• 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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Thursday October 9, 2014

Conquering the Mountain
Thursday October 9, 2014

The blare of a cheap alarm clock startled Twilight awake. Groping blindly, she somehow managed to silence the infernal device without breaking it. Rolling out of the unfamiliar bed, Twilight stumbled into the small bathroom to brush her mane and wash her face.

A second later she was staring at a crudely drawn sign proclaiming her washing area ‘The Royal Throne Room.’

“I must have missed one,” murmured Twilight. She debated with herself whether to remove the sign or let it stay. After yesterday’s ‘Knighting Ceremony’ on the pit lane, Klieminko put an end to any reckless tomfoolery. In the interests of harmony, she decided to let it stay.

After a quick clean, the first order of business was breakfast. Being the only Queensland based teams, Triple 8 Racing, Dick Johnson Racing, and Erebus Racing all shared the same catering services.

In its own way, it was amusing to see three different ‘tribes’, Holden, Ford and Mercedes sitting under the same marque and eating the same food, but each group was sitting at separate tables involved in their own discussions.

That was until Twilight walked in. As soon as she stepped past the door, members from Triple 8 and DJR raised whatever beverage they had on hand and intoned “Princess.”

Stunned, Twilight was rooted to the spot, unable to decide between total shock or extreme embarrassment at the seemingly spontaneous toast. It could then be considered fortunate that Twilight’s mind did blank out for a mere moment and her body was on autopilot, lessons on courtly protocol had been firmly ingrained demanded the correct reply to such a toast.

“Hail and well met!” replied Twilight

Fetching herself a generous bowl of cereal and some fruit, Twilight joined the other members of the Erebus crew, all of which were actively denying any involvement in the impromptu toast.

Brushing off the denials, Twilight steered the conversation towards the more familiar area of the daily schedule.

“Starting off in a couple of hours, there will be the practice sessions for the support races.” said one of the crew between bites of toast, “The first practice session for the V8’s will be at 11 o’clock. We’ll use last year’s setup as a base line and see how they take to the new surface. What have you got planned?”

“Well, between Betty and the Diplomatic Service, I’m nuzzling foals and signing autographs,” replied Twilight, “At 1 o’clock, I’ve got some media thing that I have to be in the firesuit for, but I’ve got no idea what it is.”

The group nodded sagely, it sounded like channel 7 was going to make a Twilight part of their notable Bathurst television promos. “You going to be OK in the crowds?” asked Len, the transporter driver between mouthfuls of whatever it was that he was eating.

“I can handle it,” said Twilight with more confidence than she felt, “If worse comes to worse, I’ll just throw up a shield bubble and roll around for a while!”

“If it gets too much for you, luv, just nip into the back of the transporter for some quiet time.” said Len. Twilight had learned in a short amount of time that Len, like most truck drivers, tended to say few words. What words he did speak were not to be taken lightly.

It didn’t take long before the meals were finished and the drivers began to trickle in after spending the morning either with the race engineers or working out, and occasionally both.

It was with a certain amount of satisfaction that none of the Erebus drivers could meet her gaze and even the younger Davison mumbled, “Morning, Twilight,” as he sat down. It was apparent that the attempted Knighting had a dampening effect.

Like the rest of the pit crew, Twilight had finished her breakfast and due to the limited room in the catering tent, had vacated her seat so that the drivers could fuel their bodies before their day began in earnest.

While the crew went to the pits to set up both Mercedes, Twilight’s first stop was, funny enough, a breakfast for people who had paid membership to Erebus Motorsport. This was more of a meet and greet event rather than an opportunity for a meal, although from Kliemkio’s briefing, Twilight expected to be offered the occasional piece of fruit!

Another tidbit of information from the briefing was a little more humorous. “Just remember, no more chasing Sir William,” said Kliemkio as she tried to hold back a smile.

“It’s still just William,” replied Twilight as she shuffled her hooves, “I never got to knight him!”

Anything else that Twilight would say on the subject was rendered moot as Kliemkio was too busy laughing as she mentally replayed the events of the previous day.

The breakfast for the membership was definitely more high class that it was for the drivers and crew. Housed in a building on the edge of the paddock area, the guests were treated to comfortable chairs, crisp white table cloths and generous amounts of Sweet Australian Champagne.

The food was similar to what the drivers and crew were eating, only instead of being made by catering cooks, the food at the members breakfast was prepared by chefs with that certain flair that elevated the food into something more than mere sustenance.

Twilight was enjoying herself as she greeted the members as their enthusiasm was infectious enough to rub off onto her. Soon she was telling a small group of businessmen and women about life in Equestria, more specifically, Canterlot and Ponyville.

“There is a strong bond between ponies,” explained Twilight, “especially at the change of seasons.”

The members around the table nodded, noting the similar ties of mateship that permeate many Australian communities. Soon the conversation moved towards a certain incident that occurred in Pit Lane.

“Oh that,” said Twilight as she shuffled her hooves, “I was just playing a prank on Will.”

One of the members logged into his phone and brought up a video of Twilight skipping as she merrily chased Davison back and forth in front of the garage assigned to Garry Rogers Motorsport.

“Things you only see at Bathurst,” said the owner of the camera, the young GRM driver Scott McLaughlin, “What do you think, Alex?”

“Vie à la reine!” came the comment form his French co-driver, Alexandre Prémat, in between bouts of laughter at the antics of Davison and Twilight.

“Oh don’t worry, love,” said one of the ladies at the table, “It looked like it was all in good fun. How are you handling your time in the pits?”

“Well-” Twilight began, only to be interrupted by the low rumble and roar of a 30 big block V8’s in the staging area that was near the annex where the breakfast was taking place, “What in Celestia’s name was that?”

“That would be the Touring Car Masters,” Said a person at the table checking his watch, “They’re just warming up their engines before the first practice session of the day.”

By this time, the majority of the members had finished their breakfasts and were now moving off towards the annexes exits while others were discussing various facets of their businesses with each other. Excusing herself from the table, Twilight took the opportunity to move to the next engagement on her schedule, which was being photographed with the drivers of the Touring Car Masters before their practice session.

Instead of trying to fight her way through the crowds in the paddock, Twilight decided to take a different route. Buoyed with a new sense of confidence, Twilight decided to take the stairs up to the roof of the annex. There she did a quick test of the wind before spreading her wings and leaping off toward the assembled rows of cars below.

On ground level, Twilight took stock of the cars that were in the final stages of preparation before the scheduled practice session.

Unlike the V8 Supercars which were virtually identical in appearance save for each manufactures distinctive front grill. The touring Car Masters came in many different body shapes, styles and wheelbases.

Twilight couldn’t help herself as she let out a small squeal of joy. During her training in Queensland, the mechanics did their best to explain to Twilight how an internal combustion engine worked. They were limited by two things, the first being that they only had highly developed and finely tuned racing engines on hand.

The other, more glaring problem, was that while Twilight was smarter than the average pony, there were very few ponies that had any experience with piston powered engines. For Twilight, this was an opportunity to stick her muzzle into and around engines that were many generations removed from the current models.

While Twilight was interested in engineering, her appearance was of interest to the drivers, crews and assorted fans who soon swamped the princess within seconds of her appearance.

“Back off, ya pack of -” growled a voice behind Twilight before he was cut off.

“Jim, it’s not 1992 anymore!” said a second person in what appeared to be a mocking tone.

Turning towards the mysterious, and authoritative, voices, Twilight saw two older gentlemen. The first looked like he could chew nails like Big Macintosh chews stalks of grass but the sternness never reached his eyes.

The second gentleman was shorter, wore glasses and had a close cropped beard with an easy going smile that put Twilight at ease. Prior to arriving at Bathurst, Twilight had researched previous winners of both the Bathurst 500, when Australia was using imperial measurements, and later on the Bathurst 1000 after the country had switched to metric.

It took only a second before she recognised the driving pair who had given her some breathing room, and a mere moment to realise that she was being protected by two legends of Australian motorsport.

“Thank you for the help,” said Twilight once the majority of the crowd had dispersed, “I was getting swamped”

“No problem love, Just as long as I don’t get knighted or anything like that.” said Jim

Twilight felt her face redden, it seemed that yesterday’s little prank in the pits was quickly becoming the talk of the paddock. “No guarantees, but I would like a closer look at the older model of Touring Cars that you drive.”

“Well, we're about to head on out for our practice session,” said the second driver, “But if there is room in your schedule, I can let you have a closer look at Mustang Sally later on.”

Twilight smiled as the two drivers left to go back to their respective vehicles to finish up preparations for the practice session while she started signing a few autographs for those few paddock dwellers who were not frightened off by the likes of Jim Richards and John Bowe.

Twilight hurried from the staging area for the support races towards the ‘commercial’ section of the paddock where the major sponsor, Super Cheap Auto, as well as other business selling merchandise or collectables were set up. Twilight may have joked with the pit crew that she would be spending most of the morning with a pen in hoof and it was quickly becoming apparent that life was listening in and said ‘That’s a good idea!’

“Hi Betty, sorry I’m a little late,” said Twilight as she took her seat at the autograph table, “Ran into a couple of really nice guys at the Touring Car Masters.”

Kliemkio gave a sly smile as she asked, “Did you get their names?”

“Jim Richards and John Bowe,” replied Twilight with an amused grin, “With any luck I’ll get a chance to be up close and personal with ‘Mustang Sally’ later!”

Kliemkio nodded, notably impressed that Twilight had begun to network with drivers in other categories of motor racing. After a few more moments of light chit-chat, a small crowd had begun to politely line up and the morning autograph session was about to begin.

Signing autographs was something of a novelty that Twilight had only recently become exposed to during the track walk the previous day. As it had been explained to her, wins will get sponsors for the team but promotion and personality will get fans.

Armed with three markers of different colours, Twilight steadied herself against an expected rush of people wanting her unique signature. What she got was orderly, efficient and almost production line like quality as she signed team posters, pictures from her photoshoot in August, and the occasional article of clothing.

Most were polite, erring on the side of caution when dealing with a foreign Princess, then there were those who decided to treat Twilight like she was just another normal person… Just one covered with lavender fur, had wings and a horn that allowed her to use magic.

“G’day, Princess,” said another patron who had lined up to get an Erebus polo shirt signed.

“G’day, yourself,” said Twilight, giving the traditional reply, as she signed the shirt, “What do you have there?”

The ‘there’ in question was what equestrian historians would question, analyse and argue over for decades. The patron had placed a single red apple, still with the sticker from the originating farm still attached, on the table next to the area where Twilight was working.

“Just a little something to keep you going, “ he said, “It’s going to be a long day.”

It was from that instance that a trend was started. As the morning progressed, more apples were presented, often with a kind word or a sly smile from the presenter. Somewhere along the line, a helpful person had acquired a bucket which was steadily being filled, even if Twilight and Kliemkio snacked on the choicest pieces of fruit.

As 10am approached, the autograph session wrapped up for the morning and Twilight trotted off to her next scheduled event. Being a Princess and an alicorn, Twilight knew that she would have a few media obligations where the focus would be on her and to a lesser extent, Equestria.

The first couple of interviews for various women's interest magazines were primarily focusing on the cultural shift between Equestria and Australia and her training for her position in the pits.

Other interviews from the online publications that were focused solely on motorsport were longer and a lot more in depth, simply because Twilight couldn’t help herself when it came to studying a fascinatingly new piece of technology.

“What is that?” Twilight asked, peering at the strange device the journalist had set up.

“”Oh, it’s my laptop computer.” He replied with a certain amount of pride, “Between this and my camera, I can record, edit and upload your interview straight to the ‘net.”

From her time in the Erebus workshop, Twilight had been exposed to computers and computing devices that were many thousands of times superior to the one that resided in the basement of the library in Ponyville. The ‘net’ however, was something else.

“What is this ‘net’ thing?” Twilight asked from the chair that she had been occupying for her interviews.

The journalist look stunned for a moment before realising that he was talking to someone who was, for all intents and purposes, from a society that was only just beginning their own version of the Industrial Revolution.

“Well, the internet is primary used for commerce and entertainment,” he said, trying to think back on half remembered classes from decades ago, “A network is when a computer connects to another computer in the same area, like in the same building, to share files or pictures, that is called a network.”

Twilight nodded, while she may not have had an understanding of the terminology, she could visualise all the laptops and computers in the pits connected to each other with pieces of string.

Buoyed by Twilight’s understanding, the journalist continued, “The internet is when different computers from all over the country or even the world connect to a separate computer called a server.”

Following her string analogy, Twilight expanded the idea seeing imaginary lines of string from all over the world leading to a single computer. In her mind, It didn’t look right.

“Wait, all the computers in the world try to connect to a big ‘Master computer’?” Asked Twilight

“Not quite, each server holds a site for a company, an orginisation, a school, or even a person.”

“How many servers are there?” Twilight asked as her mental picture grew in both size and complexity

“There are millions. They can be in a home, an office building or even in dedicated and managed server farms.”

The impression of a server farm made Twilight giggle. She could picture Applejack during apple bucking season delivering a strong kick to an apple tree only for computers to rain down instead of produce.

“All these computers would link together in a big world wide spider web!”

The journalist nodded and smiled at Twilight’s reasoning. “That sounds about right. Well, we’re out of time and I’ve got to let the next interviewer have a crack at you and I hope that you get the chance to learn more about the internet.”

Twilight was stunned, “But what about the interview?” She asked the journalist

“Eh, you’ve given me enough to work with,” he replied pointing to the camera that had recorded the entire discussion, “This will make a very different article to the usual fare that goes onto the website. It’s been fun.”

With a tap to his black baseball cap with ‘Speedweek’ embroidered on the front, the journalist bid Twilight a good day as he exited the interview area.

The ‘Speedweek’ jurno’s exit was quickly followed by the entrance of the media coordinator, Rose Church, whose job it was to ensure that the interviews were conducted within the allotted windows, making sure that there was enough power points and internet access and to generally keep the journalists satisfied and the interview process was not interrupted.

Twilight referred to her as a ‘Reporter Wrangler’, a description that Church found to be most accurate.

“Who’s next?” asked Twilight

“No one,” said Church with a smile, “It’s lunchtime!”

At the mention of a mealtime, Twilight’s stomach let itself be known in a rather audible fashion much to her embarrassment.

“Ah, is there a place where I can get something to eat nearby?” Twilight asked.

“Well, you could go to one of the nearby food stands for something deep fried,” said Church, “Or you could have this nice platter that some of the local culinary students from Bathurst TAFE put together”

From a commercial Esky that had been unnoticed by technicians, journalists, and Twilight herself, Church pulled out a platter containing a selection of nibbles.

“When word got around that you were here at the track, one student boasted that he would, and I quote, make ‘A meal fit for a Princess’,” said Church, holding up the tray of food, “It kind of snowballed from there.”

The combination of curiosity and hunger led Twilight to give the platter a closer inspection. It was clear that at least three students had prepared the food on the tray. The first third was relatively simple fare of carrot and celery sticks with the showpiece being the selection of three aromatic dips.

The second section had small triangular shaped sandwiches will with all sorts of pony friendly fillings, a quick sniff told Twilight that the Australian staple of Vegemite and cheese was also present.

The final student must of reasoned that every meal needs a dessert to round out the meal and as such had made fresh Lamingtons in both the traditional style and with variations such as creme and jam filled.

With such a large and varied selection of food to try, Twilight knew that she would not be able to enjoy all of it. Turning to Church she asked, “Care to join me?”

“I thought you’d never ask!”

Fed, watered and rested after her lunch with Church, Twilight had returned to her motorhome and slipped into her firesuit with practiced ease after making sure to make a quick personal ‘pit stop’ of her own before making her way to the location that Channel 7 had specified for her 1 o’clock event with her helmet and balaclava floating behind her.

Being the reigning champions, Triple 8 Racing had the number 1 pit bay at the exit of pit lane, the exact opposite of Erebus who were assigned the first bay past the control line. Twilight had thought that she had misread the directions when she found herself in the mists of yellow gantries and walls, a pair of Commodores in the special RAAF livery, and enough energy drink to make her feel uncomfortable.

“Looking sharp, Princess,”

Twilight looked up to see the senior driver of Triple 8 Racing, Craig Lowndes, dressed in his own firesuit and holding his helmet and balaclava.

“Oh, hi there,” said Twilight to the lanky driver, “Am I in the right area?”

Lowndes gave off a cheeky grin that would have been more fitting on a child of 10 rather than the 40 year old that stood in front of Twilight.

“Well, That’s J-Dub’s car on the stands, you met him yesterday during the track walk at Griffins Bend. In the garage next to it is my car, ready for the next practice session, and out the front in the pit bay is a third Red Bull sponsored Commodore, that one has two seats.”

The reality of the situation hit Twilight like a physical blow but she had to test her suspicions, “You want to take me for a drive around the circuit?”

Lowndes slipped his balaclava on in an effort to hide the ever widening grin that was threatening to become a permanent feature of his. “Something like that,” he admitted, “We do a few laps, get some video for the studio guys to play with. It’ll be fun.”

As Lowndes had mentioned, the Commodore was primarily sponsored by Red Bull, but the livery for the weekend was not the traditional black that it had been at the start of the season, but bumper to boot in RAAF camouflage colours with the regular sponsors layered over the top.

With trepidation, Twilight followed Lowndes out into the pit lane where the Triple 8 pit crew assisted her into a somewhat awkward position in the passenger seat before helping her put on her balaclava and helmet. The last item was a strange contraption that Twilight would later come to know as a HANS device.

The HANS device, which stood for Head And Neck Support, it consisted of small tethers that would, under normal circumstances, attach to her helmet while the seatbelts went over the shoulder part of the harness. In this instance, the clips at the end of the tethers had been modified to fit between the outer shell and the softer inner padding of her helmet.
The device was designed to prevent the head from whipping forward in the event of a crash by distributing the energy from the helmet into the tethers and the seatbelts, Twilight found out how effective it was as it prevented her from getting a good look around the inside of the cabin.

Once she had been secured and her helmet hooked up to the cars intercom. Lowndes entered a familiar series of commands on the cars switchboard and the Commodore roared to life.

“You ready, Princess?” asked Lowndes over the intercom

“Would it matter if I said ‘No’?” Twilight replied, desperately trying to keep the nervousness out of her voice.

Lowndes chuckled as he drove out of the pit box and began the maneuvers to heat the tyres and brakes up to operational temperatures, short burst of acceleration and braking to heat up the brake pads and rotors and to have that heat radiate out into the tyres.

The maneuvers continued up Mountain Straight, between Sulman’s Park and Skyline where Twilight could hear the crowd, that had grown considerably since the previous days track walk, cheering over the sound of the Commodore’s engine.

It wasn’t until they were half way down Conrod Straight that Lowndes finished the warm up maneuvers. In her ears, Twilight heard the radio crackle to life.

“Brake temp good, brake temp good,” said the voice at the other end, “Front back one, front back one. Enjoy yourself, CL!”

“Rodger, Control,” said Lowndes as he made an adjustment to the car's roll bar before entering the Chase, “You might want to brace yourself, Princess.”

It was at that moment that Twilight realised Lowndes was not slowing down to enter the pit lane, nor did he show any intention of doing so, and most pressingly, he was accelerating towards Murray's Corner.

“Oh my!” exclaimed Twilight as Lowndes went through Murray’s Corner at race speed and started accelerating down Pit Straight.

She somehow managed to prevent her limbs from flailing around like a ragdoll as the Commodore braked and turned into Hell Corner only to go a little wide and just touch the grass on the exit as Lowndes started the run up Mountain Straight.

In the few calm seconds that it took for Lowndes to drive up Mountain Straight, Twilight tried to read the face of the madman who was taking her around the circuit but was prevented by the HANS device.

It was because of this that Twilight didn’t notice that they were at Griffins Bend until Lowndes had started the turn. It took a considerable amount of strength but Twilight somehow managed to prevent herself from letting out a scream at the sudden change in direction. She was determined to hold onto that small victory and not give Lowndes the satisfraction.

During yesterday’s track walk, Twilight had mentioned how claustrophobic the circuit felt with the concrete barriers and the blind corners and on the warm up lap she had an idea of the driver's skill and nerves as they raced around the track at speeds that would make Rainbow Dash comfortable.

At current, it was taking every ounce of willpower to contain the scream from Griffins Bend as Lowndes took the sharp left at the Cutting and past Reid Park before cresting at Sulman Park and onto noticeably wider track.

It was possibly the singular most terrifying, and at the same time, exhilarating experience of her life. Twilight had managed to control herself up till the point when Lowndes passed over The Grate and onto the approach to Skyline where the car began to roll slightly with the road and the centrifugal force attempted to push the Commodore towards the gravel trap opposite Skyline.

Passing Skyline and into the Esses, Twilight let out a small ‘Eep’ as she felt her stomach and previous meal protest against the unyielding force of gravity. The Esses were fast and steep and they were closely followed by The Dipper. On hoof The Dipper was a quick left-right series of turns incorporating a sharp drop in the track at the end of the Esses.

In more practical terms, it was a teeth jarring and gut wrenching corner that made Twilight moan in discomfort. She had enough time steady her breathing when they slowed to go around Forrest’s Elbow.

Twilight had already felt the Commodore’s acceleration on Mountain Straight as it began its ascent up Mount Panorama. Conrod Straight was going down the mountain and, with the assistance of gravity, faster.

“In Celestia's name,” moaned Twilight as she felt herself being pushed back slightly into the seat from the acceleration

“Now that we’re warmed up, let’s do a real lap!” said Lowndes as he adjusted a dial on the steering wheel.

In the Triple 8 garage, where engineers, drivers and pit crew who were watching the onboard cameras and telemetry with amusement at Twilight’s reactions all suddenly leaned forward as the telemetry indicated that Lowndes had switched the fuel settings from a mid range economy mode to the full powered race mode.

Triple 8 were not worried about the fuel burn, they had made sure that the fuel cell was two thirds full before Lowndes had set out. It was Twilight’s reaction that was the unknown variable but from the images on the monitors, it had seemed that the Alicorn had relaxed and settled in. A quick check to make sure that all the cameras were still recording and a technician put the camera that was focused on Twilight onto the main screen.

Twilight was indeed more relaxed, partway down Conrod straight she realised that not only was she in the capable hands of a professional driver who has won at this very circuit many times before, She was the personal protege of Princess Celestia, the holder of the Element of magic, she had deciphered Star swirl the Bearded’s last spell, She had nothing to fear and should enjoy the rare experience for all that it was worth. SHE WOULD MAKE THE MOUNTAIN TREMBLE BEFORE HER!.

Lowndes went through The Chase at full power before rapidly decelerating and changing down gears at the Kink. Twilight felt herself begin to lurch forward, but she had anticipated the maneuver and braced herself in the seat.

Past The Kink was the entrance to Pit Lane, a deliberately narrow chicane made to slow cars before they reached the control line and the Pit Lane propper. And past that entrance did Lowndes drive as he stayed on the racing line on the approach to Murray’s Corner.

Any confusion that Twilight had at seeing her sanctuary pass by were quashed as she realised that she was in a position that the vast majority of fans would gladly sell themselves into servitude for.

“Here we go again!” said Twilight as she mustered up the same strength of spirit that she had when she faced Nightmare Moon.

It took only a few seconds after going around the sharp left hand turn to cross the start line for the second time, and this time Twilight was ready for what would happen next.

“Show me what you’ve got, Mr Lowndes!” said Twilight into her helmet’s microphone.

Spurred on by Twilight’s enthusiasm, Lowndes took a more aggressive line into Hell Corner, clipping the apex perfectly to get the correct exit while maintaining speed and positioning himself for a fast run up Mountain Straight.

At Griffins Bend, he braked a fraction of a second later that he normally would making his approach to the sharp right hander slightly faster and utilising the entire width of the track on the exit to the Cutting.

Twilight was running an adrenaline high as Lowndes pushed his Commodore faster than he had done during the previous practice session. As they came up to the Cutting, Lowndes slowed down to 90 KPH before darting close enough to the concrete barrier that Twilight was able to identify the seams joining two blocks together.

On the previous lap, the run from the cutting to Sulman’s Park was was blind and claustrophobic, on this lap, Twilight didn’t have time to worry about the concrete barriers that came so close to her side of the Commodore as Lowndes passed the crest and the circuit widened.

The descent over the Grate and past Mcphillamy park was thrilling. The crowd, not expecting to see the distinctive RAAF inspired livery drive across the mountain until the next official practice session, cheered so loud it was heard over the roar of the engine as the supporters of the red lion took an opportunity to show their admiration to one of the sports legends.

Previously, Twilight was holding back screams of sheer terror as Lowndes drove a fairly standard lap of the Mount Panorama circuit. This time, Lowndes was exercising his own special talent of being able to put in that one fast lap and Twilight was glad that she was along for the ride.

“Yee Ha!” said Twilight as they passed Skyline, enjoying the feeling of being right on the edge as the Commodore shuddered slightly.

As the track dropped out at the start of the Esses, Twilight braced in her seat as she anticipated the sudden jarring at the Dipper and she was not disappointed. Lowndes violently jerked the wheel in just the right amounts at just the right time to make the passage through the Dipper as fast as possible without loosing control.

Before Twilight could steady her breathing, Lowndes had reached the braking zone for Forrest’s Elbow, slowing the one and a half tons of machine and passenger to 90 KPH before perfectly crossing the apex and accelerating down Conrod Straight.

“Oh, my!” said Twilight, “That’ll take your breath away.”

“The best part hasn’t happened yet.” replied Lowndes.

It was at that point Twilight realised that they had accelerated faster on this lap than the previous one. Not only were they accelerating faster, but by the time they were approaching the entrance to the Chase, the rev limiter was actively preventing the engine from going any harder.

Unlike the previous, more conservative run where the approach to the chase was made at around the 280KPH mark, this was at full racing speed and was over 290 KPH before going heavy on the brakes and rapidly downshifting in order to make the sharp left hand turn at the kink.

After being thrown against the seatbelts from both the high speed entrance and deceleration at the Chase, Twilight once again saw the entrance to Pit Lane but on this occasion Lowndes slowed down and followed the entrance through the pit chicane while casually holding his thumb down on the speed limiter that kept him at a maximum speed of 40 KPH while in Pit Lane.

At that speed it would take about 30 seconds for Lowndes to cruise down to his assigned pit bay. Ever the professional, he used that time as a dress rehearsal for the procedures required for a quick driver change.

As soon as the car controller brought the Commodore to a halt, Lowndes had shut down the engine and gave Twilight a playful punch on the shoulder.

“How was that?” he asked.

“That was,” began Twilight, stumbling over her words, “That was in equal parts terrifying, exciting and breathtaking!”

“You want to go again, don’t you?” said Lowndes, his eyes showing his amusement.

“Oh, yes.”

The atmosphere was broken when the crew from Triple 8 began to gently extract Twilight from her seat. First the harness was unbuckled, followed by unplugging the intercom with the final part being to physically lift Twilight out of the seat and being cradled like an infant in the strong arms of Len, the driver of the Erebus Transporter.

Like most truck drivers, Len was a big, strong person who only spoke when required and then only what he felt was necessary and with a stern look at the crew of Triple 8, he casually walked up pit lane towards Erebus. Wisely, not a single crew member from any of the garages that the two passed said anything.

Under normal circumstances, Twilight would protest the infantile treatment that she was receiving. In this case, however, following her wild ride around Mount Panorama, her legs were a little unsteady and she was sure that she left her stomach around the Dipper.

Upon arriving at the Erebus garage, Len gently set Twilight down, an act that was ignored by the Erebus crew as they prepared the two Mercedes for Baird and the elder Davison to get some laps in before for the session.

This in itself was a conundrum to Twilight, on the one hoof, she was here to act as a member of the pit crew and had received some training to that effect. On another hoof, she knew that she had neither the knowledge or the skills to help out at this stage of the event.

Meekly, she made her way to the rear of the garage, intent of keeping as far out of the way as possible to let the professionals work. That was the plan until one of the engineers grabbed her by the collar as she passed one of the work benches.

“How good are you with that magic thing?” he asked

Momentarily flustered, Twilight responded, “Pretty good, but what do you need done?”

The engineer picked up a spring from the suspension and began to explain how that during the first practice session, the drivers were finding that the cornering speeds were faster than last year and that they need a stiffer suspension to compensate.

“While you were being wined and dined, the boys swapped out the front springs in both cars for something a little stiffer, but that may not be enough. The problem is that if we go too stiff, then the car becomes undrivable at speed and we might hit the wall like Lee did at Sandown.”

“That’s interesting, but what do you want me to do?” asked Twilight

The engineer held up a spring, “These are the the same stiffness as the ones currently in the cars,” he explained, “I need you to make them stiffer.”

Twilight nodded her understanding of the task while going through her mental catalogue of spells to see if there was one that could be suited to the task, but first there was a slightly more pressing matter.

“Yeah, it’d be a good idea to change your kit before we get started,” said the engineer.

Looking around the garage, Twilight saw that, with the exception of safety equipment, members of the pit crew were dressed more casually, preferring to wear loose clothing during the practice sessions and evidently putting off wearing the firesuits until the race on Sunday.

It took Twilight a scant few minutes to return to the motorhome and change out of her firesuit before returning to the garage at a brisk trot. Upon her arrival, the engineer had laid out the springs in question on a work bench and was busy putting marks on each end.

“Okay, normally springs are measured in how many pounds of force they’re rated at, which is great, except that we don’t have any equipment that can measure that here.” he explained, “So what I need you to do is evenly tighten the coils so that the ends are at these marks here,”

The engineer pointed to the marks that he made a few minutes before. In essence, he wanted Twilight to do some very imprecise work.

“I think I’ve got an idea of how I can do this, but you should stand back, just in case.” said Twilight as she took the spring in her magic while twisting each end in opposite directions.

The spring began to groan as the metal was forced even tighter. The distance covered was not much, only ten or so centimeters, but the amount of force now contained in that spring had been noticeably increased with the trailing end having been moved around half the circumference of the coil.

With a quick inspection, the engineer was satisfied with the new configuration as he attached a tag to the finished product. “One down, three to go” he remarked, “You up for another one?”

Twilight nodded, while it had taken some effort to reconfigure that one spring, much of that was used in getting a magical ‘feel’ for the combination of the metal and the existing tension. “Another one just like that, no problem.”

Taking a breath to steady herself, Twilight once again applied her magic to the second spring. With the same amount of precision, Twilight gently applied torque evenly along the length of the coil making the spring groan as it was tightened.

In testament to her skill and adaptability, the reconfiguring of this spring took less time than the first one, only after completing this one, she had begun to show signs of fatigue.

“Looking a little woozy there, girl,” said the engineer, “Here, drink this,” he said as he passed Twilight a soft plastic bottle containing a deep blue liquid.

“What is it?” she asked

The engineer could not help himself, the situation was too ripe. “Mana potion.”

While Twilight was doubtful that the drink was a potion of any sort, it was definitely a tonic to restore her magical potential and its sweet taste that she couldn’t put her hoof on only added to its mystery. If nothing else was gained from her time among the humans, having the rights to sell this one drink could make a pony as wealthy as the Canterlot elite.

“Well, ‘potion’ or not, there is still two more springs to do and there is ,” Twilight looked at the clock mounted on the garage wall, “A bit over 20 minutes till the end of the session, I take it that you’ll want to have these installed before the next practice session at 3 o’clock?”

It took the remaining 20 minutes, and another ‘mana potion’, for Twilight to reconfigure the remaining springs. With both Mercedes parked in the garage, the race was on to fit the new parts in the 70 minute window between practice sessions.

On stands and with all four wheels removed, a pair of crew members serviced the rear of the car. The old brake rotors were in the process of being swapped out as well as new brake pads installed.

Up front, more extensive mechanical work was being performed. Due to the modular design of the modern V8 Supercars, it would be a relatively simple matter to replace the entire front shock absorber and spring. That is unless the replacement components weren’t currently under construction.

While Twilight was performing at her best in reconfiguring the springs, they had still taken almost the entirety of the session to complete. Because of this, Twilight was under the gun from the start to complete on time. For the pit crew, it was a regular Thursday afternoon.

Under normal circumstances, the procedure for mating a spring with a shock absorber was performed using a pair of devices called spring compressors, which, as their name implies, compress the spring so that the head of the strut assembly could be secured without creating a workplace hazard.

Thanks to Twilight, the compressors could be skipped entirely as she performed the same operation with her magic in a fraction of the time. Her natural efficiency earned her a scratch behind her ear and the chance to take a breather.

One of the things about having a large event with the rich history of the Bathurst 1000 is that the event itself would eventually be broadcast to over 100 countries and the support categories and practice sessions streamed over the broadcaster's website. Another item that was streamed was the pit reporter, and former racer, Mark Larkham’s little snippets of pit lane and it was inevitable that Twilight would become part of at least one of those snippets.

Cruising down the back of the garages in the distinctive red and white firesuit used by the channel 7 reporter and cameraman, Larkham saw Twilight studying the label on a bottle of Powerade.

Moving in for one of his usual soft ambush style interviews on the Princess he began, “Here is the extra horsepower in the Erebus garage, Princess Sparkle, how are the practice sessions going?”

Jerking her head up from her analysis, Twilight was stunned to see the reporter and his cameraman a few feet away, stammering she replied, “I honestly have no idea!”

Larkham laughed at Twilight’s response, in truth, he hadn’t expected her to have knowledge of how the Mercedes were performing in relation to the other teams, he wanted to make her feel a little more at ease before he broached his next question.

“I heard from Craig Lowndes, down in the Red Bull garage, that you enjoyed your hot lap. Any comments, Princess?”

“It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” Twilight replied

“We’ve got the in-car film of your little trip around the circuit,” began Larkham with a cheeky grin, “How about later on, you come down to the Tech Centre and give us a rundown.”

Twilight didn’t know how to reply to Larkham’s offer, on one hoof she knew that he represented the television station that covered the lead up, supporting events and the race itself. On the other hoof, she had no idea what a ‘Tech Centre’ was or what she would be doing there.

It was fortunate that Twilight was saved from embarrassment by her old trainer, Chris Seidel came to her rescue by jumping into the camera shot and proclaiming, “She’d be delighted to give you a rundown. Let’s say, around 4 o’clock after the final practice session?”

Seidel ended his spiel with a sideways glance to Twilight that plainly said ‘There, that was easy!’

Larkham laughed at Seidel’s antics as Twilight agreed to the meet. With the affirmation in hand, Larkham signed off before facing Twilight once again.

“Don’t worry, Princess,”said Larkham, “We’ll go over the footage together so there are no surprises, I’ll throw in some soft remarks that you can answer and we’ll have a nice laugh.”

Twilight relaxed a little, Larkham’s explanation and gentle tone after the camera had been turned off had been warm and reassuring and she was curiously looking forward to the new experience.

With all that had been going on, Twilight had lost track of time, it was seeing the younger Davison and Holdsworth waltz into the garage from the drivers prep room in the transporter in their driving equipment in anticipation for the next practice session and to test out the new suspension.

“5 minutes!” called out a runner, going past the garages and informing the teams from the official timekeepers.

Davison and Holdsworth fasten their suits and prepare their HANS devices while Twilight performed her duty in preparing the cool boxes that the drivers would attach their liquid filled ‘cool suits’ to so that they could keep their core body temperature stable and stave off heat exhaustion while driving.

It was a minor advantage that Erebus was exploiting in having Twilight do this particular task. By using magic, she was able to safely handle larger quantities of the dry ice needed than most people would be comfortable with, that combined with her short pony frame meant that she was actually able to see the inside of the cool box as the dry ice was being added and able to move the granules around to be more efficient at cooling the driver from the start.

Another advantage of having Twilight on the crew was that it normally took 4 people to safely maneuver the large one and a half ton vehicles out of the garages and into position in pit lane, a task that Twilight could accomplish herself with only minor assistance from the drivers.

With 1 minute to go and the cabins of the cars beginning to get uncomfortably warm in the afternoon sun, cars all along pit lane started their engines so that the drivers could have their cool suits functioning to make the remaining seconds more bearable.

Moments later the pit lane is officially opened and the 3rd practice session was away. For Twilight, it was a ‘Perfect Storm’ of minor events, a combination of her using her magic with an unusually high level of concentration and finesse required so that she didn’t accidently turn 2 pairs of springs into uncoiled steel bars, the adrenaline rush of assembling the suspension under a time limit and the unexpected ambush from Mark Larkham had taken its toll on her.

Wearily, she propped herself up against the cool concrete wall of the garage to rest and close her eyes for a moment.

The sound of an apple being cleanly bitten into jerked Twilight from her nap. Looking around she saw some members of the pit crew laughing at her reaction while Kliemkio was munching on one of her donated pieces of fruit.

“Tech Centre, 5 minutes,” said Kliemkio as she continued eating while handing Twilight directions to her destination.

It took a few seconds for Twilight to figure out what Kliemkio ment with her cryptic phrasing but when her sleep addled brain got the message a few seconds later, she cried out “Ahh! I’m tardy!” before leaving the garage in a comical flurry of legs and wings.

At the media centre, a slightly winded Twilight arrived only to be further rushed into the Tech Centre set while a semi-frustrated makeup artist gave her mane a brush and went over her face with a damp sponge while Larkham patiently went over his notes.

“What will happen is that the viewer will see shots from the in-car cameras and the track cameras,” explained Larkham, “Then they cut back to us in the Tech Centre and we’ll go over your experience and a few of the comments you made on your laps.”

“So, we won’t be doing it all at once?” asked Twilight. She was far more used to plays where everything was sequential and was a little confused.

“No, the shots from your lap and this segment will be edited together overnight and shown over the weekend.”

Twilight began to understand, from her point of view, it would be like writing two chapters of a book out of order. Unusual, but do able if you knew how you wanted the story to unfold.

“Okay, where do we start?” she asked.

Pulling a remote control from his pocket, Larkham turned on the large plasma screen that was mounted on the wall. After loading up the relevant video, it took less than 10 minutes to quickly review the footage.

For Twilight, this revealed two things about herself that she hadn’t know. The first being that she inarticulately moaned during heavy braking and cornering and second...

“Do I really sound like that when I talk?” asked Twilight

It had never occurred to Larkham, Kliemkio or any person in the Diplomatic Service that Twilight had not experienced something that most people had taken for granted. Larkham’s reaction was to smile, nod and try not to laugh at Twilight’s reaction. A reaction that he would treasure for many years to come.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, playing down Twilight’s concerns, “Everybody sounds different on tape.”

Larkham passed Twilight the questions that he was planning to ask, as previously discussed in the garage, the questions were about her impression of the V8 Supercars, how it felt going around the circuit, and asking her to elaborate on some of her comments that she made during her hot laps.

After a quick rehearsal, Twilight was handed a microphone and the segment began recording. Everything went smoothly with the prepared questions and Larkham’s easy going style.

When it came to explaining the comments that Twilight made, that’s when the natural humour and chemistry between the two began to spark up.

“”Looking at some of your comments, they’re kind of interesting,” said Larkham, “Starting with the most obvious, ‘Yee Ha!’. Care to explain?”

“I was caught up in the moment, Lowndes had just gone over Skyline and the road disappeared,” Twilight explained, “It felt like the best thing to say at the time.”

“Okay,” said Larkham with an aside glance and a smile, “Here’s another one, ‘Show me what you’ve got, Mr Lowndes’, you do know that he’s won this event 5 times?”

“Well, I got the feeling that he was holding himself back, by that time I’d gotten over the shock of being thrown around the mountain and I was feeling a little,” Twilight searched for the right word, “Adventurous.”

“Last one, ‘Oh my’, what’s the story behind that one?”

“That was at the end of the warm up lap, and Lowndes had just gone past the entrance to Pit Lane.”

Larkham laughed out aloud at the mental picture of Twilight seeing the salvation of the Pit Entrance being so close only to watch it whiz by without knowing exactly what was happening would have been a sight to behold.

With the conclusion of the question and answer session, the segment was concluded with Larkham facing the camera and handing off to the other commentators. Larkham was happy on how the segment went, Twilight was confident and funny, and he was sure that after editing, the majority of what was taped would go to air.

Thanking Twilight for her time, a stage manager for the studio wrangled a gopher to escort her back to the Erebus garage. By this time, the final practice session of the day for the support races had been run and the crew were going over the day’s data and making minute adjustments to both Mercedes.

From the back of the garage, Twilight looked on in fascination. Today there had been three long practice sessions for the drivers to set up their cars and become accustomed to the circuit. The numbers on the monitors told her that, while the Mercedes were close to each other in lap times, those times were around a second and a half slower than the fastest set time.

There was still more work to be done.

Author's Note:

This chapter took way too long to write, hopefully the next one will be shorter and funnier!

As always, feel free to comment or send me a PM, I love getting feedback and answering questions.