective covering that the mechanics had placed over the side of the engine bay. “Put your hooves here,” he said. “What would you like to know?”

“Everything.”

In the back portion of the garage, an area that was sectioned off for the pit crew to relax between stops. Due to it currently being vacant and relatively private, the diplomatic minder was using the opportunity to put forward a proposal to Klimenko.

“Mrs. Klimenko, I believe you are in the position to be part of something special.”

“Cut the crap!” said Klimenko, as she was in neither Race control nor the boardroom of Westfield, she had no use for the flowery language of diplomats. This was her Pit, her garage and she was in control. Her language only reinforced that.

“I’m serious, she changed an F1 tyre in six seconds and change” said the minder, “The previous best time was over thirteen seconds. She also studies friendship and harmony, in Equestria those are not abstract concepts but physical manifestations. What can be more harmonious than a well drilled pit crew?”

“There is more to being in a pit crew than being able to change a tyre.”

“Then take her to the Erebus workshop in Queensland and teach her, let her get her hooves dirty.”

“The workshop is not someplace where you let the inexperienced ‘help out’. There is training, certification, health and safety.”

“We can help with that, but can you imagine what a boon it would be to Erebus Motorsport to have a qualified Equestrian Princess on the team? What it would mean for Westfield and for Australia.”

“You slimey, silver tongued bastard! You want her feeling like she owes you and Australia something, right?”

“If we can induce her to feel a type of ‘kinship’ with Australia and Australian culture then there is a better chance that her report to the regent will be more favourable to Australian interests”

“What’s in it for me?”

For the minder, what he said next would either be the deal maker or the deal breaker. He knew that while Klimenko projected a tough exterior, she had great respect for the people employed by both Westfield and Erebus and would not act if a negotiation affected them adversely.

“We’re talking about opening trade with a series of brand new nations, cultural exchanges, new markets for our wheat and fruit. If we play this right, we could become a preferred trading partner.” The minder paused, “Plus we would get to really stick it to the Americans!”

Klimenko chuckled at the minder’s words. She leant forward in her seat and said in a disbelieving tone, “Is that the only reason, or is there more to this?”

The minder pulled his seat close to Klimenko and seemed to deflate just a little from his normally formal posture. “Mrs. Klimenko… Betty, internationally, Australia is treated like a third world country where you don’t have to boil the water. We sit on the largest reserves of uranium, iron ore, bauxite and coal in the world. We’ve held two Olympic Games, a Grand Slam Tennis tournament and international motorsport events that get as much attention as a lunch at McDonald's!

“Australian scientific achievements are either co-opted, marginalized or outright ignored. Most people don’t even know that the CSIRO invented Wi-Fi. Our culture is based on two important principles, mateship and giving a person a fair go. If we can legitimately pique the interest of the Princess into joining a team for one big race, then that is something that Australia can claim and nobody can take it from us.”

“If we are to do this,” said Klimenko, “We have to do it right. You have to tell her what you’ve told me, no secrets, everything out in the open. All training costs will be covered by the government, any custom made equipment that she needs will have to be made for her. Training and outfitting will have to be fitted into her regular schedule, that means travel throughout the year and all of this will mean nothing if she says ‘No’!”

“Then I’d bloody well better ask her.”

Mentally steeling himself, the minder walked over to where Twilight and the engineer were having an animated conversation. After politely dragging twilight away from the mysteries of the Mercedes E63. Kneeling he repeated his conversation with Klimenko to Twilight, putting all the details into the open and hiding nothing.

“That’s everything,” said the minder, “Erebus will train you and hold a spot open for you for one race. So, do you want to join the team?”

The minder was taken back when a look similar to that seen on children on Christmas day came over Twilight’s face and she started bouncing all over the garage repeating “Yes!” like some malfunctioning toy.

Klimenko smiled, she knew that with a bit of training and a little luck, she would have a new member of Erebus Racing that would allow her an advantage during pit stops for a single race, the government will be able to establish diplomatic ties with a new land and culture, and if she played her cards right, not cost her a single cent!

Author's Note:

This is intended to be an historic 'What if' style story centring around what I believe is the most important motor race in Australia, the Bathurst 1000.

Historically, the 2014 running of the Great Race will be remembered for its many instances and the thrilling finish. After seeing all highs and lows of that race, I thought 'What if there was a pony in the pits?' and the story began to unfold.

I will do my best to ensure that the race itself will remain historically accurate, but I will take some liberties with the 'Behind-the-scenes' action.

Once again, many thanks to the most wonderful Totallynotabrony for his guidance and editing.