• 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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Welcome to Bathurst

Conquering the Mountain
Welcome to Bathurst

It was a temperate Wednesday morning in the New South Wales city of Bathurst, as the crow flies, it lay about 160 Kilometers to the west of the state capital of Sydney and historically known for being the centre of Australia’s first gold rush although more recent history centers around a specific six kilometers of road.

The Diplomatic Service had somehow managed to secure the use of a large, and apparently expensive, motorhome to serve as Twilight’s accommodation for the duration of the Bathurst 1000.

With a member of the Diplomatic Service at the wheel and an escort car following close behind, it took a short two and a half hours to travel from Sydney to the camping ground that was reserved for drivers, their families, and volunteers.

Twilight hopped from side to side as she watched the driver from the Diplomatic Service manouver the motorhome that would serve as her accommodation for the next week into its designated place.

When fully set up, the motorhome itself was entirely independent, carrying a supply of water and LPG for the onboard stove while a solar array ensured that the onboard batteries were fully charged and ready for lighting and refrigeration.

The motorhome itself had two beds, a conventional oven in a well designed kitchenette as well as self contained bathroom and toilet facilities all contained in a remarkably compact, yet efficient floor plan. Much like the caravan of a certain traveling magician, once the motorhome had been parked, it could expand to allow for more floor space with the dining area and main bed sliding outwards during longer stays.

Another thing that excited Twilight was who her neighbour would be for the duration, an older gentleman who had clocked his fair share of laps around the Mount Panorama circuit, Russell Ingall, along with his wife and two daughters.

It was not a coincidence that Ingall was occupying the site adjacent to Twilight’s, through the use of social media and a few phone calls, the Diplomatic Service had not only learned that this would be Ingall’s final year as a full time driver, but as usual, he was traveling with his family.

For many years, Julia Ingall had been an unofficial ‘Mother’ to the wives and girlfriends of the younger drivers, counseling them on how to deal with the stress of watching their other half perform a physically demanding and mentally draining job while knowing that a mistake or lapse in concentration could be catastrophic.

Through subtle manipulation, Julia, whom Ingall nicknamed ‘The Enforceress’, would find herself as a temporary next door neighbour to a young and nervous mare who was without her normal support network.

For Twilight, as a VIP at the previous race meeting, the Sandown 500, She had read up on the current roster of drivers and had taken the time to read their official biographies. She knew that Ingall’s nickname in the series was ‘The Enforcer’ but after reviewing his recent races, she couldn’t work out how he earned that name.

“Hi there,” said Twilight as she offered her hoof to Ingall, “It looks like we’re going to be neighbours.”

Ingall politely gave Twilight’s hoof a firm shake, any reply that me was about to make was suddenly interrupted by the excited squeal from his daughters as they excitedly rushed towards Twilight.

“Daddy, do you know who this is?” Asked the younger of the two, “It’s Princess Twilight Sparkle!”

Ingall, apparently used to his daughters fangirling at strange times, smiled by way of an apology for his daughter's actions and said “You must be the new girl in the Erebus pit. You excited to be here?”

“I’m one part excited and two parts nervous with just a dash of lost” Twilight replied, “I was supposed to meet Betty and the rest of the team here, but I think I’m early.”

Ingall checked his watch, it was coming up to 8:00 and the grounds had already begun to warm up in the morning sun. “The convoy should be passing through Bathurst in about an hour and a half, I’m going to take the kids in to watch. You want to come along?”

Twilight hesitated, ever since her ascension, she had been made aware that what she said or did could have repercussions. Taking a leaf from Applejack’s book, Twilight said, “I’d like to, but I need to stretch my wings. Which way is the town?”

Ingall pointed in the direction of the township, “It’ll take you, maybe, ten minutes to fly to town, you’d be able to get a good spot for the parade.”

Twilight felt her part of her nervousness fade as she politely bowed to Ingall and his daughters before spreading her wings and taking flight, much to Ingall’s fascination and the delight of the daughters.

Once airborne and away from the circuit, Twilight saw that Ingall’s initial estimate was, to say the least, generous. Covering the three and a half kilometers into the town in a mere five minutes at a casual pace,

Secure in the knowledge that she had time on her hooves, Twilight began to lazily circle the town until a marquee for a popular grocery chain caught her attention.

“The Fresh Food People?” Twilight asked herself, reading the slogan. Through the doors she could both see and smell some sweet produce, the stimulus was enough to pique her curiosity. Intellectually, Twilight knew that she had to purchase supplies for her stay in Bathurst and that soon, time would be in short supply.

However, those intellectual thoughts took a backseat as new and exotic smells wafted from the doors. Thinking more with her stomach than her head, Twilight casually trotted towards the automatic doors.

To many a pony, doors that open without the aid of another pony’s muscle or the magic of a Unicorn, would be cause for alarm, or at the very least, concern. For Twilight, having been exposed to the technology several times over the course of the year, it was a wondrous example of humans overcoming their lack of innate magical ability through technology.

Having become accustomed to the farmers market that was routinely set up in Ponyville, it came as a mild shock that while she had seen more produce in a single store before, she had never even thought of having such a tremendous variety to choose from.

Nearly overwhelmed by the vast array of new sights and smells of the fresh produce available, Twilight thought it best to stick to the simple staples. Picking up a handbasket from the stack near the entrance, Twilight began to fill it with carrots, apples, and celery.

Fortunately for both Twilight’s stomach and budget, a staff member was just finishing up when he spied Twilight acting like a cross between Pinky Pie and a Changeling.

“Can I help you?” he asked, “You look a little lost.”

Twilight was lost in more ways than one, shopping without a carefully prepared list was something that she hadn’t done since she was a filly, but she was sure that she could muddle her way through. What she hadn’t counted on was that humans seem to grow big in the country!

Looking up, Twilight did her best not to sound like Fluttershy, “I, ah, need some supplies for the race weekend,” said Twilight, But I wasn’t prepared for the variety that you have here.”

The Woolworths staff member knelt down so he was at eye level with Twilight, “What type of supplies were you looking for?” asked the staff member, whose nametag read ‘Patrick’, “We have outdoor gear, toiletries, chips and snacks, even fresh bread from the bakery.”

The combination of Patrick’s helpful manner and his kneeling down to be less imposing helped return a measure of confidence to Twilight. Clearing her throat, she began.

“I need two bushels of carrots, one bushel of apples, half a bushel of celery and half a bushel of lettuce”

Most city dwelling Australians would be confused by the quantities that Twilight had requested, but Patrick was a country boy from the Blue Mountains like his father and his father before him, as such he was quite familiar with the old measurements that had survived since the changeover from imperial to metric in 1966

In keeping with the ‘Fresh Food’ theme, Woolworth stores all around Australia used old style bushels to display different types of produce, often smaller amounts of ‘boutique’ fruits or vegetables that had small but consistent sales.

Patrick spied one of the bushels on display and mentally compared its volume to what Twilight had ordered.

“Are you certain about that?” he asked, “That’s a lot of food for such a little pony.”

“Well, it has to last me the whole week and I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to come back to get resupplied.”

“Is that all,” said Patrick, “You can arrange a delivery time from the girls at the front counter, Just tell us where you are staying and when you want ‘em and we’ll get them there!”

Knowing that she could resupply, daily if necessary, made Twilight recalculate her order downwards by several orders of magnitude.

Seeing the confusion on Twilight’s face, Patrick took control of the situation, moving towards the area of the vegetables were the more common Australian staples were kept, he picked up two bags of carrots.

“How about this, you get a couple bags of carrots, a bag of lettuce and a dozen Fuji apples” he said, “If you need more, you can place an order on our website.”

Twilight did have some passing familiarity with the internet so the concept of purchasing groceries via a computer was not too much of a stretch, and if she had any questions, the team at Erebus would be able to help her.

“Oh, okay. How much do I owe you?” Twilight asked as she took out her purse.

“Ah, if you would just go over to the ladies at the checkouts, they will ring it up for you.” said Patrick, pointing towards the aforementioned ladies.

This was yet another new piece of information for Twilight into how humans operated. The Equestrian way of shopping was to present a grocer with an order in the morning, the order would be packed and waiting for you to pick up in the afternoon or even arrange for a colt to deliver them to your home. Humans on the other hand had been picking their own groceries for nearly a century which led to a whole different way of how products and branding were seen in society. The FlimFlam brothers would fit in with human marketing practices.

Placing her goods on the conveyer belt (another ingenious human device to overcome their magical shortfalls), Twilight waited patiently as each item was examined, weighed and bagged. At the end the cashier finalised to total.

“That will be $18.25, luv,” she said displaying the total for Twilight to see

Twilight had been briefed on Australian currency and had an ample supply of both notes and coin. Twilight selected the bright red $20 note with her magic and passed it to the cashier with her magic, for her part, the cashier considered it too early in the morning to be overly fascinated by the mysteries of Unicorn magic and handed Twilight her change and her purchases before sending her on her way.

Now reinvigorated with fresh supplies as well as the knowledge on how to obtain more, Twilight left Woolworths and took to the air. Even though it would be almost an hour until the convoy was scheduled to arrive, Twilight could see from her vantage point that a small but growing crowd was gathering along what could only be the route.

Seeking a better vantage point, one where she could rest her wings along the parade route, Twilight was distracted when she heard a shrill whistle.

“Oi, you with the wings! Yer in the way.”

Twilight looked around, only to spy a large, bearded man leaning from the upper balcony of a nearby drinking house. Twilight attempted to answer the man, but only ended up making a small squeak as the man stood up from his leaning. If Patrick at Woolworths was a large, yet still growing youth, this man was the end result.

In Ponyville, Twilight had joked that if she wanted to see eye-to-eye with a human, she would need to stand on Applejack’s shoulders. With this gentleman, she would have to stand on Big Mac, and even then, she might still need a little boost.

“Let me guess, yer first time at Bathurst?” the man asked. Sheepishly, Twilight nodded in reply. Seeing Twilight’s chastised expression, the man’s tone softened “C’mon in before you keel over,” he said motioning Twilight to join him in the shade of the balcony.

“So, you here for the race?” the man asked

“Yes, I wanted to see the parade before flying back to the circuit”

The man gave Twilight a strange look, “You camping?” he asked

“Oh no. I’m working with one of the teams.”

This got the man’s attention, “Eh, which team?”

“Erebus…” anything that Twilight was going to say was immediately halted when the man gave a dismissive snort.

“Those poofs will be lucky to finish the race! Ford or nothing.”

For Twilight, this was her first real introduction to the tribal nature of Australian motorsport. While the red lion of Holden had been in competition with Ford’s blue oval, the return of Nissan and the entry of Volvo and Mercedes had invigorated the fan base and reaffirmed loyalties.

In the distance, faintly, but with growing strength, Twilight could hear the sound of not one or two diesels, but the rumbling of a whole 20 strong convoy turning off of the highway and into the city as they made their way down Williams Street towards the Mount Panorama circuit.

The crowd that had gathered in anticipation had changed its tone from the expected low murmur of dozens of different conversations to a cheering mass at the first sound of the lead transporter's air-horn.

This was the first time that Twilight had actually seen one of the massive, purpose built trucks and their trailers, and now she was witness to not one, but a whole fleet. No matter how hard she tried, her own world view did not have the words to be able to express the sheer amount of power the slowly moving convoy represented.

“You okay, girl?” the man asked, “They won’t be here for another couple of minutes.”

“They’re just so, I mean, how do they move?” Twilight said as she gestured with her hooves as if she was trying to physically pluck her words from thin air.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is all new to you, right?”

“New, he says.” replied Twilight with a snort, “I’m still trying to work out how humans survive without magic!”

“There are a lot of things that I have to deal with that I don’t understand, you know how I deal with it?”

“How?”

“Accept it, move on, and have another beer”

Twilight could only stare at the man as he took a deep drink from a dark amber bottle that he had been holding, evidently, that was the ‘beer’ in question.

The rather strange conversation with the man, of whom Twilight never got his name, tapered off the parade began to pass the balcony, the lead transport was the championship holder from the previous season and, if Twilight understood correctly, had the first two garages and the number one pit bay at the end of the pit lane. The stunning contrast of the yellow and red Red Bull logo against the black background was the livery of Triple 8 Racing.

The next transport was blue with their particular sponsor, followed by another and another. Twilight knew that she would have time later on to get a closer look at the individual liveries, but for now her attention was on the transporter bringing up the rear of the convoy.

Pulled by a powerful Mercedes truck, the transporter was plain white, unadorned except for a single word on each side ‘EREBUS’ .

“Oh, look.” said Twilight to the man, who looked like he was on his second bottle, “It’s been nice talking to you, but my ride is here.”

With a carefully timed leap, Twilight landed on the back of the transporter as it left Bathurst’s commercial district for a short drive pass a few homes with cheering families before arriving at the bottom end of the circuit.

For her part, Twilight fell back on one of the first lessons that she picked up from her sister-in-law, smile and wave, smile and wave.

It did not take long for the convoy to enter the circuit proper. As the Erebus transport was approaching a foot bridge on the entrance to Murray's Corner, Twilight noticed the entrance to the National Motor Racing Museum along with its iconic statue of an driver from yesteryear and made a mental note to visit the museum if she had time.

Due to the counter clockwise nature of the circuit, the entrance to the back paddock and the rear of the pit bays ment that the convoy had to go down pit straight, pass the start/ finish line, around the first corner and part way up Mountain Straight before making a left into the paddock area.

Lined up with military like precision with the rest of the transporters, Twilight could see that some of the teams were in the process of unloading and setting up their respective pit garages

During her photoshoot in August, it was explained to Twilight that one of the first jobs in the pits is to lay flooring and wall paneling over the normally bare concrete before installing the data centre, tools and amenities before the cars are unloaded.

“Are you having fun up there?” called an amused Kliemenko, “Come on down, we have work to do.” Kliemenko turned to leave, but stopped as she realised something. “How did you get up there anyhow?”

In lieu of a reply, Twilight glided down, “I have wings.” she said.
To her credit, Kliemenko just rolled her eyes and said, “Of course you have wings, what type of talking magical pony would not have wings?”

Twilight wisely decided to alter the direction that the conversation was taking, “What do you need, Betty?” she asked

“The guys are going to start their Track Walk soon and I’d like you to go with them.”

“Sure, just let me put my groceries in the motorhome where I’m staying.”

“Oh, I can do that for you, which one is yours?”

Twilight gave Kliemenko directions to where her motorhome was located and passed her the keys and her groceries.

“The boys are waiting for you at the start line, they have paper and pens. There is a fridge in the garage with bottles of water, take as many as you can carry, you’re going to be out for a while.”

“Betty, just one question. This ‘Track Walk’ does it mean-”

“The entire length of the track, all 6200 meters of it!”

“Can I have my apples back please, Betty. I think I’m going to need them.”

After passing through the garage and stocking up on several bottles of chilled water, Twilight flew over the pit wall to join the drivers waiting at the start line. Of the drivers, Will Davison made it clear that he had read a particular issue of a popular racing magazine.

“Good morning, Princess,” he said, trying to hid his amusement at how uncomfortable Twilight looked, “Enjoying the sights?”

Having met the co-drivers, Will’s older brother, Alex and the New Zealander, Craig Baird during the photo shoot in August. Twilight knew that they would get down to business soon, she also knew that she would be stuck with the moniker ‘Princess’ for the rest of the week.

Lee Holdsworth, the driver of the number 4 car, along with his co-driver were trying rapidly but failing spectacularly at holding in their amusement at Twilight's discomfort.

“Shall we get this ‘Track Walk’ started, gentlemen,” said Twilight in a tone that suggested that she was being overly generous by applying the term ‘Gentlemen’ towards the drivers.

Over the past year, the Bathurst city council and the federal government had spent a large amount of time and money in resurfacing the circuit. This was more than applying a layer of bitumen, but also smoothing over some of the bumps in the track, reinforcing of safety fences and improving the campgrounds.

In practical terms, the distance from the Start line to the first corner was a little over 200 meters, a distance covered in around 5 seconds in the Supercars. In racing term, it was both too far away and at the same time, too close.

In a rather strange pseudo-european accent, Baird announced “Velcome to Hell Corner!”

“Why is it called that?” asked Twilight

“The ideal racing line through any corner is to go in from the high side of the track, clip the corner at its apex and accelerate away in a nice smooth action.” explained the elder Davison as he drew an example in his notepad, “Because of how close it is to the start line, there will be 26 cars coming through, each one trying to either improve or secure their position and frankly, not everybody exits in the same position that they entered.”

Notes taken on the corner, the group made their way up Mountain Straight. Twilight quickly realised that due to the undulations on the Straight itself, it was longer than she first thought. A kilometer of walking later and they had reached the second Corner, Griffins Bend.

Named after the Mayor of Bathurst, who first opened the circuit to racing in the late 1930’s, Griffins Bend had seen its fair share of incidents over the history of the race and because of this, the concrete barrier had been moved back and an extra layer of cushioning tires installed to arrest any cars that stray from the racing line.

The group was not alone at Griffins Bend, not only were work crews installing the tires and attaching a kevlar skirt to catch debris, but the drivers from Triple 8 Racing were there on their own track walk.

Standing with the reigning series champion, Jamie Whincup, was his current partner in the Endurance cup, Paul Dumbrell were having an animated discussion with Craig Lowndes and his second, Steven Richards.

“It’s a load bearing corner and it’s right before the apex” said Dumbrell as he pointed to a section of the circuit that was a noticeably darker shade, “That might become an issue during the week.”

The Erebus group made the wise decision not to make themselves known to the party from Triple 8, lest they get drawn into an in depth discussion on the business of track maintenance and repair from Dumbrell.

While their passing was stealthy, they still managed to catch the attention of Whincup, who used the opportunity to take some leave from his current co-driver and spend a few minutes with a former co-driver.

“Alex, welcome back!” said Whincup, visibly pleased to see his former co-driver, “How do you like the track so far?”

“It’s a little wider than I remember, less runoff room coming up Mountain Straight.”

“Yeah, that’s the trade off. The cars are less affected by the aero packages when they get too close to each other so that there can be more passing and door-to-door action.”

“And you can rip off another wing mirror.”

“Minor detail. It’s not like I use them anyway!”

A flick of an ear was all it took to bring Twilight to Whincup’s attention, “And you must be Erebus’s secret weapon.” said Whincup, addressing Twilight.

“Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a secret,” replied Twilight, “Everypony seems to know who I am.”

Whincup just shrugged in silent acknowledgement of Twilight’s statement, anything he was going to say was cut off by a shrill whistle.

Turning towards the sound, Twilight saw that not only had the elder of the Davison brothers managed to leave without being noticed, the Erebus drivers had continued on past Griffins Bend and were on their way to the next corner. “Looks like I’m being paged, It was nice meeting you.” said Twilight as she trotted off towards her teammates.

The approach to the next major corner was up a steep gradient, with sheer earthen walls right up to the concrete barriers on the left side and a concrete barrier preventing a steep drop off on the other, Twilight felt empathy for the drivers who would each spend hundreds of laps in this narrow corridor.

The next corner form Griffins Bend was aptly called ‘The Cutting’. Unlike Griffins Bend which skirted the face of Mount Panorama, The Cutting was the point where the original work crews started to physically cut into the mountain itself.

“That’ll get your heart pumping!” said Baird as he began to breathe a little heavier than normal.

“Flying this track would be easier,” replied Twilight, “I’m sure that I know a spell that would allow me to talk to you and show you what I’m seeing.”

“Oh, we have those. They’re called radios and cameras, but don’t worry, it’ll get easier soon.”

Groaning inwardly, Twilight followed the drivers up the mountain and pass two more unnamed but important corners before coming up to the highest point of the circuit at Sulman Park.

“How do you drive when you can’t see more than one corner ahead?” asked Twilight

“Skill, luck and madness!” answered Holdsworth, “This is a premier circuit, nothing like it in the world. It may not have the prestige of a place like Daytona, Indianapolis, Le Mans or Spa, but a lot of international drivers know about this circuit and they, or their managers, contact the teams to try and get a co-driver's seat”

”So, it’s kind of a big deal.”

“Oh yeah,” agreed Holdsworth, “I’ll tell you what, if you’re a good girl, I’ll take you for a gentle drive around the circuit.”

The area the group had just passed, Reid Park, was a popular spot for sports photographers due to it being one of the slowest parts of the track while still having the facilities that the professional shutterbugs required for a long day.

Sulman Park and Mcphillamy Park on the other hand were popular camping and viewing spots for the cheering throng of supporters. Their cheering was often loud enough to be heard from inside the Supercars over the noise of the engine as they passed.

Using a vast network of business and personal connections, the Equestrian businesspony known as Fancy Pants had managed to secure, at considerable expense, both accommodation at a local Hotel and a camping site at Mcphillamy Park.

This canny maneuver allowed him to be part of the Bathurst experience from one of the most social spots around the circuit during the day while being able to discuss business and become known among the Australian dealmakers in the evenings before retiring to a proper bed.

Fancypants was pleasantly surprised when he spied the familiar face of Twilight Sparkle finishing up a conversation with, who he presumed to be, a member of the team that she had been attached to.

One of the useful tricks of business was the ability to be seen, without looking like you were trying to be seen, and one does not become as powerful or as well known as Fancy pants without being a master. Being one of a small handful of ponies in the immediate area was also helpful.

It came as no surprise to Fancypants when he heard the voice of Princess Celestia's student call out his name and it allowed him to use another trick that he had mastered.

One of the greatest challenges that a businesspony such a Fancypants had to deal with was being able to present ideas and manipulate certain types of ponies without being seen as either rude or pushy. To do this he would act as a stereotypical noblepony.

“Fancypants, I thought that was you,” said Twilight as she separated herself from her party, “what are you doing here?”

“After your magazine debut, I felt that I should see what all the fuss was about,” replied Fancypants as he surveyed the campground, “And I must say that it appears to be extremely popular.”

Twilight thought back to that morning and the crowd that had gathered to watch the transporters parade down one of the main streets of Bathurst, however, something else caught her eye, “It is, but what are you wearing?”

“I thought that I should at least show support for the team that has recruited The Princess of Friendship.”

Like most ponies, Fancypants wore clothing more for status rather than for any sense of modesty. Having left his waistcoat and blazer in Canterlot and switching for a casual, yet well made, shirt and accompanying saddlebags.

True to his word, all of the clothing Fancypants was wearing had either the traditional Mercedes three pointed star or Erebus brand stitched in a highly visible location, but somehow managed to stop short of becoming a walking billboard.

“And what of you, Princess,” said Fancypants, “Has your time with Erebus been pleasant?”

“I’ve enjoyed it immensely!” replied Twilight, letting her excitement get the better of her, “I know that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what automobiles are capable of or what they can do for pony society, but I feel that they can help in so many ways”

“That’s most interesting, if it is anything like that piece of legislation that you passed along to Princess Celestia, then you time here is well spent.”

Having gained the information that he wanted, Fancypants steered the conversation towards other, more milder subjects such as his near constant companion.

“Where is Fleur?” asked Twilight, “She normally travels with you.”

“That’s a funny thing, someone at the campsite noticed her Prench accent and decided that she should show solidarity with a driver from the local analog of her country, the Frenchman, Alexandre Prémat,” explained Fancypants, breaking into a smile, “I believe that now she is currently being inducted into the Volvo tribe.”

With Twilight otherwise occupied, the rest of the Erebus group were resting at a location of the circuit that was rather unimaginatively named ‘The Grate’, unimaginative in that it was an actual storm water grate that partially jutted out onto the track and was used as an unofficial marker to begin the turn from Mcphillamy Park onto Skyline.

It was not by accident that they had chosen that spot to stop and rest. The temperature had been steadily creeping up and the reflection from the track itself meant that the drivers were hot and sweaty and the shade offered by the eucalyptus trees off the track was a welcome, if temporary relief. Within minutes the drivers had attracted a small group of Erebus fans and they busied themselves signing a few autographs and having an impromptu question session.

In short time, the team from Triple 8 Racing had somehow managed to silence Dumbrell and were able to catch up to team Erebus before attracting a much larger crowd of their own. Taking the steadily growing mob of motor racing fans as a cue to rejoin her teammates, Twilight said her goodbyes to Fancypants before trotting past the throng of fans that crowded the crew from Triple 8 Racing and straight into the welcoming arms of team Erebus.

Team Erebus, however, only had eyes for Twilight’s saddlebags and the bottles of cool water contained within. She wasn’t too surprised when her saddlebags were raided for the precious fluid, when she heard the distinctive crunch of one of her apples being eaten she knew that she had to take action.

“Hey,you’re eating my lunch!” said Twilight to an embarassed Will Davison who was half way through one of Twilight’s Fuji apples.

“Oh, sorry,” he replied, cringing slightly.

Twilight saw how apologetic Davison was and let the matter drop. “Shall we continue, gentleman?” she asked

Having been both fed and watered, and with Twilight jealously guarding the remaining apples, the group started the partial descent of Mount Panorama.

From The Grate and Mcphillamy Park, the group moved on to the area known as Skyline. Exiting from a fast corner at Mcphillamy Park, Skyline had a long and deep sand trap to assist in slowing down cars that went offline on the approach or that suffered mechanical or driver failure due to the sudden changes in force on the cars.

All that was on the right side of the track along with some of the most coveted camping ground on the mountain. On the left was a view that took Twilight’s breath away, she could see all the way down to the pit complex, see the houses and farms that occupied what would be considered the infield of any other circuit. Twilight took a minute to drink it all in before returning to the task at hand.

“Remember when I said that it would get easier? Well, here it is” said Baird with a smile, “It’s all downhill from here!”

Twilight was certain that if the New Zealander had a cutie mark, it would be for overstating the obvious. The circuit past Skyline took a sharp series of esses while dropping so steeply before coming to the corner known as ‘The Dipper’

The Dipper had all the force of a run through the esses compressed into a single hard left hand turn. In the past before the introduction of the safety barriers, more than one car and driver had found themselves skidding down the embankment and coming to rest against the local flora.

Flowing past The Dipper was the next major corner on the circuit, Forrest’s Elbow. Named after a motorcycle rider who went a little too fast and lent a little too low and left a little bit of his elbow behind, Forrest’s Elbow was a slow corner similar to the Cutting. Where the exit from the Cutting had a series of turn going up Mount Panorama, Forrest’s Elbow exited onto the longest and fastest piece of real estate in Australian motor racing.

“That’s a long straight,” said Twilight as she stared down the undulating road that was Conrod Straight.

The straight was around 1300 meters long, far longer than the majority currently in use in worldwide motorsport. Similar to Mountain Straight on the other side of the circuit, there were regular breaks in the concrete safety barriers that indicated the entrances to the many private residences sprinkled up and down the mountain as well as a grassy runoff situated on either side of the track.

About a quarter of the way down Conrod Straight, Twilight felt that she was being watched.

“Aw look, the Princess found a friend.” joked Holdsworth. As it so happened, a pair of horses had noticed the group and smelling the remaining apples in Twilight’s saddlebags, the horses decided to walk over and be friendly to the strange humans.

From Twilight’s perspective, it was akin to a human coming face to face with a curious gorilla. The horses themselves looked at Twilight with expressions ranging from curiosity at the small and strange smelling pony to wondering why it wasn’t in the safety of a paddock.

What Holdsworth did next was uncalculated, unintentional, entirely innocent and on reflection extremely humourous! Reaching into Twilight’s saddlebags to retrieve some of the remaining apples, Holdsworth presented one to the first horse before presenting another one to the second.

Both horses happily accepted the offered treats with an affectionate nuzzle and the happy murmur that contented horses make. After feeding the two horses, Holdsworth offered Twilight an apple by placing it on the palm of his hand in the same manner that he offered the two horses.

Twilight took the opportunity to exploit Holdsworth’s faux pas and get back at him for that ‘Princess’ crack.

“Oh, Lee. I don’t know what to say,” said Twilight as she acted like a blushing debutante, hiding her smile behind her wing, “I mean you’re nice, but you’re human and I don’t think it will work out. And can you imagine what the foals would look like?”

Holdsworth thought that he had initiated some sort of Pony marriage ritual , started spluttering and trying to explain to Twilight that he was joking about the fruit and how human marriage customs usually start with flowers and chocolates before he saw Twilight rolling on the ground with laughter and heard his fellow drivers lose their respective composers.

“Gotcha!” said Twilight between fits of laughter.

Grumbling slightly at the good natured ribbing that he received from his teammates, Holdsworth suggested that they continue their track walk towards The Chase which was still almost a kilometer away.

The top of the Mount Panorama circuit from the Cutting to Forrest’s elbow was too narrow to safely pass under normal racing conditions, and unless a car was damaged and limping back to the pits, passing on Conrod Straight was downright impossible as the cars began to stretch their legs and reach their maximum speeds.

One of the prime positions for overtaking maneuvers was at the kink of The Chase. The Chase itself had an interesting history, in 1987 the track was refurbished and upgraded to international standards for a short lived international touring car series, one of the conditions was to limit the speed of the cars approaching the pit lane entrance and Murray's Corner.

The entrance to The Chase was the fastest corner in Australian motorsport and many drivers have had incidents at that corner and those incidents had become ingrained into Mount Panorama history. At the kink, the road swings back towards the original layout of Conrod Straight and the cars have to apply tremendous amounts of braking to arrest their momentum.

It was at that point where a brave driver could pass another car under brakes and gain a position or even the lead. It was also where a smart driver could force an opponent into overheating his brakes and making a pitstop out of sequence.

Past the Chase and under a footbridge that looked like an old tire came the entrance to the pits. Like the rest of the circuit, it too had been resurfaced and it was the opinion of the drivers that the inbuilt chicane may not be enough to slow down the cars to the safe pit lane speed of 40 KPH before reaching the control line.

“I’ll bring that up with the eggheads,” said Alex Davison, “Even though we’re in the first pit past the control line, we may have to alter our approach so we don’t get penalised.”

A quick cut across the grass from the pit lane towards the Murray’s Corner, the final corner of the circuit, the lowest point of the track and the scene of Twilight’s entrance on the top of the Erebus Transporter.

The sharp right hand turn onto Pit Straight had seen its fair share of brave, foolhardy and sometimes successful attempts at overtaking while at the same time, more than one driver had not been able to make the turn and ended up bogged in the sand trap.

It was on Pit Straight that Twilight noticed that something was off.

“How come the Finish line is under the walkway and the start line is down there?” she asked pointing towards the start line.

“I’m glad you asked that, Princess,” said the younger Davison, “The track length is 6.213 Kilometers, and there are 161 laps in the Bathurst 1000. So the length of the track multiplied by the number of laps, equals?”

“One Thousand point two hundred and thirty nine,” replied Twilight after a second, “So to get the one thousand kilometers, the finish line and the start line don’t match up, got it!”

With the track walk complete and the notes from the drivers compiled for the race engineers to look over, the group made their way to the Erebus garage with the drivers going through a gate in the pit wall and Twilight casually flying over it.

The garage itself was a hive of activity. Over the last hour, the garage had been set up, tools and equipment had been unloaded from the transporter, the engineering station had been unpacked and set up with all its data lines, secure communications had been configured with the frequencies and encryption shared with race control, the cars had been unloaded and put up on stands for mechanical checks and most importantly, the kettle had been plugged in.

Although much had been completed in setting up the Erebus garage, the allocation of tires for both cars had not yet arrived and everything had ground to a halt until the transporter from Dunlop had entered the paddock.

Since there was little to do by the time Twilight and the drivers had finished their track walk, Kliemenko and the rest of the Erebus pit crew had prepared a little something for Twilight. Who, by happy coincidence, had just trotted in the front of the garage.

“Just the girl I wanted to see,” said Klimenko as she reached into a cardboard box, “I have here your new helmet.”

Twilight was instantly curious, her previous helmet was a bulky and heavy modified trail bike helmet that had a hole drilled in it for her horn and she wondered what this new helmet would be like.

“Ta da!” said klimenko as proudly held the new and improved piece of head protection.

Seeing her new helmet left Twilight speechless. While her previous helmet, like all other helmets, was designed to protect the human head, not a pony one and as such would have to be custom designed and built to accommodate the unusual size and shape of the average pony’s head.

What the fabricators and design engineers had done was take the original polystyrene inserts that were in the old helmet and use it as a template to craft a new single piece insert that would cover Twilight’s head while allowing room for her ears and horn.

In the pits, proper communication is vital and the engineers had disassembled a communications rig down to its component parts before reassembling and inserting it into grooves and recesses in the insert to take into account the differences in the position of her ears and mouth.

The shell of the helmet had been custom designed and fabricated at the Erebus workshop out of carbon fiber to fit around the insert, this gave it an unusual shape. Unlike the helmets used by the rest of the crew that had a flat face from the forehead down to the neck, accommodations had to be made to protect Twilight’s muzzle.

To do that, the engineers crafted two long protrusions from the cheeks of the helmet that wrapped around either side of Twilight’s muzzle and terminated just before her nose so that her breathing and talking were unaffected.

For a final touch, there was a small recess so that a set of protective goggles would sit flush with the edge of the helmet and be prevented from being accidentally torn off.

There was one feature, however, that caught Twilight’s eye.

“Why is there a yellow band on the top of the helmet?” Twilight asked

“That's your crown, Princess “ said klimenko with a smile, as she pulled out another item, “And what's a Princess without her Royal scepter?”

The ‘Royal Scepter’ looked suspiciously like someone had taken a damaged part from the rear suspension, welded a wheel nut to one end and painted the whole thing gold. Honestly, Twilight was touched by the gesture and outwardly decided to use the Scepter to have some fun with the younger of the Davison brothers.

“Oh, William,” she cooed in the sweetest voice she could muster, “I think that you deserve a special reward “

Davison took one look at Twilight’s soft eyes and one listen to her honey voice and did what any sensible person would do, he bolted out of the garage and ran down pit lane!

Davison’s response put a fire in Twilight’s heart, holding the scepter above her, she trotted down the pit lane calling out, “Come back William, so that we may knight thee!”

Author's Note:

Here is chapter 6, by far the longest thing I have ever written but at the same time, rather enjoyable.

Next up: Thursday, day one of practice!

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