• Published 8th Oct 2015
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Conquering the Mountain - johnnosk

How did a pony get into the pit crew?

  • ...

Saturday October 11, 2014 Part I

Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part I

Once again, Twilight was up before the crack of dawn for more training and drills to keep her newly acquired skills sharp and to shave off valuable fractions of a second that could mean the difference between a good pitstop and a brilliant one.

Unlike the other mornings, a portion of Twilight’s time was taken up with reviewing video of her previous drills to find flaws. Some of the flaws that needed correcting were obvious like when Twilight stood too close to the car while removing the tire, others, not so much.

“There, you did it again!” said Phil as he pointed to the monitor, “Every time you use the rattle gun, you flinch.”

Twilight stared at the monitor, the evidence was clear as day in front of her. “Whenever I use the gun, I get a blast of air in the face!” she said

Phil considered the problem, “If I cover the vents on one side and you hold the gun with the uncovered side facing down, that will direct the over pressure towards your feet.” he explained, “With your firesuit and the rest of your protective gear on, you won’t even feel it.”

Phil disconnected the rattle gun from the nitrogen bottles, giving it a closer examination and clean before he started with the modifications. “Princess, pass the the Race Tape please.”

Twilight used her magic to pass the roll of adhesive to Phil. Race Tape was the common name for a particularly strong product produced by 3M, the adhesive was incredibly strong and would stick to any moderately clean surface while the tape itself was reinforced with Kevlar fibers for giving it remarkable strength that made it uniquely suited to the automotive industry.

While Phil had his annoying moments, he was a first rate fabricator and it was only a minute before he was finished and cleaning up. “That's done, you can give it a whirl after we get some food in our bellies.”

The strange sounds coming from Twilight’s mid-section gave a sense of agreement to the idea of breakfast, and soon she was at the marquee shared with the other Queensland based teams.

Where previously the marquee had fed only a few members of the three teams, today managers, support staff and crew sat crowded together at the long tables. The usual segregation between teams was absent as the newcomers from Erebus tried to find a place to sit.

“Oh, hi Twilight!” said a familiar voice, “Want some pancakes?”

Twilight was stunned, of all of the marquees, at all of the tracks in all of the world, how did Pinkie Pie end up at this one? “What are you doing here?” Twilight asked.

“I’m making pancakes, silly,” replied Pinkie, “I was making blueberry pancakes but I ran out of blueberries so I was going to make apple pancakes because Applejack would really like that but they don’t have any apples back here so I’m making plain pancakes for everyone!”

Twilight was at a loss as to what she found more unbelievable, that Pinkie Pie was in the catering marquee serving pancakes, or that she managed to get her explanation out in a single breath. Fortunately for Twilight’s sanity, the conundrum that is and always shall be Pinkie Pie, would remain unsolved as another voice derailed her personal train of thought.

“Twilight, darling, leave Pinkie alone and come join us.”

Hearing Rarity’s voice was surprising enough, but when Twilight saw the fashionista sitting with her friends from Ponyville, she found herself at a loss for words. Adding to the surreal quality of the moment, a plate holding a comically large stack of pancakes was handed to her by Craig Lowndes with his usual cheeky grin.

Numbly, Twilight accepted the plate and attached cutlery in her magic and vainly started to search for somewhere to sit. Seeing her dilemma from his position alongside the visiting Ponies, Len caught the attention of a young DJR team member who was sitting opposite him.

“You’re finished.” The transporter driver said in his usual gruff tone.

“Well, I was just going to get another plate-.” began the crewman as he realised that Len wasn’t asking him a polite question, rather, it was a statement that implied some steel behind it. Taking the ideal of discretion, the crewmember picked up his empty plate and quickly left his seat.

To their credit, no person or pony at the table said anything about Len’s ‘motivational talk’ as the still stunned Twilight occupied the recently vacated spot. Dozens of questions flowed through Twilight's mind as she numbly began to eat her breakfast, “When did you girls get here?” she asked.

“We haven’t been here long” said Rainbow Dash, “We took a short flight from Canberra to here in some sort of flying contraption that the Australian Government normally uses for VIPs. It was loud and pretty fast, but not as fast as me!”

Twilight chewed slowly as she digested this tidbit of information, it answered the first of her many questions in a nice, neat, and orderly fashion which begat a slightly larger question: why were her friends at Bathurst?

“That’s the funny thing, Sugarcube,” said Applejack with an uncharismatic smirk, “We were invited.”

Twilight swallowed before asking the obvious question, “Invited by who?”

“C’mon, Princess,” began Len as he handed Twilight an envelope, “We can’t tell you everything, it would spoil the surprise. Eat up, you’ve got a full day ahead of you.”

After dropping his verbal bombshell, Len went back to plowing through his own small mountain of pancakes, from what little Twilight had learnt of the transporter driver, that meant that the conversation was effectively over.

It took over an hour until 7am when the crowd in the marquee had thinned enough that Twilight could retrieve Pinkie Pie from the cooking area and begin to follow the itinerary laid out in the envelope.

The first port of call was in the same VIP area where Twilight had made her bets the previous day. At this relatively early hour, it was still mostly empty but would soon fill up for the first race of the morning.

Twilight was surprised that waiting for her and her friends were some of the team owners that she had already met during her time in the pits and around the paddock. “Twilight, glad you could make it,” said Klimenko as she began to introduce her fellow owners, although it was more for the Ponyville group than for Twilight, “You remember Garry Rogers from GRM.”

Slipping back into her tutelage under Celestia, Twilight politely nodded as Rogers knelt down and offered a fist for a friendly hoof bump, a gesture that Twilight gratefully accepted. The next person to be introduced as Rogers introduced himself to the ponies was Rick Kelly.

Like many owners, Kelly started out as a driver. What made his situation different from other owners was that Kelly was still racing competitively in the series against other teams alongside his brother Todd. Previously he had Holdens but had switched brands to race under the Nissan badge.

“Oohh, nice hair!” said Pinkie Pie as she got a closer look at the young owner and his immaculately groomed hair - his one concession to vanity despite his otherwise casual appearance. The joke around the garages was that if he had used any more hair gel, it would be considered a fire hazard.

The next person to be introduced was Roland Dane, the Team Principal of Triple 8 Racing. Dane had a round face, a serious expression and a slight Irish accent when he spoke after being introduced. Most first impressions of Dane were as a stern taskmaster who expected everybody to perform at their best. He was known to have a more jovial side though it was rarely talked about.

Representing Ford Performance Racing was Tim Edwards. The perpetually unshaven team manager was enjoying his brief moment away from the FPR garage where preparations were being made for the final practice in a few hours and the afternoons Top Ten Shootout.

“Oh my,” said Fluttershy as she nervously scanned the people in the room, “So many new faces, but who are you, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Oh, I’m Betty,” said Klimenko as she knelt down to be more level with the shy pegasus. “I head up Erebus Racing. That makes me Twilight’s boss.”

Twilight couldn’t help but to roll her eyes at Klimenko’s grandstanding. As bosses go, Klimenko’s style lent more towards delegating than hands on leadership. “Betty, why are we all here?”

“Ah, yes. I think I’ll let Chris explain.” replied Klimenko as she pointed to the remaining person in the room.

Chris Wilesmith was thin, tall and bald. As the managing director of Supercheap Auto he was in preparations to sign an extension to the naming sponsorship for the entire event when he was informed on Friday evening that Twilight’s friends were coming from Ponyville. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, in a few hours he managed to put together something very special.

“Ladies, I understand that you’re unfamiliar to what the Bathurst 1000 represents,” Wilesmith began, “So what we’re going to do is give you a manufacturer to cheer for during the race.”

To illustrate his point, Wilesmith held up a series of badges, each with a different logo in one hand and lanyards with the various required passes for the ponies in the other. “All that is needed is for you to choose.”

At this point, hours of hasty planning could fall apart in an instant as the vast majority of ponies assembled had no idea about any of the manufacturers that were competing, fortunately, Rarity came to the rescue.

“Betty, darling,” began Rarity, laying on the act thickly, “I’ve seen your offices and workshop and I must say that you have the most chic uniforms in the entire Pit Lane. I, for one, will be cheering for Erebus and Mercedes!”

With the proverbial ice broken, the team managers began the process of selling their particular brand using every bit of snark that they could muster. Dane and Edwards were in particularly fine form in their bout of ‘Snark-to-Snark’ combat trying to sell their own marques while taking the occasional dig at their competitor.

“We've got the number one driver in the championship,” opened Dane.

“Your number one driver is starting from the back of the grid, while we have last year's winner qualifying on the second row.” Edwards countered.

“Your second driver passed under the red flag and is starting from dead last. That’s two years in a row that he’s failed to qualify for this race.”

“You’ve switched brands from Ford to Holden.”

“We’re performing better than the factory backed Holdens!”

Throughout the back and forth comments from Dane and Edwards, Pinkie Pie and Kelly were doing their best imitation of a pair of spectators at a tennis match with Kelly recording everything on a GoPro provided by one of his sponsors.

“Hypnotic, isn’t it?” Kelly asked

“I think it’s kinda funny,” replied Pinkie, “They’re all ‘I’m better’, ‘No, I’m better’ like a couple of strutting stallions.”

“You think that’s funny, you should have seen how me and Todd got to Bathurst this year. We caravanned the journey in a vintage caravan, it was a blast!”

“Sounds like you have a lot of fun when you’re not racing.”

“If the job stops being fun, it means that you’re taking it too seriously.”

Pinkie waved her hoof to get Wilesmith’s attention, “I want to be on his team!” she said, indicating to Kelly. Wilesmith nodded and began attaching the Nissan badge to Pinkie’s lanyard when he heard a series of pops, looking up he saw confetti and streamers hanging off of the younger Kelly brother. For his part, Kelly was pleased by Pinkie’s antics, his team needed a shake up and Pinkie was the one to make that happen.

“Well, ah’ve heard about enough,” said Applejack, “They may have their faults but them boys at Triple 8 are honest about winning and following the rules to do it. I’m with them.”

“That figures, FPR are at least loyal,” countered Rainbow Dash, somehow missing the entire point about having a factory backed team, “I’ll stick with them ‘cause they’ll come out on top!”

With all bar one manufacturer chosen, it was by default that Fluttershy ended up with GRM and Volvo, although it seemed that the only person who didn’t realise that was Fluttershy herself.

“Um, Mr. Rogers, sir. It looks like I’m supporting your brand, if that’s alright with you.”

Rogers knelt down so that he was eye level with Fluttershy, for a moment, he was feeling every one of his seventy odd years as he softly addressed the pegasus from the heart.

“Deary, I don’t think that we could have a better supporter than you.”

Fluttershy looked down at the grey carpet that covered the floor of the VIP areas and shuffled one of her forehooves back and forth, “It sounds so scary, all the talk about ‘Power’ and ‘Speed’, it just doesn't sound very safe.”

From his position, Rogers nodded. For many years under the old ATCC rules, drivers raced what were modified road cars, leading to the saying ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ and safety was not much better than the road going cars of the day.

When group ‘A’ touring cars were introduced, they retained the same chassis as their road going counterparts along with cosmetically similar but more aerodynamic paneling. Under the skin however, there were few components that were available on the conventional market and while driver safety had improved, it had been overtaken by the retail market at that time.

When the era of group ‘A’ ended and the time of the V8 Supercars had begun, there was very little in common between the purpose built racing cars and the retail versions beyond superficial cosmetics. Driver safety was a strong concern with the introduction of required equipment and procedures designed to minimise hazards.

Following the V8 Supercars came the Car of The Future plan, a plan to reshape the sport by opening it up to other manufacturers beyond Ford or Holden, by making the cars cheaper to build with standardised components in an effort to create a more level playing field between the larger teams with deep pockets and smaller teams with limited finances.

Driver safety had also been addressed in the COTF design process with better side impact protection and moving the driver more towards the centre of the car for added safety. Other safety features included moving the fuel cell from its previous position behind the rear axle to being in front of the axle where it is protected by the chassis.

The glass windshield, a staple of automotive design since its early days, had been replaced with a clear polycarbonate that was both lighter and stronger than glass with the added advantage of being slightly flexible.

“You’re right, Fluttershy,” said Rogers, “Cars have gotten faster and more powerful since I started in this business, but they’ve also gotten safer. If one of the drivers in my garage was seriously injured or killed, I would have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life, and I don’t want that.”

Fluttershy didn’t reply as she continued to paw at the carpet. “How about later on, you and your friends come down and see the cars for yourselves?” Rogers offered

“I’d like that very much,” said Fluttershy, slowly gaining confidence in talking to Rogers

“There is a race starting soon,” continued Rogers, “I know that you’ll have a pretty full day ahead, but I want you to know that nothing is going to happen to you, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing you soon.”

With a muffled groan, Rogers stood up and said his farewells as Wilesmith finished passing out the lanyards, complete with the appropriate manufacturer's logos attached, to the assembled ponies.

With the team managers gone, and under Wilesmith’s direction, Twilight began to give the itinerary a more in depth look.

“Coming up in a few minutes is the first of the V8 Ute races,” she said

Any further analysis was interrupted by Pinkie Pie waving her fore leg like she was back in school. “What’s a Ute?” she asked

This caused Twilight to slip into, what her friends called, ‘lecture mode’ as she began to go into greater detail, “Ute is a shortened term for a Utility Vehicle,” she began, “according to Australian folklore, the Ute came about in 1932 when a Victorian farmers wife wrote to Ford Australia asking for a vehicle to go into town on Sundays and take livestock to market on Mondays. It is a two door, tray backed vehicle that is around the same size as normal car.”

Twilight noticed that Rainbow Dash was strutting about at the mention of her particular manufacturer in the tale

“What will be racing,” said Twilight as she looked out through the large glass doors of the VIP area, “and are currently assembling on the grid, are the more recent generations of Utes on the Australian market. Unlike the Supercars, these are modified production cars, all that has been done is that they added a rollcage and a racing seat, they removed the airbags, whatever they are, and slapped on their sponsor vinyls.”

“Not to rain on Rainbow Dash’s parade, but are they all Fords?” asked Applejack

“That’s the good part, of the 32 entrants racing, the field is evenly split between Ford and Holden.”

This time it was Applejack’s turn to strut slightly in support of her adopted brand. It was fortunate that the race started before Rainbow Dash or Applejack could start boasting about either marque.

Being production cars, the utes were not as loud as the V8’s, and behind the double paned glass doors of the VIP area the sound would have gone unnoticed amongst the normal background noise of Pit Lane if not for Fluttershy making a rather loud, for her, squeal.

“Oh, they’re about to start,” said Twilight as she moved towards the windows overlooking Pit Straight.

Twilight could see that the grid was assembling in the standard two rows stretching from the start line all the way towards Murray's Corner. This was the first time that Twilight had gotten a good look at the Utes themselves. The front half was similar to that of many of the sedans that she had seen while beyond the passenger compartment lay the covered tray. The sides were smooth metal panels that gave the Utes a clean finish that spoke of a blend of aesthetics and melding with aerodynamic engineering.

At the rear of the grid, a marshal waved her green flag, signaling that the grid was in position and ready to start. The engines revved up and the air was filled with a throaty rumble Twilight had more exposure to the sounds of racing engines than any other Pony, and she absently noted that the tone was much lower than the roar of the Supercars.

The race itself was very short, only seven laps, and was scheduled to be over in 20 minutes, but the style of racing lacked the polish that Twilight had seen in the other racing categories.

Going up Mountain Straight three Utes abreast while jockeying for position was somewhere between dangerous and reckless, so much so that Fluttershy was in the unenviable position of being too scared to watch the telecast on the overhead televisions and yet unable to tear her gaze away.

It was more luck than skill that the field managed to navigate Griffins Bend without any incidents and only a minor trading of paint on the approach to The Cutting. This set the tone for the first four laps, while other racing disciplines were wary of any contact between vehicles, Ute racers were far more territorial and yet gentlemanly in giving up positions. They would not obstruct another driver from taking advantage, but they had no qualms in making the other driver work for advancement.

With the type of racing style, the inevitable occurred at McPhillamy Park on the 5th lap. One driver accidently took the entrance to Skyline too fast and ended up plowing into the sandtrap. For the unfortunate driver, his approach was at such speed that the prepared area did little to slow the errant Ute down, and it impacted with the tire safety wall.

What hurt the lost driver more than the impact was the jeering of the crowd, such a reaction could only have one possible response, the driver took a bow to the crowd beside his totaled vehicle.

Back inside the VIP area, Applejack was restraining Rainbow Dash from doing something rash. The driver who went off was behind the wheel of a Ford, but the television replay was showing that a Holden had some part in the incident.

Questions about the ‘Who, what, why and where’ of the incident were being answered by the television commentators as they replayed the incident several times. A more telling explanation was the damaged Ute that was making its way down Pit Lane, front end showing heavy damage and trailing blue smoke.

“Right, I’m going to give that driver a piece of my mind!” said Rainbow Dash as she tried to work out the fastest way down to Pit Lane.

Applejack wasn’t about to let her friend make a fool of herself, and she felt that some home truths were required, “Sugarcube, you don’t want to get mixed up in something like that,” she said as she restrained the prismatic pegasus, “He’s out of the race and I’m sure that he’ll answer to some sort of official for what he’s done.”

“Applejack is right,” said Twilight, “The Driving Standards Observer for that class will make his report to the stewards and they will decide on what penalty, if any, to apply.”

‘In any case, darling, it appears that both competitors are out for the remainder of the event.” said Rarity. True to form, the Ute that was in the sandtrap at Skyline had a front wheel that was positioned in such a way that there was massive damage to the steering arm on that side and the one in the pits had suffered a catastrophic failure judging by the driver getting out and angrily slamming the door multiple times.

If the competitors were part of the Supercars or even the Dunlop Series, it may have been possible to have both vehicles repaired and ready for the next Ute race later in the afternoon, but due to the smaller teams and more independent nature of the series, such a thing was not possible.

With the first race ended, Twilight took a moment to talk to her friends, “Now that you’ve seen one race, any thoughts?” she asked.

“It was okay, I guess,” said Rainbow Dash as she waved her foreleg in a ‘so-so’ motion, “I mean, you could see that they were racing, but it didn’t look like they were going that fast.”

“Well they are a little slower than the main event,” said Twilight with a smirk as she was building up, “The straights are deceptively long, and the engines are limited to 250 Kilometers per hour for some reason.”

“Them fellas sure didn’t mind a little contact!” said Applejack, throwing her two bits in, “Are all them races gonna be like that?”

“No, Applejack,” replied Twilight, “those drivers are in a different class, and while ‘technically’ there isn’t supposed to be any contact between cars, it’s considered traditional to have a little metal-on-metal contact still every now and then.”

“What do you mean, ‘technically’, Twilight” said Rarity, somehow managing to make quotation mark gestures with her hooves.

“Contact at the wrong time can send a car off as we saw before,” began Twilight, slipping into ‘lecture’ mode, “Now these cars are as heavy as the V8’s but not as fast, and combined with the folklore image that the Ute holds in Australian culture, a certain amount of contact is accepted, but the stewards will investigate any that they deem ‘excessive’.”

“They aren’t as loud as I thought they’d be,” said Fluttershy, “I hope the driver is okay after his crash.”

“The Utes are race modifications of an existing production car, and from what I’ve read, the Australian design regulations are some of the best in the world when it comes to ensuring the protection of the driver and passengers.”

From her position near the window, Rainbow Dash called out “What’s happening out there now?”

“Ooh, those are the Aussie Racing Cars, there is the one we’re cheering for!” giggled Twilight as she pointed to a familiar blue car with ‘Family Feud’ plastered on every surface.

Rarity was curious, “Why that one, Twilight,” she asked, “Has the driver done something to earn your favour?”

Twilight had the good sense to blush at Rarity’s accusation, “I placed a bet on him yesterday, it’s part of the Australian culture.”

“Australian culture? Twilight dear, I’ve seen more culture in a tub of yogurt!”

Twilight looked over the itinerary and smiled at Rarity, “If you knew what was coming up, you’d revise that statement.”

With the grid assembled and the smaller engines sounding like a swarm of bees, it only took a few seconds before the light changed to green, and the field was released to tackle Mount Panorama. Inside the VIP area, both Applejack and Rainbow Dash were getting into the spirit of the event as not only were the smaller cars able to safely go three and four abreast on the straights but due to the smaller size, they could safely overtake in more areas.

While it was expected that Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s natural competitiveness would have them alternating between watching the different televisions and looking out the window when the field came past, it was the look of glee on Fluttershy’s face as she watched the brightly coloured cars swap positions while Applejack and Rainbow Dash flinched involuntarily every time the cars got too close to each other.

“Oh my,” she said, “It’s just like when Mr. Squirrel and his friends race along the obstacle course.”

“This class is great for the amateur racer who is either unable to, or simply doesn’t want to have the expense of a larger and more complex car.” said Twilight as she watched Denyer’s car gain another spot, “The cars all have the same chassis, engine, suspension and brake setup. Only the outer shell is different.”

For small cars, they did some impressive lap times, and each individual driver was racing to their fullest capacity. Where they came into their own was in the tighter sections at the top of the mountain, in the other classes that were racing over the weekend, there were few corners where overtaking could be done in safety. The smaller size and overall parity of the Aussie Racing Cars meant that they could overtake on any corner and even on the straights if the conditions were right.

The field had sorted itself out into three separate racing ‘packs’. At the rear were drivers who were only taking part in a few races over the course of the season and were politely staying out of the way of the more serious drivers while they jostled around, trying to avoid the embarrassment of the ‘Wooden Spoon’.

Midpack were casual drivers, they had a life and jobs outside of racing and while they enjoyed the sport for the fun that it was, they didn’t race for championship points but for bragging rights over their fellows at the end of the day.

The smallest pack was at the front of the field, it was filled with drivers who loved to race, thrived on the competition and had a mixture of petrol and adrenaline running through their veins. It was in this pack that Denyer was able to claw his way up to third position by the fifth lap.

As the lead pack came around Murray's Corner and down Pit Straight to start the sixth lap, both Rarity and Fluttershy were barely holding in their composure as they watched Denyer’s pale blue car attempt a risky overtaking maneuver at Hells Corner to try and gain one more spot before the race ended.

“My word,” said Rarity as she fanned herself, “I can certainly see why you would wager on that driver. He has a certain amount of persistence.”

On the Television, the group watched as the lead pack raced up Mountain straight and around Griffin’s Bend. Denyer was always pushing for position but was denied every time as they pushed across the top of Mount Panorama. It wasn’t until the group reached Forrest’s Elbow that Denyer managed to muscle his way into second, but a poor exit from that corner made him lose the position again.

All too soon the race had finished with Denyer coming in a respectable third with the final race of the meeting scheduled for later in the afternoon.

“Oh, my,” said Fluttershy, “That was very exciting, but um, was that all?”

“Oh, no, Fluttershy, there’s a lot more, just not here. We’re relocating!”

Twilight led her friends out of the VIP area to where Klimenko was waiting with a small SUV, “Applejack, Pinkie and Rarity will ride with Betty to the top of the mountain,” said Twilight, “I’ll fly up with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.”

Klimenko opened the door so that the earth bound ponies could hop into the climate controlled SUV for a comfortable ride to the top of Mount Panorama while reminding Twilight of the designated meeting point.

“McPhillamy Park campgrounds, I remember.”

It would take Klimenko around 10 or 15 minutes to navigate through the campsites both inside the paddock and surrounding the circuit and follow the road to the campsites at Mcphillamy Park, and although it would be a shorter distance as the pegasus flies, Twilight had the disadvantage of having to corral the over-enthusiastic Rainbow Dash.

“Right, McPhillamy Park at the top of the mountain,” said Dash as she rubbed her hooves together, “We can be there in 30 seconds.”

“And before we go, we have to pick up some supplies.” Twilight noticed the strange looks her friends gave her, “What?”

“It’s kinda strange to see you without a checklist.”

“Rainbow Dash is right!” Agreed Fluttershy

Twilight rolled her eyes at her friend's observation and trotted into the Erebus garage. Since Wednesday, Twilight had made it a habit to leave her saddlebags in the garage on the off chance she needed to pull double duty as ‘Pack-Pony’.

With her saddlebags equipped, Twilight started raiding the team fridge with the assistance of the engineer Wischisen.

“You’ll need plenty of water and some snacks,” he said as he loaded Twilight’s bags, he also held up two bottles filled with colourful liquid, “Don’t mix the two,” he cautioned

Twilight was taken back by the engineers words, “What happens if I do?” she asked

“Nothing, it just tastes really bad.”

In the interim while Twilight was getting supplies, Rainbow Dash had taken to the air and was doing ‘Lazy 8’s’ to pass the time and although she had caught the eyes of the passing crowd, the consensus could be summed up as ‘not enough horsepower’ while Fluttershy had found a nice quiet corner out of the way until Twilight came for her.

Fluttershy did not enjoy the luxury of waiting in her hidey-hole for long as Twilight returned, her saddlebags full of supplies and confidence in her stride.

“C’mon everypony, Let's take an aerial tour of the circuit.”

“Finally!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash as she quickly gained altitude.

Twilight also went airborne but only to about the height of the surrounding buildings where she was joined by Fluttershy coming up and Rainbow Dash coming down.

Rainbow Dash was many things, brash, impulsive and occasionally reckless but she was able to take the hint that Twilight was in control of the tour. From the rear of the garages, the trio flew directly to Mountain Straight and began following it up the mountain.

“I don’t see what’s so special about this place, Twilight,” Said Dash, “There are fields and houses and… Twilight, why are there houses so close to a race track?”

“Well, for eleven months of the year, this is a normal, average, public road,” said Twilight with a smile as she watched her friend attempt to process that new piece of information with what she had seen less than an hour ago. “Oh, look! A vineyard.”

Instead of following the circuit at Griffin’s Bend, the trio few straight on towards Skyline and aimed for the large and iconic sign proclaiming to all who entered the town, that this was indeed the Mount Panorama.

“Um, Twilight, it’s a long way down to the valley floor,” said Fluttershy, “Do any cars, um, fall off?”

“No, they’ve always had safety barriers to prevent that from happening,”

While not exactly a lie as safety barriers in one form or another had been in place and evolving with advances in design and technology for over 30 years, it was the preceding 20 years where a grievous enough error on the downhill sector of the circuit could mean that the car and driver got an up close and personal view of the local flora during their unscheduled decent.

Dropping her altitude slightly, Twilight continued leading the flight until they were at the mountain face near Skyline but far below the level of the circuit. With a few flaps of her wings, Twilight soared high up over Mount Panorama with Dash on her tail and Fluttershy bringing up the rear.

“Nice maneuver, Twilight,” said Dash with a hint of sarcasm, “They teach us that in the first month of flight school.”

Twilight brushed off her friend’s brashness with a smirk, “Look over there,” she said, pointing to the camping grounds.

“Oh, my, gosh!” squeaked Dash as she saw just how vast the camping grounds and viewing areas were and just how crowded they were.

“The official estimate is for two hundred thousand people over the weekend with one hundred and four countries taking the local telecast.”

Dash couldn’t comprehend the enormity of the numbers that Twilight was casually rattling off, even at it’s peak capacity, the colosseum at Cloudsdale could only hold a small fraction of that number and Ponyville only had a population of around one thousand during market days.

While Dash had seen part of the viewing area on a television from the comfort of the VIP room at the bottom of the circuit, the main task for the cameramen was to concentrate on the circuit and the cars with everything else considered ‘fluff’. As such only Twilight had seen the crowds picnicking along the ribbon of green grass stretching from McPhillamy Park, through Sulmans Park and onto Reid Park.

From their position above the camp grounds, the trio could see that a wide variety of tents, caravans, motorhomes and swags were set out with an order that would make instructors in the Equestrian military swell with pride.

They could also see the SUV with the remaining ground bound ponies pulling up in the car park. As they approached to land, Twilight saw something that could only be described as Applejack ‘pouring’ herself out of the rear passenger compartment and flopping onto the ground.

“Mah stars, that was not nice.”

“Really, Applejack,” scolded rarity, “the ride wasn’t that bad. I thought it a rather pleasant journey.”

“Well then, next time you can be in the back and I’ll ride up front!”

Oblivious to the ongoings of her friends, Pinkie Pie was merrily bouncing around the SUV trying to take in all the various sights, sounds and smells of the heart of Mount Panorama.

“Rough trip?” Twilight asked Klimenko as she pointed to her prone friend

“She’s okay,” replied Klimenko, a sentiment that was echoed by Applejack, if somewhat muffled.

“Now, Twilight, what are we doing here?” asked Rarity,

“Are you crazy, Rarity?” said Pinkie, as she sprayed confetti everywhere, “this is a party!”

Klimenko brushed a few pieces of confetti off of her shoulder before whispering in Pinkie’s ear about bushfire safety and the importance of not leaving small pieces of easily flammable fuel around during a hot October.

“Pinkie’s right, we’re here to mingle and learn about Australian culture,” began Twilight, “In about an hour, there will be a warm up session for the Dunlop Series followed by the final practice for the V8’s.”

“So, Twilight, you expect us to just go out there into the crowd and mingle?” Applejack was naturally skeptical about six ponies being able to mingle in a crowd of humans.

“That’s the good part, those badges you’re wearing are a conversation starter,” said Klimenko, indicating to the lanyards that the ponies wore, “that and the fact that everybody wants to have their picture taken with you.”

“Oh, that sounds scary.” Naturally, Fluttershy was more than a little hesitant to interact with such a large crowd.

“I’ll be right by your side, Fluttershy,” Klimenko promised, “you won’t find a friendlier group of people at any other sporting event in all of Australia.”

Klimenko’s words seemed to relax Fluttershy as she meekly nodded and moved closer to the larger than life team owner. Reaching down to give the shy pegasus a quick neck rub,

“C’mon, Fluttershy, somewhere around here is a very large tent called the ‘Bathurst Hilton’!”

Author's Note:

Looks like the gang's all here!

Many thanks to totallynotabrony for pre-reading and Fana Farouche for the invaluable help in correcting my wayward grammar.