• Published 8th Oct 2015
  • 1,777 Views, 136 Comments

Conquering the Mountain - johnnosk

How did a pony get into the pit crew?

  • ...


Conquering the Mountain

Twilight Sparkle always had a knack for scheduling. As a young foal she had an organiser where she would schedule time for study, meals, naps and play… and not necessarily in that order!

But coordinating a schedule for her Workplace Health & Safety induction at Erebus Racing was taxing even to her incredible skills. Between incidents requiring the attention of herself and her friends in Equestria, and the wrangling of various bureaucratic agencies on both sides, two rounds of the V8 Supercar championship had passed before Twilight arrived at Erebus Motorsport.

The reception area of Erebus was not what Twilight expected. Instead of wall to wall racing paraphernalia and sponsorship logos there were polished wood floors, shiny metal chairs and a tasteful display of trophies and awards behind a curved reception desk.

Due to an understandable difference in height, Twilight was forced to rear onto her hind legs so she could be seen by the receptionist. Any carefully prepared mental notes that were prepared beforehand were casually balled up and thrown out as soon as the receptionist saw Twilight.

“Excuse me, I’m-”

“You must be Twilight Sparkle, great to have you here,” the receptionist offered Twilight a fist, which she gently bumped with her hoof.

“Yes, I’m here for my workplace induction.”

“Certainly, if you’d like to take a seat, someone will be out shortly to escort you.”

Twilight nodded her thanks and trotted off to study the various awards while she waited for her escort. It was with some surprise that while the awards for racing were few, being that the team itself was only a year old, there were a number of academic awards as well as well as thank you notes from community organisations that had received financial assistance from Erebus Motorsport.

A polite cough caught Twilight’s attention and she turned to see an older man in his mid fifties. Though his body posture was neutral, Twilight could feel his eyes assessing her.

Ross Stone, the General Manager of Erebus Motorsport, was not the ideal person to conduct such a delicate interview. Had the Australian Diplomatic Service known, they would have exercised every conceivable means at their disposal to prevent such an occurrence from happening.

As one half of the notable and very successful Stone Brothers Racing, he had accumulated knowledge from over two decades of building racing engines, had built cars that had won championships and the drivers that had raced on the team that he and his brother had built were successful and celebrities in their own right.

It was most unfortunate that the duty of conducting Twilight’s induction had fallen squarely on his shoulders being that he was possibly the most undiplomatic person at Erebus. A man of the old school of motor racing, he talked with a slow measured pace that led the unwary to underestimate his knowledge of the sport.

He was also in a position to deny Twilight a position at Erebus if he felt that the situation warranted such an action. If that occurred, then months of diplomatic wrangling was thrown out the window.

“Hi there, I’m Twilight Sparkle,” she said by way of introduction, “Are you my escort?”

“Yeah, I’m Ross Stone,” he said, his voice measured and calm, “There is a room set up for us over there.”

Stone led Twilight to a small office just off from the reception area that had been prepared beforehand with a combination TV/ DVD player and the DVDs in their cases needed for the induction along with a sizeable pile of folders filled with documents.

Having taken their seats, Stone asked, “What can you bring to Erebus Motorsport?”

This question stunned Twilight, she had come to Erebus thinking that all she needed to do was complete a workplace induction and now it seemed that she was sitting for a job interview.

“Well I… That is I...” stammered Twilight

“I have here résumés from 3rd year mechanical apprentices trying to break into racing,” said Stone, tapping the pile of folders “Some have even done their apprenticeship at Mercedes. From you, I have seen very little that impresses me.”

This got Twilight’s hackles up. While she didn’t like showing off, she also had confidence in her abilities. “I’m smart, I’m organised, I graduated from Celestia's School for gifted unicorns and I’m the student of Princess Celestia.”

“That sounds impressive, but tells me nothing.”

Twilight was now getting flustered, and when she got flustered she started to fall back on to old habits. In this case, she noticed that the numbers on the DVD cases were out of order. Using her magic, she manipulated the order of the DVD’s until they were sequential; this got Stone’s attention.

“Now that, Miss Sparkle, is impressive. Tell me, what are the limitations of this talent of yours?”

“I’m not too sure. I mean, I can move objects around, but so can any unicorn. I can precisely move several objects at once which isn’t common.”

“Lift these up again,” Stone said, tapping the cases

With a purple glow, the cases floated above the table once again. Cautiously, Stone tapped one with the back of his hand. When he didn’t have an adverse reaction, he gave the case a gentle push and saw it did move but floated back to its original position.

Throwing both caution and common sense out the window he gripped one of the cases and physically moved it about. The sensation was similar to pushing two north poles of a pair of magnets together. There was some resistance but it was easily overcome, and when the case was released, it just hung there.

“Most impressive,” Stone admitted

Stone picked up the first DVD and inserted it into the player, “Miss Sparkle, I want you to pay attention to this video, there will be a short quiz at the end to verify your understanding of its contents.

“While you do that, I have to check on something. I’ll be back before the video finishes.”

Once outside of the office, Stone hurried back to the reception area and had a quick conversation with the receptionist,and after getting her assent, he returned at a more casual pace to the office where he had left Twilight.

Inside the office, Twilight was in awe at the video, not because it was technology that was several generations beyond what Equestrians had developed, but for the concepts that it presented.

Workplace Health and Safety was a concept that was not generally understood in Equestria. While individuals protected themselves against harm while working, there was no overall legislative concept or act that was in place. After seeing the video provided by the Queensland government, Twilight had a feeling that soon, a similar act would be enacted regardless of any objections from the likes of Prince Blueblood or other members of the Canterlot elite.

The overall message was that employers were responsible for providing a safe workplace and that employees were responsible for conducting themselves in a safe manner while in the workplace, even going as far as being able to refuse to do work if they considered it to be unsafe.

The balance between employer and worker was its own sort of harmony in that with the two working together, a safe workplace means that work can continue and the business makes money.

Along with the actual legislation was Erebus Motorsport’s own workplace Health and Safety policy. While the legislation set out the legal framework, penalties and so on, the individual company policy is the actual document that outlines Erebus Motorsport’s internal procedures on Health and Safety.

Everything from training and certification, to reporting incidents in the workplace, to documentation in compliance with the legislation was all included in a single company specific document. If those two documents were only a sample of the culture that Twilight was interacting with, then she knew that her time here would be well spent.

When Stone had returned, he presented Twilight with a short, multiple choice quiz that not only covered what she had just watched, but in the same order as well!

“Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, I’ll take you on a tour of the place.”

Erebus Motorsport was built over two neighbouring industrial lots, this led to the administration building that housed the reception area as well as Media, Marketing, Human Resources, Design Engineering and all the ‘soft’ side of running a large motorsport team on one lot with the other lot housing the ‘Hard’ side.

Throughout the tour, Stone pointed out such helpful and legally binding things such as First Aid stations, emergency exits, muster points and which vending machine has the best snacks.

Traveling from the soft to the hard side, Twilight saw that Stone gained a little more bounce in his step similar to how her own father acted when talking about his hobbies. When he opened the door to one of the annexes he gave Twilight a sly smile.

“In here is fabrication,” said Stone as he walked over to a mass of tubular steel pipes that had been welded together, “In this section, we have the chassis, body panels and aerodynamics.

“This is one of our chassis, it is one of the many control parts that we will use during the season. This part we get ready-built from Pace Innovations”

The chassis had already been set up on a jig to assist with ensuring that the alignment of the chassis and the rest of the car. Twilight poked her head through the gaps in the chassis and mentally compared it to what she had seen in Melbourne, while she could see where the driver would sit, it seemed smaller that what she remembered.

“Mr Stone, you mentioned body panels-”

“Body panels, over there!” Stone said as he moved off to the area where the panels were stored, repaired and manufactured.

Twilight hurried to catch up after the big man and almost ended up running into him when he stopped at the panel storage area.

“Oh, my,” said Twilight as she saw the dozens of spares arranged neatly in racks.

“Lots of physical contact in racing, so this section gets a lot of work” Said Stone, “A lot of the aerodynamics are carbon fiber composites and we can actually fix them in house instead of sending them out to be repaired.

“If you think that’s impressive, wait until you see the CNC machines.”

“The what?”

Stone led Twilight out of the fabrication workshop and into another section of Erebus Racing. While the chassis and the panel shop were large, their combined floor area was only slightly more than the three CNC milling machines accounted for in the machine shop.

“These are our five-axis milling machines, they make most of the in-house parts for the cars. Erebus has a few design engineers that take the data from the cars and the strip down work and either alter the current design for better life or even design a new part from scratch.”

“They make parts for the engine?”

“Parts for the engine, parts for the internals of the chassis. Here’s an example.” Stone picked up a metal block and passed it to Twilight, “This block of alloy would be placed in the machine, about nine hours later, this is the result”

Stone picked up a second item, in this case, the item had already been finished and cleaned before the machinist had been called away. To Twilight, the item looked like a shiny piece of modern art.

“What is it?” Asked Twilight, mesmerised by the strange combination of bumps and curves that Stone held

“A cam cover for one of the engines.”

Stone wasted no time as he hustled Twilight over to another building, this one was where the engines were built and tested.

“In this part of the facility, we develop, test and refine the engines,” explained Stone, “There are three testing dynos that are running near constantly for nine engines.”

“Why nine engines?”

“For starters, that is about half a million dollars’ worth of equipment in engines alone and we really don’t need any more than nine engines at this stage.”

Stone thought for a second, “Miss Sparkle, you remember those big machines in the machine shop?”

Twilight nodded, although she didn’t yet understand how the CNC machines worked, she had no trouble in remembering the cam cover that had been produced.

“Every new design that our engineers come up with goes into a testing engine and onto the dyno for assessment, if it is within the V8 Supercar regulations and it increases performance or extends engine life, we’ll use it. But only after it has been thoroughly tested.”

The next stop was little more than a bare shed, only this shed was filled with used tyres.
“That’s a lot of rubber!” exclaimed Twilight, “But why keep the old tyres, it seems like a waste of space.”

“At each race we’re only issued a certain amount of tyres and to be frank, it's never enough,” Stone was genuinely disappointed. Before the new regulations to ensure fairness between the teams, a factory team with money could get as many tyres as they could afford, “After the race, we give the tyres a once over and if it has enough meat left on it, we can reuse it.”

“How can they be reused? They’re all bald.”

Stone picked up a tyre from the rack and rotated it until a series of small holes were visible.
“You're thinking of tread. Now while this tyre has tread, what it doesn’t have is a tread pattern; that is on the wet weather tyres. We measure the tread with a special tool via these holes, that’s how we calculate tyre wear.

“In this bank we have 80 dry and 24 wet weather tyres that we can use for testing and practice sessions. The tyres themselves are another control part and we get our allotment before each race.”

Twilight gently poked the surface of the tyre with her hoof, mentally taking note of how soft the rubber was. For something that was, for all appearances, a simple rubber device, the science behind it was surprisingly complicated.

The final stop on the tour was the race bays, while both Mercedes had already been stripped down to the chassis and reassembled since coming back from the last race. There was still work to be done in making sure that they were safe to transport across the Tasman Sea to the next race at Auckland.

While it was only a relatively short hop to New Zealand, an international border meant that getting parts from Erebus HQ would experience a short delay, so the transporters, which would be shipped ahead of the teams, had to ensure that there were more than enough spare parts for both cars.

Typically, this would happen about a week ahead of the event meaning that the many mechanics and engineers were taking care of various ‘Housekeeping’ duties like inventory or workshop maintenance. In short, boring drudge work that needed to be done.

Having the boss turn up with a purple Alicorn was an interesting distraction, and needless to say, Twilight was the centre of attention.

Stone began introducing Twilight to the various members of the team. One person that she was happy to see again was the same engineer that she met in the garage in Melbourne,

“Miss Sparkle here will be assisting us in the pits later on in the year.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, boss, but what can she do except haul gear around?”

Stone smiled the type of smile often given by police detectives just before they arrest someone. “Miss Sparkle, please bring me those three tool cabinets from the back wall” he said pointing to the items in question

Twilight’s horn gave off its distinctive purple glow and the three cabinets obediently rolled towards the stunned crews, stopping at the edge of the group.

In the crowd there was a short cough and the same voice as before said, “So boss, where are you going to stick her?”

“I was considering putting her on the front left wheel for one of the enduros” said Stone. “She will still need to be trained, some gear may need to be modified and so on. I’ll talk to you later about that. For now, this is just a meet and greet.”

Twilight mingled among the assembled crews while Stone checked on the progress of the packing of the transports. Satisfied with both what he saw and what the crew chiefs told him he made his way back to Twilight who was holding an impromptu class on magic theory for the engineers.

“Fellas, I’m going to have to get Miss Sparkle back to HR to finish up. Don’t worry, she’ll be back soon.”

Stone then gently guided Twilight back to the reception area where a diplomatic driver was patiently waiting to return her to the departure point. With a polite acknowledgement to the driver, Stone strode up to the reception desk where the receptionist handed him several bound documents.

“Here is some night table reading for you, Miss Sparkle,” said stone as he passed the documents to Twilight, “We have the V8 Supercar technical regulations, the V8 Supercar Racing regulations, Erebus Motorsport Workplace Policies and procedures and the Work Health and Safety Act.”

Twilight took the documents in her magic, while most of the individual documents were small, the final one was twice as large as the previous documents combined. Although she would not admit it, even to herself, the prospect of giving such a piece of legislation a thorough going over was quite exciting.

“Miss Sparkle, we need you back here on this date at 8am,” said Stone as he handed Twilight a final piece of paper, “You still have to pass a fire safety course, a materials handling course and become qualified to perform CPR if required.”

“That doesn’t sound too hard,” remarked Twilight

“The courses are relatively easy, the hard part is getting you fitted for a firesuit,” said Stone, “I hate to tell you this, but nobody has ever had to make one for your body type before.”

“I have a friend who makes dresses, I could ask her for some advice.”

Stones thought for a moment, he did not get into the position that he currently occupied without knowing how to seize an opportunity when it is being presented to him on a silver platter.

“You have a friend who makes clothing for ponies and can save us time and money by ensuring that you are outfitted correctly?”

“Ah, yes?”

“Bring her along with you.”