• 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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Training and Certification - Part 2

Conquering the Mountain
Training and Certification - Part 2

A mealtime concept that Twilight had not been exposed to, either in Canterlot or Ponyville, was the mobile food vehicle. Of course she had known about food vendors that set up their stands on popular street corners, but to have a food van make a stop in the industrial suburb of Yatala and watching workers pour out of their individual places of business to purchase food and drink in the short window of opportunity available to them before the van moved on to its next stop was something that truly had to be seen to be experienced.

As was this particular van’s schedule, it made a stop out the front of Erebus Motorsport shortly after the practical phase of the fire extinguisher training and allowed Holdsworth to indulge in a rarely seen bit of mischievousness.

Twilight had brought a packed lunch from Ponyville, a simple sandwich and some fruit, Holdsworth thought that it lacked flair and decided to add a traditional Australian dessert to her lunch as an introduction to Australian cuisine.

The dessert was presented to her after she had made the tea for the trio in the breakroom.

“What in the wide world of Equestria is this?” she asked, examining the black and white treat.

“It’s a Lamington,” explained Holdsworth, “You can eat it now or save it for afternoon smoko.”

“Oh, is it made from lamb?”

It was at that moment that Davison found out several things about his body, chiefly that it is possible to simultaneously choke on a mouthful of tea and squirt the hot liquid out of his nose.

While it was not generally well known, but as the student of Princess Celestia, Twilight had picked up a small quirk from her mentor. One that she had kept well hidden until now.

“What are you two eating?” asked Twilight, as she passed the sputtering Davison a napkin.

Davison shifted nervously in his chair as he looked at his lunch. “It’s a ham and cheese sandwich.” he mumbled.

“I didn’t quite catch that.”

Davison coughed and said in a voice that was remarkably similar to that of a child caught doing something naughty. “It’s a ham and cheese sandwich,” he said

Twilight internally smiled as she prepared her verbal snare

“You don’t have to worry about offending me over something as small as eating meat, I have a friend who takes care of animals and she explained to me that humans were omnivores.”

Both Holdsworth and Davison relaxed at Twilight’s explanation, it was at that point that Twilight dropped her verbal bombshell.

“Just so you two know,” she began, “I taste terrible!”

Twilight’s seemingly offhand remark caused Holdsworth to find out just how easily it is to accidentally inhale his own tea.

Thanks to her training with Celestia, Twilight was able to prevent any emotion, other than concern for Holdsworth, show on her face. On the inside however, she had one singular thought:

‘Gotcha!’

After a rather enjoyable lunch break, Twilight went to the race bays where she would begin her training for her position in the pits while Davison and Holdsworth went their separate ways. Holdsworth had a previous commitment to do some promotional work for Erebus, while Davison went to the area behind the race bays.

Inside waited Chris Seidel, the crew member that she would temporarily displace standing by a workbench attached to the back wall of the race bay sipping a mug of tea. On the bench were tyres, wheels and other assorted accessories that Twilight couldn’t clearly see.

“OK Twilight, we’ll start by identifying the key components that you will be dealing with,” said Seidel as indicated to the assorted parts on the bench.

“We start with the tyre,” he said as he hefted the mass of black rubber, “The tyre is a control component made by Dunlop. It is 26 inches in diameter, it comes in three flavours of Hard, Soft and a grooved Wet, the tyre weighs 10 kilos and issued to the teams at the start of the racing weekend. Each tyre has a sticker that has a barcode that can be used for record keeping and the tyre sets are randomly selected for each team to ensure that no individual team gets an advantage.

“The wheel is another control item, in this case they are supplied to us from Racer Industries,” Seidel showed Twilight the rear of the wheel, “Around the central hub are 15 holes, these will allow you to line up with the 5 holding studs on the wheel hub with ease. The wheels are 18 inches in diameter, they are made of aluminium and also weigh in at 10 kilos.”

Twilight was furiously noting down everything that Seidel was saying, certain that she would be tested later.

“Moving on, this is the wheel nut,” said Seidel as he held the fist sized piece of aluminium so Twilight could get a better look, “These are made in house at the machine shop, you can see here that there are a series of flanges that allow the nut to fit into the center of the wheel and spin freely, but not fall out without force.

“That’s about it for the wheel and tyres. Do you have any questions?”

Twilight went over her notes mentally comparing what was said to what she had written down. Finding no gaps in either record, she replied “I think I’ve got all of it.”

Seidel smiled and took a sip of his tea, “Moving onto the second item that you’ll be responsible for, the brakes. Brake rotors and calipers are, like the wheels and tyres, control items. These are made by an English company called AP Racing, the caliper that you would be dealing with is a solid piece of cast aluminium.

“Inside the caliper are two sets of three pistons that force the brake pad onto the rotor. Later on you’ll be shown how to change the brake pads safely and properly.” Taking a final mouthful of tea, Seidel said, “Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let’s go out the back and put it into practice!”

Twilight and Seidel casually walked out of the race bays and into an enclosed courtyard behind the workshop. What caught Twilight’s eyes was a Mercedes identical to the ones that were on their way to the Barbagallo raceway in Western Australia for this weekends race meeting. This had Twilight more than a little confused, but as she peered through the window she saw a familiar face.

“This is our Drive Car,” explained Davison from inside the Mercedes, “It is the same as our normal race cars with the exception to having a second seat. Normally we use this car for track days but today the guys are going to give you a crash course on how to operate in the pits.”

From inside the car, Will tapped a few switches and the engine roared to life. By necessity, Twilight had become familiar with the sounds made by the modern internal combustion engine, but the differences between the comfortable and relatively quiet road going vehicles and a vehicle designed for racing were poles apart.

This was the first time that Twilight had heard or felt such a sound. Startled, she flared her wings much to the amusement of the crews and to her embarrassment. Seeing this, Seidel signaled Davison to turn off the engine.

"First time?” asked Seidel as Twilight blushed and nodded, “Don’t worry, we all had a similar reaction.”

Seidel was diplomatic enough not to mention that most of the pit crew were young children or babes in arms when they first heard a racing V8.

The drive car itself was in a mock up of a pit bay that could serve as any bay on the Supercar circuit complete with awning, fuel filling, air hoses connected to bottles of nitrogen and even a set of tyres had already been laid out in preparation for the upcoming training.

Gathered around the drive car were various employes of Erebus who, outside of race day, were employed as panel beaters, machinists and mechanics but come a race weekend did a double duty as the Erebus pit crew.

Seidel started explaining the various positions, starting at the front of the pit box.

“The first person is the Car Controller,” said Seidel, “it is that person's responsibility to ensure that the car stops on its pit and is released safely. He has no other duties.”

Pointing to a man holding a half meter long pole on the left side of the drive car, Seidel continued. “Second is the Spike man, he is the guy with the air lance and once the car is stopped, he can insert the lance into its dock in the rear window to raise the car on its pneumatic jacks and once the car is off the ground he can assist with other parts of the pit stop with the exception of any part of the wheel section.”

Continuing down to the rear of the car he pointed to a man holding the distinctive double hosed fueling jack. “The third man is refueling, and where there is fuel, there is a fire hazard.”

“So the fourth person has the fire extinguisher!” exclaimed Twilight

“Exactly. That is why everybody here goes throught the same training that you went through this morning.

“Positions five and six are the left and right rear wheels,” said Seidel as he pointed to the positions, “Position seven is the right front wheel, which leaves you at position eight.”

Seidel led Twilight to a white line that ran parallel to the mock up pit bay. “This is the Prescribed Line. During a pit stop there can be a maximum of eight people participating, during the endurance races where there is a driver change, the driver and driver assistant are allowed in the pit bay but cannot help during a pit stop.

“Can somepony on the other side of the line pass over a tool or piece of equipment?” asked Twilight

“No, if that happened, the car would incur a penalty. It could be a drive through or even a timed stop/go penalty,” Seidel then pointed to a large silver box on stands, “That box is the fuel tower, standing at the tower is another crew member with a spring loaded handle known as a ‘Dead man switch’. In the event of an emergency, he releases the handle and it stops the flow of fuel, eliminating a potential hazard.

“Because he is behind the Prescribed Line, he doesn't count towards the eight members of the pit crew. Any questions?” concluded Seidel as he turned to face Twilight.

What he saw would send him into giggling fits for many years to come. During her note taking, Twilight had evidently run out of ink for her quill and instead of interrupting the flow of Seidel’s lecture, she merely used her magic to float the inkwell form her scholars kit at a convenient height so that she could dip her quill as needed, and judging by the notes and diagrams in Equestrian shorthoof, Twilight needed to dip her quill many times.

“No questions,” said Twilight as she used her magic to move her notes to either side of her head, like a set of academic blinders.

“Excellent. Put those notes away and pass me those saddlebags, you need to get into position.”

Twilight followed Seidel’s instructions and quickly moved to her position at the front left tyre. She picked up the rattle gun, a simple device that had a single large switch controlling the direction of the socket head, and crouched at the ready.

“Nice and slow,” Bellowed Seidel as he took out a stopwatch, “Go!”

Twilight heard the hiss if the pneumatic jacks a fraction of a second before the car was lifted from the ground, once in the air, she set about removing the tyre. She used her magic to maneuver the rattle gun into position before squeezing the trigger, the amount of torque was phenomenal for such a small piece of equipment as it undid the retaining nut in less than two seconds.

Gripping the tyre in her magic field, Twilight easily removed it, placing it down before replacing it with the ‘fresh’ tyre that was on her right side. A quick flick on the selector switch to put the rattle gun into reverse mode and the tyre was secured two seconds later.

Pleased with herself, Twilight looked around and saw that the rest of the crew were standing at their positions and each had one hand in the air, with the exception of the Spike man.

Seidel hurried over to Twilight, “Rear up, put your right hoof in the air and shout ‘Clear’ in a firm voice.” he whispered into Twilight’s ear

Twilight followed Seidel’s instructions, once she had yelled “Clear!” the Spike man pulled his lance from the rear window and the car dropped to the ground.

“Ten point two seconds,” said Seidel, reading from his stopwatch, “Remember that time Twilight, you will never be that slow again”

“Okay.” said Twilight, uncertain as to what Seidel ment.

Seidel let loose a shrill whistle and beckoned the crew over to where he and Twilight were standing, even Davison managed to extract himself from the car with minimal difficulty.

“Twilight, do you know what Kaizen is?” Seidel asked

“Is it the ancient Neighponese philosophy of continuous improvement?”

Seidel had to stop and mentally translate what Twilight had said into a form that he was more familiar with.

“Essentially, yes. While you managed to complete the task, it took far too long,” said Seidel, “Where do you think improvement can be made?”

This question had Twilight stumped, Seidel was correct in that it took longer for her to perform the same task and she was unsure on how she could improve other than through practice.

However, the more she thought about how she changed the tyre the more she realised that there were many actions that she could do to improve her time.

“I could have started taking the wheel nut off before the jacks raised the car off the ground,” said Twilight, “Or had the replacement wheel ready to go as soon as the old wheel was off”

“Those are two good points but I noticed some more, like lining up the socket on the rattle gun with the wheel nut instead of just ramming the gun in,” Seidel pointed out, “If you’re ready to have another crack at it, I’ll get the boys to reset the car.”

Twilight mulled over the what she had learnt so far and quickly made her decision. “Reset the car and I’ll keep practicing until I get it right!”

When the crew rolled the drive car out of the mock pit bay for the reset, Davison took one of the members aside and whispered a few instructions into his ear. Presently the crew member whispered the instruction to another and Davison smiled.

“Okay, Twilight. This will be a more realistic pit stop,” Said Seidel, “The boys will push the car in, I’ll be acting as the Car Controller to get Will to stop on the mark while you swap out the left front tyre.”

“About what you said about the socket on the rattle gun, what if I break the nut?”

Seidel laughed, “They’re cheap and we carry many, many spares!”

Twilight returned to her position, picked up the rattle gun and waited. Standing at around hip height on an average human, Twilight, like most ponies, had an advantage in the pits being that she didn’t need to crouch and maintain an awkward posture while waiting.

With a few exaggerated grunts, the crew pushed the drive car so that it rolled at a steady pace into the pit box. Twilight was mindful that she would not be caught flat hooved this time, so instead of waiting for the car to be lifted onto the internal jacks, she rammed the rattle gun onto the wheel nut before the car had come to a complete stop.

With the nut loose before the car had been raised, it was easy to swap the tyres once the car had cleared the ground, with a flick of the switch, the rattle gun was in reverse and securing the nut on the replacement wheel.

Following Seidel’s previous instructions, Twilight reared on her hind legs, thrust her hoof in the air and shouted “Clear!”. A fraction of a second later, there was a hiss of compressed air being released as the Spike Man removed the air lance, dropping the drive car and signaling the end of the practice.

“That was bloody good!” said Seidel, as he looked at the stopwatch, “Under 5 seconds and you cut down on the number of steps.”

“Was that good?” asked Twilight nervously, for an Equestrian, the word ‘Bloody’ was never good.

Seidel knelt down to be level with Twilight, “Look, after one attempt and some instruction, you performed just as fast as guys that have been doing this for years. You should be proud of yourself, just not too proud.”

The intimate moment between pseudo-mentor and student was dashed when every member of the pit crew rushed up to Twilight to give her a celebratory hug and the occasional ear rub. Dazed she somehow managed to catch Davison’s eye with a silent plea for assistance. For his part, Davison just made an imaginary mark on an imaginary scoreboard.

The message was clear, Davison had gotten even for Twilight’s little prank in the lunchroom!

A laughing Seidel shooed the members of the pit crew away from an embarrassed Twilight, reminding them that she still had more training to go through and if they had so much energy then they were welcome to assist. It was not surprising that the crew rapidly dispersed.

“Now that those clowns have left, we’ll move onto your second primary responsibility at your position.”

Seidel led Twilight into the mock garage where he had previously prepared the equipment needed for the next part.

“Remember before when I was telling you about the brake caliper?” Twilight nodded at Seidel’s question, “Well, these are the brake pads. It slides inside the brake caliper and is forced by the pistons onto the brake rotor to provide the stopping force required to slow down one and a half tons of machinery.”

Twilight studied the devices in front of her, each one was a bit longer than her hoof was wide with a thick layer of braking compound attached to a metal plate.

“Under race conditions, we would bake these up to around 120 degrees centigrade in the portable brake oven and take them out about a minute before a scheduled pit stop.”

Twilight had read up on the basics of automobiles and while her knowledge of the subject was not complete, what Seidel had told her did not fit in with what she had learnt.

“Why heat the brake pads, I thought that they failed if they got too hot?”

“If this was an average everyday road car, you’d be correct, but because of the massive forces that the brake pads and brake rotors are put under, they are engineered to operate at a higher temperature,” explained Seidel, “The downside is that they don’t operate too well below 200 degrees, by placing the pads in the oven, we can decrease the time it takes for the brake pads to reach operational temperature.”

“Why don’t you heat the pads up to 200 degrees then?”

“We can heat them up to that temperature, but we would not be able to handle the pads safely with our current equipment. And if we had special equipment for handling hot brake pads, we would not be able to safely use the rattle gun to take off the tyres, everything is a tradeoff.”

Seidel pointed to the brake oven that sat neatly tucked away on the far wall of the garage. “I’ve had a pair baking in there for about an hour, now I have to see if the glowy thing that you do is affected by heat”

Twilight was mildly insulted. For a unicorn, or alicorn in her case, using magic was as an important part of growing up as learning to read or write. Having it described as a ‘glowy thing’ spoke of the rather large cultural gap that existed between Humans and Equestrians.

“I’m sure that my ‘Glowy Thing’,” began Twilight, using a hoof to place imaginary quotation marks, “will be able to move heated brake pads.”

With a wave of his hand in to indicate that she should begin, Seidel watched with a practiced eye as Twilight opened the brake oven and removed a metal tray containing a set of brake pads. Following Seidel's directions, she returned the tray to the brake oven before joining him at the mock bay.

“Changing a set of brake pads is something that we have to do several times during a race,” said Seidel, “Unlike a tyre change that has to be performed quickly, a pad change is normally performed during a refueling stop, that means you have around 30 seconds to take off the tyre, remove the old pads, push the calipers back in, fit the new pads, and put on a fresh tyre before the fuel cell is refilled.”

Giving the sequence some thought, Twilight nodded, on the surface it didn’t sound difficult, but if it was anything like her experience changing a tyre, there was a surprise waiting for her.

Seidel inserted the air lance into its slot in the rear window to lift the drive car into the air once again.

“Just relax, I’ll talk you through the procedure,” said Seidel, “First, take off the tyre.”

Twilight smiled, this part of the process was familiar, with a mechanical whirl and a swift magical tug, the tyre was free.

“Next you have to remove the old pads, this is a racing caliper, so they just lift out.”

Twilight could see a brake pad similar to the one she was shown before sitting inside the caliper, with a gentle pull from her magic, she removed both it and its twin on the opposite side of the brake rotor.

“This is the part where we need some muscle,” Said Seidel, passing Twilight a piece of equipment colloquially known as ‘Brake Tongs’, “Insert the flat parts of the tongs into the calliper and push the handles together.”

Twilight manoeuvred the awkward device into position and immediately a problem presented itself. The long handles on the tongs that were needed for leverage made getting them into position tricky. From her observations, Twilight voiced the most obvious solution.

“Do the arms on this thing have to be so long?” asked Twilight, “If they were shorter, I could get it into position easier.”

“If they were too short, you wouldn’t get the leverage needed to force the pistons back into their pots.”

Twilight responded by magically lifting the entire front of the drive car to give her the room to fit the tongs into position. “I’m stronger than I look,” she said.

Seidel made a mental note to cut the arms off at the halfway point and round out the edges after work, “Now that you have the tongs in position, squeeze the arms together to force the pistons back into their pots,” said Seidel, continuing with his instruction, “And please put the car back down.”

Following both sets of directions, Twilight waited for Seidel to issue his next instruction.

“Now that the pistons are out of the way, you can put in the fresh brake pads.”

While the drive car was not normally driven to the extremes that the other vehicles in the Erebus stable, it was still a powerful racing car under the skin and as luck would have it, in need of a replacement set of brake pads.

Comparing the old pads against the fresh one passed to her by Seidel, Twilight could see that the wear was noticeable, but still leaving a fair amount of braking compound on the old pad.

After slipping the fresh pads into their respective slots, Twilight was instructed to replace the tyre while Seidel made sure that the brake pedal was pumped a few times to properly seat the pads.

Taking a moment to mentally replay the procedure, Twilight tried to imagine how she would change the brake pads under race conditions. Following the steps that Seidel laid out for her, she was confident that she could do the change in the 30 second time limit.

With a friendly nudge, Seidel broke Twilight out of her daydreaming and began to explain the secondary duties that she would be required to perform. During a race, debris from the track or other cars could be drawn into the ductwork that cooled the brakes or the onto the radiator and would need to be physically removed.

To keep the windscreen relatively clean, there were removeable plastic ‘Tear offs’ that would be stripped off at the driver’s request. Any body panels that become damaged during a race would either have to be secured with heavy duty adhesive tape or in extreme cases, removed altogether.

Twilight was relieved that unless there was no other option, she would be swapped out with another member of the pit crew if such emergency repairs were needed. What fascinated her was the cooling system that the drivers used, and what substance it utilised.

“Dry ice, how can ice be dry?” Twilight asked

Seidel smiled as he launched into a detailed explanation on the cooling system used by the drivers. In this case, water was pumped through a cool suit that was, in essence, plastic piping that was sandwiched between two thin layers of cloth.

The piping itself was connected to an insulated ‘cool box’ that was filled with the Dry Ice where the heat from the water was removed and cool water pumped around the driver, helping him regulate his body temperature in a vehicle that could easily reach 60 degrees celsius on some tracks.

Seidel began to explain as best he could, dragging up chemistry and physics lessons from his youth to try to explain exactly what Dry Ice is. Judging by the look of understanding in Twilight’s eyes, his shaky explanation was enough for her to draw her own conclusions. Further in depth discussions were interrupted by the return of Rarity and Hunt.

“Yoo Hoo, Twilight Darling!” called Rarity from inside the Race Bays. Beside her, and carrying a small mountain of bags, satchels, sewing kits and a dress maker's dummy, was an harried and exhausted looking Hunt.

Seidel, Twilight and a few members of the pit crew poked their heads into the race bays to see who was calling for their newest member.

“Rarity, you're back, “said Twilight. “How did it go?”

Rarity had a slight bounce in her step from her recent working trip to Renard Noir and was having some trouble containing her glee.

“It was very informative. Mr Hunt has quite a workshop and the range of colours and patterns are to die for,” Rarity gushed. The truth was, she was having some difficulty not singing the praises of the small workshop. “But enough chitchat, I come bearing your new outfit! Would you care to try it on?

“The race engineer's office should be empty,” said Seidel as he pointed to a stairway leading up to an unmarked door, “They’re just up there.”

Rarity followed Twilight up the stairs to the engineer’s office with a pair of cardboard boxes floating behind her. After knocking on the door and receiving no reply, Twilight and Rarity enter the empty office and prepare for the fitting.

Rarity presented Twilight with the first two items. A set of cotton garments that were designed to be worn under the fire suit and are intended to absorb sweat and prevent chaffing from the harsher Nomex fabric.

White and soft, the undersuit was made from a high quality Australian cotton, and thanks to Rarity’s expert knowledge and craftsmanship, fit perfectly without pinching or riding up in any area.

Rarity produced a set of padded, polycarbonate shin guards that had been purchased from a local saddlery and attached them to Twilight’s forelegs. Twilight look at the guards with undisguised curiosity.

“Really, Darling,” Said Rarity, “Humans might be able to wear protective footwear, but it would take months to have something even close to that level of protection made. Fortunately, there is a local solution”

“Where did you get these?” asked Twilight

“Mr Hunt knew of a store that sold equipment made for the local equines of this world.” said Rarity with a shudder.

Twilight put a hoof on her friend's shoulder, she knew that it would be a shock to find out that under different circumstances, the population of Equestria could have ended up in a similar situation.

“You don’t understand, Twilight. It was a horror most foul, there were earth tones everywhere!”

Then again, Rarity would always be Rarity.

With a dramatic flourish, Rarity whipped out the completed fire suit. A synthesis of human chemistry and engineering meeting pony design specifications, the suit was predominately black with simple white highlights on the backs of the legs and arms as well as down the sides of the torso and across the shoulders.

Bare of sponsorship patches or decorations, it had been made around the concept that Twilight would comfortable on all four hooves, yet still be able to rear up when required.

Eagerly, Twilight started to slip on the suit. At first she thought that the suit, like the under garments, would be in two pieces, but she quickly realised that it was more like a set of overalls.

“I think that’s it,” Said Twilight as she finally managed to get the suit past her shoulders, true to her own independant quirks, Twilight had declined Rarity’s assistance, citing that she may not have another person or pony around when she had to put on the suit for a race day.

Rarity conjured up a simple mirror for Twilight to view and critique her new outfit.

“It’s a little loose in places,” said Twilight, “Can it be adjusted?”

“Oh, easily!” replied Rarity, “You just have to secure the velcro fasteners at your ankles, waist and collar.”

Twilight lifted a foreleg and peered at the strange fabric at the ankle hole, “What is Velcro?” she asked.

Rarity allowed herself a lady like titter as she securely fastened the six velcro straps on the fire suit as she launched into the same explanation that Hunt had given her that morning.

Rarity gave her latest creation and its owner a critical once over, seeing that everything was in its correct and proper place, she declared it a brilliant merging of aesthetics and practicality and ushered Twilight out the office door so that they could show off her latest creation.

Trotting back down the stairs, Rarity heard Twilight let out an amusing squeak. Looking past her friend, Rarity saw that the pit crew had moved from the practice area to inside the race bay and as soon as Twilight noticed them, they started to applaud and whistle.

Getting over her initial shock from the sudden appearance of her teammates, Twilight trotted to the group before striking a pose worthy of a Manehattan fashion model. The crew responded by taking out their personal phones to snap as many pictures as possible.

“Hate to break up the party,” said Hunt, “But I have to fit Miss Sparkle’s helmet.”

Ignoring the good natured groans of mock complaint, Hunt led Twilight to the same workbench where she first received her instruction from Seidel after her lunch break. On the workbench was an assortment of parts that Twilight could not identify, with the exception of one, the hard shell of a helmet.

“First is the lovely cotton balaclava that Miss Rarity made,” said Hunt as he slipped the soft cotton garment over Twilight’s head. As with most headgear made by and for ponies, it came with pre-cut earholes and a reinforced slit for Twilight’s horn.

With the balaclava properly fitted and tucked into the collar, Hunt began sliding a polystyrene dome onto Twilight’s head.

“This part of the helmet acts to cushion any impact,” explained Hunt, “The tricky part is making sure that it fits correctly around your horn, fortunately, Miss Rarity made took some very extensive measurements so it should fit.”

True to his word, the polystyrene dome was a good fit. Carefully removing the dome, Hunt used a modeling scalpel to make a series of incisions so that noise cancelling ear pieces could be fitted.

With a quick wipe over with a hot glue gun, the dome was inserted into the empty shell. The shell in question was an extra that was ordered for another customer but was no longer required and had an oversized chin guard making it suitable for a pony.

Passing the nearly completed helmet off to one of the fabricators to have a hole drilled in the shell for Twilight’s horn, knowing that it will only take a few minutes for the fabricator to finish his work, Hunt made a final and thorough inspection of Twilight’s suit, making sure that the majority of Twilight’s body was both covered and protected, that the fit was correct, the protective flaps covering her wings performed as expected.

By the time Hunt was finished with his inspection and questioning of Twilight, the fabricator had returned with the finished helmet and had even found a rubber grommet to provide an all weather seal.

Taking the helmet from the fabricator, Twilight the helmet over her own head. While it was snug, the hole for her horn was at the correct angle and there was enough room around the front guard so that her muzzle was protected but not impeded in any measurable way.

Moving back over to where Rarity had been giving fashion advice, both requested and not, to the waiting pit crew, Twilight was glad that the crew was giving her positive reviews, although the fabricator who did the finishing work had a strangely neutral expression that did not seem the match up with the rest of the compliments from the crew.

“Now that you look like you belong here,” said Seidel as he passed Twilight a set of fresh brake pads, “Can you swap out the pads on the front right of the drive car?”

Twilight was glad that the helmet hid her embarrassment as the crew shouted out equal amounts of encouragement, teasing, and more encouragement. From a purely professional standpoint, Rarity was curious to see how Twilight performed in the suit, and as such she followed her friend to the drive car.

Seidel had left the lance connected to the drive car and the rattle guns were still attached to their air hoses so everybody in the race bay stood near the right front of the drive car while giving Twilight room to work and maneuver.

With the required tools and parts positioned for easy access and with her audience a safe and respectable distance away, Twilight picked up the rattle gun and crouched, waiting for Seidel’s signal.

Twilight didn’t have to wait long. At the signal, Twilight moved with focused determination. First the wheel came off smoothly with Twilight putting it to the side and switching the rattle gun into reverse in the same action.

The worn brake pads were cold and easily removed, the tongs with their too long handles were difficult to maneuver into position, Twilight took a shortcut and struck the flat blades with her hoof so that the tongs were a proper fit.

A brief application of magic and the tongs had forced the calipers back into their pots. Replacement pads quickly followed and Twilight put the tyre back on. As per the correct procedure, Twilight reared up, thrust her right hoof in the air and shouted, “Clear!”

So focused on her task, Twilight was startled by the cheer from behind her, a cheer that seemed to include the stomping of hooves.

“Ten point two seconds,” Said Seidel, reading from his stopwatch, “Only a couple of seconds off the top times.”

Any further critique or commentary was interrupted by a call from the receptionist, Jessica Lowe, informing the crew that it was time to shut down the workshops in preparation for the shuttle to take them to the airport.

“Where are you going?” asked Twilight as she removed her helmet and balaclava.

“Gotta catch a plane to Western Australia and set up for this weekends meeting,” said one of the pit crew, “It takes the transporter 5 days of solid driving to get to Barbagallo Raceway from here, we fly out in a few hours and meet it there in order to set up the pit for this weekend.”

“Oh, then I’d better let you go then.”

Twilight was a little stunned, Lowe’s had spurred the previously relaxed crew into an efficient taskforce, each with their own responsibility and timeframe. To be frank, Twilight hadn’t felt this lost since her first day at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns!

“I’ll hold onto that,” said the fabricator, indicating to the helmet, “Y’know, for safe keeping”

Twilight passed the helmet over, “What do I do?” she asked

“Go back upstairs and change out of your fire suit, everything will be finalised by the time you’re finished.”

Waiting at the base of the stairs was Rarity who was doing her best to stay out of the way. The fashionista had been backstage of enough fashions shows to know when it was a wiser course of action to find a quiet corner than be caught up in the madness. It was no surprise that she was at the base of the stairs when Twilight approached her to assist with the removal of her suit.

Upstairs and in the relative quiet of the engineer's office, Twilight found that taking off the fire suit was far easier than putting it on even without Rarity’s assistance. Undoing a velcro tab on each leg as well as the ones at her collar and waist, a quick unzip with a little shimmy and Twilight was free of the fire suit.

Once Twilight was down to the cotton undergarments, Rarity assisted by using her magic to strip the sweat soaked items from her friend. Holding them far from her body, Rarity wrinkled her nose as she placed the foul smelling clothing into the same plastic bag that they originally arrived in closely followed by the balaclava and shin guards.

“Well now, I’ll have to have these properly washed,” said Rarity as she exited the office and trotted down the stairs, “And while I’m at it, I’ll see about adding some reinforcing in a few areas, to prevent chafing, my dear.”

Following Rarity, Twilight saw that what little equipment that was in use was returned to its proper place while the crew was waiting with their travel bags for the shuttle to the airport.

“Twilight, It’s been educational having you here,” said Seidel, “I’ll pass everything along to HR, but as far as I’m concerned, you’ve earned your place here.”

Twilight blushed at the compliment as she individually thanked each crew member for their support. Davison received a rather strong hug, not enough to impede his performance, but enough to remind him that their private prank war wasn’t over.

“Well if that’s everything, we should not delay these fine gentlemen any longer” said Rarity

Twilight nodded in agreement, “I just have to collect something from the break room.”

As Rarity hadn’t completed a site induction like Twilight had, it was Twilight’s responsibility to escort her friend back to the administration building. There the pair saw that Hunt was presenting Lowe with the invoice for his services, sensing an opportunity for some networking, Rarity approached the clothier while Twilight dashed upstairs to the break room.

In the minute that Twilight took retrieve her mid-afternoon snack, Rarity had somehow managed to not only strike up a conversation with Hunt, but also set up a meeting with his suppliers for some of the synthetic fabrics that had caught her eye and imagination.

With her dessert floating in front of her, Twilight asked “Ready to go?”

“Of course, darling,” Rarity replied, “But I must ask, what is that concoction you have?”

“Oh, this?” said Twilight, indicating to her snack, “It’s a Lamington, a traditional snack from this area.”

“How interesting,” Said Rarity as she leaned closer to the floating dessert, “Is it made from lamb?”

Author's Note:

Good grief this was a long chapter to write. Many thanks to Totallynotabrony for his editing and guidance.

Hopefully the next chapter will be completed in a reasonable time.