• 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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Saturday October 11, 2014 Part IV

Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part IV


Watching the field roll out of Pit Lane from the viewing platform above the pits was a novel experience for Twilight, all her previous interactions had occurred at ground level and she would admit that there was a form of poetry in seeing the orderly procession of machinery exit in formation.

Her friends however were running through a range of emotions from awe to shock and everything in between. Outwardly, Rarity was the calmest. While all of Twilight’s friends had some prior exposure to the engine noise, Rarity fancied herself an island of calm in a stormy ocean of chaos, at least until she had sufficient privacy for a proper and ladylike breakdown.

Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash and Applejack all had their forelegs on the railing as they watched the tail end of the field exit Pit Lane. Pinkie Pie was soaking up the festive atmosphere of the Mount Panorama circuit. Between the crowds, the music and the food that was overpriced, over salted and over there in the paddock, she was in her element.

“Are you excited?” asked Pinkie Pie in her usual rapid fire way whenever she experienced something new and fun, “I’m excited! All the colours and the sounds and the smells.” Pinkie paused for a second as she wiggled her nose slightly, “On second thought, I could do without the smells.”

Rainbow Dash was still fresh from her own experience in the FPR garage. “It’s pretty cool, I guess,” said Rainbow Dash as Applejack raised an eyebrow at her friend’s comment, “What I mean is, I know that it takes a lot of training to drive one of those things and that would take too much time away from flying.”

Applejack wasn’t believing a word of what her friend was saying, “What ya mean to say is that you can’t see where ya goin’ when ya in the driver’s seat.”

Rainbow Dash ducked her head, slightly embarrassed to be caught out so easily, “That’s a minor issue. The point is that I prefer flying to sitting in a hot and cramped shell while avoiding other drivers in their hot and cramped shells as I go in circles when I could have the freedom of flight!”

Applejack rolled her eyes at her friend’s non-specific denial. Looking down the now empty Pit Lane, Applejack could see that the balcony that the group occupied ran down the entire length of the VIP and corporate annex that sat on top of the garages.

“Say, Twilight. What’s down that end?” she asked

Looking to where Applejack indicated, Twilight said “According to my research, most of those suites are occupied by the team's major sponsors and their guests. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I’d thought that I’d be right neighborly and say ‘Howdy’ to the folks.”

Twilight had mixed emotions about what Applejack was about to do. On one hoof, there was the possibility that her friend could commit a verbal faux pas and do damage to human-pony relations that would take some time and effort to smooth over.

On the other hoof, Applejack’s natural nature and farming background had already paid off for her already if the business card stuck in her hat band was anything to go by. As with most things, while Twilight was musing over possible options, Applejack had already taken action and wandered off down the balcony to be ‘neighborly’.

Allowing Applejack to be Applejack, Twilight looked around and noticed that Fluttershy didn’t join them on the balcony. In actuality, Fluttershy was having the hardest time with the combination of the noise of the engines and the assorted smells that were associated with motorsport.

Being waited on ‘Hoof and Wing’ by the stewards was a great comfort that allowed Fluttershy to relax while she watched the practice session on the various televisions while she enjoyed a soothing cup of tea.

“Oh, thank you, Daniel,” said Fluttershy as one of the stewards placed an assortment of Australian grown Fruits and cheeses on the table in front of her. The steward, Daniel, smiled. Like many of the staff working the event, Daniel was a student at the local TAFE and he was working towards his pre-requisites to study veterinary science during his ‘Gap year’.

It was those very interests that saw him assigned to this particular suite where he could use the skills learned on his family’s property to keep the pony guests calm and head off any trouble before it got out of hand.

“Is there anything else I can get you, Miss Fluttershy?” Daniel asked

Not used to being the centre of attention, Fluttershy blushed and tried to make herself smaller in the lounge chair that she was occupying, For all her shyness, Fluttershy did enjoy socialising, but only on her terms. It wasn’t that Fluttershy didn’t want to be around other ponies, it was the hustle and bustle of everyday life that she found to be so mentally draining.

Inside the VIP suite with the company of her friends and the small company of stewards to tend to them, she was enjoying the good time that she was having and the anticipation of the times to come.

The sound of the door to the balcony opening and closing brought Fluttershy’s attention back to reality. The drivers had completed their warm up preparations and were beginning to put in some good lap times as they tested and fine tuned their race setups.

Although the door did a lot to muffle the sound of the passing cars, the sounds of the circuit were still noticeable and she found herself watching the timing screen and comparing it to what she heard.

What broke her concentration was Twilight flopping down next to her with a worried look across her muzzle. “Applejack is being ‘neighborly’,” she said without Fluttershy prompting her.

“Oh my.”

Outside, Applejack was walking down the balcony trying to gauge who was in the corporate suites but the tinted glass doors, a development that was currently unknown to pony engineering, were stopping her from seeing anything more that indistinct shapes on the other side of the glass.

Seeing one person exit a suite in front of her made the choice of who to say ‘Hi’ to much easier. Sticking her nose in through the still open door she cheerfully called out, “Howdy, Y’all!”

The group inside gave Applejack a quick glance before one of them offered the traditional Australian greeting. “G’day! Have a beer”

This was not a situation that Applejack had imagined when introducing herself to, what she perceived, as the top portion of the business world. Being treated in a near identical manner to when she was at McPhillamy Park was almost enough to disrupt her pitch.

“Why, thank you kindly,” she said as she accepted the cool amber bottle before continuing, “I'm Applejack, from Sweet Apple Acres.”

“Tony Quinn, from VIP Pet Foods.” replied Quinn. “What brings you to this neck of the woods?”

“Well Ah’m here with my friends and I thought that it would be a perfect time to come on down and give all y’all a big ‘Howdy’”

“And at the same time, do some spruiking for Sweet Apple Acres?” said Quinn with a smile

“Well Ah wouldn’t object to drumming up some business for my family farm, if’n there’s time.”

Quinn took a drink from his beer before continuing, “Okay, impress me. What’s so special about your family farm?”

Applejack picked up many different skills during her short time staying with her Aunt and Uncle Orange, one was how to recognise an opportunity for self promotion. The farmpony didn’t know whether Quinn was being patronising or serious, but the opportunity was too good to waste.

“We grow the best apples in all of Equestria and have done ever since Princess Celestia herself gave my granny the plot of land way back when,” said Applejack as she took a swig of her beer, “Mah kin have orchards all over Equestria”

“Isn’t it a little risky having a single crop?”

“Sure is, that’s why we’ve been branching out into corn and other foodstuffs.”

Quinn nodded. As a businessman, he understood that diversifying your options would help cushion any business when the market changes. His own company had expanded beyond the borders of Australia so that a slowdown in any one particular market won’t cripple the company as a whole.

“So you say you’re into pet food, like the kibble we feed Winona?”

It was at that point in the conversation that Quinn realised that he wasn’t just talking to another business person, but a hip-high pony that almost certainly had never eaten meat in her life.

“Not quite, they’re a meat and vegetable based processed pet food that’s designed to be a complete meal for dogs. We make a separate product for cats.”

Applejack felt an expected twinge in her stomach, for a pony, it was a normal reaction when dealing with an uncomfortable subject and like most ponies, the concept of eating meat was more than a little uncomfortable.

“Well, that’s different,” said Applejack before something that Quinn said spurred her onward, “A complete meal for dogs, you say? That’s a mite interesting.”

Quinn smiled, he was glad that he has stumbled onto a common topic with Applejack. “Dogs are basically carnivores that can eat vegetables,” Quinn began before trailing off as he became distracted by what was showing on the television screens.

While Applejack was talking shop with Quinn, the practice session had been progressing at a steady pace. That was until the #2 Holden Racing Team Commodore lost control and ended up on its side at Griffins Bend.

What compounded the incident was that the HRT car ended up impacting the Triple 8 car being driven by Craig Lowndes. Both cars were due to start in the afternoons Top Ten Shootout, but with the extensive amount of damage, Applejack was certain that both cars were now out of the Bathurst 1000.

As with all things involved in motorsport, the incident was replayed and analysed by the commentators and while Applejack was watching the television in the corporate box, Twilight and Fluttershy were viewing the same replay from the VIP suite.

Surprisingly, Fluttershy was more relaxed. From her earlier meeting with Coulthard she had gained an understanding about just how safe the V8 Supercars were as well as the on track medical facilities.

The initial replay came after a commercial break and only showed the HRT car losing control and spinning into Lowndes before ending up on its side. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that video of Lowndes assisting the other driver, Warren Luff, out of the wrecked Commodore before embracing his former teammate.

When the commentary crossed to Mark Larkham in the pits for some speculation, that was when Pinkie and Rainbow Dash came crashing into the VIP suite.

“Twilight, my Pinkie Sense just went off, there’s a Doozy coming!” cried Pinkie as she scrambled through the door with Rainbow Dash following closely behind.

Twilight indicated to the television, “We already know about the crash, Pinkie, it's red flagged the session while they clean up.”

True to form and with speed and precision, the marshals and flat bed crews had already picked up Lowndes car for its journey back to the pits while a second flat bed was in the process of retrieving Luff’s Commodore.

Switching from interviews inside the garages, Crompton reported on a second incident that had been overshadowed by the impact of Luff on Lowndes. “We’ve just been informed that there has been another incident at the top of the mountain.”

The visual changed to show the damaged left side of Kelly’s Nissan Altima as Crompton continued his commentary, “Todd Kelly has clouted the fence at the right hander at Reid Park and that has broken the front left hand suspension on that car and buckled the left rear rim as well.”

Due to the time difference from when the cameras originally picked up the damage to Kelly’s Altima and when the action at Griffins Bend had settled down enough for the team in the commentary box to catch up, Kelly had managed to limp all the way back to his garage and had been interviewed by Riana Crehan.

With all the excitement that had been happening on the circuit, Twilight was loath to tear her eyes away from the television but she knew that herding the girls out and preparing them for the upcoming ‘Pit Stop Challenge’ would take some time.

“We’d better get going if we want to be on time for the next part,” said Twilight, “Rarity, can you lead the girls downstairs while I go and corral Applejack?”

“Certainly, Twilight. Walk this way, girls” said Rarity with a flick of her mane

Pinkie shared a look with Rainbow Dash before the pair comically flicked their manes in imitation of the fashionista before following. This display caused Fluttershy to quietly giggle before, she to, gave her mane an identical flick and joined in the procession.

It took Twilight a few attempts to find Applejack. The first of the corporate boxes that she looked into had more in common with a prohibition era speakeasy than a business entertainment venue.

Wilesmith was playing the bookmaker as he took various bets on the outcome of the upcoming Dunlop race while a few lucky Supercheap Auto customers were enjoying their winning of the annual ‘Bathurst Day’ competition by engrossing themselves in the open bar, food and most importantly, air conditioning.

“Oh, Chris. Have you seen Applejack?” asked Twilight, “We need to get ready for the Pit Stop Challenge.”

“Which one was she, again?” asked Wilesmith, having only met the Equestrian guests a few hours previously, it was understandable that he was still learning their names.

“Orange Earth Pony with the hat,” clarified Twilight

Having Applejack’s description allowed the correct tidbit of information to fall into place for Wilesmith to direct Twilight to her friend. “Two doors down,” he said, pointing towards the exit of Pit Lane.

With a nod of acknowledgement, Twilight followed the directions to where Wilesmith indicated. Nosing open the sliding door, Twilight saw Applejack in conversation with another person, although she couldn’t hear the details.

“Sorry for interrupting,” said Twilight, “but we have to get ready for the next item on the itinerary.”

“Oh shoot,” said Applejack to Quinn, “Looks like I’m always headin’ off to the next chore.”

Quinn nodded in understanding, “It was a pleasure meeting you, miss Applejack and I hope that our brief conversation was enlightening.”

Applejack tipped her hat to the businessman before following Twilight out onto the balcony. “Say Twilight, ya reckon we could do some quick shopping before we head back to Ponyville?”

Behind the scenes at any live event is always hectic. Camera crews check their gear and make sure that they’re carrying extras like backup batteries, plugs and the like. In the control centre, technicians make sure that the broadcast equipment is fully operational and that the communication lines are clear so that the director can conduct the production like a maestro. In reality, the talent in front of the camera were secondary to the performance.

That is not to say that briefing the assembled ponies and drivers was not important. With the practice session still ongoing, being that it was mostly comprised of the co-drivers getting in some more track time before Sunday’s main event. That left the majority of the regular drivers interested in getting some extra television exposure.

“Okay, Mares and Gentlemen,” began the unit director who was overseeing the setup, “We have a lot to cover and little time to cover it in, so please pay attention.”

The director began to outline how the telecast was supposed to go. Like many telecasts, it would be delayed by several seconds in case of an incident and to allow the program director a measure of control over what made it to air.

The timing of the Pit Stop Challenge was a delicate juggling act with there being a 45 minute window when the circuit would become a public road for residents to receive deliveries or to go into Bathurst for supplies and the like.

At noon, Tim Schenken, the race director for the V8 Supercars series, would close the circuit for the Challenge and at the challenge’s conclusion, reopen the circuit for a brief time so that any residents caught outside could return to their homes if time permitted.

It was fortunate that the majority of residents around the circuit rented out their homes to the visiting teams and the few that didn’t lived on Conrod Straight, meaning that they could be in their driveway in minutes.

Due to the focus being on Pit Lane and the speed of the competing crews, the allocated airtime was a short 30 minutes. Taking into account commercial breaks, the intro and outro for the presenters and any colour commentary from Mark Larkham in the pits, left about 20 minutes of useable airtime for the telecast.

This meant that there had to be a military like precision in the changeover between the crews swapping out their equipment and tires from each team's respective tire bank. To minimise the time between each pit stop, the next car would leave their pit just before the current competitor began their entry into Pit Lane.

“Now that the boring stuff is out of the way,” continued the director, “We’re going to lead with Slade in the Supercheap Auto Commodore. Who wants to be next?”

A murmur went through the assembled drivers and the team managers. Being high in the order meant coverage for the sponsors and exposure for the driver, but it also meant that the pit crew was under the gun to set a strong time during their phase of the challenge.

It was Tim Edwards, the FPR boss, who put his hand up. “We’ll have the next spot,” he said, “Mozzie will take it.”

Tactically speaking, it was a good move. Mostert passed under the red flag during qualifying and was excluded, which meant he was starting from last place and unlike the second FPR car, was not needed for the shootout.

After the Holden and Ford marques had been selected, the remaining choices were based on who was available and what would be best for the sponsor. Rick Kelly ‘volunteered’ Michael Caruso to showcase the retro livery on his Altima while Gary Rogers added some international flavour by having their resident Swede, Robert Dahlgren, represent Volvo.

The surprise was Alex Davison jumping in ahead of his younger brother for the chance at another lap of Mount Panorama in the Mercedes leaving Holdsworth and Baird slightly slack- jawed as they were halfway to volunteering themselves.

“Now, each pony will be equipped with a team radio and headset that they will wear thanks to this lovely bit of kit.” The director held up the same harness that Twilight wore when she did her aerial reconnaissance during yesterday’s qualifying.

“And since car #2 is out following the incident at Turn 2, Luff and Tander will be performing the harness swap on our guests,”

The two drivers in question meekly raised their hand to the good natured jeers of their fellows. Every driver assembled knew how the sponsorship game worked, more exposure was good, positive exposure was better.

The incident at Griffin’s Bend had been replayed a few times and was already online at the V8 Supercars website. The image of Lowndes embracing Luff was a powerful image that had gone viral throughout the racing community and now showing that the two drivers without a drive still being able to participate was a marketable commodity.

“The order of the ponies will be Applejack first,” said the director, pointing to the farmpony.

“Pleasure to meet y’all!”

Referring to his notes, the director continued, “Following her will be Rainbow Dash.” A quick look followed by a quick count revealed that there were only five ponies assembled at the front of the meeting.

Not being totally unfamiliar with the concept of a flying pony, the director looked towards the ceiling where Rainbow Dash was hovering. “You’re second,” he said in a manner that made the usually easily distracted pegasus pay attention.

“With Nissan is...” Whatever the director might have said was interrupted by the flailing foreleg of Pinkie Pie

“Oh, it’s me! It’s me!” cried out Pinkie Pie as she was about to leap onto her rear legs but one look from the director somehow convinced her to save that for later, when the director wasn’t around.

“Continuing on. Next is Fluttershy,”

“Yay!” came a subdued cheer from the normally timid pegasus, a sure sign that she was in high spirits

“And lastly, there is Rarity holding the board for Erebus.”

“Why, thank you, kind sir.”

Sensing that something was ‘off’, the director did a quick mental tabulation of ponies against marques and notice that he had a pony left over

“What’s your role in all this?” he asked Twilight

Sensing an opportunity that she may never again see the likes of, Twilight put on a slight accent that she had been hearing for the last three days and replied, “I’m going to be changing the bloody tire!”

With that, slightly nonsensical revelation out of the way the briefing quickly broke up as the various elements of the teams returned to their respective garages for the final prep work and the end of the practice session.

“Tell me darling,” began Rarity as the group returned to the relative normality of the Erebus garage, “What’s the next item on the agenda?”

“I know what I’ve got to do.” said Twilight with a sigh as she looked into the garage.

Twilight stared at the two parked Mercedes, fresh from the practice session. It was the nature of racing that rubber, dirt and other types of debris would be thrown against the cars while they were out on the circuit.

As the ‘New girl’, it was Twilight’s job to clean down both Mercedes after each session using a waterless car cleaner. Cleaning the panels down was more than simple vanity over having a clean and polished car but the first step in assessing any damage or defects in the panels themselves.

Under normal circumstances, cleaning was done by hand and took a bit of effort to clear out the various nooks and crannies on the bodywork. It was no surprise that Twilight considered this a most inefficient method and quickly devised something that worked better for her.

The first thing that Twilight needed was a panel to test her idea on. During the practice and qualifying sessions the Erebus cars managed to get away without any contact with the concrete walls or other cars but there were others that weren’t so lucky.

Finding a damaged panel was easy, the drivers in the Touring Car Masters tended to be a little more heavy handed in their driving style than drivers in the V8 Supercars and all it cost her was a detailing job on a classic piece of racing hardware.

What was next was a combination of a common cleaning spell and a spray of the waterless car wash. A few squirts of the car wash and a quick zap with the cleaning spell and the panel was clean and ready for a trip to the panel beaters for a tap and a respray.

It took a few experimental runs and some help from other members of the Erebus crew but Twilight eventually worked out a method of cleaning each car in about 30 seconds. Visually, it was more akin to something out of a cartoon with a purple rectangle going over the car from nose to tail as the car wash was applied just ahead of Twilight’s magic.

“We should rent you out to the other teams, Princess,” said Seidel as he inspected her work, “we’d make a mint!”

Twilight snorted, “I should get at least a three quarter share,” she said, “It’s my magic that’s being used and it-”

Whatever Twilight was going to say died on her tongue when she saw Rarity deep in conversation with Klimenko while pointing to the team owner’s shirt. Twilight didn’t know exactly what was going on, but she had a feeling that she might need to do some damage control.

“Oh, hi girls,” said Twilight after trotting over to the pair, “Anything I can help with?”

“Twilight, darling. I was just discussing with Betty here about making some alterations to these lovely shirts so us girls could show some ‘team spirit’ during tomorrow’s race.”

Twilight was intrigued by the idea. Having her friends wearing team shirts would be a nice visual and help show the Australian population that ponies were people too. A quick glance at the clock showed that it was nearing 11:15 and there was still some prep work that needed to be done before the Pit Stop Challenge.

“Rarity, are you going to have enough time to do the alterations?”

“With the proper materials and a quiet place to work, I’ll be able to have them done in a few hours.”

In Twilight’s rather limited experience of being a part of the V8 Supercars, quiet was somewhere between rare and an unknown substance. “Rarity, where?” Twilight asked.

“Oh, Leonard has graciously lent me his sewing kit and the transporter will be empty this afternoon allowing myself some privacy to work with this darling new fabric!”

Twilight looked closer at Klimenko’s shirt. Unlike the traditional ‘Over and Under’ weave that she was used to seeing, the Erebus owner was wearing a ‘Microfiber’ shirt that allowed the wearer to stay cooler in the hot Australian climate as opposed to a regular cotton shirt.

“That’s interesting, Rarity,” said Twilight as she looked the pair over, “But aren’t you missing one little detail?”

Rarity knew exactly what ‘little detail’ Twilight was talking about and like any professional, she not only had an answer ready, but had implemented her plan to acquire the ‘little detail’ in question.

“Twilight dear, do keep up. Betty here has contacted the other teams and arranged for the purchase of some shirts that I can modify while I’ve sent our friends off to collect them from the team garages.”

Twilight had to admit that Rarity’s plan was well thought out and had a certain amount of logic to it. The surprise was that Rainbow Dash was entering the Erebus garage carrying a pair of large shirts along with a few other items, all sporting the distinctive ‘Pepsi Max’ logo. It was clear that Tim Edwards, the FPR team Principal wasn’t going to let a prime marketing opportunity pass him by.

The flying billboard formerly known as Rainbow Dash set herself down and looked very pleased with her haul. “Yo, Twilight. Check it out!” she said, “When I went to get the shirts for Rarity, they gave me a cap, a signed poster, a keyring and a whole lot of other swag. They even gave me some cans of their sponsor’s product.”

Twilight’s eyes widened as her friend somehow managed to open the aluminium can of carbonated drink and then proceed to finish it off in three quick mouthfuls.

“It tastes okay, but-” Rainbow Dash was interrupted in her appraisal by a strong belch, looking suitably embarrassed, she continued. “It needs sugar.”

Twilight had to restrain herself from the pointless display of swatting the now empty can away from her friend. “Don’t drink strange drinks until I’ve analysed them to see if there are any side effects!”

Twilight was breathing heavily as both Klimenko and Rainbow Dash tried to sooth her. “Geze, Twilight,” said Rainbow Dash before belching a second time, “Chillax, no harm done.”

It was Klimenko who was the voice of reason. “Hysterics aside, Twilight’s got the right idea.” she said as she stroked Twilight’s neck in a calming fashion, “You probably didn’t notice, but Ponies and humans have different biology”

It wasn’t too strange to hear Klimenko being the voice of reason. On an average day, she was as honest as Applejack and just as hard working and at the moment she was giving Fluttershy a run for her money in the staring department, silencing any objections between Twilight and Rainbow Dash with a series of stern looks.

The arrival of Applejack, followed closely by Pinkie Pie was enough to ease the tension between Twilight and Rainbow Dash. The two Earth Ponies were chatting with each other while they toyed with their own swag from their sponsored marque.

“Twilight! Those super fun guys at Nissan gave me lots of neato stuff!” said Pinkie as she rummaged through her bag. “They gave me shirts for Rarity, a belt, some coasters, a wallet, a pen and a super cool model of that white car that I get to work with later on.”

Pinkie paused to catch her breath before she continued, “Oh, I almost forgot. Rick said that this is for you.”

Pinkie passed a distinctive square bottle with a simple black and white label filled with a dark amber coloured fluid to Klimenko. After seeing the haul from Nissan, she could use more than a few mouthfuls of the rich liquid.

The deal that Klimenko made with the other marque’s was that she would cover the costs of each individual Pony’s swag, she would, in turn, charge the Australian government the costs of the shirts along with the use of her property that Rarity was temporarily using to make the alterations.

Judging by the size of the haul that FPR and Nissan had ‘gifted’ to Rainbow Dash and Pinkie and including that it would be bad for human/pony relationships to short change Twilight in the deal. Klimenko could make an educated guess that whatever gifts Triple 8 and GRM were to bestow would be a hit to her wallet.

She was going to enjoy the most expensive bottle of Jack Daniels in recent memory.

Applejack let out a whistle at the size of Pinkie’s haul, “That’s a mighty impressive haul there, Pinkie,” she said, “All I got was the shirts, some signed posters, a few drink coolers, and a cooler bag filled with these.”

With a little difficulty, Applejack opened the insulated cooler to reveal that it was crammed to capacity with cans of ‘Red Bull’

“Oh, let me try,” said Pinkie as she plucked the distinctive blue and silver can from Applejack’s swag.

Twilight looked on in horror as Pinkie opened and drank the can of Red Bull. From her own experience at the Melbourne Grand Prix, she could remember the effect that it had on her and was vainly struggling to prepare what ever magic she could muster to contain the oncoming storm that would be Pinkie Pie.

“Fruity,” said Pinkie as she drained the can of energy drink, “It’s nice, but the servings are too tiny. I don’t see what the fuss is all about.”

With a casual flick, Pinkie tossed the empty can into a nearby bin as Twilight felt her knees begin to buckle as the seemingly unaffected Pinkie looked around in search of something grab her attention.

“Maybe she’s too hyped up to be affected by the caffeine anyway?” Klimenko questioned

“No, she’s just being Pinkie Pie.”

The arrival of Fluttershy put a hold on any further questions on the natural phenomenon that was Pinkius Pieicus. A better description would be the arrival of the litter carrying Fluttershy and her bounty from GRM.

Calling it a litter gave rise to seeing royalty of old being carried in style and comfort by muscled footmen. This litter was more like a converted canvas stretcher that looked like it last saw use in the mid 1960’s.

Laying across the stretcher, in a pose that was somewhere between ‘regal’ and ‘petrified’ was fluttershy wearing the same comically large and artificial fruit hat that Gary Rogers wore during the previous evening's festivities.

The four mechanics carrying the stretcher slowly knelt so that Fluttershy could disembark. “Thank you so much,” said Fluttershy as the mechanics, manly men all, began to blush slightly, “Can you please return Mr Rogers hat to him?”

Fluttershy placed the comical hat on the stretcher while retrieving her loot from GRM. “Oh, Rarity, I have the shirts you wanted.” she said, passing the clothes over to her friend.

“Yeah, but what else did ya get?” asked an impatient Rainbow Dash

“Well I got the shirts for Rarity and they gave me a nice hat a signed poster and some autographed photo’s and…” Fluttershy trailed off, shuffling her hooves in embarrassment.

“What else, Fluttershy?” Twilight asked, concerned for her friend

“They just, um,” Fluttershy’s voice dropped to just above a whisper, “Invited me to take a tour of their headquarters at the end of the season.”

Rarity looked up from her examination of the donated shirts, “Fluttershy, darling. That’s wonderful.”

“You’re not jealous?” as always, Fluttershy was sensitive to the moods of her friends and didn’t want to upset any of them

“Jealous? In Celestia’s name, no.” Replied Rarity, “I’m envious that you have this most marvellous opportunity.”

Rarity was not exaggerating, Gary Rogers was an icon of Australian motorsport both as a driver in his youth and more recently as a team owner and talent scout. The people who have driven for him, both fulltime and part time as co-drivers for endurance events, read like a ‘Who’s who’ of modern talent.

Twilight glanced at the clock. With the procession of various goodies that the teams had given her friends, she was in danger of not having enough time to prepare for her part in the upcoming challenge.

Twilight went to the alcove under the bench where the Erebus crew stored their personal effects during the day to retrieve her saddlebags and, more importantly, the key to the motorhome that she had placed there that morning.

“Twilight, why don’t you do that ‘teleporting’ thing?” asked Klimenko as she pointed to a corner of the garage near the tire bank, “The guys set up a safe area for you to zap in and out from.”

Looking in the indicated direction, Twilight did see that there was a roped off section that had some amusing signs reading ‘UNICORN TELEPORTATION AREA’ and ‘PRINCESSES ONLY’

“That’s convenient,” said Twilight as she ducked under the rope.

For Twilight, teleportation was as much an art form as it was a skill. A successful teleportation required Twilight to not only know where she was going, but where she was in relation to her intended destination. The less familiar she was with her destination, the less distance she could safely ‘jump’ between locales.

It took only a brief burst of magic for Twilight to teleport to inside the motorhome where the first order of business was a quick visit to the facilities before cocooning herself in her protective garments for the next hour or so.

Laying out the two piece under garment, Twilight could see the minor modifications that Rarity had made to provide some extra padding and absorbency as she casually slipped it on.

Next were the shin guards. Other members of the Erebus crew wore slip resistant and lightly armoured protective footwear, Twilight was at a disadvantage as she didn’t have feet in the human sense.

While she was in position at her station during a pit stop, there was a very real possibility that she could be struck on her delicate shins by accident. The shin guards were her protection in case the unfortunate did occur.

Unlike the two piece undergarment, the heavier Nomex suit was a bit of a struggle to put on. In the privacy of her own home in Ponyville, Twilight had gone through the normal contortions experienced by most people and ponies to be able to be able to slip into the firesuit without causing personal injury.

Knowing that her helmet and balaclava were safely stored inside the portion of the transporter that had been set aside for the crew to both prepare and relax in, Twilight focused her magic and in a flash she had left the motorhome and reappeared outside the transporter.

“Anypony in here?” asked Twilight through the open door

“Yes, but we’re naked.” came the reply from Phil the fabricator and occasional target of Twilight’s hoof.

Twilight found Phil’s answer a bit of a non-sequitur, “You know that I don’t wear clothes, right?”

There was several seconds of silence as Phil, and presumably the rest of the Erebus crew, processed this kernel of information. A new voice called out, “What’s the password?”

Twilight wasn’t in the mood for such games, she still had to finish getting ready. “Do you like bananas?” she said, cryptically

It took a few more seconds before Twilight’s Erebus mentor, Seidel came to the doorway and was struggling to keep a straight face. “What do you need, Princess?” he asked.

“My helmet and balaclava.” Said Twilight, trying to hold on to as much control of the situation as she could.

Seidel looked Twilight over with a critical eye, “I'll help you with your lid and radio after we move the gear to Sladies pit. You need any help getting fastened up?”

Twilight’s firesuit was still undone and loose on her frame, “If you're offering.” She said.

When Twilight did her site induction at Erebus, a memo went out to the staff and crew about their new equine coworker along with some recommend social guidelines on Equestrian manner and culture.

A few crew members went a step further and visited farrier websites to pick up on any useful information on the proper handling of equines. Truthfully, most of what they had learned was irrelevant to dealing with Twilight or her fellow Equestrians but it had a few gems of information that were useful.

Fastening the cuffs on Twilight's forelegs was the easy part for both Seidel and Twilight. Zipping up the firesuit and fastening the strap across her barrel was done in a professional manner, although he didn’t fasten the collar, choosing to leave it open for ventilation.

The embarrassing moment was when Seidel ran his hand over Twilight’s flank as he fastened one of the cuffs on her hind leg. From Seidel’s point of view, it was perfectly innocent. One tip from many different farriers was to prevent startling the horse when you’re out of it range of vision was a practical safety measure to prevent startling the horse.

For Twilight, she was having flashbacks to her foal hood. It was an age old parenting technique that lent emotional support and security to any skittish foal when they were in an unfamiliar situation to help prevent the flight reflex from kicking in.

On an intellectual level, Twilight could understand Seidel’s actions. On the personal level, it was the equivalent of being made to hold a parent’s hand while crossing the street… When you’re 35.

“You’re not going to overheat in the next 15 or so minutes?”

Twilight smiled and conjured up a blob of magic that flew under the collar of her suit before exploding with a sound eerily similar to breaking chrystal. “It’s a minor variation of a spell first used by Clover the Clever to keep food from spoiling during the Equestrian summer.” she said by way of explanation, “I’ll be nice and cool for the next six hours.”

Dumbfounded, Seidel said the only coherent thought on his mind, “Does it work on beer?”

The art of live television was based on the fluidity of the station. Unlike pre-recorded shows where sections could be cut without affecting the end result, live events didn’t always go to schedule and allowances were often made by networks if coverage ran past its expected end time.

Making hasty rearrangements to the broadcast schedule was sometimes required. Thankfully, the introduction of digital television into the Australian market combined with federal government legislation meant that each Free-to-Air broadcaster had three channels and with the afternoon's racing being shown on the sports oriented ‘7mate’ channel, the only show that was preempted was a repeat of a popular fishing show.

With the program’s start time now fast approaching, the program director and his team of operators once again delivered their particular brand of magic to the Australian public as they segued from a pre-recorded segment to the Host, Mark Beretta who was with his fellow commentators, Neil Crompton and Mark Skaife.

“For over 50 years, Bathurst’s Pit Lane has seen some remarkable and memorable action.” Bretta began, “From Greg Murphy’s 5 minute stop/go penalty to Peter Brock’s windscreen removal where he nearly picked up an unexpected passenger. The Pit Lane has seen its fair share of chaos, but nothing could prepare it, or our Pit Lane reporter, Mark Larkham, for what’s about to happen.”

The scene switched to Larkham in Pit Lane as he was standing in front of the Supercheap Auto Commodore. “Down here in Pit Lane, we’ve got something very special for you. We all know how important a quick pit stop can be over the course of a race so we’re pitting five teams, one from each manufacturer, against each other to see who can put on four fresh tires the quickest.

“To make it a little more interesting, we’ve added a little more horsepower to each team. Most of you know about Erebus and their inclusion of Princess Twilight Sparkle into their pit crew, she’s brought some friends with her and they’ll be taking over Car Control duties so you’ll be able to see and hear the little ponies in action.”

At the signal from the Director, the feed switched to a short commercial break. As this was both live television and a special event shown at midday, commercial time was at a premium and to prevent the ‘dilution’ of the market, limited to a single minute.

The first driver out was Tim Slade in the Supercheap Auto sponsored Commodore while Applejack and the car’s pit crew assembled at the pit box. Standing out with the crew, Applejack mentally went over the instructions that she was going to relay to Slade once he was on Conrod Straight.

From inside the garage, a signal was passed onto Larkham and he, in turn, pressed the call button on Applejack’s headset. “Box, box, box. Y’all come in and we’ll get you four fresh tires.”

Slade couldn’t help himself, instead of the more standardised ‘Roger’ or ‘Understood’ his reply, transmitted for all the broadcast to hear was “Ye-ha!”. A reply that almost caused the pit crew drop their tools from laughing so hard.

Applejack didn’t know it at the time, but her banter with Slade did a lot to help ‘humanise’ ponies in the eyes of the Australian population.

For safety reasons, the speed in Pit Lane was limited to 40 Km/h, that meant it would take Slade and every other car in the field about 34 seconds to cover the 364 meters from the control line at the entrance to the control line at the exit.

Applejack stood safely behind the ‘Stop board’, a hand held piece of carbon fiber that the drivers used as a guide to ensure that they stopped as close as possible to a set of predetermined positions so that the crew could perform their tasks with the greatest speed and efficiency.

Looking down Pit Lane, she could see the bright yellow bonnet of Slade’s Commodore dip slightly as it was slowed down to the speed limit. For the purposes of the challenge, the drivers were all operating out of the ‘Supercheap Auto’ pit bay due to its central location on Pit Lane and because it had the logo of the events naming rights sponsor plastered over every available surface.

With the Pit Lane limiter firmly in use, it looked like Slade was coasting towards his pit bay. To help guide him, Applejack was waving one of her forelegs as she rested on the stop board.

It takes a special type of bond between driver and car controller. The driver is naturally isolated from what is happening during a pit stop and needs the car controller to keep him informed on the stop’s progress.

The car controller is the voice in the drivers ear. It is his job to guide the driver into the pit bay while keeping the driver calm and focused so that he can release the car back into the flow of traffic in a safe manner. He also trusts that the driver will stop on his mark and not run him over with one and a half tons of machinery.

Applejack wasn’t a mare that lent herself to prayer but she was about to invoke the name of Celestia herself when Slade’s Commodore hit the stop board with a solid ‘Thud’. With military like precision, the crew acted, each with their own task to perform to ensure a quick and successful pitstop.

Before Slade had come to a complete halt at the pit board, the tire crew were already in motion, following the flow of the Supercheap Auto Commodore’s path so that they could get the sockets of their rattle guns onto the wheel nuts the merest fraction of a second before the air lance was deployed to lift up the car.

At the nose of the Commodore, Applejack had to move fast. Firstly, she had to toss the stop board towards the open garage so Slade had a clear path for him to exit the pit box and secondly, she had to keep Slade informed as to how the stop was going.

“Ya almost there, Tim,” said Applejack over the radio as she watched the tire crew finish up and the Commodore drop. “Go, go, go!” she cried as soon as the Dunlops hit the concrete of the pit bay.

Unlike a normal road car, taking off in a V8 Supercar was its own skillset. The act of balancing the brake, throttle and gear selection was not easy on the driver or car and when Slade got Applejack’s signal he performed the surprisingly complex procedure of keeping the engine speed up while changing gear and engaging the pit lane limiter as he crawled along towards the second control line and out of Pit Lane.

Even though the stop was over, Applejack still had to hurry into the garage to swap the harness over to Rainbow Dash and do the quick follow up interview with Larkham before the next car had completed their lap.

As a long standing driver/co-driver combination, Warren Luff and Garth Tander had, at the very least, an understanding of each other's abilities and while they were good drivers, they didn’t have the best coordination when it came to saddlery.

To aid in the fast swapping of the harness, Applejack and Rainbow Dash stood in the garage, leaving enough room between the two for Luff and Tander to maneuver between the two ponies

“Not bad, Applejack,” said Rainbow Dash, “But you’re about to get beaten!”

While Luff relieved Applejack of her radio and passed it to Larkham to be handed back to the Supercheap Auto team, Tander loosened and unbuckled the four straps that held the harness firmly in place.

Applejack had to prevent herself from shying away from Tander’s inexperienced hands as the driver roughly pulled the harness from her and placed it on Rainbow Dash.

“Hey! Watch where you put those things, buddy.”

Tander chose to ignore the blustery pegasus as he secured the harness. He knew from both his experience and the timing board that Mostert had already started his descent of Mount Panorama and he only had a small window of opportunity to get Rainbow Dash outfitted and out to Pit Lane.

With the harness properly secured, Luff attached the radio from FPR and placed the connected headset over Rainbow Dash’s ears before sending her out to the pit bay with the rest of the FPR crew.

On Pit Lane, Rainbow Dash didn’t have time to take in the spectacle of the full grandstands on Pit Straight or the big screens that showed the live images of Mostert going through Forrest's Elbow. She only had a few seconds to make the call over the radio.

“Mozzie! Box, box, box! Fresh tires!” called Rainbow Dash over the radio

It took a few tense seconds for the reply to come back, “Rodger, pitting.”

Like Slade before him, Mostert slowed down to the required speed limit for Pit Lane at the last moment and made the long crawl towards the Supercheap Auto pit box. It took Mostert some mental adjustment to pit in a ‘foreign’ pit box as his usual pit was much further down the lane.

The team at FPR anticipated this little change of venue and had made the decision to utilise one of the new tools at their disposal.

“Hey, Mozzie!” called Rainbow Dash over the radio, “Watch the birdy!”

From Mostert’s point of view, the ‘Birdy’ was a floating blue pegasus waving frantically to direct him into the Supercheap Auto pit bay. On any other day, he might consider such a sight as an indicator of failing mental health but on this occasion, it was as good as a neon sign.

With the guidance of a friendly pegasus, Mostert drove into the pit box with a tad too much enthusiasm hitting the Stop Board with enough force to bend it slightly. Unlike the board for the Supercheap Auto team, the board for FPR was cut from a piece of sheet steel similar to what some of the body panels were made of.

Like all crews, FPR drilled daily on tire changing and as a larger organisation they had the resources to not only maintain their rattle guns, but to disassemble and tweak them to be able to be more efficient.

It is the nature of all forms of motorsport that the small fractions of a second count the most and FPR knew how to shave off those precious moments. In the time it took for Rainbow Dash to centre herself, the crew had almost completed the tire change and Rainbow Dash found herself out of position.

The logical course of action was to move up towards the exit of Pit Lane and give Mostert room to exit the pit box. Such a course of action was fine for beings that were limited to moving on a flat plane, but like all pegasi, Rainbow Dash tended to think in three dimensions. So instead of moving backwards, a feat that is uncomfortable for most ponies, Rainbow Dash flew straight up as the air lance was retracted and the FPR Falcon dropped to the concrete.

“Go, go, go!” said Rainbow Dash as Mostert left the pit bay and into Pit Lane propper. Her part of the exercise done, Rainbow Dash hurried back to the garage, eager to be relieved of the harness and to hand off to Pinkie.

A surprisingly patient Pinkie Pie was standing rock steady in position and ready to be harnessed. Sitting on her pink mane was a small GoPro camera, placed there by Rick Kelly in an effort to obtain footage to sell back to GoPro as part of their sponsorship package.

A closer examination revealed that, while the small camera wasn’t actually secured in any way, it was somehow being held in place by unknown forces stronger than any adhesive and while it could be removed without effort, it firmly resisted being knocked off.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry,” urged Pinkie as Tander attached the harness while Luff connected the radio. Like professional drivers all around the world, Luff and Tander were in a constant state of refining their actions. Whether it was improving lap times on the track or having a smoother technique in harnessing up a pony, any mistakes or inefficiencies were mentally noted, cataloged and systematically eliminated.

Once properly prepared, Pinkie was pushed out of the garage where Larkham and the Nissan pit crew were waiting. Waiting, it seemed, was the order of the moment as Caruso seemed to be taking his time across the mountain as he escorted the 1984 pole winning Nissan Bluebird that his current livery was a tribute to.

At the signal from the spotters in the garage, Larkham pushed the button on Pinkie’s radio, allowing her to talk to Caruso as he drove down Conrod Straight.

“Box, box, box. There’s a party in the pits and you’re invited!”

Momentarily stunned by the unorthodox request to pit, Caruso thumbed the radio button on his steering wheel and replied, “Um, sure.”

Caruso’s uncertainty was shared by the Nissan pit crew who were giving Pinkie a mixture of strange and amused looks. This was ignored by Pinkie as she focused her attention towards the start of Pit Lane, hoping to spot Caruso’s white Nissan Altima.

“Oh, there it is!” said Pinkie as she happily bounced in place with the stop board.

Having a bouncing pink pony was an effective guide for Caruso to find the unfamiliar Supercheap Auto pit bay but it was also a distraction that caused him to slightly miss his braking point to be able to come to a complete stop on the markers.

Normally if a Supercar misses its marks it would overshoot the pit bay and cost valuable seconds as the crew scrambled to readjust their equipment or if the car has overshot the pit bay, abandon the gear and manually retrieve the errant vehicle.

With Pinkie in the mix, neither one of those possible scenarios came to pass. Caruso had slowed down considerably but even at slower speeds, there was still 1500 Kg of mass traveling forwards.

A normal human reaction would be to jump out of the way but as it had been previously noted, Pinkie was not human and did not have the same upbringing as a normal person and stared in fascination as the Altima impacted with the stop board.

This is when Caruso and Team Nissan were introduced to the ‘Pinkie Effect’. Under normal circumstances, both Pinkie and the stop board would have been pushed back from the impact and anybody behind the board would have been injured.

Pinkie being Pinkie, did not realise that she should have been pushed back and thus, she wasn’t. Unfortunately, that meant that all the energy that Caruso hadn’t managed to wash off had to go somewhere and it was redirected into bending the stop board and damaging the nose of the Altima.

Momentarily stunned, the Nissan crew quickly got to work changing the tires while Larkham pulled Pinkie back to a safer distance so Caruso could exit the pit bay. Caruso’s distraction had placed the Nissan crew at a disadvantage, but only when the times were revealed would they know how much it cost them.

Back in the garage, Fluttershy was performing some breathing exercises with Gary Rogers as she mentally prepared for the ordeal that was public television.

“Breath in, breath out,” Demonstrated Rogers as Luff and Tander smoothly swapped the harness from Pinkie to Fluttershy, “Remember, just like you practiced.”

“Um, if you want someone else to do it, I’ll understand.” offered Fluttershy

“You’ll be fine,” said Rogers, “just focus on the task at hand, No less, no more.”

Rogers gently led Fluttershy to the main exit of the garage so that Larkham could make sure that she was in position. As Dahlgren completed his path across Mount Panorama and began the long drive down Conrod Straight, Fluttershy called him on the radio.

“Okay, Robert,” she said, “Box, box, box. Köttbullar!”

It was a common practice among the teams to use code words in case they were overheard or that a transmission went out over the broadcast. While everybody at GRM spoke English, some crewmembers had a better handle on the language than others.

Fluttershy’s special talent was being able to communicate beyond the language barrier and while it was normally used to communicate with beavers, squirrels and other woodland creatures both great and small, Rogers was using it to his advantage and amusement by having Fluttershy use the codeword for tires in Dahlgren’s native tongue.

“Förstått!” came Dahlgren’s near accentless reply. It was the signal for the GRM crew to get ready.

A handful of seconds later, the pale blue nose of the #34 Volvo had crossed the control line for its journey to the waiting crew while Fluttershy nervously signalled the Swedish driver. Earlier on, a decision was made at the higher levels at the management of Channel 7 to broadcast the Pit Stop Challenge both live and with minimal commercial breaks and that decision was handsomely paying off.

Channel 7’s decision combined with the outdoor screens displaying the telecast at various locations around the circuit meant that there was a large audience watching a very nervous Fluttershy stand firm as Dahlgren drove into the pit bay.

To the uninitiated, Australian society can be a contradiction. A person may appear to not take anything seriously but at the same time, take great pride in their work or they may support their favourite football team to the bitter end but take a measure of satisfaction at one team in particular’s losses.

As such, the audience was split between those empathising with Fluttershy’s situation of staring down the ton and a half of machinery as it came to a precise stop inside the Supercheap Auto pit bay and others who were ready and willing to bend metal to help the yellow pegasus any way they could.

GRM wasn’t the largest of teams in the V8 Supercars, but they were just as well drilled as any and had Dahlgren’s Volvo on it’s internal jacks and the tires replaced within seconds while Fluttershy hopped back to allow Dahlgren a safe release from the pit bay.

With Fluttershy safely clear and the final tire secured in place, Dahlgren swiftly exited the pit bay to begin his journey towards the control line at a speed limited 40 Km/h. Larkham ushered Fluttershy back into the garage where she was greeted by Rogers and the three remaining GRM drivers.

The youngest GRM driver, a cheeky New Zealander by the name of Scott McLaughlin, had somehow acquired Twilight’s bucket of apples and was now offering one to the now harness free pegasus.

“Out of the way there!” came Applejack’s voice as she pushed her way past the GRM drivers.

As mentally exhausted as she was from the stress of her small excursion into the world of motorsport, Fluttershy was glad to see her friends and enjoyed the brief contact while Rarity was being harnessed for her stint as Car Controller for Erebus.

“Um, where’s Twilight?” asked Fluttershy as she looked around for her friend.

“She’s right where she’s supposed to be, darling,” said Rarity as she pointed through the open garage to where the Erebus crew in their black and white firesuits were hastily setting up.

Twilight had gotten quite a bit of experience setting up the Erebus pit bay every morning before the first set of drills were started. Normally, it was a mass of heavy pneumatic hoses strung on the overhead gantry, a connected set of industrial sized Nitrogen bottles and powerful air driven tools.

Using another team's pit bay meant that all of the heavy lifting had been done. What was left was swapping out the air tools and setting up the spare wheel nuts in case there was a failure.

Because the wheel nuts are designed in house by different teams, there are several variations of both the nut and the socket that attaches to the rattle guns. A wheel nut made by Triple 8 for either themselves or one of their client teams is not compatible with the rattle gun sockets used by FPR or their clients.

It is fortunate that even though the sockets are custom made, the pneumatic connections are industry standard so they could be swapped out with minimal fuss while the ‘New’ tires were moved into position with the assistance of Twilight’s magic as were the spare wheel nuts.

This left the Erebus crew with far more time on their hands to get into the proper mindset as they waited at their positions for the signal from Rarity.

Twilight was more than a little nervous. Like the rest of the crew, they had drilled together several times a day, but this was the first time that Twilight had to perform in front of an audience in her full getup.

With the Erebus Mercedes entering Pit Lane, all doubts were pushed from Twilight’s mind. Rarity was generous enough to briefly divert the attention of the cameras onto her with an impromptu bit of Unicorn magic.

“Alex, darling. Just follow the arrows,” said Rarity as her magic made a series of arrows appear at grill height, contrasting strongly against the bitumen of Pit Lane, giving the driver a clear path to follow straight to the Supercheap Auto pit bay.

From the point of view of the elder Davison, it was like something out of a video game as each illusion had less resistance than a soap bubble as he drove through them in his E63. As he had practiced so many times before, Davison came to a halt just before the stop board as he felt the car rise on it internal jacks.

Twilight’s entire focus was on doing her job at her position. Before Davison had come to a complete halt, Twilight had already forced the rattle gun onto her assigned wheel nut and by the time the Mercedes was suspended on its jacks, the nut was undone and the tire removed.

With the advantage of magic, Twilight could remove the first tire and have its replacement in place far faster than any person and with a magical flick of the directional control on the rattle gun, she had reversed its direction and secured the nut onto the hub.

On the screens around the circuit and across the telecast, the audience was treated to the display of Twilight’s effortless manipulation of both tires and the rattle gun as the rest of the Erebus crew performed their duties cleanly.

A few seconds after pulling into the Supercheap Auto pit bay, Davison was released to continue his journey down Pit Lane while Twilight and the rest of the crew cleared Supercheap Auto’s pit bay of Erebus equipment and Rarity was ushered into the open garage.

As the major excitement of the event had finished and the Ponies were needed in the ‘Tech Centre’ studio, Channel 7 used the opportunity to throw to an extended commercial break while the action was happening behind the scenes.

What was supposed to be a leisurely walk back down the Pit Lane was quickly turning into a fast trot as Twilight was relieved of her load and was hustled to the tech centre to join her friends.

Twilight anticipated several different reactions from her friends when, with the exception of Rarity, they saw her in her firesuit for the first time. Rainbow Dash keeling over in laughter wasn’t one of them.

“Do you mind, we’re about to go back on air.” said Twilight as Rainbow Dash attempted to stifle her laughter. Twilight’s scolding would have carried more weight if she had taken the time to remove her helmet and balaclava.

Fortunately for Twilight, the same ‘Gopher’ that handed Larkham the times for the Pit Stop Challenge took the initiative and assisted Twilight in removing her helmet and balaclava before outfitting her with a microphone.

Taking the time to look at her surroundings, Twilight noticed that the tech centre had gone through a minor change. Before, Larkham’s infamous whiteboard and props were at a height that was more suitable for humans. Now, the props had been pushed aside and he whiteboard had been lowered to a more pony friendly height.

The lowering of everything in the tech centre to more pony friendly levels had lent itself to some more technical issues, most obvious was the cameraman. An issue solved with the ingenious use of a mechanic’s dolly, a shop broom and a healthy supply of gaffa tape.

Larkham had also acquired a lowered stool for him to sit on so he could minimise the height difference between himself and his audience while not having to constantly stoop. The whiteboards had been prepared with a small table showing the five marques so that all Larkham had to do was read off the times and write then in.

On a nearby monitor off camera, Twilight could see that the main members of Channel 7’s commentary team had just returned from the break and were in animated discussion about how each Pony performed.

The exaggerated gestures from the commentary team were more for show than any useful meaning as they were being instructed by the director to use up some time while Larkham was getting ready for his part in the tech centre.

With a signal from the cameraman, Larkham flawlessly picked up his end of the conversation. “It was amazing,” he said, “And let me tell you, judging from the performances we’ve just seen, there may be some four legged crew members in the near future.”

Even if it was only a throw away line, the thought of more ponies living and working side by side with humans made Twilight smile slightly. After all, what better foundation for a friendship to be built upon.

“Now, Applejack.” continued Larkham, “great communication and car control. Your team did their stop in 37.81 seconds.” Larkham wrote down the time on his whiteboard next to the Holden emblem

On the monitor, it showed the Supercheap crew in action as they swapped the tires on Slade’s Commodore before switching to a view of Mostert’s Falcon undergoing the same procedure.

“Rainbow Dash, you showed that those wings aren’t for show, I loved how you went up to get out of the way while keeping in communication with Mostert.”

Consulting his notes, Larkham continued, “You and FPR completed your pit stop in 37.62 seconds.”

Due to the competitive nature between Applejack and Rainbow Dash, it was understandable that Rainbow Dash was a bit of a sore winner.

“Ha! In your face, Applejack.” crowed the pegasus

After writing Rainbow Dash’s time next to the Ford logo while tactfully ignoring the display of gamesmanship between Applejack and Rainbow Dash, Larkham didn’t even need to consult his notes for the next part.

“Pinkie Pie, Michael Caruso overshot his mark and that could have been costly but it wasn’t too bad.”

On the monitor it showed the stop in question, in particular when Caruso overshot the pit bay and ran into Pinkie and the stop board with a sickening ‘crunch’

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Pinkie” said Larkham with as much seriousness that he could muster, “but you broke the car!”

“I did?” Pinkie was a little worried that she had somehow made the entire car undriveable

Larkham made light of the situation, “Down at Nissan, they’ve got the nose of the Altima off and are refabricating the mounts for tomorrow. They’re more worried about you.”

“Oh, I’m okay. I used to work on a rock farm.” Said Pinkie

Larkham continued, figuring that Pinkie’s explanation was as good as any that he’ll likely get, “That overshoot did cost some time, and Nissan did their pit stop in 39.64 seconds.”

While Pinkie wasn’t happy with the results, she did have fun being a temporary car controller and to her, that was important.

Larkham moved on to Fluttershy as the vision on the monitor switched to Dahlgren going into the Supercheap Auto pit and a nervous looking Fluttershy standing her ground.

“Fluttershy, when Dahlgren came in you said something, was it in Swedish?”

“Yes it was, talking to animals is my special talent,” said Fluttershy, “once you learn otter, Swedish is easy.”

It was a rare moment when Larkham was rendered tempoary speechless. With a cough, he regained enough of his composure to continue. “The boys at GRM were very smooth in their operation and they managed a 37.22.”

“Oh, is that good?” asked Fluttershy

Looking at his notes, Larkham replied with his usual easy going manner, “It’s very good.”

Fluttershy blushed and nervously pawed the concrete floor with her hoof, an act that was caught on camera and broadcast far and wide. “Oh, I like good.”

It was at this point that Larkham realised that if he ever got bored of being a Pit Lane commentator, he could always take some time off and record a few episodes of ‘Play School’ for his grandchildren.

Moving on, Larkham turned to Rarity as the monitor showed the Erebus pit stop. “Rarity, your display with the arrows for Alex Davison was very impressive,” he said, “I can guarantee that there will be a lot of people looking very closely at that.”

Larkham wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest. The majority of the larger teams in Pit Lane had already requested their home offices look into the legalities of hiring and training unicorns to apprentice on the cars in the workshop before being transferred to the pit crew.

“Well dear, a Unicorn is more than brute force.” Rarity said as she began primping her mane, “It is a sense of style. A Unicorn isn’t a Unicorn without a sense of grace and beauty.”

Twilight couldn’t help rolling her eyes at Rarity’s posturing. The last time she espoused such a philosophy she ended up with a green mane and a bruised ego. So caught up in the drama show that was her friend, Twilight almost missed Larkham talk about her part in Davison’s stop.

During every pit stop, there were several cameras in use. Most were mounted around the circuit and would normally be used to keep viewers informed of the race but they could be repurposed to record Pit Lane.

Other cameras, like the ‘flycam’, a camera that was mounted on a series of cables and pulleys that could follow an individual car as it traversed Pit Lane, were used solely for the goings on in Pit Lane and Pit Straight as well as the hand held camera that was used by one of the Channel 7 crew for more close up shots.

It was the hand held camera that was used to great effect when Davison pitted. Focusing solely on Twilight, the cameraman recorded Twilight using her magic to manipulate the rattle gun and both tires during the stop.

“I gotta say, Twilight. That’s impressive, and forget about the magical, glowy thing, I’m talking about how you had the gun in place as Davison was pulling up. You had the tire off as soon as it cleared the ground and the fresh one on and fastened in less than 3 seconds!”

This wasn’t the first time that Twilight had seen herself on television, her daily post drill evaluations were a mixture of fascination and frustration. Twilight was pleased that she’d managed to incorporate all the instructions and tips from the Erebus crew and managed to perform her first ‘live’ pit stop without any hassles.

Twilight had the good sense to blush at the compliments, “I’ve been working with a great crew.” she said, “They’ve taught me a lot about the V8’s”

“They did a good job,” replied Larkham, “You and Erebus completed the Pit Stop Challenge in 37.44 seconds. That means the winner is Garry Rogers Motorsport and Volvo!”

With the exception of a stunned Fluttershy, the assembled ponies stomped their hooves in applause.

“As the winner, anything you want to say?” asked Larkham

“Yay!”

Author's Note:

Many thanks to totallynotabrony and Fana Farouche for the proofreading, pre-reading and support.

This chapter was a monster to write and I get the feeling that they're only going to get bigger!