Conquering the Mountain

by johnnosk

First published

How did a pony get into the pit crew?

One thousand Kilometres
One hundred and sixty one laps
Fifty two drivers
Twenty six cars
One pony
It’s a long road to the mountain

The Bathurst 1000 is Australia's most famous race, and it's set to become even bigger when Twilight Sparkle joins in

Many thanks to totallynotabrony for editing, guidance and providing the cover art and to Fana Farouche for the invaluable help in correcting my wayward grammar.

Now rejected by Equestria Daily!


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Conquering the Mountain:

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in October, the air was crisp and clean, the skies clear of all but a few clouds. For the past week, there had been a festival-like atmosphere as long term, but friendly, rivals wearing red and blue met under the shade of the trees and marquees that dotted the viewing area on the mountain while others prepared Eskys full of ice and amber refreshments. For the second time in recent memory, the followers of red and blue were joined by other friendly followers wearing colours of silver or white or beige. Greetings were shared, friendly bets were made and the cares of the world were put aside, for this one day on the mountain, only the colours mattered.

The followers waited with nervous anticipation, even though it was still early, they knew that the final day of the festival was about to begin. In the valley below, a low roar was heard and the people on the mountain let out a happy cheer. The final day of the festival had begun.

Twilight Sparkle casually flicked an ear as she heard the trucks in the paddock behind the pit area start their massive diesel engines in preparation for the Drivers Parade where the crowd could see the team haulage vehicles and the drivers as they were escorted around the circuit as a precursor to the main event that was due to start in just over an hour.

For the last 5 days, Twilight had been working diligently with the rest of her fellows in the pit crew going over drills and rehearsing situations that only had the most infinitesimal chance of occurring. She played her role in one of the support categories for those teams that didn’t have the budget or equipment to repair their own vehicles.

Twilight had eaten breakfasts with the drivers, lunches with the team owners and had been taken aside and treated to dinners with the wives and families of those who return year after year in the hopes of finally conquering the mountain.

Up before dawn and existing on less sleep than a caffeine addicted college student, Twilight was quickly becoming a minor celebrity with fans and teams alike. Between practice sessions she was autographing merchandise, memorabilia and the occasional body part alongside the other drivers. She had been interviewed for local, national and international news media in print, television and internet sites.

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that relief came when Twilight spied her friends being escorted into the corporate boxes above the pit area and that night the six were treated to a large but simple meal with the event's main sponsor before retiring to bed, where she finally got a good night’s sleep.

Seven months ago, Twilight, in her role as the Princess of Friendship, had been part of a diplomatic delegation in the Victorian city of Melbourne; her purpose was to establish mutual friendship and cultural ties with the Australian government and trade with the Victorian agricultural sector.

By either coincidence or poor planning (or even a combination of the two), her visit coincided with the running of that year’s Australian Grand Prix. This made any diplomatic or trade overtures rushed, as her schedule was altered so that the movers and shakers of the Formula 1 community could have a chance to speak to the Equestrian princess.

In retrospect, it should have come as no surprise - Victoria as a state and Melbourne in particular are an interesting combination of being both sports mad and considering themselves the ‘Cultural’ centre of Australia.

She had been escorted to the Albert Park circuit by a member of the Australian Diplomatic Service who would act as a minder to smooth over any cultural missteps that came from, or were directed to, the Princess, and to generally shepherd her around the various pits, press conferences, marquees and photo opportunities that dotted Albert Park while at the same time acting as a buffer between the Princess and the general public.

Team owners from the headline teams such as Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were polite. and yet, at the same time reserved. They had questions that they wanted to ask, but in the business of Formula 1, there was a proper way to ask questions without allowing other teams to be able to use the information.

The younger teams like Red Bull and Toro Rosso had either not learned the protocol or had decided to ignore it in its entirety and were using the unique opportunity of meeting an Equestrian Princess to their full advantage.

Daniel Ricciardo, the second driver for the Red Bull team, noticed that the young Equestrian was looking a little overwhelmed by the situation and thought it best if he intervened. “Hey there, want to take a break from all this?” inquired Ricciardo to Twilight, “The main tent is quiet at the moment.”

“Um, yes, of course,” stammered Twilight. While the drivers toothy smile unnerved her at first, she realised that Ricciardo’s smile was genuine and he wanted to help.

Inside the Red Bull marque, Ricciardo handed Twilight a can of his sponsor's product . Thirstily, Twilight drained half of the can, the second half she held in her mouth for a second to taste. It was bubbly, sweet and refreshing, but the portion size was far too small.

“Another?” Ricciardo asked as he held up a second can as an offer to Twilight.

“Thank you.” Twilight drank down the offered can.

Wordlessly, Ricciardo offered an already opened third can to Twilight, who wasted no time in drinking down its contents. A fourth can quickly followed the same fate as the previous three.

It should be noted that although Twilight was prone to staying up till the small hours of the morning, she did so without the need for any type of stimulant and was unprepared for the effect that four energy drinks would have on her system in such a short time.

Twilight began to shift her weight backwards and forwards on her hooves as the combination of sugar and caffeine began to be metabolised and she was feeling far more alert and energised than she could easily remember.

Looking around the Red Bull marque, Twilight noticed an odd contraption that was inside of a roped area. Her natural curiosity was piqued and was well within the grip of a nice caffeine buzz. She had to know what was so special about that area.

“Mr. Ricciardo,” began Twilight as she nodded her head in the direction of the roped area, she never never finished her question as Ricciardo was all too happy to explain the details of the promotion that Red Bull was running inside the marquee.

It was a timed simulation of an F1 pit stop. A competitor had to remove the simulated rear wheel of a mock up F1 car, place the wheel on a sensor pad and then reverse the process, reattaching the wheel. The whole experience was electronically timed and displayed in large and bright numbers on a nearby scoreboard.

To this day, it is not known whether it was the many cans of sugary energy drink, Ricciardo's gentle encouragement or a combination of both, but Twilight was soon crouched at the mock wheel, the rattle gun firmly held by her magic, ready to begin the simulation.

The simple nature of the simulation hid a secret that caused the inexperienced to stumble. The combination of rattle gun and wheel weighed in at 15 Kg and for safety, the rattle gun was permanently affixed to the wheel nut

When the buzzer on the simulation sounded and Twilight pushed the trigger of the rattle gun, with a mechanical whirr the gun spun the central nut holding the wheel secure and in less than half a second the nut was free and the wheel able to be removed.

With a pull of her magic, the wheel was lifted off of the axle and moved to the touchpad to Twilight’s right. As soon as the wheel made contact with the pad, Twilight reversed the process and reattached the wheel to the axle, switched the direction on the rattle gun and finished the simulation.

Twilight turned to Ricciardo, intent on asking how she did on the simulation. Any questions that she may have had evaporated when she saw the spectators of various ages crowding the viewing area, their attention not on Twilight, but on the time that she had just posted.

Twilight let out a small, strangled, squeak. That was enough to grab the crowd's attention away from the scoreboard and focus their collective attention onto her. In the crowd, someone moved forward and this action gave Twilight quite a startle.

“Mr Ricciardo, I think I hear my laundry calling,” said a very nervous Twilight.

It was fortunate that Ricciardo was ready to step in and woo the crowd with a combination of his permanent smile, easy going personality and a marker that was ready to sign autographs while the diplomatic minder from the Australian government discretely led Twilight away from the throng of excited race fans and towards the more private VIP area where the corporate boxes were located.

It can be said that the world runs on coincidences - stories of separated family members meeting each other by chance years later at a doctor's office and the like. In the sport of motor racing, coincidences are not uncommon, and it sometimes appears that the sport relies on them!

It was nothing less than a coincidence that Twilight stumbled into a short, heavy set and well tattooed woman wearing a a black and white polo shirt. Twilight quickly regained her footing and in a glance realised that not only had she accidently walked into a person, but if her cultural research was correct, a person of considerable power and influence judging by the overt display of tattoos.

The lady in question was Betty Klimenko, a lady of considerable power and influence had she decided to use her connections, for not only was she heir to the Westfield Group of shopping centres and in the top five wealthiest women in Australia, she was also the owner of Erebus Motorsport and had two vehicles running in the support races before the Grand Prix.

The minder, never relaxing from his job, took the opportunity to make proper introductions between the Heiress and the Princess. Twilight apologised profusely for her misstep while Klimenko mentioned that she was headed to the Red Bull marquee because she had heard that someone had posted a very fast time on the F1 simulator.

This caused Twilight to redden with embarrassment and again it was fortunate that the Diplomatic Service was on hand to smooth things over by explaining how Twilight was the record-setter in question, but was embarrassed and didn’t want the public thinking that she was showing off.

To Klimenko, the revelation that such a person was standing in front of her, but seemingly looking for a quiet place to relax and centre herself was like receiving a break from the Australian Tax Office, something to examine and treasure.

As a canny business woman, she invited Twilight to spend some time in the Erebus garage, and while it was not library quiet, it did offer privacy and Klimenko was of the strong opinion that Twilight would find her time there to be informative and eventful.

While Twilight was unsure, the minder could see the diplomatic potential in such a situation and since the entire garage and pit area had been classed as ‘Secure’ he whispered a few soft words to Twilight and she readily accepted Klimenko’s offer.

Travelling from the VIP area to the Pits was a relatively simple matter of commandeering the golf cart that had been assigned to Erebus Racing and driving past the back of the grandstands on the main straight and to one of the underpasses that led to the lake on the infield of the Albert Park circuit.

During the drive, Klimenko and Twilight chatted about inconsequential subjects like the local food, Melbourne's weather or unique Australian wildlife. The minder was secretly disappointed when Klimenko told Twilight that Drop Bears were not real.

Inside the pits, one of the Erebus cars, the black with blue highlights #9 Mercedes E63, was on stands, its hood up and an engineer studying the readings from a handheld device. To the Engineer, the readings from the engine management system were stable and the car would be able to perform well in the four support races over the weekend. What irked the Engineer was that he couldn’t find the extra bit of speed that the drivers wanted to go from qualifying mid-field to a pole position. He continued to stare at the numbers hoping that a solution would present itself.

For Twilight, the sleek racing car was a mystery that called with a soft, seductive voice that was impossible to resist. With her desire to seek out new knowledge, Twilight threw caution to the wind and trotted over to see what powered the racing vehicle.

“If you are going to look, please do not scratch the finish,” said the engineer without looking up from his device

“Oh, sorry. I just wanted to see.”

The engineer looked at Twilight. If he was surprised at seeing the Princess of Friendship in the Erebus garage, he did not let it show. He tapped a protective covering that the mechanics had placed over the side of the engine bay. “Put your hooves here,” he said. “What would you like to know?”


In the back portion of the garage, an area that was sectioned off for the pit crew to relax between stops. Due to it currently being vacant and relatively private, the diplomatic minder was using the opportunity to put forward a proposal to Klimenko.

“Mrs. Klimenko, I believe you are in the position to be part of something special.”

“Cut the crap!” said Klimenko, as she was in neither Race control nor the boardroom of Westfield, she had no use for the flowery language of diplomats. This was her Pit, her garage and she was in control. Her language only reinforced that.

“I’m serious, she changed an F1 tyre in six seconds and change” said the minder, “The previous best time was over thirteen seconds. She also studies friendship and harmony, in Equestria those are not abstract concepts but physical manifestations. What can be more harmonious than a well drilled pit crew?”

“There is more to being in a pit crew than being able to change a tyre.”

“Then take her to the Erebus workshop in Queensland and teach her, let her get her hooves dirty.”

“The workshop is not someplace where you let the inexperienced ‘help out’. There is training, certification, health and safety.”

“We can help with that, but can you imagine what a boon it would be to Erebus Motorsport to have a qualified Equestrian Princess on the team? What it would mean for Westfield and for Australia.”

“You slimey, silver tongued bastard! You want her feeling like she owes you and Australia something, right?”

“If we can induce her to feel a type of ‘kinship’ with Australia and Australian culture then there is a better chance that her report to the regent will be more favourable to Australian interests”

“What’s in it for me?”

For the minder, what he said next would either be the deal maker or the deal breaker. He knew that while Klimenko projected a tough exterior, she had great respect for the people employed by both Westfield and Erebus and would not act if a negotiation affected them adversely.

“We’re talking about opening trade with a series of brand new nations, cultural exchanges, new markets for our wheat and fruit. If we play this right, we could become a preferred trading partner.” The minder paused, “Plus we would get to really stick it to the Americans!”

Klimenko chuckled at the minder’s words. She leant forward in her seat and said in a disbelieving tone, “Is that the only reason, or is there more to this?”

The minder pulled his seat close to Klimenko and seemed to deflate just a little from his normally formal posture. “Mrs. Klimenko… Betty, internationally, Australia is treated like a third world country where you don’t have to boil the water. We sit on the largest reserves of uranium, iron ore, bauxite and coal in the world. We’ve held two Olympic Games, a Grand Slam Tennis tournament and international motorsport events that get as much attention as a lunch at McDonald's!

“Australian scientific achievements are either co-opted, marginalized or outright ignored. Most people don’t even know that the CSIRO invented Wi-Fi. Our culture is based on two important principles, mateship and giving a person a fair go. If we can legitimately pique the interest of the Princess into joining a team for one big race, then that is something that Australia can claim and nobody can take it from us.”

“If we are to do this,” said Klimenko, “We have to do it right. You have to tell her what you’ve told me, no secrets, everything out in the open. All training costs will be covered by the government, any custom made equipment that she needs will have to be made for her. Training and outfitting will have to be fitted into her regular schedule, that means travel throughout the year and all of this will mean nothing if she says ‘No’!”

“Then I’d bloody well better ask her.”

Mentally steeling himself, the minder walked over to where Twilight and the engineer were having an animated conversation. After politely dragging twilight away from the mysteries of the Mercedes E63. Kneeling he repeated his conversation with Klimenko to Twilight, putting all the details into the open and hiding nothing.

“That’s everything,” said the minder, “Erebus will train you and hold a spot open for you for one race. So, do you want to join the team?”

The minder was taken back when a look similar to that seen on children on Christmas day came over Twilight’s face and she started bouncing all over the garage repeating “Yes!” like some malfunctioning toy.

Klimenko smiled, she knew that with a bit of training and a little luck, she would have a new member of Erebus Racing that would allow her an advantage during pit stops for a single race, the government will be able to establish diplomatic ties with a new land and culture, and if she played her cards right, not cost her a single cent!


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Conquering the Mountain

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me, I’m-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That sounds impressive, but tells me nothing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Most impressive,” Stone admitted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mr Stone, you mentioned body panels-”

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

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

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

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

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

“The what?”

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

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

“They make parts for the engine?”

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

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

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

“A cam cover for one of the engines.”

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

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

“Why nine engines?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah, yes?”

“Bring her along with you.”

Training and Certification - Part 1

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Conquering the Mountain
Training and Certification - Part 1

Jessica Lowe had worked as the receptionist at Erebus Motorsport ever since the company was founded last year. She was experienced, knowledgeable and had a talent for the work that allowed her to anticipate the needs of the company and the protocols needed to address the situations that develop.

It was because of these talents that she was not at all fazed when Twilight Sparkle showed up with a second pony in her reception area with what looked like several sewing baskets and a dressmaker's dummy floating behind her.

“Twilight, you’re right on time,” said Lowe, checking her watch, “Who is your friend and does she need any assistance?”

“Good morning Jessica,” replied Twilight with a wave, “This is my friend, Rarity, she’ll be helping with the firesuit.”

“Excellent! The guy making the suit is in the conference room,” Lowe said as she pointed through the doors leading to the Erebus Motorsport offices, “I can escort your friend, you are needed in the upstairs classroom.”

Twilight gave her saddlebags a tap before climbing the stairs, “I’m all ready!”

Rarity permitted herself a ladylike chortle as she watched her friend ascend the stairs. Idly she wondered if Twilight had the same amount of enthusiasm when she was just a filly starting her education. Pushing the thought to the back of her mind, she followed Lowe to the Erebus conference room.

Sitting inside was a rather rotund man with several fabric samples, rough drawings and diagrams of generic persons needed to tailor a firesuit that would not only be a comfortable fit, but perform as expected during an emergency situation.

For Rarity, the problem was immediately apparent as all the diagrams were based around the human norm of people walking upright instead of on all fours. While Rarity had templates for some parts of the suit, it was immediately apparent that what she had envisioned as a utilitarian work outfit and what was required in the aspects of safety were two very different concepts.

Tim Hunt was the gentleman sitting in the conference room, when he saw a white unicorn waltz in with several objects floating behind her he knew that this was not going to be one of his usual fittings. His company, Renard Noir, had been outfitting amateur and professional teams with complete racing kits that exceeded the stringent safety standards set by CAMS. He was justifiably proud of the product that he produced and his work was sought after for its quality.

“Are you Twilight Sparkle, the pony I’m doing the fitting for?” Hunt asked.

“Oh no, Darling,” said Rarity, “Twilight asked me to come in and assist you in this endeavor, being that nobody has ever attempted something like this before. I’m Rarity, by the way”

“Tim Hunt,” replied Hunt automatically. As it was, Hunt was a little taken back by Rarity’s remark, while he knew that what he did was not the fine tailoring that you would find in London or Paris, but he was good at his job and his skills were in demand.

Reading the expression on Hunt’s face, Rarity continued. “The main problem with the general design is that you can’t put a human on all fours and call it a pony,now can you? I mean the bone and muscle structure are totally different and that doesn’t even begin to account for the limb to body ratio.”

“Am I correct to assume that you have a plan?” asked Hunt, dryly.

Rarity either didn’t notice Hunt’s attempts at being droll or generously chose to ignore it as she opened up her sewing kit and retrieved a blank generic diagram that was more suitable to Twilight’s form.

“I took the liberty of taking Twilight’s measurements yesterday afternoon,” she explained, “That along with some basic templates should be enough to allow us to start work”

Hunt rummaged through his own kit in search for his drawing pencil. With a few deft strokes, he had transferred and altered the general firesuit design from the standard human model to something more appropriate to an Equestrian.

Rarity was quietly observing her fellow clothier when she realised that she had forgotten something very important.

“Don’t forget to allow room for the wings,” she said, “Twilight can cast a fire charm on her tail to prevent it from getting singed, but her wings are too delicate for such heavy magic”

“What about having them covered with flaps on the outside of the suit,” said Hunt as he drew an example of his idea on the diagram, “That way, she won’t be hobbled and can still use her wings in an emergency.”

“How will you have the flaps secured?”

“The top part of the flap will be built into the suit for strength, that can cover the entire wing in a nice box. I can use velcro to adhere the bottom of the flat to the suit, all Twilight has to do is extend her wings and they’ll pop free.”

“What is this ‘Velcro’?, I’ve never encountered it before”

“I’m not surprised,” said Hunt, “Velcro is a synthetic fabric that is commonly used as a fastener in everyday clothing and apparel. It’s not something that a high end fashionista like yourself would have much of a need for, it’s rather cheap and not something that is seen on high end clothing.”

“Do you have any here, I’d like to see it?”

“I think I may have some in my kit” said Hunt as he began to rummage around for the elusive fabric, “Ah, here’s some.”

Hunt passed the small strip of fabric to Rarity, for her part, Rarity was initially unimpressed with the stiff fabric until she saw that she could manipulate it with her magic, experimentally tearing and resealing it several times.

“You were quite right, Mr Hunt,” said Rarity, “While I can see how useful this fabric could be, I would not have any use for it in my creations”

Rarity drew her attention back to the designs laid on the table before her. “How long will it take until you have something ready for a test fitting for Twilight?” she asked

“There isn’t much going on at the shop at the moment,” said Hunt, “In theory, I could have something in a couple of hours, but this is a brand new design and I’d be learning as I go. Honestly, it might take me a week to get something wearable”

Although he didn’t realise it, Hunt’s answer was inline with what Rarity wanted to hear. It would allow her to assist in creating a practical outfit for her friend while at the same time help a fellow clothier lay the groundwork for what could possibly be a new industry.

“Mr Hunt, it appears that between us, we have the knowledge, skills and facilities to complete this outfit by this afternoon”

Hunt gave Rarity’s offer careful thought, initially his ego demanded that he politely refuse her offer, however, intellectually he knew that while his skills were strong and any problems would eventually be overcome, being assisted by someone who already had an intimate knowledge of what issues he would face would mean that making the suit would be easier and the knowledge and techniques that he would learn would, at the very least, be useful in the future.

As a moderately successful businessman in a small and specialised market, Hunt also knew that such a chance may not come around a second time. Throwing caution to the wind, he offered Rarity a deal that he hoped would be mutually beneficial.

“Miss Rarity, as you noted, we have everything we need to complete your friend’s outfit in a few hours,” said Hunt, “My workshop is nearby, we take your designs and templates, we use my workshop and its equipment and pull out all the stops to get it finished by this afternoon.”

Hunt’s offer appealed to Rarity’s own sense of generosity as she quickly packed away her equipment. “How far is it to your workshop?” she asked

“Not far, only a couple of blocks away,” replied Hunt, “It’s so close, I didn’t even bother bringing my car”

“Then we best get moving if we are to have this suit made in time.” said Rarity as she exited the conference room, her equipment floating behind her with Hunt tripping over his own feet in an attempt to keep up with the Unicorn.

While Rarity was downstairs weaving her own brand of clothing magic, Twilight was receiving instruction on how to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, or she would if she had not arrived half an hour early.

While normally, Twilight being early to any class was a given and in this case it allowed her to meet a pair of interesting gentlemen.

Next to the room that was being used to teach was the Erebus breakroom. Inside there was nothing out of the ordinary or special about the room, like most Australian breakrooms, it contained an average sized fridge, a sink, a kettle, a table with a few chairs and a couple of employees making tea instead of working.

It was the sound of their conversation that drew Twilight’s attention and while her ability to recognise different people had improved with continued contact, she was sure that the pair in the breakroom were unknown to her.

The sound of Twilight’s hoof steps on the polished wooden floor drew the attention of the pair, as they turned to face her, the taller of the two in a calm and friendly voice.

“Hello there, you must be the new member of the pit crew,” said the taller one, “I’m Will and this is Lee.”

Twilight may not have been able to recognise their faces, but she had reviewed as much information on the V8 Supercars as she could gather and the mention of the names was the final piece of this particular identity puzzle.

“Oh, you’re the drivers, Lee Holdsworth and Will Davison!” said Twilight, “I’ve been reading up on your biographies”

Swallowing a mouthful of tea, Holdsworth looked Twilight up and down. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” he said.

Realising her faux pas. During her site induction, she had met many members of the pit crew, race engineers and office administrative staff but had never crossed paths with the drivers until now.

“I’m Twilight Sparkle from Equestria” Twilight said, using a mid range formal introduction. What she didn’t expect was Holdsworth to start coughing in his tea.

“Twilight Sparkle, that’s an interesting name,” said Holdsworth as he choked back another cough, “It’s rather descriptive.”

Twilight didn’t know what to make of Holdsworth’s remarks. She felt that she was being mocked but in the interests of diplomacy and lacking proof one way or another, she let it slide.

“I don’t mean to sound rude,” began Davison, “But how can you help in the pits?”

Since her encounter with the pit crew during her induction, Twilight, with the assistance of the Diplomatic Service, had the perfect answer ready.

“Well I do have a few skills that are useful,” Twilight said as she used her magic to open her saddlebag and remove a ceramic mug that was coloured to look like a jar of the popular spread ‘Vegemite’ and a small container given to her by the Diplomatic Service.

Opening the container, Twilight removed a single tea bag before resealing the container and returning it to her saddlebag. Simultaneously, she filled her mug with the still hot water from the kettle before adding the tea bag to let it seep. She did this without taking her eyes off Davison.

To his credit, Davison did not stammer or show surprise at Twilight’s display of magic, instead he calmly took a sip of his tea and said, “Yeah, that’s useful.”

Twilight took a sip of her freshly brewed tea, savoring both the taste and the feeling of satisfaction over her little demonstration. Any further conversation however was halted before it could begin as a middle aged lady poking her head into the break room.

“Are you three here for the CPR course?” she asked, “We’re all set up and ready to start”

Twilight followed the two drivers into the room that had been set aside for the lesson, the room itself was normally used for post race analysis, engineering presentations and general brainstorming.

On this day, the many tables were arranged into rows facing a whiteboard that was secured to the far wall, spread out over the room were three blue CPR dummies with a fourth placed on a desk at the front of the room. Taking a seat at a desk with a CPR dummy, Twilight opened her saddlebag and withdrew what was commonly referred to in Equestria as a Scholars Kit that contained quills, ink and parchment in a convenient travel case.

The instructor stood at the front of the whiteboard and faced the trio, “I’m Emma Triggs. I’ll be instructing you on CPR and basic fire extinguisher use,” Triggs began, “Because we have such a small class today, we should get through both by lunchtime. We’ll start with CPR and make sure that everybody is competent before moving onto fire extinguishers and indulging in our inner Fireman fantasies.

“Before we start, I must remind you that these techniques are only applicable to humans. Miss Sparkle, you would have to see an Equestrian instructor for certification to perform CPR on Equestrians.

What followed next was, for Twilight at least, a complete, comprehensive and a fascinating explanation of how to safely perform CPR. However, the instruction was not without its own notable and amusing instances.

The first came about a third of the way into the instruction when the group was learning how to find and measure a pulse rate.

Twilight gave the exercise some thought, she knew that while her hoof was hard, it was still sensitive enough to pick up the small vibrations of her own pulse. Whether she was able to detect a pulse in a human was another matter.

Looking over at the two drivers, Twilight saw that they were in the beginnings of contorting themselves into a human sized knot with Davison attempting to take Holdsworth’s pulse at his neck while Holdsworth was trying to find Davison’s pulse on his free wrist.

“Good news, Lee. You’re not a zombie!” said Davison as he eventually found Holdsworth’s pulse

“And judging by this,” replied Holdsworth as he gently applied pressure to Davison’s wrist, “You do have a heart!”

Twilight was curious as to how the pair were using their own appendages to measure each other’s pulse and eager to see if she was able to detect a human’s pulse through her hooves. Crossing the room to the drivers, Twilight politely coughed to get their attention.

“Mind if I try?” asked Twilight to Holdsworth

Holdsworth gave a nod and guided Twilight’s hoof to the spot on his neck where his pulse was at its strongest.

“Now push down a little bit,” Holdsworth instructed, “Can you feel it?”

Beneath her hoof, Twilight could feel the driver's steady pulse. Letting out a giggle at how the situation was awkward and yet at the same time, a wondrous learning experience.

The next incident was amusing more for its slapstick humour rather than the subject that was being taught, in this case, putting a person into the recovery position.

“Earlier, we discussed putting someone into the recovery position,” said Triggs, “Now we will practice that manoeuvre. Will, you shall play the part of the victim and Lee will roll you into position. Twilight, you will be after Lee.”

Holdsworth followed as Davison strode to the front of the room before collapsing in an overly dramatic fashion, Twilight gave it 4 out of 10 as she had seen Rarity do better. Holdsworth gave his own opinion in the form of pretending to kick the prostrate form of his teammate.

“Here is the scenario,” began Triggs, “Will has collapsed; you have checked for danger and have gotten no response from him. He is breathing and has a pulse, so you now have to roll him into the recovery position.

“First, take the arm that is furthest from you and move it away from the body at a right angle. Next take the arm closest to you and place it across the body. Put your left hand behind Will’s knee and your right on his shoulder, gently roll him away from you making sure that his airway is clear.”

Holdsworth knelt beside Davison and followed Triggs instructions as they were being said and successfully completed the manoeuvre, Triggs had Davison return to his original position and for Twilight to take Holdsworth's place.

“No magic, Twilight,” said Triggs, “When the time comes, you may not be in a position to use magic, so you have to do it by hoof.”

Twilight had no problems with using her hooves instead of magic, however being a good deal stronger than the average human did mean that when it came time to roll Davison onto his side… She went a little overboard.

“Too much roll!” came the muffled complaint from Davison as his face was mashed into the carpet.

Holdsworth switched positions with his co-driver so that Davison could complete the exercise and the instruction could continue.

Finally the trio had reached the practical assessment. After the recovery position exercise, Twilight was understandably hesitant about exerting too much force on the training dummy but she was confident that she could apply the correct amount pressure when required.

“To help you with the rhythm of your compressions there are two music pieces to select from,” said Triggs, “The first is ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees and the other is ‘Another one bites the Dust’ by Queen”

Triggs never got the chance to ask which song the group wanted as Holdsworth and Davison gave her a stern look and said “Queen.”

Twilight was naturally unfamiliar with either song but judging by the reaction from the driving pair, she felt that it was in her best interests to follow their lead, so she meekly she said “Queen?”

Triggs set up a small CD player with the chosen song and within seconds a fast, yet at the same time constant, guitar and drum beat began. With the music as a guide, Twilight had no trouble keeping a steady rhythm although after the first minute, she noticed that Holdsworth and Davison were beginning to show signs of fatigue.

By the second minute of the song, Twilight could see that both drivers were breathing heavily and beginning to lose their rhythm by missing the occasional beat but were still able to continue.

When the song ended, Twilight had worked up a mild sweat but was otherwise okay and ready to continue with the instruction. Holdsworth and Davison on the other hand had collapsed and were gasping for breath and complaining about how exhausted they were.

For Twilight, it showed the marked physical differences between an alicorn of average fitness and a human athlete.

“Now that you’ve all done the final exercise,” began Triggs with what could only be described as an evil grin, “We’ll start the practical assessment right away!”

Over the panting that Holdsworth and Davison were making, Twilight could hear one of the pair make out a pained whine, while the other let out a groan that reminded her of the last time Spike had a stomach ache.

After the drivers had stopped complaining and composed themselves, the assessment commenced. Compared to the previous exercise, it was as easy as DRABCD and they only had to perform compressions for around 30 seconds before Triggs ended the assessment.

“Lady and Gentlemen, from what I’ve seen in the skills demonstrated before me today,” she began, “I deem you competent to perform CPR.”

Twilight mulled over the formality of Trigg’s wording, Davison thrust both fists into the air and exclaimed “YES!” while Holdsworth giggled at his co-driver’s actions.

“Go have a quick Smoko break and be back here for the fire extinguisher training.” Said Triggs

Twilight picked up her saddlebags and followed Holdsworth and Davison out of the room she wondered, ‘What was Smoko?’

Smoko as it turned out was an uniquely Australian expression for a short break from work or study to hurriedly get some food and drink before returning to work or study, and as with many things unique to Australia, the definition of ‘short’ was also flexible.

Returning to the break room, Davison made a beeline to the refrigerator while Holdsworth put on the kettle and Twilight pulled out an apple and a pear to munch on.

“I can barely feel my arms,” said Davison from inside the refrigerator, “I don’t think I could have survived another exercise.”

Watching the kettle, Holdsworth nodded in agreement, “I know that we’re not Ironmen,” he said, “but it’s not like we’re out of shape”

Twilight was giving the pair funny looks. Compared to some stallions such as Big Mac, their build would be considered to be somewhere between ‘slight’ and ‘Give them food before they waste away!’

As the kettle heated up the water, Holdsworth prepared two fresh mugs for himself and Davison, he tipped out and rinsed Twilight’s novelty mug as well. When the kettle boiled, he filled the three mugs and made tea on the bench while trying to work out how to transport them to the table.

“So, what’s next?” asked Twilight as she used her magic to lift all three mugs from the bench to the table, “I know that we are doing Fire Extinguishers, but will we be using extinguishers?”

“More than likely,” said Davison as he took a sip of his tea, “There is a good chance that we’ll get to practice using the type for fuel”

“Isn’t there an industrial bin full of paper and cardboard out the back of the engine shop?” asked Holdsworth with a cheeky grin

That grin quickly disappeared under the stern stares of Davison and Twilight, Davison because the idea was reckless and more than a little stupid while Twilight considered the action to be an unnecessary waste of kindling for the fireplace.

Davison finished his tea and said, “Once more into the breach, dear friends”

“I’d sooner, ‘Once more onto the beach’!” replied Holdsworth

Twilight didn’t have a clue what the pair were talking about, but she was sure that it didn’t involve her… She hoped.

Returning to the classroom after their smoko break, Twilight once again prepared her scholars kit for another comprehensive instruction session.

While Twilight knew what fire was, she would have been hard pressed to explain it to another pony. She knew about the three factors that were required to sustain a flame, but was honestly stunned when she was told about a fourth element.

“The ignition source,” said Triggs, “While heat, Oxygen and Fuel will sustain a fire, without a source of ignition a fire cannot start”

Twilight wondered what Equestrian designers and engineers would be able to do with this tidbit of information before her attention was drawn back to Triggs instruction.

“The type of fuel that feeds the fire determines what type of extinguisher you use,” said Triggs, “We break the fire down into 5 different fuel types”

Triggs handed out detailed matrixes that outlined the fuel types of Paper and wood, Flammable liquids, Combustible gases, Electrically energised equipment and Cooking oils and fats against the effectiveness of various types of fire extinguishers.

“In motorsport you will mostly deal with flammable liquids like petrol,” Triggs said, “However, it is important to familiarise yourselves with what extinguisher type is use on which fire”

Triggs then went into greater detail on what type of extinguisher was to be used on each type of fire. This was of great interest to Twilight, equestrian methods of fighting fire was limited to either water or sand.

Twilight was fascinated by the simple, but effective method of identifying which fire extinguisher was suited to which type of fire. Each extinguisher had a different coloured band around the body that made it easy to identify in emergency situations.

To Twilight’s surprise, that brought the theory section to a close. What was not surprising was Triggs passing out multiple choice examination sheets, like her workplace induction, the questions were designed to show that the person who was taking the test had a solid understanding of what was being taught, but not in an overly academic way.

Quickly completing the examination, Holdsworth, Davison and Twilight began to relax thinking that they had finished with this particular educational unit, a look on Trigg’s face told them otherwise.

Throughout her academic career, Twilight was used to seeing a few strange looks on her fellow students faces, the last time she saw a look even remotely similar to the grin that was spreading across Trigg’s face was when an aspiring chemistry student tried his hoof at cooking!

“Now that the theory is completed,” said Triggs, “We can start on the fun stuff.”

Twilight couldn’t help herself, “What is the fun stuff?” she asked

“We’re going to play with fire!”

Triggs hustled the trio out to the front of Erebus Motorsport and towards a seldom used area of bare concrete. Sitting on the concrete was an interesting setup consisting of a series of gas rings that looked like they belonged inside a BBQ wielded inside a sturdy steel frame. The frame itself was sitting on four heat resistant bricks so that it was suspended above the concrete.

The gas cylinders that fueled the contraption were safely located several meters away, connected via a gas line that had a quick cutoff valve at either end as well as the valve on the cylinder itself.

To Twilight, it looked like good example of Earth Pony manufacturing, simple, solid and reliable.

“Lee will go first, then Will and Twilight last,” said Triggs as she started her safety talk, “Until it is your turn for assessment, please stay back.”

Davison casually moved towards the shade of a nearby tree that was in the opposite direction from the testing rig. Twilight quickly followed Davison, like most ponies, she was uncomfortable around large fires. Every foal was taught that fur, feathers and fire don’t mix.

Holdsworth had his own little secret… He only played dumb. There aren’t that many drivers in the V8 Supercars and to be able to hold a driving contract, you have to be more than a competent driver with all the fast reflexes, but able to interpret what a Supercar need to be able to perform and to explain such to engineers while at the same time being able to understand the engineers when they talk about modifications done to the car.

When Triggs had lit the gas burners and signalled him to start, he had already gone over the procedure that he had only just learnt and his course of action several times.

Before he picked up the waiting CO2 extinguisher he pulled the safety pin and gave the handle a quick test squeeze, releasing a burst of snow from the cone shaped nozzle before aiming at the base of the test flames and giving the handle a full squeeze.

A few passes of the nozzle spraying its white cloud and the burners were safely extinguished and Triggs turned the valves to stop the gas.

Davison was next and his actions mirrored Holdsworth, although his own reflexes being a fraction slower than his co-driver. When it was Twilight’s turn, her close attention to what Holdsworth and Davison were doing served her well, but it was not without a surprise or two.

The first, and easily correctable surprise, was that Twilight wasn’t prepared for the small amount of recoil from the extinguisher when she tested it. The second was that as the nozzle cooled and frosted over, Twilight had some minor problems with aiming the extinguisher.

Although she overcame both these difficulties and successfully completed the practical. She was understandably unhappy with how she performed.

“Emma,” said Twilight, “Can I do the practical again?”

Triggs considered Twilight's request for a moment. “Sure, just give me a minute to relight everything and reset your extinguisher.”

Once everything had been relit and reset, Twilight started the practical for the second time. In this instance, the problems that she encountered on the first run were not only anticipated, but compensated for.

Her second run was flawless and Twilight was justifiably proud of herself, and judging from the polite applause coming from Holdsworth and Davison, they also felt that she had improved her performance.

With her emotions swinging from embarrassed to stunned, Twilight decided to take the middle ground and accept that the applause was genuine and to respond with a formal, opened wing bow.

Had Holdsworth or Davison been aware of Equestrian etiquette or courtly protocols, they would have realised that Twilight had paid the pair a high compliment, rarely seen outside of the Royal Palace in Canterlot.

“That’s it for me,” said Triggs as she approached the drivers, “All three of you have shown that you can use a fire extinguisher in a safe and competent manner as well as knowledge of the theoretical side of extinguisher usage, identification and management.”

“What’s next?” asked Twilight, eager to continue

Davison smiled at Twilight before revealing what was next on the schedule.


Training and Certification - Part 2

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Conquering the Mountain
Training and Certification - Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, is it made from lamb?”

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t quite catch that.”

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

Twilight internally smiled as she prepared her verbal snare

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where did you get these?” asked Twilight

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

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

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

Then again, Rarity would always be Rarity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Conquering the Mountain
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Twilight anxiously paced inside the Golden Oaks Library. If her calculations were correct, then she should be receiving a very special package with the day’s mail.

Spike on the other hand was steadily growing irritated at Twilight’s antics. While he understood that what she was doing with Erebus was a good thing for Equestria, he also knew from first hand experience that she tended to go overboard with such things.

“Twilight, would you calm down,” complained Spike, “You’re wearing a rut into the floor.”

Looking behind her, Twilight saw that she had indeed begun to leave a noticeable worn ring in the otherwise well polished floor.

“Sorry, Spike,” said Twilight, “It’s just that this delivery is kind of important to the work I’ve been doing at Erebus.”

“I get that, but what is it exactly?” asked Spike

Anything that Twilight would have said was interrupted by a knock on the library’s door, with a quick glance at the wall clock, Twilight knew that it could only be one particular pony.

“Mail call!” called out the familiar nasally twang of Ponyville’s resident Mailmare from the other side of the door, “I need your signature for a package, Princess Twilight.”

Opening the door, Twilight hastily scribbled out her signature on the clipboard offered up by Derpy, collected the mail and bid the perpetually confused mailmare good day.

Taking the mail inside the library, it was sorted between official correspondence, personal mail for Spike from several Canterlot comic book stores, and a large envelope from the official magazine of the V8 Supercars, V8X.

After confirming that the envelope did indeed carry the important document that she was waiting for, Twilight asked spike to ‘hold the fort’ while she went to see Rarity.

“Aw, Twilight. You’re gonna leave me to do all this paperwork?” grumbled Spike, “You could at least bring me back something from Sugarcube Corner.”

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll bring back some nice cupcakes from Sugarcube Corner, but all the paperwork needs to be finished by the time I get back.”

Spike looked at the official correspondence and considered his options. The correspondence was mainly requests from other libraries for for records and historical documents that were stored in Ponyville. A task that he could easily finish in a few hours if nothing urgent came up.

“Deal, but I want sapphires on my cupcakes,” Spike said as he began to busy himself with the task before him.

Twilight smiled to herself as she left the library for Carousel Boutique, Spike was a diligent worker and a faithful assistant. For what she was getting, the price of half a dozen cupcakes was a bargain.

Even though the distance between the library and Carousel Boutique was short and the journey uneventful, Twilight couldn’t help but feel a strange combination of nervous and excited.

The bell at Carousel Boutique chimed as Twilight walked through the door. “Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where everything is unique, chic and magnifique!” said Rarity with her usual flair.

“It’s just me, Rarity,” replied Twilight once Rarity had finished her little sales spiel. Holding up the envelope, she continued, “I just got a package relating to that suit you made for me at Erebus.”

“You have. That’s wonderful, darling. And what, pray tell, was the response?”

Twilight blushed and nervously tapped a fore hoof against the shop floor, “I’m not sure,” she said, “I haven’t opened the package yet.”

Rarity gave Twilight a withering glance immediately before snatching the envelope from her friends rather loose grip. With a deft flick of her magic, she tore the envelope open to reveal the treasure inside.

Removing the magazine, Rarity chuckled as she saw the cover. In bold red letters, the magazine’s title stood out proudly, no less subtle was the slightly smaller wording ‘Season of Endurance’ letting all who glanced at the cover know exactly what the content will be.

While the various titles were indeed eye catching, Rarity’s attention was to the photo on the cover. Specifically, the photo of Twilight Sparkle in her fire suit, rearing on her hind legs and holding a rattle gun with a look that could only be described as somewhere between coy and lustful.

“Oh, my. Twilight, I must say that you look better on the cover than in real life. Should I inform Fluttershy that she has competition?”

Twilight’s blush now went into overdrive, “I’m told that they used Photoshop to make that happen,” she said.

“How marvellous, I’m sure that Photo Finish is pleased that her brother is making inroads with the Humans.”
Continuing their browsing of the magazine, Rarity and Twilight were impressed by different pieces of information. For Twilight, it was the profiles on the drivers and the upcoming races over the next few months. Rarity was fascinated by the vastly different clothing styles and bright and sharp colours shown in some of the crowd photos.

As was well as the duo commented and giggled like a pair of school fillies at until they reached the section for Erebus Motorsport. While there was nothing that was out of the ordinary with the profiles themselves, Rarity did find it amusing that Will Davison’s co-driver would be his older brother, Alex.

“I wonder if Will enjoys being in charge?” Asked Rarity

“Will may be the senior driver in the team, But Alex has a lot of experience, both in Australia and overseas” replied Twilight

Turning the page, there was a short profile on the owner of Erebus, Betty Kliemenko, who’s rough appearance caused Rarity to remark, “Now she knows what she wants and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.”

Having already met and spoken to Kliemenko before, Twilight considered Rarity’s assessment very accurate.

Twilight’s attention was drawn away from Kliemenko’s profile to the adjoining page. What she saw there almost caused her heart to stop. In bold lettering stood the headline ‘Princess of the Pits.’

Noticing the sudden change in her friend’s body language, Rarity purused the article in question but she was unable to find what had caused the sudden change in Twilight.

“Twilight, dear, what seems to be the problem?” Rarity asked. “The article seems to be accurate and paints you and ponies in general in a good light.”

“I never told anybody at Erebus that I was a Princess. When the crew find out, they’ll never let me hear the end of it!”

“I’m sure that the lovely Mrs Kliemenko won’t allow that to get too out of hand.”

Twilight sighed, “That’s just it. My research indicates that Australians have a culture built around fairness and equality, they routinely mock of positions of power, their Prime Minister is routinely mocked and ridiculed in public. The higher the position, the more mockery it receives.”

“And a foreign Princess would rank higher than a Prime Minister, I see,” replied Rarity as she saw Twilight’s dilemma.

“The problem is that we’ve already had a little prank war when I was getting certified, this just give Will and Lee more ammo, a lot more ammo!”

“Well I can only suggest, Darling, that you take their ribbing in the spirit that it is intended, and give as good as you get!”

“I have a few ideas that I’m working on, I just hope that this won’t bite me on the flank.”

“Well the situation must be judged on its merits, darling,” said Rarity, “Moving on, how was the photo shoot?”

Twilight took a deep breath to centre herself before continuing. “It was amazing!” she gushed, “I was able to meet the new drivers, catch up with Betty and show off the fire suit that you made.”

“Oh, Twilight, that sounds wonderful, what else happened?”

“Well after the photo shoot, the writer for V8X ask a few questions but nothing too serious, just enough to get an idea on how everypony was feeling with the endurance races coming up. It was afterwards that thing got a little strange.”

Rarity couldn’t help herself as she leaned in closer to her friend and licked her lips in nervous anticipation of some juicy gossip, “Do tell.”

“Well, by then it was time for lunch,” said Twilight, “You know that humans are omnivorous, right?”

“That they eat both meat and plants, I do,” A sudden horrific thought came over Rarity, “They didn’t make you eat meat, did they?”

“That’s just it, they have some veggie patties and sausages cooked for me before they cooked their regular meat patties,” said Twilight, as she giggled at the absurdity of the situation, “Because the next race meeting was about a month away and, relatively speaking, just down the road. There was a big team bonding session with the Drivers, the guys from the workshops, the people from the office over the food.”

“I’m sensing a ‘but’ here,” said Rarity, “Something happened, didn’t it, Darling?”

“Well, it seems that Humans and Australians in particular have a way of putting their cooked meat and salad on a table and everypony just takes what they want. It just seemed so chaotic.”

Rarity knew that most situations, small fights would break out if two ponies thought that they were competing for food. Pony society had perfected the art of queuing for items and anonymous food delivery.

“What did you do?”

Twilight shuffled her hooves in a manner similar to Fluttershy, “I used my magic to move the containers and plates so nopony could monopolise just one.”

“And how did that work out?”

“Mixed reactions, some thought that it was disturbing, something about a real life ‘Beauty and the Beast’, others thought that it was funny, but most thought that it was ‘interesting’ and I ended up giving an hour long talk on magic theory.”

“I bet you enjoyed that!”

“Oh, yes.” said Twilight with a pleasurable sigh, “The design team showed off the new livery that will be used for the endurance races, Betty gave me a history text about car racing in Australia while the mechanics gave me a beautiful notebook filled with some of the highest quality paper I’ve ever seen and an engraved pen with my name on it!”

“Well that all sounds quite fascinating, but I do have some questions. Firstly, what in Celestia’s name is a pen?”

“Think of a quill that you never have to dip or carry around ink for.” explained Twilight

“Oh, that sound rather convenient, I might have to make a few investments in such a device, but what is this about changing the livery on the car, wouldn’t it be kept for the whole season?”

“Normally you’d be right,” said Twilight, “but when the ‘Car of the Future’ design was introduced last year, it doubled the number of manufactures in the field from two to four and one of those manufactures had previously raced under the old touring car rules, and because it was a factory team and not a privateer, they cut a deal with their sponsors to race in their livery from the old days.

“Some other teams also decided to revive old colours and a tradition was born.”

“While all this has been most fascinating, dare I ask what is next for the ‘Princess of the Pits’?”

Twilight carefully returned the magazine to its original packaging, mindfully considering her options.

“First off, this magazine is technically an historical document and as such has to be sent to the Canterlot Archives, where with a little bit of luck, it will never see the light of day again,” replied Twilight, “The yearly endurance races will begin soon, but until they are here, I continue on as normal.”

“Well, let's hear it for normality. Tell me, Twilight, when is your next little ‘appointment’ with Erebus?” asked Rarity

Twilight did some mental calculations, “They’ve arranged a VIP pass for me to attend the first of the endurance races, the Sandown 500, and to be seen around the pits next month. Before that however, I have a meeting with the Australian Wheat Board.”

“That’s good news, but why the meeting the the Wheat Board?” asked Rarity

“Well when all this started earlier in the year, I was supposed to open talks with the Australian government on trade for agriculture, science, and tourism. This is diplomacy in action.”

“Well, if they are anything like that nice Mr. Hunt i met, then you shouldn’t have too hard a time.”

Twilight peered at her friend, “You do realise that there is a marked difference between a local small business owner and a boardroom full of predatory humans?”

“Oh, posh. Just show them that you’re a predator as well and you’ll do fine!”

Twilight couldn’t help but giggle at Rarity’s statement, in fact, the more she thought about it the more amusing it became. “Glad I’m just opening trade overtures and not doing any actual negotiating, I’ll leave that to the professionals”

After bidding farewell to Rarity, Twilight made her way back to the Library, but not before passing by Sugar Cube Corner to pick up six of their finest cupcakes for Spike.

“Spike? Spike!” called Twilight, “I’m back, How did everything go?”

“Pretty good, everything will be ready to be sent off on tomorrow’s courier,” said Spike as he brushed his knuckles on his chest, “That’s why I’m your Number One assistant.”

Rolling her eyes at Spike's machismo, Twilight held up the envelope containing the magazine as well as the box with Spikes treats from Sugar Cube Corner, “Well, Number One assistant, can you have this sent to Princess Celestia's private archives?”

Unfortunately for Twilight, Spike was paying more attention to the box from Sugar Cube Corner than to her precise instructions and as such only heard “Send to Princess Celestia”. With a spurt of green dragon flame, the envelope containing the copy of V8X was on its way to the Princess.

“Spike, I said to the Princesses archives, not to the Princess!” cried Twilight, “What is she going to think when she sees it?”

Spike let out a nervous chuckle as he rubbed his spines, “Maybe she’ll think that it is cute?” he said.

Far away in Canterlot, Princess Celestia was seeking the counsel of the respected and influential businesspony, Fancy Pants, when Spikes message reformed in front of her. Celestia was understandably curious as to the sudden and unscheduled appearance of correspondence from her former student.

“Fancy Pants, what do you make of this?” she asked, showing the businesspony the magazine.

“I would say that the young princess is making remarkable inroads towards understanding the local culture and making ponykind more acceptable,” replied Fancy Pants as he perused the copy of V8X. “It would appear that having even a secondary role in this sport, such as it is, isn’t something that is done on a whim and I dare say that it would not be easy.”

“I take it that you are planning something?”

“Please, Princess. I’m always planning something.”

Welcome to Bathurst

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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?”


“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!”

Thursday October 9, 2014

View Online

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.

Friday October 10, 2014. Part I

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Conquering the Mountain
Friday October 10, 2014
Part I

Twilight rose before first light. She, like most members of various crews the length of Pit Lane, was in the middle of various drills to sharpen her skills and shave off valuable fractions of a second that could mean gaining or losing a position.

One not so bright spark from the nearby Nissan Motorsport garage had somehow obtained a riding crop and made the mistake of pointing it in Twilight’s direction. A short magical tug later and Twilight was now in possession of the crop and the Nissan crew member was in the process of being chastised by his teammates.

An hour later and Twilight was tired but feeling pleased with her performance during the drills, her times had improved enough to be on par with the other Erebus crew members and she was starting to gain the respect of the other crews. One voice even going so far as to remark how useful a Unicorn was in the pits. That conversation quickly evolved into what talents and prerequisites a perspective Unicorn should have and how the selection process would work, frankly, most of it was over Twilight’s head, her main concern now was putting food into her belly in preparation for the day ahead.

Unlike yesterday, there was no mass toasting, the crews from Triple 8 and DJR were too busy fueling their bodies to haze Twilight, although someone had placed a bucket of apples at the Erebus table.

Similar to yesterday, the crew discussed the schedule for the day over plates of bacon, eggs, sausages, and hashbrowns while Twilight enjoyed her cereal and fruit. The first of the day's practice sessions was in a little over three hours away with a second one in the afternoon.

At 3 o’clock, there was the official qualifying session. The crew knew that by the time the qualifying session came around, they would have burned through a good portion of their tire bank trying to get a fast qualifying setup. For qualifying and the main race itself, they were required to start using the allotted harder compound tires.

If there were no interruptions, they might get away with only using one or two sets of the eight sets of tires that they were allocated on Thursday. However, if something happened during qualifying, and at a circuit like Mount Panorama, it could, they might have to use a third set and that would make tire management during the middle of the race critical.

For Twilight, it was a morning of getting her photo taken with the top qualifiers from the support categories, signing more autographs and nuzzling foals as well as something else.

“Don’t forget that meeting at the Volvo garage,” said one crew member between mouthfuls of food, “Rogers himself asked for you to be there.”

Twilight remembered, the owner of Garry Rogers Motorsport had walked down from the GRM garage to ask her to act as an intermediary for some sort of meeting, but he was evasive about the ‘Who’ and the ‘What’ the meeting was about.

Twilight was secretly thrilled that she was being seen as more than the token pony in the Pit Lane, on an intellectual level, she knew that the art of diplomacy was more akin to a marathon than a short sprint, but to be asked to act as an intermediary meant that someone was taking her seriously.

Finishing her breakfast and taking an apple from the bucket to snack on, Twilight left the marquee to go to her first photo stop of the morning, the pre-qualifying assembly area of the paddock to have her picture taken with the Aussie Racing Cars.

Aussie Racing Cars were an interesting category, they were designed so that every car had the same performance for people who wanted to race but did not have the budget for a larger car.

Each car was powered by a small 125BHP engine mounted in identical frames with the same brake and suspension set up as other Aussie Racing Cars with the only difference was the external fiberglass shell. When compared to the V8 Supercars, they stood about half the size but what impressed Twilight the most about the design was that it was comfortably pony sized.

Surveying the paddock, Twilight counted 39 individual cars getting a rapid inspection from the scrutineers. Twilight joined the drivers who were waiting patiently off to the side of the paddock, it may have been a combination of the driver's focus to set the best qualifying time for their category or that some drivers were still not fully awake, but it was several seconds before they noticed Twilight in their presence.

On this morning, Twilight was being shadowed by an official photographer contracted to V8 Supercars for the express purpose of making sure that there were many photo’s of the Princess of Friendship interacting with various drivers, cars and fans during the Bathurst Weekend.

Once the drivers had woken up to Twilight they quickly began smalltalk about the usual minutia of everyday life with Twilight putting in her two bits worth while making comparisons to Equestria. After a few minutes of conversation, Twilight realised that, unlike the professional drivers of Erebus and the other teams, many of the drivers for the Aussie Racing Cars were independent of teams or rides in other categories and had their own occupations outside of motor racing.

“You have how many world records?” asked Twilight, unsure of what she was hearing.

“5 in total. The world’s largest tandem bungee jump, pulling on the most amount of underwear in 60 seconds, receiving the most amount of kisses on the face in 60 seconds, leading the world's largest underwater dance class and bursting the most balloons in 1 minute.” said Denya as he counted off his records on his fingers.

“Don’t forget his TV shows,” said another driver, joining in the conversation.

“It’s just a small game show, it’s fun, but racing is what I love.” replied Denya with a cocky grin.

Twilight couldn’t help herself, Denya’s easy going manner was a particular type of charm of it’s own and she was genuinely smiling from just being part of a conversation with Grant Denya, race car driver and Australian media personality.

A whistle from the scrutineers signaled that they had finished checking the cars for compliance and that the drivers may now approach. Going with the flow of the drivers, Twilight tagged along behind with the photographer shadowing her and snapping off pictures as fast as she was able.

At Denya’s instance, Twilight was following him to his car. It was a deep blue colour that was based on the Holden Cruze model, but what got Twilight’s attention was the large vinyl stickers on the bonnet, doors and roof of the car

“Well, that’s subtle.” said Twilight as she took in the vinyl stickers on the small car

“Well, I used to work for channel 7, but now I’m on a different network, so I’ve got to make sure that people recognise me.”

Sure enough, while showing the same series sponsors as every entrant in the category and the required identifying car numbers, Denya had his own name where other drivers had sponsors.

There were two reasons that Denya had succeeded in television, the first being that he was a genuinely nice guy who respected the skills and talents of everybody he worked with, the second was never letting an opportunity for self promotion pass him by.

“Want to see what it’s like from the driver's seat?” asked Denya, “It look like it might be your size.”

Not wanting to pass up on the implied challenge, Twilight fitted herself into the driver's seat. “It’s comfortable,” she blurted out, “I mean, everything is within reach. The gear lever, the steering wheel, I can read the gauges, but I can’t reach the pedals.”

Frustratingly, Twilight’s pony legs only just exceeded the length of the seat. In it’s current design, the pedal box was too far away to be used, but she was sure that an inventive engineer could manufacture a work around.

With Twilight in the driver's seat, the photographer was busy recording the interaction between her and Denya, making sure to capture the looks of joy and curiosity that crossed her muzzle in glorious colour as well as making sure that Denya was in most of the photos.

“C’mon out,” said Denya, “I’ve still got a qualification to run.”

Twilight reluctantly exited the small race car, effectively swapping positions with Denya as the latter fastened his helmet and strapped himself in. “Thanks for showing me the view,” she said with a smile and a wave as Denya slowly drove out of the paddock and onto the circuit for the qualification session.

While Twilight had been chatting with Denya, the scrutineers had not been idle, inspecting the entrants for the Touring Car Masters series. Remembering her encounter the previous day with John Bowe and Jim Richards, Twilight wanted to meet the mysterious Mustang Sally without the crowds.

It could be said that a smart person does everything in their power to remember the names and faces of those that they come across, it does not matter if it is in business, sport or social occasions, remembering someone's name makes social interactions much easier. For some strange reason, every person that Twilight met remembered her name.

“‘Morning, Princess,” said Bowe as he knelt to give Twilight a hug, “What brings you out here?”

“Just the usual ‘princessing’ stuff,” replied Twilight with a casual wave of her hoof, “Where is Miss Sally?”

Realisation crossed Bowe’s features, it was clear that there had been a slight miscommunication from their previous conversation, something that Bowe was about to rectify.

“Sally? She’s right here,” Bowe said as he waved his outstretched hand over to the black and white car behind him

Twilight couldn’t believe it, in racing terms, her mind was having trouble engaging gear as she had the mental picture of a human woman not an automobile. Mustang Sally was an original 1969 Mustang fastback that had been converted into a race car.

Unlike the V8 Supercars, Sally didn’t start off life as a series of tubes, but rolled off the Ford production line like thousands of others over the years. After it was imported to Australia, a roll cage was added for driver safety but the vast majority of the components used the ‘69 specifications but with modern designs and materials.

“That doesn't make sense,” said Twilight as she tried to wrap her head around what seemed to her as a contradiction, “How can it be one and the other?”

“Take the gearbox for example,” began Bowe, “It still has the same mounting points as the original one from ‘69, but advances in design, lubrications and the metal that the gears themselves are made of means that that particular component has a longer life than the one that was built 45 years ago.”

To Twilight, this was an interesting development. In pony society, the adage of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ had been the general rule for centuries, it was only recently that inventions from ponies like the Flim Flam Brothers had begun to appear with varying levels of success.

Twilight walked around the car, admiring its aesthetics of the older design and sleek curves that were the style of an earlier era of motoring. When she reached the door and looked in through the window, Twilight could see how the new rollcage was mated to the chassis, how the interior had been stripped of any excesses to save weight, although strangely enough, the radio was still intact.

There was one thing that struck Twilight as odd, “Is the steering wheel meant to be on that side?” she asked

“Well, this model was designed in America for American driving,” explained Bowe, “They drive on the right hand side of the road over there, while we stick to the left.”

“Oh,” was all Twilight could muster in reply. To her, it was most inefficient to have two different sets of driving standards and the different sets of equipment needed. It also seemed that from every one of Bowe’s answers, two more questions arose in her mind.

Any further lines of enquiry were, thankfully for Twilight’s mental health, quashed by the ending of the qualification session for the Aussie Racing Cars. It meant that the Touring Car Masters only had a few minutes to perform final checks before their qualifying session was due to start.

Bidding her goodbyes to the legend that is John Bowe, Twilight made her way to the next duty on the schedule, a fan photo session. From Twilight’s point of view, all she would have to do is stand still as racing fans knelt beside her while another person took their photo. It would be like another day at Rarity's boutique.

Minutes later she was standing under a marquee with the V8 Supercars logo and a pair of oversized checkered flags acting as a backdrop receiving an almost violent hug from an overly excited tween girl while the girl's mother was attempting to direct the official photographer so that her child could have a proper glamour shot with the Princess of Friendship. Twilight was in the middle of revising her comparison from being a clothes horse at Rarity’s to foal sitting the CMC while they were on a sugar rush.

Fortunately for Twilight’s sanity the vast majority that followed the ‘Terrible Tween with the Tiger Mother’ were the more normal and sedate racing fans who only wanted a special memento of this year's race. In what seemed like the start of a Bathurst tradition, more than a few apples were brought in as gifts from the fans as well as a sprinkling of carrots were offered up.

Some of the more interesting characters included a gentleman who looked like a human representation of Big Mac who had a tattoo of the circuit on his calf, a pair of brothers wearing the colours of different manufacturers setting up a comical photo with Twilight acting like a referee in a fight, the local mother with her infant daughter who made happy noises when Twilight created a small light show.

After an hour and a half, the photographic session had ended and Twilight found herself back in the Erebus garage for the 4th practice session. After the modifications to the suspension that she had performed yesterday, she had been informed by both the lead drivers and the race engineers that, while they were still down several seconds each lap, the cars were easier to control and get consistent lap times.

For this session, the co-drivers were getting their first feel for the modifications and as such the session was expected to be more of an evaluation of the car and fine tuning the setup rather than familiarizing themselves with the circuit.

With the pit lane officially opened and an older set of tires on both Mercedes, Alex Davison was the first to leave the Erebus garage for his evaluation run. Once the garage had been emptied, Twilight found herself with time on her hooves and little to occupy her mind.

Curiosity brought her over to the data monitors, a bank of computers and their displays that showed in real time the information from the racing car’s ‘Black Box’. Information such as car speed and current lap time were standard, but what caught Twilight’s attention was the vast array of engineering minutia that filled the monitors.

Everything from the temperature reading from each brake disc, the position of the throttle and brake, the fuel mode that the engine was running in and the estimated amount of fuel onboard. There was even a readout for how hard the motor in the icebox was running to pump cool fluid for the driver's comfort!

Twilight was the first to admit that she could ‘Zone Out’ if there was something sufficiently interesting in the vicinity, so she was caught flat hooved when Baird rolled into the garage to announce that while the handling of the Mercedes had improved with the tighter springs, there was still some minor adjustment needed before the next practice session.

Minutes later, Alex Davison returned to the garage with similar issues, only this time, Davison’s experience in GT racing gave him an idea towards a possible fix. He was last seen hustling off towards the transporter with Baird, a copy of the V8 Supercars technical specifications manual, and two engineers in tow. As the session was nearing its completion, Twilight left the garage via the rear to make her appointment with Garry Rogers.

One of the design features of the garages on Pit lane was that even though they were housed inside the same complex, they were paired off, with each pair of garages separated by a solid brick wall. Twilight thought that this design, although lacking the more elegant features of Canterlot building designs, made sense from the Workplace Health and Safety lectures that had been drilled into her since her training began at Erebus.

Due to the combustible fuels, oils and other fluids as well as the compressed gas cylinders needed to power the air tools, the many possible hazards that existed in the typical garage had been minimised to the to the point that they were as low as it was practicable. The solid brick wall that separated the garages were just another stage of hazard reduction and, in the case of fire, containment.

The downside of all the safety features was that to get from one end of Pit Lane to the other, you had to exit the building via the rear of the garage and walk down its length from the outside before re entering at the right opening and hoping that you’ve chosen the correct one.

Luckily for both Twilight and members of the general public, many teams had banners, engine displays or the like that identified that particular entrance as belonging to that team. For Garry Rogers Motorsport, being the only team to field the manufacturer Volvo, had decided that having a mobile Swedish sauna was the perfect way to promote the team.

Ducking between the sauna and some promotional drums of Valvoline oil, Twilight trotted into the GRM garage and was quickly met with a few suspicious stares and was approached seconds later by one of the mechanics in a blue Volvo shirt.

“You lost, ma’am?” the mechanic asked as he towered above Twilight

“Um, no. I’m Twilight Sparkle, here to see Mr Rogers,” replied Twilight, using a more formal tone to cover her intimidation of the big mechanic.

“Well, welcome to the neighbourhood,” was the mechanic’s reply, it was clear from his body language that he was unwilling to let her wander around the GRM garage. Equestrian princess or not, Twilight was still a member of a rival pit crew.

It took a few moments under the intense scrutiny before Rogers managed to free himself for the meeting, like the vast majority of team owners, Rogers was a former racer and had been racing under his own banner for over 50 years.

Most humans would begin to mellow out in their golden years, but Rogers still participated in the day to day operations of his team and had scouted and trained many current and former drivers, including one of the Erebus drivers, Lee Holdsworth.

Rogers himself was approaching 70 and always had a face whose default setting was serious, but never missed an opportunity to break into a smile at the slightest provocation and who tended to be more mentor and grandfather than team boss.

“Ah, Princess, thank you for meeting with me.” said Rogers as he led Twilight to a more private area of the garage. “I’m sure that you can understand that this is a delicate situation.”

“No problem at all, what seems to be the issue?”

“A couple of your Equestrian,” Rogers searched for the right word, “colleagues have acquired some VIP pit passes and have made arrangement to visit my garage.”

Twilight was unable to see Rogers problem, “Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis are planning on visiting the pits, has this caused some offence?” she asked

“Oh no, I’m rather chuffed that they want to visit the pits and our garage in particular, but what I’m worried about is putting my foot in my mouth.”

It was a good thing that Twilight had researched common idioms before coming to Bathurst, otherwise she might think that Pinkie Pie might have some competition in the flexibility stakes. What weighed on Twilight’s mind was as to the ‘why’ Fancy Pants and Fleur would decide to stop at this particular garage on their tour.

“Where is the second driver, Prémat?” asked Twilight as the beginnings of an idea formed

“He’s with the engineers in the transporter, is that important?”

“Prémat is French, Fleur is from Prance,” said Twilight as she put her idea into words, “When I did my track walk, Fancy Pants mentioned that she was being inducted into the ‘Volvo’ tribe, GRM is the only team that races with the Volvo badge.”

“So she’s a giddy fangirl who wants to meet someone who speaks her language?”

“Well, fanfilly, but essentially, yes.”

“What about this Fancy Pants guy, any topics I should avoid?”

Now the conversation began to bear down on the nitty gritty aspects of diplomacy, Twilight gave both the question and answer some thought.

“When I spotted Fancy Pants, he was at Sulman’s Park and looking like an Erebus billboard,” said Twilight with a giggle as she worked through her thoughts, “He’s a businesspony, the type of pony everypony should know.”

“So I should let his lady friend cozy up to one of my drivers and let him lead the conversation?” asked Rogers with a smile.

Twilight nodded her assent, pleased that, in some small way, her first attempt at diplomacy was without incident. After making some more small talk with Rogers, Twilight felt that it was best to return to her next assignment at Erebus before Fancy Pants and Fleur made their appearance.

As it was, the second practice session for one of the support categories, the Dunlop Series, a feeder category for most of the teams, was winding down and preparations for the first official race for Bathurst was due to begin minutes later.

That meant Twilight was due in the VIP section above the garages and would probably end up pressing hooves with a few businessmen and women. True to form, there were representatives from the major oil companies, the fuel supplier that provided the thousands of liters of E85 for the event, United Fuels, the event sponsor, Supercheap Auto, a host of businesses that were major sponsors of the teams below the viewing area and representatives of businesses and organisations that were wholly uninvolved in motor racing but were using the Bathurst 1000 to reaffirm business connections.

True to Australian custom, business deals were proposed and discussed over food, beer and sport, leaving the finer details of contract law for Queens Counselors and their Barristers in stuffy law offices far away from the entertainment.

When Twilight finished climbing the stairs to the viewing area, a steward asked her if she wanted a beer or a glass of wine. Remembering an impromptu lesson from many months ago at the Erebus offices in Yatala, Twilight made her decision.

“Stubbie of the local, thanks” she said, hoping that she got both the pronunciation and the local terms right.

With a smile, the steward in question produced a small opened long neck bottle in a styrofoam container that Twilight took in her magic as she put into practice another of Princess Celestia’s lessons, ‘Working a Crowd’.

While at social engagements in Canterlot as the Princesses protégé, she was often ignored due to either her lack of political power, her social standing, or few ponies actually knowing that the Princess had a protégé that she was instructing.

At this event, however, drink was flowing freely, food was being prepared, and she was the only pony in the room. Like at many social events that centered around a particular sport, there was a small charity betting pool being run.

Australians have a strange saying, ‘Betting on two flies on a wall’, meaning that they were willing to lay down coin on virtually any competition. It was a point of national pride that on the first Tuesday of November each year, the entire nation stops for a few minutes to watch a horse race, a race that had even stopped acts of parliament!

“Princess, the Aussie cars are starting soon,” said one of the reps, “Want to put a coin down?”

Twilight took a long drink from her bottle, “I’ll put a bit each way on Denya overall,” Twilight hoped that, once again, she had gotten the terms right, she knew that there were three races in that category and that she was betting that by the third race, Denya would come either 1st or 2nd.

“Oh, we’ve got a punter here,” replied the rep as he noted Twilight’s bet, “Any other wagers you care to make?”

Twilight took her second long drink in as many minutes and stated confidently “For the Touring Car Masters, John Bowe to win overall.”

“What about the big one, The Great Race?”

Twilight had to stop and consider her options, from a manufacturer's standpoint, the odds were heavily in favor of a Holden clinching the top spot on the podium due to the majority of the field being Commodores.

She also knew that Ford had their own vocal and loyal supporters as her brief conversation with that unknown gentleman on Wednesday had shown, adding to that the sprinkling of Nissan, Volvo, and Mercedes and Twilight honestly didn’t have a clue.

“I have no idea,” said Twilight draining the remainder of her beer, “By the numbers, there are eleven Commodores, seven Falcons, four Altima’s, and a pair each of E63’s and S60’s. But as I am the Princess of Friendship and in the interests of fairness I will wager that one of each manufacturer will be in the top five!”

Twilight did not know what type of reaction her spiel would cause. Laughter, good natured ‘Boos’ and at least one voice saying “What a cop-out!” was not what she expected.

“Is that your bet?”

“I’m not going to bet on the main race,” replied Twilight while examining her empty bottle, “It would be unethical for me to participate in gambling while being in a position to affect the outcome. And now I’m going to get another drink.”

The various reps were hoping that at the rate Twilight was drinking beer, the alcohol in her system would increase the chances of her making a verbal slip up that could later be used in further negotiations.

It was to Twilight’s advantage that ponies had a high tolerance for alcohol and as an Alicorn, her tolerance was even higher still, she would have to drink an entire carton of beer at this strength in a short time before it would begin to affect her judgment.

A few other bets were made with a small pile of gold coins of different sizes, strangely enough, the smaller of the two coin types had the larger value, the first race was about to begin.

From the VIP area, guests had a clear view of Pit Straight and while Channel 7 had set up television cameras around the circuit, there was no ‘official’ coverage of the event, so someone had to manually switch between the raw camera feeds to provide a simulated television coverage on several large screens mounted on the walls.

The race itself was a sight to behold as the smaller cars could perform maneuvers such as going three cars abreast on corners and passing on the top of the mountain that would be impossible in the larger V8 Supercars.

Down Conrod Straight the smaller engines were straining, but the skill of the drivers meant that they were able to draft each other down the straight and perform even more reckless passing maneuvers going into and out of the Chase.

Less than two and a half minutes after the start, the field had completed the first of 7 laps while Twilight was halfway through her second beer. For Twilight, she was technically the first pony to see anything like this and she had to admit that as amazing and thrilling it was to be in a VIP viewing area, she could imagine at least one of her friends in the drivers seat.

All first times must come to an end and just before the allotted 20 minutes the lead car passed the finish line in a close duel between drivers as the class designed it to be.

From the emotional ‘high’ of watching such close competition to the crushing reality that the race was over and the circuit would be empty for the next 90 minutes and that Twilight had a large hole in her schedule.

As fate would have it, it was at that time the stewards brought out hors d'oeuvres that consisted of various meats and sauces. To Twilight, it was an indication that she should find sustenance elsewhere. With that she made her polite goodbyes and assurances that she would make sure that the bookie would have the promised bits within a few hours and left the VIP area in search of her own meal.

Approaching her temporary accommodations, Twilight was intercepted by The Enforceress herself. “Are you getting lunch, Twilight?” Julia asked with a friendly smile.

Twilight was momentarily stunned, in the few days that she had been at Bathurst, this had been the first time that she’d been addressed by her name instead of her title. “Uh, yes. I’m going to reheat some leftovers from last night.”

The thought of Twilight eating leftovers by herself caused the smile to drain from Julia’s face, “Why don’t you come and have lunch with us in our trailer?”

“Well, um, that is,” stammered Twilight. She was genuinely stunned by the offer, it was a case of weighing friendship and comradery against meeting the Enforceress and her family two days ago. Swallowing the metaphorical bullet, Twilight asked, “Can I bring my lunch with me?”

The inside of the Ingall trailer was a more spartan affair as the trailer was both far older and more well used. Relaxing at the compact table were the two Ingall daughters, Jaz and Sasha playing a card game of sorts, the game was quickly forgotten when Sasha, the elder of the pair, spotted their mother and Twilight entering the trailer.

The expected squeal of surprise and delight at the unexpected visitor was quickly quashed with a glare from the Ingall matriarch as she prepared to reheat Twilight’s leftovers while Twilight took a seat with the girls.

After a few moments of awkwardly looking at each other, Twilight began a conversation with what appeared to be two of her most vocal fans. “So girls, how are things going?”

The girls fidgeted, unsure of themselves. On the one hand they wanted to squeal with joy that they were going to be eating lunch with a real live Princess and celebrity, on the other they knew that there was a proper protocol for dealing with royalty and they didn’t want to embarrass themselves.

The silence was broken by the arrival of Russell Ingall to the family caravan. Ingall looked at the scene of his two daughters sitting at the table with Twilight, seeing the collective unease he injected a little levity into the situation.

“I hope that you’re not sharing trade secrets,” he said to no one in particular as he gave his wife a peck on the cheek.

“Not to worry, Mr Ingall, my brother was in the Royal Guard, he taught me how to resist interrogation.” replied Twilight with a sly grin towards the girls, who were suddenly having a minor attack of the giggles.

With an amused snort that only a father could give, Ingall took his usual seat at the table, and as luck would have it, opposite Twilight. “How are things going at your end of the pits?” he asked Twilight.

“We’re doing about the same lap times as your team, but car control is a bit of an issue.” said Twilight

“It’s the same story up and down pit lane, fast cars tend to be a little ‘squirrelly’ on a circuit like Bathurst,” Ignall explained, “A lot of the work that is being done is to correct the oversteering problems that the new surface has created.”

Twilight had been kept out of the more technical side of the garage and as such there were some gaps in her knowledge of basic motor racing terminology. “Excuse me, but what is ‘Oversteer’?”

Ingall’s eyes lit up at the chance to explain a concept and impart a small part of what he’d learned over the course of his racing career to another. “Oversteer and understeer are two methods of crashing your car,” explained Ingall, “To put it simply, Oversteer is when you turn the steering wheel a little bit and the car turns too much while understeer is when you turn the steering wheel a little bit and the car doesn't turn as much as it should.”

Twilight was enthralled by these new pieces of information. In his own small way, Ingall was helping Twilight expand her knowledge of both engineering and the Supercars in general. Before she could ask further questions, Julia presented lunch for the foursome.

In years past, those fortunate few who had managed to make a career of steering one and a half tons of engineered chaos around an enclosed circuit lived the playboy lifestyle of cigars, brandy, and gorgeous women. They ate only the finest foods from the finest restaurants, wore bespoke suits and draped themselves in symbols of luxury.

All this was far removed from the modern driver who took measures to ensure that he, or she, was a fit, trim athlete that could endure the stresses put on their bodies. Even for a man of 50 and the oldest driver in the field, Ingall took great care to watch his diet, fitness levels and weight while providing an example to his family.

Lunch for Twilight was the leftovers of spinach cannelloni that was prepared by the local TAFE students and warmed to perfection by Julia. The Ingall family were feasting on salad sandwiches created in the traditional Australian style of ‘Eh, it’ll fit!’ and including eggs and beetroot. Strange dietary choices aside, Twilight noted that they did smell good.

“So, Twilight, are you excited for tonight?” asked Jaz between mouthfuls

Twilight was confused, she knew about the upcoming practice session and the qualifying later on in the afternoon, but she didn’t have anything on the schedule for tonight. “What’s going on?” she asked, “Is there a dance or party planned?”

Sasha took over from her sister, “It’s Friday Night Live,” she explained, “It’s a light hearted look at the teams and drivers. There are some competitions between teams, interview panels with the drivers, the fans have their own competition and this year Daddy has a surprise for Mr Larkham!”

From the corner of her eye Twilight could see Ingall making frantic hand gestures in a vain effort to silence his daughter. Seeing the concern in Twilight’s eyes, Ingall explained, “After the stunt he pulled last year, I’ve decided that a little payback is in order. Don’t worry, nothing too bad will happen to him.”

Twilight let the matter drop as she finished off her lunch, both Ingall and herself were needed in their respective garages before the next practice session but not before making a stop at her motorhome for the promised coins, after all, a Princess must pay her debts.

The Erebus garage was a hive of activity, as this was the last scheduled practice session before qualifying, the engineering team were close to giving up on making a fast qualifying setup and instead had directed their focus onto ensuring that the drivers of both cars had a stable race setup.

As before, Twilight made herself useful by staying out of the way. Both Mercedes needed new components fitted and systems checked before being rolled out onto Pit Lane for the practice session, and as before, Twilight found herself and her magical talents put to task.

“You want me to help you put this contraption together?” asked Twilight as she looked at the array of strange parts in front of her.

“Something like that,” replied Klimenko, “We were supposed to be on the Tire Wall for tonight’s entertainment but we would have had an unfair advantage, so we got shuffled to the Esky Challenge for tonight.”

From her conversation with the Ingall family, Twilight had a vague idea about the variety show that was planned but she was still no closer to understanding what that had to do with a small mess of seemingly random parts.

Klimenko continued, “We now have to build a person powered vehicle that can navigate a short course, be easy to get into and out of, and be centred around a commercially available esky.”

Twilight’s attention was split between Klimenko’s instructions, the mass of parts at her disposal and the short list of rules for the event. “I have an idea, but I'm going to need somepony’s lunch box.”

“One step ahead of you,” said Klimenko as she held up a purloined container, “I’ll buy Len lunch, what he had was crap anyway.”

Twilight nodded, while the large yet soft spoken transport driver and fuel bowser operator was a nice person, his dietary choices lent themselves to the cheap and salty varieties. Real nutritious food that didn’t come out of a packet would be a welcome change.

“Now if I’ve got this right,” said Twilight as she charged up her magic.

In response to Twilight’s command, the parts began to float and assemble themselves in mid air. When a general shape of what was needed had formed, Klimenko started to secure the individual parts so that they would be able to withstand the weight of the drivers and the force of being pushed.

Thanks to a power drill with a socket attachment and Twilight acting in place of a saw horse, it took less than 10 minutes to finish the assembly with Twilight adding some final touches.

“What did you just do?” asked Klimenko

“Just a little idea I picked up from hanging around the garages,” replied Twilight, “I’ve used a spell to make the wheels turn easier and made the edges of the rear tires grip better so that it can be turned faster at each end of the course.”

Klimenko nodded, under normal circumstances she would strongly disapprove of such blatant meddling, but they were up against the Nissan garage and she had been made aware of what one of their crew members had done in the early hours of that morning. An example must be made.

Inside the Erebus garage, the mechanics working with the race and design engineers had taken the feedback from the drivers and were preparing their final permutation on the current setup for the upcoming practice session.

It was becoming an open secret up and down the Pit Lane that many of the teams were having troubles adjusting to the new, more responsive circuit. Over the course of the several practice sessions, many of the front runner teams had some close encounters with the concrete barriers that lined the circuit.

Comparing the current lap times to the previous year was akin to comparing apples to oranges. Teams were reporting lap times almost 3 seconds per lap faster with virtually the same equipment.

The front runner teams like Triple 8 and Ford Performance Racing had traded stability for speed while trusting in the skills of their drivers while other minor teams were leaning more towards stability over cornering speed and consistency in lap times.

This consistency meant that the drivers would not be working as hard to control their vehicles lessening the chances of a fatigue induced error and with a little bit of luck, gain some track position mid race when the other driver teams tire.

With the final checks done and time before the next session, the Erebus crew wearily downed tools to take a break before another session of madness. Any thoughts on taking a few minutes to relax were shattered when a rather loud and angry voice cried out.

“Oi, who knocked off me lunch?”

Friday October 10, 2014. Part II

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Conquering the Mountain
Friday October 10, 2014
Part II

It is said that music may soothe the savage beast, in the case of Len, the transport driver, it was a combination of an apology, a promise not to do it again and buying him a replacement lunch. Even Twilight got into the act by bowing down and offering a grovelling apology straight out of Princess Luna’s lexicon.

Len had calmed down considerably after it was explained what his insulated lunch box was being used for and it seemed that he shared Klimenko’s assessment of making an example of the Nissan Motorsport garage and their antics with a riding crop during the morning drills.

Having been fed, watered and appropriately soothed, much to the amusement of the crew, Len gave his assessment of the three wheeled cart that was built around his purloined lunch box.

“It’ll do.” he said in his usual soft spoken manner

Twilight was about to launch into a tirade about how Klimenko and herself had worked to produce exactly what was needed as well as the spells required when Klimenko put her hand on Twilight’s shoulder and said a phrase that would go down in Equestrian history as one of the great diplomatic replies of all time.

“Oh, shove it up your arse, Len,” replied Klimenko as she extended the middle finger of her right hand before licking the digit, “And here is some lubrication for ya!”

In its own way, Klimenko’s actions were as valuable a lesson in diplomacy as anything that had been taught by Princess Celestia and the banter between team owner and employee was infectious as other crew members began to join in on the soft hazing.

It was during this hazing that Twilight felt a tap on her flank from one of the fabricators behind her.

“I have to ask, Princess, is that your ‘Cutie Mark’?” he asked, nervously, “I mean the Diplomatic Service briefed us but I just wanted to get a closer look.”

“Well, I don’t normally go for that on a first date,” replied Twilight with a smile, “But I’ll make an exception for you.”

The fabricator’s question was not totally unexpected. Over the course of her research, Twilight had found an interesting parallel between tattoos and Cutie Marks, both had great importance to the person or pony and both were a symbol of individual identity.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but your Cutie Mark is a representation of your special talent, right?”

“That’s right,” Twilight had a feeling that the fabricator knew more than he was letting on and she was waiting for the other shoe to drop in the conversation, “I got mine during the entrance exam to Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.”

“But what does it mean? Is it like abstract art, open to interpretation?”

Twilight was about to answer when a mechanic chimed in his two cents worth, “It’s a star within a star, it could represent the formation of ideas, of thought given form over the universe and physical laws.”

“It kind of looks like the after effect of when she uses her magic after a long day,” said the fabricator, whose face just brightened with a sudden realisation, “It’s a horn fart!”

That was when Twilight punched him.

Twilight had noted in the past that, being an Alicorn, she embodied and enhanced the defining characteristics of the three pony tribes before the formation of Equestria. Her magic was stronger and more precise than before her ascension, with her wings she had the potential to reach speeds faster than any Pegasus and Earth Pony strength to tirelessly work all day.

It was through using that strength, Twilight accidentally floored the smart mouthed fabricator. What would to Applejack or any other Earth Pony be a playful shove was evidentually enough force to cause the mechanic have the wind knocked out of him.

“You alright, Phil?” asked Klimenko, who briefly looked up from her lunch.

“”Yeah, I’m good,” was Phil’s wheezing reply from the garage floor.

Klimenko nodded at Phil’s reaction, “Hey Twilight, next time you’re in your motorhome, bring back your helmet so we can get you fitted for a radio.”

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the crew only gave Phil a token glance as he picked himself up from the cement after only a few seconds of recovery and return to his seat next to Twilight.

“So, not a horn fart.” he said, rubbing his stomach, “Gotcha!”

Twilight relaxed and stared at the countdown clock mounted on the wall, with over 30 minutes remaining until the next practice session, Twilight found herself zoning out as she watched the numbers slowly tick by until someone clicked their fingers next to her ear.

“C'mon Princess, time to move!”

Dazed, Twilight looked around to see that the Erebus garage was quickly becoming a hive of activity with final checks being performed before the Mercedes had to be moved out onto Pit Lane in time for the session start.

The racing regulations stated that all cars had to be in Pit Lane outside of their respective garages at a 45 degree angle towards the pit exit before the start of the session. Under normal circumstances this task would be a team effort to move one and a half tons of machinery out of the garage twice over, with an Alicorn, however, the task was done in time for the drivers to arrive and finish suiting up and take their place behind the wheel.

With both Mercedes properly parked in the rapidly filling Pit Lane Twilight once again retreated towards the relative calm of the rear of the garage, except this time, she was joined by Baird and the older of the Davisons.

“You look beat,” commented Davison, “You need to lie down or something?”

Twilight shrugged of his concern, “I’m just a little worried, the cars are still three seconds behind the times set this morning.”

“Don’t worry too much, this is just a light shakedown to bed in a few of the new components,” said Davison, “We don’t want anything to go wrong in qualifying.”

“I just keep getting the feeling in my horn that I’m forgetting something” Twilight said as she rubbed the base of the appendage.

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll wager that it will come to you soon.”

Davison’s words were the trigger that Twilight needed to realise what she had been missing, “Wager! I forgot to pay for the bets!”

With a flash, Twilight disappeared from the garage area and reappeared inside her motorhome where she began frantically looking through her bags.

“My coin pouch, where did I put it?” she mumbled to herself as she rifled through the few mementos that she had brought with her until she had found her target, “Ah ha, gotcha!”

Under normal circumstances, Twilight would use the local currency for any exchange as she did while picking up supplies at Woolworths on Wednesday, this situation was different. The Australian funds that she had been issued came to her from the Diplomatic Service via the Equestrian treasury and as such, had to be accounted for and audited.

Anything that she bought that did not fall into the realm of ‘reasonable’ according to whomever the Equestrian Revenue Service assigned the task of performing the audit of her expenses would have to be paid back, possibly with interest attached. It was a far easier and much less hassle to use some of her own funds for a bit of social fun.

With her coin pouch firmly in her magical grasp, Twilight began to calm down and plan a suitable course of action. She knew that teleporting back the way she came would be the fastest, but also risky if she were to accidently hit and injure the elder Davison.

Even though she could fly, the distance was that short, it would probably be just as quick to trot back to the garage. With an action plan worked out, Twilight left her temporary accommodations, certain that she had now gotten everything right.

Seconds later, she let herself back in to retrieve her helmet and balaclava. “I’d forget my horn if it wasn't attached.” grumbled Twilight. Satisfied that there was nothing else in the motorhome to acquire, she secured the motorhome and quickly trotted the short distance back to the garages.

Twilight’s return would not normally be a cause for celebration, but having unexpectedly teleported from the garage was having some unforeseen consequences for both the co-drivers and crew who witnessed Twilight’s disappearance. Her return wasn’t without its own questions.

Before she could offer any explanations, Klimenko roughly grabbed Twilight's ear and forcibly dragged her to the back of the garage where the Erebus tire bank was installed. At the bank, a scrutineer from the tire sponsor, Dunlop, took one look at Klimenko’s face before realising that discretion was the better part of valor.

“What the hell did you think you were doing?” roared an upset Klimenko as she waved her hand in the air, “We had no idea what had happened to you, let alone where you’d gone. We thought you’d been ponynapped!”

Twilight was speechless, while teleportation was rare, it was not unheard of but Klimenko’s response was closer to maternal worry rather than an employer disciplining a subordinate. It was because of such worry that Twilight felt even more ashamed.

“Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest,” continued Klimenko, calmer now that she could see that Twilight was remorseful for her actions, “No more disappearing in a flash of light until we can work out some procedure so it can be done in a safe manner. The last thing I want is a visit from those vultures at Occupational Health & Safety.”

“Tell me, Princess, what was so important that you decided to flash off like that?”

Pony faces are far more expressive than the average humans, while a person can show joy, anger, sadness and a score of other emotions through changes in the facial muscles at the eyes, mouth and forehead, a pony will show the same range of emotions through not only their facial muscles, but through the positions of their ears. Currently, Twilight’s ears were displaying her mood as clearly as a pair of tiny semaphore flags.

“I promised that I would pay for my wager.” replied Twilight, feeling foolish. Compared to the chaos she caused, the need to be seen paying good on a promise seemed like such a small thing and Twilight felt worse for it.

Klimenko’s sternness evaporated in an instant, for a brief moment, Klimenko was taken back to a time when she had been disinherited after marrying a man that her father did not approve of. In less than a day, she had gone from ‘Easy Street’ to ‘Struggle Street’ and often surviving on a promise to repay a debt between wages.

“Do you have the cash with you?” Klimenko asked. Twilight nodded and held up her coin pouch which like so many of her personal effects, had her cutie mark embroidered on it. Klimenko took the pouch and was surprised at the weight, with a sly grin she said “A princess must pay her debts, and pay them we shall.”

Klimenko led Twilight back up to the VIP area where the same party that was there before lunch was still going strong with many of the same people enjoying light refreshments. Taking her time to fully explore the VIP area, Twilight was entranced by the large glass windows that overlooked both the pits and Pit Straight. Above the pits there were balconies that not only allowed the VIP’s a bird's eye view of a pit stop, but let them hear and feel the roar of the V8 engines as they sped down Pit Straight without the dampening effect of the glass.

A sharp whistle got Twilight’s attention, Klimenko was standing at the same table as the sales rep that was acting as the unofficial bookmaker that Twilight met before lunch.

“Princess, Betty tells me you're here to settle up?” He asked

“Yes, it’s three Bits I owe for the wager, correct?”

The rep looked over his ledger, quickly finding the entries for Twilight’s bets. “Yeah, it looks like three Bits.”

With a sly smile to Twilight, Klimenko placed the heavy gold alloy coins in front of the rep, adding just a bit of showmanship by ensuring that each coin was placed on the ledger next to Twilight’s entry.

To his credit, the rep was unfazed at the sight of what would be several hundred dollars of gold as he carefully marked Twilight as paid. “Would you like to make a bet, Betty?” he asked.

Klimenko just gave him a sideways look, “Not my thing, luv. I’ve got to get back and run my team.”

With a traditional goodbye and a promise to attend the evening’s entertainment, Klimenko led Twilight back down the stairs from the VIP area and back to the familiar madness that was the garage.

Chris Seidel, Twilight’s initial trainer, took Twilight aside and led her back towards the tire bank. “Nice hit on Phil, by the way,” Seidel began, “He’s going to have a funny shaped bruise for the next few days.”

Twilight blushed and pawed the hard cement floor, while the crew may make light of the incident, to Twilight, it brought back a few memories from her early education in Magic Kindergarden where any foal who couldn’t control their magic was jeered with the insult ‘Horn Fart’.

“Is he going to be okay?” she asked.

Seidel snorted in amusement, “He’s a big guy, he can take it,” he said dismissively, “What I want to talk to you about is something that we missed during your training.”

The prospect of learning something new got Twilight’s attention and instantly lifted her mood, “Oh, what did I miss?”

“There might be a time when, during a stop, the wheel nut won’t thread on properly. When this happens and because time is critical, it is faster to swap out the nut than fix the thread.”

Twilight nodded, so far everything that Seidel had said made sense from a theory standpoint and she was anticipating the practical demonstration.

Not one to disappoint his prize, and only, pupil, Seidel continued “So, when that situation occurs, it is imperative that you act quickly and decisively.” Pulling a marked and worn tire from the bank, Seidel turned it to show Twilight the inside of the wheel, “Remember those flanges on the wheel nut from your training?” he asked

“Yes, they keep the nut inside the wheel, while allowing the nut to spin freely.” answered Twilight, recalling her lesson from six months previously..

“Very good. Now, how do you get a bad nut out of the wheel?”

Seidel had a hard time hiding his amusement as he watched Twilight’s face as she tried to think of how an ordinary non-magical human would remove the nut. After a minute of watching her face contort in thought, Seidel put her out of her misery.

“Like this,” he said, first squeezing the flanges inward and then with a sharp punch from the heel of his hand he popped out the wheel nut. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved a shiney and new nut that was machined in the last batch before the transporter made the journey to Bathurst.

“See how rounded the edges on the old nut are compared to the new one?”

Examining both nuts, Twilight could indeed see the wear from the rattle gun on the soft metal. “Will the metal be recycled?” she asked

“Normally, yes, but in this case, this nut will more than likely be sold as a souvenir to some lucky race fan.” Seidel pocketed the old nut and prepared the next step in his instruction. "Putting in a fresh nut is surprisingly easy, firstly, make sure that the tire is lying flat on the ground, make sure that the nut is square with the wheel and give it a good whack.”

To demonstrate, Seidel gave the top of the wheel nut two quick strikes with the the heel of his right hand ensuring that it was seated properly, but could still spin freely. “Okay Princess, grab a tire from the top rack and remove the nut.”

Twilight looked at the rack housing the older used and worn tires, on the top shelf there were several that had large crosses over the surface, indicating that the grip was played out and that the tires were too far gone to be reused. Selecting the closest one Twilight repeated the steps shown to her by Seidel.

“Squeeze the flanges in and give it a whack” muttered Twilight to herself, and as with most activities that Twilight undertakes, she used a little too much enthusiasm in her actions. With a solid hit from a powerful Alicorn, the wheel nut shot out of the hub, ricocheted off one of the tool boxes and into the Nissan Motorsport garage

From the other side of the wall there was a yelp of surprise, closely followed by some colourful language. Taking a cue from her instructor’s visible discomfort, Twilight decided that she should introduce herself to the Nissan team and retrieve the accidentally propelled piece of equipment.

In Equestrian history, it was widely known that Celestia and Luna had ruled for millennia. What was not widely known was that during the early period of their rule, somepony would proclaim themselves ‘Champion of the downtrodden’, raise a small army, and march on Canterlot with the intention of sacking the city and installing themselves as ruler.

In a time that was ruled by the sword and the lance, Celestia’s preferred method of dealing with such upstarts was an overwhelming display of magical power which was often enough to demoralise the followers and take the ‘Champion’ into custody. After some time in the cells and the lesson of ‘Anypony can conquer, few can rule’ they were sent to watch over small settlements to see if they had learned anything. If not, they were quietly done away with.

With the same determination, Twilight trotted into the Nissan garage, before she could properly introduce herself one team member in white decided that it was time to start a diplomatic incident.

Sizing the gentleman up, Twilight could see that he was about the size of Len and more than likely was the driver of the Nissan transporter. In his large hands was the wheel nut, a little more dented than before, but still intact.

“This yours, pony?” he said, poorly hiding his amusement as he shuffled from side to side, “If you want it, it’s going to cost you!”

The idea of bargaining for what was Erebus property, seemed more than a little outrageous to Twilight but in the name of diplomacy she was willing to entertain the gentleman. “And what, pray tell, is this cost?”

“A kiss, just a kiss, on the cheek and I’ll let go of this nut.”

Twilight stopped to consider this ‘offer’. In Equestrian society, a kiss from Celestia or Luna could be seen as a form of favouritism to one noble house over another and could cause disharmony. On the other hoof, Twilight wasn’t in Equestria and Australian society would view the kiss not as favoritism, but gamesmanship and bravado.

Another item for Twilight to consider was that one of the evenings competitions was between Erebus and Nissan and the Nissan team might try to use this as a way to gain a psychological advantage over Twilight and Erebus, after all, there was a carton of beer up for grabs for the winners.

Having mapped out several possible strategies, Twilight decided that a quick peck on the cheek, while scandalous in Equestria, would be a kind and harmless gesture in Australia and would work towards her goal of spreading diplomatic harmony and friendship, that and the fact that she couldn’t participate in the Esky challenge.

Twilight trotted up close to the transport driver and giving him a sly look through half lidded eyes, “You’re going to have to kneel down, big boy,” she said

The driver was more than a little taken back by the sudden shift in Twilight’s demeanor, but nevertheless, he complied and was justly rewarded with both a peck on the cheek and a quick nuzzle and, as promised, he upheld his end of the bargain by holding his arm straight out and letting go of the wheel nut.

Where it fell into the safe hands of the lead driver for the number 360 car, James Moffat. Moffat was watching the whole episode unfold with amusement had decided to join in the fun after he had pitted for a driver change during the current practice session.

“Does this mean I get a kiss too?” he asked with a cheeky grin

Twilight smiled and gripped the nut tightly in her magic and gently pulled it towards her. Not to be outdone, Moffat not only kept his grip, but resisted the pull ensuring that the nut remained unmoved.

The look in Moffat’s eyes spoke volumes towards his determination, the situation had gone beyond mere diplomatic posturing and into a battle of pure wills. That was until Twilight turned and merrily trotted back to the Erebus garage, the wheel nut floating behind her and attached to that nut was Moffat being dragged out of the Nissan garage and into the territory of the three pointed star.

“Well, this is different,” said Moffat between giggling at the absurdity of the situation as he stubbornly refused to release his grip on the errant wheel nut while being dragged back into the section of the garage that housed the tire bank, “Alex! How are ya!”

The elder of the Davison brothers, who looked on as Twilight first hesitantly walked into the Nissan garage only to come prancing out moments later looked on in amusement at his former co-driver’s antics, “Jimmy, what are you doing?” he asked trying to hold back his laughter.

“I’m waiting for my kiss.” replied Moffat as he stood up, still holding onto the nut, “And I’m not leaving without one.”

Davison snorted, while Moffat was as serious a driver as his father, Allan, he also shared his father’s sense of humour. In this case however, it was about come back and bite him “Don’t look at me, ask the Princess for one.” said Davison with a wave in Twilight’s general direction

During her time with Erebus, Twilight had picked up on several non verbal ‘tics’ that most humans have, the message from Davison was ‘Play along, keep him distracted’, Twilight endeavored to do just that. “I can’t kiss him, it would be unfair to the other person”

With Davison and Twilight being the focus of Moffat’s attention, he was unaware of a fourth party to the conversation who was being surprisingly stealthy in their approach. “Looks like it’s up to me then!” said Klimenko as she went through the motions to plant a rather wet and ‘grandmotherly’ style kiss on Moffat’s cheek.

In mock disgust similar to that of an ill disciplined grandchild, Moffat made a face as Klimenko followed through on her ‘threat’ and indeed planted a sloppy kiss on the rival drivers cheek before giving him a hug and a playful shove back towards his home garage while at the same relieving him of his purloined booty.

With the distraction gone and Klimenko back in front of the timing boards, Twilight was back in the tire bank and continuing her lesson with Siedel. This time with a fresh nut, she laid the tire flat on the ground, just as she was instructed, and with a solid stomp she seated the nut in the wheel. A quick test showed that the nut was properly seated and could spin freely.

Between paying for wagers, being disciplined by Klimenko and retrieving errant Erebus equipment and the lesson, the practice session had ended and both Mercedes were being given a rundown by the engineers with various diagnostic tools while the bodywork was being cleaned of dirt and road grime.

It was a whistle from Seidel brought Twilight’s attention to the workbench where her helmet was resting. “Qualifying is in less than an hour and you need to be fitted with a radio.” he said, “Under normal conditions, the guys on the tires wouldn’t be equipped with a radio, but during endurance races, there is so much going on, without a radio, you’d shout yourself hoarse.”

Twilight was both intelligent and diplomatic enough to realise that Seidel was talking about a vocal condition and not a derogatory remark, besides, there were times when she had felt a little hoarse herself..

Holding up her helmet, Seidel continued. “You’re already familiar with the microphone pickup and the 5 millimetre input from your hot lap, what you may not have noticed are these two little buttons on the back of the helmet.”

Seidel turned the helmet so that Twilight could see the buttons in question, one blue and one red. “The blue button lets you talk to everybody in our pit who has a radio on, Betty, the engineers, the car controler, everyone. The red button allows you direct communication with the drivers, We ask you not to press that button unless instructed.”

Twilight could see a seriousness in Seidel’s expression when he told her about the red button, mentally, she made a note to have it covered with something to prevent any chance of accidentally activating it.

Seidel continued, “Transmissions between the driver and the garage are encrypted so that no other team can listen in or interfere with any driver instructions. Apart from ourselves, only Race Control and Channel 7 have the encryption key, Race Control records everything said incase there is a protest and Channel 7 use their access for commentary during the race.”

“You’ve explained what the buttons do, but where is the radio, is it in the helmet?”

“Not quite, when the helmet was being fabricated, one of our secure headsets was disassembled and incorporated into the helmet. You may have noticed that there is a small loop on the back of your firesuit, that is where we will attach the radio.” Seidel held up the small black unit that was the encrypted radio, along with a small harness.

“But since you won’t be wearing your suit, you’ll have to put this on as a temporary measure.”

The harness itself was designed to fit over Twilight’s head and secure around her waist, it was heavily padded and had large ‘hoof friendly’ clips that Twilight could operate with minimal difficulty.

Properly adjusted to make allowances for her wings, the harness fit snuggly and Seidel attached the radio to Twilight’s back. Next was Twilight’s balaclava and helmet, and again, Seidel made sure that the helmet was fitting properly before connecting the helmet to the radio.

“Now here comes the fun part,” said Seidel as he picked up his own headset and radio combination. Pressing a blue button on one ear he intoned, “Radio check, radio check.” while looking at Twilight for a response.

Twilight nodded, although it was not the first time she had been exposed to the equipment, she was still in awe of the technology that she’d only been introduced to a day ago.

“Now that we've checked the receiver is working, try transmitting on the pit channel.”

Like most Unicorns, Twilight could finely manipulate most objects without looking directly at them, due to her innate abilities however, Twilight could not only grasp and manipulate objects outside of her vision but ‘feel’ differences in textures. This meant that as long as she had an idea of where an object was supposed to be, she could turn a dial, flick a switch or push a button.

With a gentle push of her magic, Twilight activated the first switch. “Am I doing it right?” she asked.

Seidel nodded as he heard Twilight clearly over the radio. Looking at the hub that Seidel was using to test Twilight’s equipment, Twilight wondered how the technology could be incorporated into normal weather operations.

Currently, communications between Pegasi and ponies on the ground and even different teams of Pegasi were limited to either shouting through a cone to amplify the voice or the use of signal flags, each came with their own set of limitations.

“So, what’s next?” asked Twilight as she rocked her head from side to side, getting a feel for the slight increase in weight that the helmet added.

Seidel checked the clock on the wall and smiled, “For the moment, let’s see what’s on TV.”

At Equestria’s current level of development, books, films, and vaudeville style stage shows were the current forms of popular entertainment, the introduction of television would be a boon for entertainment and education in Equestria.

“Welcome back to our telecast,” said the host Mark Beretta, “Over the years we’ve had celebrities and commentators such as the legendary Murray Walker and Darrell Waltrip, but this is the first time that we’ve had royalty at the Bathurst 1000 and she went on a hot lap with Red Bull’s Craig Lowndes.”

Twilight watched as a montage, cut together from her three laps, played on the screen. Included were the inarticulate moans and grunts spaced between a few choice pieces of dialog. A few members of the pit crew who obviously had been informed of the segment beforehand were attempting to contain their laughter.

When the segment switched from Twilight’s time on the circuit to the Tech Centre, any attempts at containing merriment were lost as they saw Twilight holding a microphone in her magical grip while trying to explain some of her choicest statements to a joking Mark Larkham.

It had not occurred to Twilight that the majority of the crew only saw the after effects of her hot laps and none of the video. She knew deep in her soul that the drivers, especially the younger of the Davisons, were not only watching the same program, but were adding to their arsenal of witticisms.

“Shouldn’t we be getting the cars out for the qualifying?” asked Twilight in a transparent attempt to divert attention away from the program.

Feeling sorry for their fellow crew member, the team, with some good natured reluctance, began the task of shifting the cars out of the garage and onto Pit Lane in preparation for the qualification session, although one crew member couldn’t help himself.


“Oh, stick it up your exhaust, Phil!”

Unlike other events on the Supercar calendar, qualifying at bathurst was a two stage process. While the vast majority of the field will know their starting positions on the grid for Sunday’s race, drivers who qualified in the top 10 got a second chance to do a qualifying run on a clear track on Saturday afternoon during the shootout.

With 90 seconds until Pit Lane was opened and the qualifying session officially started, the drivers were hustled to their cars as final checks were completed and engines were started. Near the exit of Pit Lane, an official stood with a flag at the ready.

At precisely 3:00, the official waved his flag twice and a call went out over the radio’s. “Pit Lane exit is now open.”

At that signal, the field pulled out in order to begin the session and, more importantly, warm up their brakes and the fresh hard compound tires.

“What’s next?” asked Twilight, looking to her mentor for guidance

“Hopefully, nothing. Will and Lee will do a couple of laps and post a time while taking the shine off a set of tires before coming in.” Seidel explained, ‘shine’ being a racing term for the outer part of the grip surface of a new set of tires, it’s only good for a few laps before it wears away and is replaced with a more normal grip.

“And if something does go wrong?”

“We’ll probably take the shine off three sets and end up redoing our entire pit strategy.”

It only took 5 minutes before the first cars returned to the pits, some making minor adjustments while others played the waiting game, hoping that the surface would begin to cool and allow the cars to go faster around the circuit.

Over the next few laps, cars from every manufacturer passed through Pit Lane, some continuing to make adjustment to their qualifying setup while others played the long game by doing their warm up laps on old tires and were only now switching to the hard compound to put in a fast flying lap to set a qualifying time.

10 minutes into the session, everything came to a crashing halt as one car did, in fact, crash. David Reynolds had mistimed his approach past Reid Park and Mcphillamy Park and had impacted the wall while passing slow traffic.

With the field under red flag and the clock stopped, the pits scrambled into a hive of activity with fresh tires being prepared while race engineers worked their particular brand of magic in reworking Sunday’s race strategy.

A stopped clock also meant that there was no need to continue posting lap times so drivers were being called in and clearing the circuit for the flatbed truck that was assigned that section to be able to work in safety in retrieving Reynolds damaged Falcon.

As the flatbed entered the paddock area, the red flag was lifted, the clock was unfrozen to continue the countdown and qualifying was underway again. Crews scrambled to get their team cars back out onto the circuit, a clear circuit meant no interference from slow cars or upset aerodynamics and while brakes and tires had begun to cool, heating them back up to race levels was done in seconds.

Luck was on the side of Erebus. After swapping out the partially worn set of tires from each Mercedes and positioning the cars so that they could have a fast exit from Pit Lane when they were cleared for release, the trio came out on the tail of Robert Dahlgren in the number 34 Volvo and powered up Mountain Straight to put in a hot lap.

The fresh surface at Mount Panorama had played havoc with the teams during every practice session with at least one car making solid contact with the protective concrete barriers on either side of the circuit every session. With one casualty from the qualifying session, it seemed only fitting that another top driver would end the session prematurely.

Jamie Whincup, the reigning champion of the V8 Supercars and 4 time winner of the Bathurst 1000 ended up in the wall at The Cutting a mere 6 minutes after the qualifying session had resumed, and once again the session was red flagged.

“Is this normal?” asked Twilight as she saw the engineers take off their own headsets and confer with each other, “Should we get another set of tires ready?”

“Simmer down, Princess,” chided Seidel, “The cars will be brought in and decisions will be made, until then, we wait.”

Both Mercedes had been timed at just over the 2 minutes and 8 seconds mark for a lap around the mountain, and with the clock being suspended once again, the question was whether to put on a third set of fresh tires from the allocation or continue with the set already on the Mercedes.

“Princess, please come to the timing board.” Twilight heard through her helmet, it was Brad Wischusen, the lead engineer for Erebus. While each individual car had its own engineer to advise the driver and supervise any adjustments, it was the lead engineer who was charged with overseeing the entire operation, not only the race duties of assessing when to make a pit stop or a brake pad change, but to review test data and component wear between race meetings to better perform his job.

Hooves on concrete are not the most stealthy and as such, the team of engineers faced her as soon as she got close enough to talk, “Do those wings of yours work or are they just decoration?” asked Wischusen, surprising Twilight before she could announce herself.

“Um, yes, they work just fine.” Twilight was more than a little taken back at being spoken to so abruptly.

Wischusen reached into a drawer below the timing board and pulled out a brand new set of protective goggles that would fit into the indentation on Twilight’s helmet. “I need you to fly above our pit box and tell us who on Pit Lane is doing what,” he said fitting the goggles, “Fly straight up and do not stray outside of the pit box. Go!”

Twilight found herself being hustled out into the open area of the pit box. With a short hop and a few flaps of her wings, she had gained enough altitude to clearly see down the entire length of Pit Lane.

“What do you see, Princess?” came the call over her helmet

Twilight did a quick visual scan of Pit Lane. She could see that some of the teams had cars in their respective pit bays and were swapping out tires while others had either bypassed their bays or had already had a tire change and were lining up at the pit exit waiting for Pit Lane to be reopened.

Reporting back to Wischusen, she said over the radio, “The blue Fords at the end of Pit Lane are getting fresh tires, as well as one from DJR and I think Jack Perkins is getting new tires too.”

There was silence on the radio as the engineering team conferred, while it was a near certainty that both Mercedes would end up on the back half of the grid, the elimination of two of the top cars from qualifying meant that they might qualify somewhere closer to the middle of the pack.

“Okay, Princess, You can come back down now,” was the directions from Wischusen. Twilight was eager to comply, with Pit Lane getting crowded being out in the open was quickly becoming a workplace hazard.

While Twilight was acting as a reconnaissance drone, Whincup’s Commodore had been loaded onto a tilt tray and the timer for the session had been allowed to continue although under red flag conditions with the field staying safely in the pits. Once the tilt tray had begun its entrance onto Pit Lane, the red flag was lifted and the field was cleared to start qualifying once more.

Twilight looked at the timer mounted on the garage wall, with just over 18 minutes remaining, most of the teams hadn’t put in their hot lap and as such were currently in positions at the rear of the starting grid.

For the first lap after the red flag, drivers concentrated on reheating brakes and tires, from the television coverage, Twilight could hear the distinctive sound of the tires skipping under the hard cornering loads as they lost and regained grip.

With 16 minutes to go before the end of the session, it seemed that the drivers had received instructions from their respective bosses that they needed to start setting competitive lap times and Twilight watched as drivers leapfrog each other on the leaderboard as the lap times starting being registered.

Examining the board closer, Twilight noticed an interesting anomaly. “Michael Caruso and Garth Tander are still in the pits,” she said, “Why haven’t they gone out?”

“Weather, Princess,” said Wischusen, not looking up from his monitors, “In about ten minutes, the track will begin to cool and get about a second faster. They put on a third set of tires, so they are waiting until the right time to do a lap. Either that or those Nissan starter motors have failed again!”

With the constantly changing leaderboard, Twilight watched as both Mercedes got pushed further and further back as the higher ranked teams started to put in faster and faster laps. She saw teams bring in their cars, satisfied with the results and with only 10 minutes to go until the end, it seemed like a sound tactical decision.

The qualifying session was now into the final leg as strategic decisions concerning tire wear were made. Cars that had completed a hot lap had caused the leaderboard to shuffle itself once again forcing some drivers out of the coveted top ten positions.

First it was Garth Tander pushing Craig Lowndes out of the top ten only to be followed seconds later by Shane Van Gisbergen taking the provisional pole, unseating last years race winner, Mark Winterbottom, only to be pushed to second as Fabian Coulthard stole Van Gisbergen’s thunder and shaved over half a second off the lap time and, for the moment, securing a new lap record.

In the final few minutes of the session and in the wake of several cars being pushed out of the top ten, Pit Lane was rapidly being emptied as drivers went out with fresh tires and a determination to take advantage of the cooling track surface to claw back position for Saturday’s Top Ten Shootout.

Under the stress of trying to secure a competitive position, Twilight watched Jason Bright and minutes later, Jack Perkins, push their cars a little too hard at the Chase and both drivers ended up off the circuit, effectively destroying any progress that they had gained on that lap.

As Lowndes cross the start line with one minute to go, Twilight heard someone mutter, “When was the last time Lowndes missed a shootout?”

“Never,” came the reply, “He’s never missed one since his debut in ‘94.”

Twilight turned her attention to the television. The qualifying session was over and those cars still on the circuit were allowed to finish their current lap and have their times counted, on screen, Lowndes was starting his descent from Skyline and while he had put in a personal best time for the first sector, he had to keep on that pace to get into the top ten, and there was a chance that even that may not be good enough.

“C’mon, Lowndes,” Twilight said to herself, her wings and ears were waving like semaphores, something that the crew found both amusing and a minor workplace hazard, Twilight became even more frantic as Lowndes cleared the second sector and was onto Conrod Straight, “C’mon, c’mon!”

Had Twilight been more aware of her surroundings, she would have noticed that she was not only receiving some strange looks, but at least one crew member was wondering if there were any horse tranquilizers nearby.

Lowndes had cleared the Chase and was using a slightly wider racing line that would give him better exit speed at the expense of greater tire wear. With one eye on the lap time, she started bouncing like Pinkie Pie and chanting “Do it, do it, DO IT!”

Seconds later, Lowndes crossed the finish line with a time that managed to put him in 9th position for the next days Shootout. Once confirmation was shown on both the television and the timing board, Twilight lost what little self control she had left.

“He did it! He did it!” she shouted while hovering in the air, “Twenty straight top ten shootouts!”

“Hold your horses, Princess” said Wischusen from the timing board, “Still some others on their final lap.”

Twilight watched as first one car, then another crossed the finish line. The first couldn’t improve his time and stayed in 5th and the second was outside the ten. The third car, driven by Dale Wood, managed to make the jump from 13th to third and finalising the top ten and officially ending the qualifying session.

Slightly winded from her exuberant display, Twilight was now attempting to recover some sense of decorum. “How did Will and Lee do?” she asked Wischusen.

“Wood would have caused some trouble if he could,” replied the engineer with a sly grin on his wordplay, “As it stands, that last lap pushed Davison and Holdsworth back down to 17 and 18 on the grid. While not good news, having Reynolds and Whincup crash means that they’ll start from the back of the grid which means they’ll put pressure on the front runners early on and Chaz Mostert has been excluded from qualifying for overtaking under the red flag!”

“What would Wood have done to cause trouble?” Twilight asked, trying to keep a smile off her own muzzle, Wischisen’s wordplay was both enjoyable and infectious.

“He’s a good driver, but launching these cars from a standing start isn’t the easiest task in racing. A poor start can lead to a car dropping three places before the first corner and Wood can be a little too aggressive in retaking position. Having him at the front and away from us can be an advantage.”

“What about Will, can he do what Wood wouldn’t?”

“Well, Will won’t, but Wood would if he could.”

It was enough for Twilight and Wischusen to break down into unrestrained mirth with any sense of decorum lost as the pair released days of tension in a single cathartic moment. It was a little too much for one team member.

“Enough with the gigglefest, we’ve got work to do.”

With a sigh, Twilight nodded to Wischusen, her body language clear that she was deferring to him in this matter. “Stick it up your exhaust, Phill!”

Friday October 10, 2014. Part III

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Conquering the Mountain
Friday October 10, 2014
Part III

Pit lane was, once again, a hive of activity. Hours after the day of racing and qualifying had ended, a swarm descended on Pit Lane for, once again, it was time for the two hours of madness that was Friday Night Live!

At the exit of Pit Lane on a raised platform, there were lights, cameras and all the trappings of a studio with only a short barrier and the politeness of the crowd separating the masses from the presenters.

At the opposite end where the crowd was much thinner, Twilight was watching the show unfold as she and the majority of the Erebus crew were impatiently waiting for Len to hurry up with the Barbeque.

As with seemingly all things in Australia, the Barbeque had its own strange ritual and ceremony attached to it. In this case, the most physically domineering male prepared and cooked the meat while others waited nearby with varying levels of patience. Twilight suspected that it was a throwback to a far simpler time when people gathered around a fire to socialise over a meal. It was either that, or Len liked playing with fire and sharp pointy pieces of metal.

In any case, flavoursome sausages were merrily cooking on one side of the barbeque’s hotplate, while on the other side were the more pony friendly and vegetable based imitations of the typical Australian Barbecue fare.

It was at this point that Twilight was introduced to what she would later write in her memoirs as the ‘Great Australian Social Event’, better known as a ‘Sausage Sizzle’. In essence, the concept was unsurprisingly simple, cook a sausage on the barbeque, serve on a piece of plain bread and add sauce to taste. All across Australia and New Zealand, schools, sporting clubs and charities had used the Sausage Sizzle as a cheap, easy and non-offensive way to raise funds.

Like most sausage sizzles, Erebus had also made sure that there was onion fresh from the hotplate as well as bacon and grated cheese so that people could mix and match to their own personal preference. During Len’s tenure as the ‘Master of the Grill’, someone started tossing gold coins into an empty stubbie holder, even as no payment was asked nor expected, it would seem that one lucky charity would receive a boon come Monday.

Twilight was content to eat one of her ‘Veggie’ snags, as Len put it, albeit with more ‘colourful’ language, with onion as she watched fans mingle with Erebus crew members while the television was broadcasting the show from the other end of Pit Lane, even if it was delayed by a few seconds.

Joining Twilight in the Erebus garage was Fancy Pants, the normally calm and unflappable Canterlot gentlecolt was in the midst of excitedly telling Twilight about that day's practice and qualifying sessions that he witnessed from his campsite at McPhillamy Park while he too was enjoying a sausage of his own.

“Such noise,” he said, “I could feel it in every fiber of my being and the excitement was like honey on my tongue. I haven’t felt this young in years!”

“So I see,” said Twilight. The signs were there to see, Fancy Pant’s normally immaculately groomed mane and moustache were being worn in a more relaxed style more fitting to a dapper youth than a sophisticated member of the Canterlot elite and his choice of clothing was far more casual than the typical waistcoat and blazer that he was associated with.

“Please, do not wear yourself out,” continued Twilight, “There is still the Top Ten Shootout tomorrow as well as the support races.”

“No need to worry, Princess,” said Fancy Pants “I may not look it, but I am no stranger to long and energetic events.”

Twilight had no doubt about the stamina of Fancy Pants, under ancient Equestrian tradition, business dealings were hashed out in a single sitting and while that tradition had waned over the years, there were still some of the old elite that would only do business in such a manner.

“Fancy Pants, where is Fleur?” asked Twilight, “Is she at the GRM garage?”

“Indeed she is, I believe that she is helping Mr Rogers with his outfit for the evening.”

Twilight nodded and divided her attention between preparing some more of her veggie sausages for herself and Fancy Pants and watched the live entertainment that was being presented on the television.

On the screen, the presenters had segued from a brief discussion about that day's qualifying to a scavenger hunt at McPhillamy Park. Quietly munching on her snack, she watched Larkham talk about the first event of the evening, the Eskey challenge.

In the interim between the end of the day and the setting up for the evening, various crew members from the competing teams had set up a simple course for the three competitors consisting of a narrow chicane and a series of tire pillars that they had to maneuver around before reaching the end of the course before switching drivers for the return journey. As there were four people in each team and each run had to have a separate driver, the opportunity to ‘trade paint’ would present itself several times.

Coming back from the commercial, Neil Crompton began the segment from the presenters desk, “Welcome back to Friday Night Live, we promised you a little bit of Friday night fun. We talked before and heard from Larko about this ‘Esky Challenge’, Riana is down there… Esky Challenge, C’mon. What’s it all about?”

Riana Crehan had been working with Mark Larkham as a second pit reporter for a almost 7 years as well as adding colour commentary to the pre-race telecast. Being a former model and V8 pit girl, she was a familiar face to many of the drivers and was often given the task of interviewing them after a serious incident when they returned to the pits.

“Neil, do not diss the esky challenge because this is going to be epic!” she began. She was standing in front of the three constructions, each still covered, waiting to be revealed. “These teams, the strategy meetings that have been going on have been bigger and better than what the qualifying meeting were this afternoon.”

Crehan turned towards the Erebus team for the first of the close ups and to Holdsworth for his time in the comedic spotlight. “Erebus Motorsport, Lee Holdsworth, you are representing your team,” Crehan said as she pointed to the covered contraption, “Now we need to reveal what you guys have under the blankets here, you have been working on this for months. Way before talks about Bathurst were going on, reveal your esky please.”

With a flourish, the cover was removed and revealed the racer that Twilight and Klimenko had constructed that morning. “Yeah, look at this,” said a beaming Holdsworth, who was loving every second of his airtime, “We win the presentation award, that’s for sure. I’m a little bit worried that we don’t have the safety cell in here for this one cause I reckon there’s going to be a nasty shunt at turn one!”

Holdsworths comments got a chuckle from the audience as Crehan steered the interview back toward the features of the esky kart. “That steering wheel, that is absolutely fantastic and you guys will be competing against Nissan.”

Turning to the second team at the start line, Crehan pointed to the three Nissan crew members and their cart, which was still covered. “Nissan Motorsport, I can’t see the driver, but we need to get the reveal underway.”

The Nissan crew smiled and helpfully assisted Crehan in removing the cover to reveal the 4th member of the Nissan team for the Esky Challenge. “He’s already on board!” she cried out, trying to hold back her laughter as Michael Caruso struck a familiar pose from inside of the commercial sized esky that was the core of the Nissan entry.

The esky cart itself was the standard base white that was common to most commercial sized eskies, what the Nissan team had done was to add numbering and decals that made it look like it was part of the official Nissan team and not a side project.

“Reminiscent of Usain Bolt, Michael Caruso,” began Crehan, a subtle reminder to both the assembled audience and the viewers watching live on television who would rarely see a particular driver outside of a painted helmet.

“Now Michael, because you’re so small, you can actually fit inside the esky, this is great!”

The crowd had a small chuckle at Caruso’s expense “Rehana!” exclaimed Caruso as he gestured to the esky cart, “Look at the size, it’s perfect. Look at the machinery and the workmanship that has gone into this. I reckon that if we spent this much time on our cars, we’d go a little bit quicker!”

That statement, made in jest, had the expected reaction from the crowd and left Crehan struggling to maintain her composure as Caruso continued speaking. “We’ve got this in the bag.”

Crehan cut him off before he could make another witticism by getting in a good natured rub, “I think you should shut up before you lose your job!” she said with a laugh before hurrying to the final entrant of the event.

“Now you guys are going up against Paul Morris. Now Paul, you’ve got a secret weapon on board?” asked Crehan as she interviewed the man in question as one of the non-participating FPR crew members lifted the cover from the front of the cart to slyly show the camera a can of a minor sponsor’s product.

“Our secret weapon is the driver,” replied Morris, “It’s all about power to weight ratio.”

With a flourish, the cover was removed to reveal the youngest driver of the competitors, eleven year old Nash Morris to the surprise of Crehan and the spectators, but Crehan noticed that something was amiss.

“Ah, Paul. The esky,” began Crehan as she scanned the other two teams and their larger sized eskys incorporated into the carts.

“Yeah, I’ve read the rule book and it said a ‘Commercially available esky’ and a steering wheel, it’s got all that.” Morris replied, a tad smugly

“Of course, someone would have to really interpret the rule book and it would have to be Paul Morris!” Crehan was resigned to the fact that Morris had somehow managed another creative interpretation of the rules to try to gain an edge.

“We need to know exactly how this challenge is going to work so we need to get through the rules.” Crehan signed off on her part of the challenge and the role was taken over by Mark Larkham.

“Okay, rules are gonna be,” started Larkham as he pointed behind himself to the solid white line where the three carts were lined up , “You can see behind each of the esky carts there are four people in total, one driver and three pushers,”

Larkham started to walk along the course and continued his explanation of the rules to the camera and the audience watching on the network, “Now they’re going to push along here and what we’ve got here is a chicane,”

Pointing to the narrow chicane, Larkham continued “Now I reckon this is where the action is going to happen because I just stepped it out. I measured the axel across the three carts, we thought that three won’t fit through here, I can tell you, two won’t fit through here, it’s going to be quite spectacular!”

Taking a quick breath, Larkham returned to his explanation as he pointed to two pairs of tire stacks, “Down here, they have to go around the tires, around the other tires and see that white line down the bottom there? they have to stop, swap drivers, come back and do it again.”

“You go up, back, up and back to determine our winner. Now we’ve got a starter down there, Mark Beretta.”

Taking his cue from Larkham, Beretta kept up the jovial nature of the event as he took over the commentary for Larkham. “Larko, enough talk. Gentlemen, mount your carts!”

Seeing that both the Erebus and Nissan team were starting with professional drivers, Morris made a quick decision to replace his son just before Bretta started the event. Off the line first, and possibly before the ‘official’ start, was Erebus who narrowly beat Nissan into the chicane and through the tire obstacles.

The magic that Twilight had imparted on the cart was in full effect when it came to the driver change at the end of the course, working in combination with the open design of the cart, swapping out the driver was quick and uncomplicated and Erebus soon had a steadily growing lead.

Within the tight confines of the starting area, Erebus was once again able to turn Twilight’s modifications to their advantage by turning the cart around faster and swapping out drivers quicker for the third leg. As they left the area, they almost collided with the Nissan entry who were putting in a valiant effort not to come last.

With nothing but clear air ahead of them, Erebus were able to make it to the end of the course and make the driver swap for the final leg and were able to coast back to the start line for an easy victory with FPR taking second place and Nissan wagging the tail for third. In just over a minute of madness, the event was over and Crehan was getting soundbites from Erebus.

“Congratulations, Erebus Motorsport, Lee Holdsworth. They haven’t got Champagne but they’ve got-” Too late Crehan realised that Erebus were using the same sponsor drinks that had started the race in the FPR cart to celebrate the end of a race getting her, the other teams and a few members of the crowd wet from the spray.

“Lee, is this one of the best wins of your career?” Crehan continued after briefly ensuring that the spraying had stopped.

“Certainly might be the only win this weekend at the moment!” Holdsworth replied to the laughter of the crowd, “The thing was handling pretty well up on two wheels there, a bit like Fab’s car today.”

Ignoring the gentle dig at Fabian Coulthard's driving style, Crehan began finishing up the segment. “Congratulations Lee, and enjoy. We’ve got some Coopers Beer for you, don’t drink it today, but maybe on Sunday afternoon!”

While the show segued back to the desk at the exit of Pit Lane, Twilight was in a state of palpable excitement. “Yes, yes, yes! It worked, the spells worked!” she said as she bounced around the garage.

“Quite right,” said Fancy Pants, “and now we have another task ahead of us.”

This put an understandable dampener on Twilight’s enthusiasm, “What needs to be done?” she asked.

“Somepony has to chill the team's winnings!”

While the festive atmosphere continued with a small but steady stream of visitors from the audience passing through the garage, and while many supported other marquees, there was a fair number of Mercedes supporters who were making their presence felt. Twilight even saw a few business cards being exchanged between some of the more senior members of the Erebus staff and a few young hopefuls trying to break into the more technical side of Australian motorsport.

It did not take long before Larkham had his verbal sparring partner, Russell Ingall on a lie detector and was mercilessly grilling the older driver about incidents in their shared past, whether or not he considered himself a good actor and if he still considered himself a ‘Romantic’ at heart.

As questions concluded and the segment ended, the camera switched back to the desk. Sitting with the host, Neil Crompton, were the ‘Greybeards’ of the current era of Australian Motorsport. Stephen Richards and Greg Murphy sat on Crompton’s right while Craig Lowndes and Crompton’s fellow commentator Mark Skaife sat on the left.

Each current and former driver had a few humorous digs to level at ‘The Enforcer’, with the choicest coming from Skaife. “How can you trust a bloke that self-titles himself?” he said to the laughter of the panel who laughed along at the comment, “You give yourself your own nickname, ‘The Enforcer’“ Skaife continued as the panel began to lose all sense of composure and break out into fits of mirth.

Trying to keep the show moving, Crompton crossed to Larkham who was behind the garages and near the Transporters for a follow up on what had been a years long pranking war between the two.

“Yeah, well I reckon that we’ll have some words, there’s no question about that,“said Larkham as he gestured in the area locally known as ‘Transporter Row’ “And so true to form, look there are Winnebagos and beautifully equipped transporters and didn’t I say, he’s being carting poor old Jules around in a caravan!”

The camera followed Larkham as he approached the Ingalls temporary residence to knock on the door of what Larkham described in his own colourful way as ‘The worst bit of kit on Pit Lane’.

From her vantage point safely away at the other end of Pit Lane, Twilight saw Larkham enter the same caravan where she had eaten earlier in the day with the Ingall family. With a greeting to Julia and a quick shake of the hand to Russell the conversation started on how Ingall did on the lie detector.

“That was a lot of fun and good TV,” Larkham began, “a lot of questions didn’t go to air, as you know, you’re the only bloke that we know that can actually lie to a lie detector!”

“How many people have actually fooled a lie detector?” asked Ingall, albeit a little rhetorically

“Well, we’ve been trying to flush out your age for a while, Jules up the back is the only one that actually does know, I don’t reckon you’re a day over 38.” continued Larkham as a way of swinging into the ‘Meat and potatoes’ of the interview.

“Something smells good, I know I was a little tough on you last year with the dinner you were knocking up, or in that case, the dinner Jules was knocking up because we all know that you’re punching above your weight on that one!” Larkham somehow managed to both compliment Julia while getting a dig in on Russell to the amusement of the panel, “I’m over the moon that you’ve invited me over for dinner.”

“Well last time, you said our food tasted like dog food,” replied Ingal, “The kids were really upset because they think that we make some of the best Spaghetti Bolognese, they’re that upset, they aren’t even here!”

Twilight could hear the Ingalls two daughters laughing in their father's garage. Personally, she thought that the caravan where she had eaten lunch with the Ingall clan had a comfortable feel about it, like when her old saddlebags had lost their stiffness and began to fit more comfortably against her sides.

Ingall led Larkham to the small stovetop where the night's meal was gently simmering away. “This is a friday night Bathurst ritual, we’d have Spaghetti Bolognese” explained Ingall as he dipped a spoon into the Bolognese mix, “Ya gotta try this!”

Not one to miss out on either free food or self promotion, Larkham gingerly ate the offered spoonful, after a few seconds of chewing and savouring the flavour, as no two home made Bolognese are the same, Ingall asked the ultimate question.

“And?” he questioned, “You’re on the lie detector.”

“It’s not bad,” Larkham admitted as he took a second spoonful, “It’s good. It’s quite good!”

Ingall smiled at Larkhams praise, “Finally, do you want to know the special ingredient?”

With the camera tracking Ingall as he moved about his kitchen, The Enforcer opened the small bar style fridge to reveal the remains of a VIP Petfoods ‘Dog Sausage’. When presented with the ‘Special Ingredient’, Larkham immediately gagged and rushed to the caravans small sink to rinse out his mouth while the panel back at the exit of Pit Lane broke down into unrestrained laughter.

“You’re kidding me!” exclaimed Larkham as he took the pet food from Ingall, “Turn around and bend over!” he mock threatened as he realised that after the prank he pulled the previous year, Ingall had gotten him back with a little extra.

In the Erebus garage, Twilight was stunned at the complexity of the prank Ingall had pulled on Larkham, it was a level above anything that Pinkie Pie or Rainbow Dash had ever tried to pull and she had to admit, it was masterfully thought out and executed.

With the next segment being a pre-recorded question and answer session between the Davison brothers, Twilight felt that it was about time to retire for the night. It was at this time that Fleur had emerged from the GRM garage with a rather smug expression and had taken her place at the side of Fancy Pants.

“Princess, I bid you a good evening.” Fancy Pants said as he and Fleur formally, if a little exaggeratedly, bowed before Twilight.

“And a good evening to you,” replied Twilight, giving both the traditional reply and bow according to her station. Turning to exit the garage, Twilight noticed that the members of the Erebus crew were doing one of two things. They were either nodding while holding the brims of their caps or tugging on a forelock of hair as she passed. While Twilight didn’t know what the strange ritual meant, she was sure that they were mocking her!

Saturday October 11, 2014 Part I

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Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part I

Once again, Twilight was up before the crack of dawn for more training and drills to keep her newly acquired skills sharp and to shave off valuable fractions of a second that could mean the difference between a good pitstop and a brilliant one.

Unlike the other mornings, a portion of Twilight’s time was taken up with reviewing video of her previous drills to find flaws. Some of the flaws that needed correcting were obvious like when Twilight stood too close to the car while removing the tire, others, not so much.

“There, you did it again!” said Phil as he pointed to the monitor, “Every time you use the rattle gun, you flinch.”

Twilight stared at the monitor, the evidence was clear as day in front of her. “Whenever I use the gun, I get a blast of air in the face!” she said

Phil considered the problem, “If I cover the vents on one side and you hold the gun with the uncovered side facing down, that will direct the over pressure towards your feet.” he explained, “With your firesuit and the rest of your protective gear on, you won’t even feel it.”

Phil disconnected the rattle gun from the nitrogen bottles, giving it a closer examination and clean before he started with the modifications. “Princess, pass the the Race Tape please.”

Twilight used her magic to pass the roll of adhesive to Phil. Race Tape was the common name for a particularly strong product produced by 3M, the adhesive was incredibly strong and would stick to any moderately clean surface while the tape itself was reinforced with Kevlar fibers for giving it remarkable strength that made it uniquely suited to the automotive industry.

While Phil had his annoying moments, he was a first rate fabricator and it was only a minute before he was finished and cleaning up. “That's done, you can give it a whirl after we get some food in our bellies.”

The strange sounds coming from Twilight’s mid-section gave a sense of agreement to the idea of breakfast, and soon she was at the marquee shared with the other Queensland based teams.

Where previously the marquee had fed only a few members of the three teams, today managers, support staff and crew sat crowded together at the long tables. The usual segregation between teams was absent as the newcomers from Erebus tried to find a place to sit.

“Oh, hi Twilight!” said a familiar voice, “Want some pancakes?”

Twilight was stunned, of all of the marquees, at all of the tracks in all of the world, how did Pinkie Pie end up at this one? “What are you doing here?” Twilight asked.

“I’m making pancakes, silly,” replied Pinkie, “I was making blueberry pancakes but I ran out of blueberries so I was going to make apple pancakes because Applejack would really like that but they don’t have any apples back here so I’m making plain pancakes for everyone!”

Twilight was at a loss as to what she found more unbelievable, that Pinkie Pie was in the catering marquee serving pancakes, or that she managed to get her explanation out in a single breath. Fortunately for Twilight’s sanity, the conundrum that is and always shall be Pinkie Pie, would remain unsolved as another voice derailed her personal train of thought.

“Twilight, darling, leave Pinkie alone and come join us.”

Hearing Rarity’s voice was surprising enough, but when Twilight saw the fashionista sitting with her friends from Ponyville, she found herself at a loss for words. Adding to the surreal quality of the moment, a plate holding a comically large stack of pancakes was handed to her by Craig Lowndes with his usual cheeky grin.

Numbly, Twilight accepted the plate and attached cutlery in her magic and vainly started to search for somewhere to sit. Seeing her dilemma from his position alongside the visiting Ponies, Len caught the attention of a young DJR team member who was sitting opposite him.

“You’re finished.” The transporter driver said in his usual gruff tone.

“Well, I was just going to get another plate-.” began the crewman as he realised that Len wasn’t asking him a polite question, rather, it was a statement that implied some steel behind it. Taking the ideal of discretion, the crewmember picked up his empty plate and quickly left his seat.

To their credit, no person or pony at the table said anything about Len’s ‘motivational talk’ as the still stunned Twilight occupied the recently vacated spot. Dozens of questions flowed through Twilight's mind as she numbly began to eat her breakfast, “When did you girls get here?” she asked.

“We haven’t been here long” said Rainbow Dash, “We took a short flight from Canberra to here in some sort of flying contraption that the Australian Government normally uses for VIPs. It was loud and pretty fast, but not as fast as me!”

Twilight chewed slowly as she digested this tidbit of information, it answered the first of her many questions in a nice, neat, and orderly fashion which begat a slightly larger question: why were her friends at Bathurst?

“That’s the funny thing, Sugarcube,” said Applejack with an uncharismatic smirk, “We were invited.”

Twilight swallowed before asking the obvious question, “Invited by who?”

“C’mon, Princess,” began Len as he handed Twilight an envelope, “We can’t tell you everything, it would spoil the surprise. Eat up, you’ve got a full day ahead of you.”

After dropping his verbal bombshell, Len went back to plowing through his own small mountain of pancakes, from what little Twilight had learnt of the transporter driver, that meant that the conversation was effectively over.

It took over an hour until 7am when the crowd in the marquee had thinned enough that Twilight could retrieve Pinkie Pie from the cooking area and begin to follow the itinerary laid out in the envelope.

The first port of call was in the same VIP area where Twilight had made her bets the previous day. At this relatively early hour, it was still mostly empty but would soon fill up for the first race of the morning.

Twilight was surprised that waiting for her and her friends were some of the team owners that she had already met during her time in the pits and around the paddock. “Twilight, glad you could make it,” said Klimenko as she began to introduce her fellow owners, although it was more for the Ponyville group than for Twilight, “You remember Garry Rogers from GRM.”

Slipping back into her tutelage under Celestia, Twilight politely nodded as Rogers knelt down and offered a fist for a friendly hoof bump, a gesture that Twilight gratefully accepted. The next person to be introduced as Rogers introduced himself to the ponies was Rick Kelly.

Like many owners, Kelly started out as a driver. What made his situation different from other owners was that Kelly was still racing competitively in the series against other teams alongside his brother Todd. Previously he had Holdens but had switched brands to race under the Nissan badge.

“Oohh, nice hair!” said Pinkie Pie as she got a closer look at the young owner and his immaculately groomed hair - his one concession to vanity despite his otherwise casual appearance. The joke around the garages was that if he had used any more hair gel, it would be considered a fire hazard.

The next person to be introduced was Roland Dane, the Team Principal of Triple 8 Racing. Dane had a round face, a serious expression and a slight Irish accent when he spoke after being introduced. Most first impressions of Dane were as a stern taskmaster who expected everybody to perform at their best. He was known to have a more jovial side though it was rarely talked about.

Representing Ford Performance Racing was Tim Edwards. The perpetually unshaven team manager was enjoying his brief moment away from the FPR garage where preparations were being made for the final practice in a few hours and the afternoons Top Ten Shootout.

“Oh my,” said Fluttershy as she nervously scanned the people in the room, “So many new faces, but who are you, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Oh, I’m Betty,” said Klimenko as she knelt down to be more level with the shy pegasus. “I head up Erebus Racing. That makes me Twilight’s boss.”

Twilight couldn’t help but to roll her eyes at Klimenko’s grandstanding. As bosses go, Klimenko’s style lent more towards delegating than hands on leadership. “Betty, why are we all here?”

“Ah, yes. I think I’ll let Chris explain.” replied Klimenko as she pointed to the remaining person in the room.

Chris Wilesmith was thin, tall and bald. As the managing director of Supercheap Auto he was in preparations to sign an extension to the naming sponsorship for the entire event when he was informed on Friday evening that Twilight’s friends were coming from Ponyville. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, in a few hours he managed to put together something very special.

“Ladies, I understand that you’re unfamiliar to what the Bathurst 1000 represents,” Wilesmith began, “So what we’re going to do is give you a manufacturer to cheer for during the race.”

To illustrate his point, Wilesmith held up a series of badges, each with a different logo in one hand and lanyards with the various required passes for the ponies in the other. “All that is needed is for you to choose.”

At this point, hours of hasty planning could fall apart in an instant as the vast majority of ponies assembled had no idea about any of the manufacturers that were competing, fortunately, Rarity came to the rescue.

“Betty, darling,” began Rarity, laying on the act thickly, “I’ve seen your offices and workshop and I must say that you have the most chic uniforms in the entire Pit Lane. I, for one, will be cheering for Erebus and Mercedes!”

With the proverbial ice broken, the team managers began the process of selling their particular brand using every bit of snark that they could muster. Dane and Edwards were in particularly fine form in their bout of ‘Snark-to-Snark’ combat trying to sell their own marques while taking the occasional dig at their competitor.

“We've got the number one driver in the championship,” opened Dane.

“Your number one driver is starting from the back of the grid, while we have last year's winner qualifying on the second row.” Edwards countered.

“Your second driver passed under the red flag and is starting from dead last. That’s two years in a row that he’s failed to qualify for this race.”

“You’ve switched brands from Ford to Holden.”

“We’re performing better than the factory backed Holdens!”

Throughout the back and forth comments from Dane and Edwards, Pinkie Pie and Kelly were doing their best imitation of a pair of spectators at a tennis match with Kelly recording everything on a GoPro provided by one of his sponsors.

“Hypnotic, isn’t it?” Kelly asked

“I think it’s kinda funny,” replied Pinkie, “They’re all ‘I’m better’, ‘No, I’m better’ like a couple of strutting stallions.”

“You think that’s funny, you should have seen how me and Todd got to Bathurst this year. We caravanned the journey in a vintage caravan, it was a blast!”

“Sounds like you have a lot of fun when you’re not racing.”

“If the job stops being fun, it means that you’re taking it too seriously.”

Pinkie waved her hoof to get Wilesmith’s attention, “I want to be on his team!” she said, indicating to Kelly. Wilesmith nodded and began attaching the Nissan badge to Pinkie’s lanyard when he heard a series of pops, looking up he saw confetti and streamers hanging off of the younger Kelly brother. For his part, Kelly was pleased by Pinkie’s antics, his team needed a shake up and Pinkie was the one to make that happen.

“Well, ah’ve heard about enough,” said Applejack, “They may have their faults but them boys at Triple 8 are honest about winning and following the rules to do it. I’m with them.”

“That figures, FPR are at least loyal,” countered Rainbow Dash, somehow missing the entire point about having a factory backed team, “I’ll stick with them ‘cause they’ll come out on top!”

With all bar one manufacturer chosen, it was by default that Fluttershy ended up with GRM and Volvo, although it seemed that the only person who didn’t realise that was Fluttershy herself.

“Um, Mr. Rogers, sir. It looks like I’m supporting your brand, if that’s alright with you.”

Rogers knelt down so that he was eye level with Fluttershy, for a moment, he was feeling every one of his seventy odd years as he softly addressed the pegasus from the heart.

“Deary, I don’t think that we could have a better supporter than you.”

Fluttershy looked down at the grey carpet that covered the floor of the VIP areas and shuffled one of her forehooves back and forth, “It sounds so scary, all the talk about ‘Power’ and ‘Speed’, it just doesn't sound very safe.”

From his position, Rogers nodded. For many years under the old ATCC rules, drivers raced what were modified road cars, leading to the saying ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ and safety was not much better than the road going cars of the day.

When group ‘A’ touring cars were introduced, they retained the same chassis as their road going counterparts along with cosmetically similar but more aerodynamic paneling. Under the skin however, there were few components that were available on the conventional market and while driver safety had improved, it had been overtaken by the retail market at that time.

When the era of group ‘A’ ended and the time of the V8 Supercars had begun, there was very little in common between the purpose built racing cars and the retail versions beyond superficial cosmetics. Driver safety was a strong concern with the introduction of required equipment and procedures designed to minimise hazards.

Following the V8 Supercars came the Car of The Future plan, a plan to reshape the sport by opening it up to other manufacturers beyond Ford or Holden, by making the cars cheaper to build with standardised components in an effort to create a more level playing field between the larger teams with deep pockets and smaller teams with limited finances.

Driver safety had also been addressed in the COTF design process with better side impact protection and moving the driver more towards the centre of the car for added safety. Other safety features included moving the fuel cell from its previous position behind the rear axle to being in front of the axle where it is protected by the chassis.

The glass windshield, a staple of automotive design since its early days, had been replaced with a clear polycarbonate that was both lighter and stronger than glass with the added advantage of being slightly flexible.

“You’re right, Fluttershy,” said Rogers, “Cars have gotten faster and more powerful since I started in this business, but they’ve also gotten safer. If one of the drivers in my garage was seriously injured or killed, I would have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life, and I don’t want that.”

Fluttershy didn’t reply as she continued to paw at the carpet. “How about later on, you and your friends come down and see the cars for yourselves?” Rogers offered

“I’d like that very much,” said Fluttershy, slowly gaining confidence in talking to Rogers

“There is a race starting soon,” continued Rogers, “I know that you’ll have a pretty full day ahead, but I want you to know that nothing is going to happen to you, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing you soon.”

With a muffled groan, Rogers stood up and said his farewells as Wilesmith finished passing out the lanyards, complete with the appropriate manufacturer's logos attached, to the assembled ponies.

With the team managers gone, and under Wilesmith’s direction, Twilight began to give the itinerary a more in depth look.

“Coming up in a few minutes is the first of the V8 Ute races,” she said

Any further analysis was interrupted by Pinkie Pie waving her fore leg like she was back in school. “What’s a Ute?” she asked

This caused Twilight to slip into, what her friends called, ‘lecture mode’ as she began to go into greater detail, “Ute is a shortened term for a Utility Vehicle,” she began, “according to Australian folklore, the Ute came about in 1932 when a Victorian farmers wife wrote to Ford Australia asking for a vehicle to go into town on Sundays and take livestock to market on Mondays. It is a two door, tray backed vehicle that is around the same size as normal car.”

Twilight noticed that Rainbow Dash was strutting about at the mention of her particular manufacturer in the tale

“What will be racing,” said Twilight as she looked out through the large glass doors of the VIP area, “and are currently assembling on the grid, are the more recent generations of Utes on the Australian market. Unlike the Supercars, these are modified production cars, all that has been done is that they added a rollcage and a racing seat, they removed the airbags, whatever they are, and slapped on their sponsor vinyls.”

“Not to rain on Rainbow Dash’s parade, but are they all Fords?” asked Applejack

“That’s the good part, of the 32 entrants racing, the field is evenly split between Ford and Holden.”

This time it was Applejack’s turn to strut slightly in support of her adopted brand. It was fortunate that the race started before Rainbow Dash or Applejack could start boasting about either marque.

Being production cars, the utes were not as loud as the V8’s, and behind the double paned glass doors of the VIP area the sound would have gone unnoticed amongst the normal background noise of Pit Lane if not for Fluttershy making a rather loud, for her, squeal.

“Oh, they’re about to start,” said Twilight as she moved towards the windows overlooking Pit Straight.

Twilight could see that the grid was assembling in the standard two rows stretching from the start line all the way towards Murray's Corner. This was the first time that Twilight had gotten a good look at the Utes themselves. The front half was similar to that of many of the sedans that she had seen while beyond the passenger compartment lay the covered tray. The sides were smooth metal panels that gave the Utes a clean finish that spoke of a blend of aesthetics and melding with aerodynamic engineering.

At the rear of the grid, a marshal waved her green flag, signaling that the grid was in position and ready to start. The engines revved up and the air was filled with a throaty rumble Twilight had more exposure to the sounds of racing engines than any other Pony, and she absently noted that the tone was much lower than the roar of the Supercars.

The race itself was very short, only seven laps, and was scheduled to be over in 20 minutes, but the style of racing lacked the polish that Twilight had seen in the other racing categories.

Going up Mountain Straight three Utes abreast while jockeying for position was somewhere between dangerous and reckless, so much so that Fluttershy was in the unenviable position of being too scared to watch the telecast on the overhead televisions and yet unable to tear her gaze away.

It was more luck than skill that the field managed to navigate Griffins Bend without any incidents and only a minor trading of paint on the approach to The Cutting. This set the tone for the first four laps, while other racing disciplines were wary of any contact between vehicles, Ute racers were far more territorial and yet gentlemanly in giving up positions. They would not obstruct another driver from taking advantage, but they had no qualms in making the other driver work for advancement.

With the type of racing style, the inevitable occurred at McPhillamy Park on the 5th lap. One driver accidently took the entrance to Skyline too fast and ended up plowing into the sandtrap. For the unfortunate driver, his approach was at such speed that the prepared area did little to slow the errant Ute down, and it impacted with the tire safety wall.

What hurt the lost driver more than the impact was the jeering of the crowd, such a reaction could only have one possible response, the driver took a bow to the crowd beside his totaled vehicle.

Back inside the VIP area, Applejack was restraining Rainbow Dash from doing something rash. The driver who went off was behind the wheel of a Ford, but the television replay was showing that a Holden had some part in the incident.

Questions about the ‘Who, what, why and where’ of the incident were being answered by the television commentators as they replayed the incident several times. A more telling explanation was the damaged Ute that was making its way down Pit Lane, front end showing heavy damage and trailing blue smoke.

“Right, I’m going to give that driver a piece of my mind!” said Rainbow Dash as she tried to work out the fastest way down to Pit Lane.

Applejack wasn’t about to let her friend make a fool of herself, and she felt that some home truths were required, “Sugarcube, you don’t want to get mixed up in something like that,” she said as she restrained the prismatic pegasus, “He’s out of the race and I’m sure that he’ll answer to some sort of official for what he’s done.”

“Applejack is right,” said Twilight, “The Driving Standards Observer for that class will make his report to the stewards and they will decide on what penalty, if any, to apply.”

‘In any case, darling, it appears that both competitors are out for the remainder of the event.” said Rarity. True to form, the Ute that was in the sandtrap at Skyline had a front wheel that was positioned in such a way that there was massive damage to the steering arm on that side and the one in the pits had suffered a catastrophic failure judging by the driver getting out and angrily slamming the door multiple times.

If the competitors were part of the Supercars or even the Dunlop Series, it may have been possible to have both vehicles repaired and ready for the next Ute race later in the afternoon, but due to the smaller teams and more independent nature of the series, such a thing was not possible.

With the first race ended, Twilight took a moment to talk to her friends, “Now that you’ve seen one race, any thoughts?” she asked.

“It was okay, I guess,” said Rainbow Dash as she waved her foreleg in a ‘so-so’ motion, “I mean, you could see that they were racing, but it didn’t look like they were going that fast.”

“Well they are a little slower than the main event,” said Twilight with a smirk as she was building up, “The straights are deceptively long, and the engines are limited to 250 Kilometers per hour for some reason.”

“Them fellas sure didn’t mind a little contact!” said Applejack, throwing her two bits in, “Are all them races gonna be like that?”

“No, Applejack,” replied Twilight, “those drivers are in a different class, and while ‘technically’ there isn’t supposed to be any contact between cars, it’s considered traditional to have a little metal-on-metal contact still every now and then.”

“What do you mean, ‘technically’, Twilight” said Rarity, somehow managing to make quotation mark gestures with her hooves.

“Contact at the wrong time can send a car off as we saw before,” began Twilight, slipping into ‘lecture’ mode, “Now these cars are as heavy as the V8’s but not as fast, and combined with the folklore image that the Ute holds in Australian culture, a certain amount of contact is accepted, but the stewards will investigate any that they deem ‘excessive’.”

“They aren’t as loud as I thought they’d be,” said Fluttershy, “I hope the driver is okay after his crash.”

“The Utes are race modifications of an existing production car, and from what I’ve read, the Australian design regulations are some of the best in the world when it comes to ensuring the protection of the driver and passengers.”

From her position near the window, Rainbow Dash called out “What’s happening out there now?”

“Ooh, those are the Aussie Racing Cars, there is the one we’re cheering for!” giggled Twilight as she pointed to a familiar blue car with ‘Family Feud’ plastered on every surface.

Rarity was curious, “Why that one, Twilight,” she asked, “Has the driver done something to earn your favour?”

Twilight had the good sense to blush at Rarity’s accusation, “I placed a bet on him yesterday, it’s part of the Australian culture.”

“Australian culture? Twilight dear, I’ve seen more culture in a tub of yogurt!”

Twilight looked over the itinerary and smiled at Rarity, “If you knew what was coming up, you’d revise that statement.”

With the grid assembled and the smaller engines sounding like a swarm of bees, it only took a few seconds before the light changed to green, and the field was released to tackle Mount Panorama. Inside the VIP area, both Applejack and Rainbow Dash were getting into the spirit of the event as not only were the smaller cars able to safely go three and four abreast on the straights but due to the smaller size, they could safely overtake in more areas.

While it was expected that Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s natural competitiveness would have them alternating between watching the different televisions and looking out the window when the field came past, it was the look of glee on Fluttershy’s face as she watched the brightly coloured cars swap positions while Applejack and Rainbow Dash flinched involuntarily every time the cars got too close to each other.

“Oh my,” she said, “It’s just like when Mr. Squirrel and his friends race along the obstacle course.”

“This class is great for the amateur racer who is either unable to, or simply doesn’t want to have the expense of a larger and more complex car.” said Twilight as she watched Denyer’s car gain another spot, “The cars all have the same chassis, engine, suspension and brake setup. Only the outer shell is different.”

For small cars, they did some impressive lap times, and each individual driver was racing to their fullest capacity. Where they came into their own was in the tighter sections at the top of the mountain, in the other classes that were racing over the weekend, there were few corners where overtaking could be done in safety. The smaller size and overall parity of the Aussie Racing Cars meant that they could overtake on any corner and even on the straights if the conditions were right.

The field had sorted itself out into three separate racing ‘packs’. At the rear were drivers who were only taking part in a few races over the course of the season and were politely staying out of the way of the more serious drivers while they jostled around, trying to avoid the embarrassment of the ‘Wooden Spoon’.

Midpack were casual drivers, they had a life and jobs outside of racing and while they enjoyed the sport for the fun that it was, they didn’t race for championship points but for bragging rights over their fellows at the end of the day.

The smallest pack was at the front of the field, it was filled with drivers who loved to race, thrived on the competition and had a mixture of petrol and adrenaline running through their veins. It was in this pack that Denyer was able to claw his way up to third position by the fifth lap.

As the lead pack came around Murray's Corner and down Pit Straight to start the sixth lap, both Rarity and Fluttershy were barely holding in their composure as they watched Denyer’s pale blue car attempt a risky overtaking maneuver at Hells Corner to try and gain one more spot before the race ended.

“My word,” said Rarity as she fanned herself, “I can certainly see why you would wager on that driver. He has a certain amount of persistence.”

On the Television, the group watched as the lead pack raced up Mountain straight and around Griffin’s Bend. Denyer was always pushing for position but was denied every time as they pushed across the top of Mount Panorama. It wasn’t until the group reached Forrest’s Elbow that Denyer managed to muscle his way into second, but a poor exit from that corner made him lose the position again.

All too soon the race had finished with Denyer coming in a respectable third with the final race of the meeting scheduled for later in the afternoon.

“Oh, my,” said Fluttershy, “That was very exciting, but um, was that all?”

“Oh, no, Fluttershy, there’s a lot more, just not here. We’re relocating!”

Twilight led her friends out of the VIP area to where Klimenko was waiting with a small SUV, “Applejack, Pinkie and Rarity will ride with Betty to the top of the mountain,” said Twilight, “I’ll fly up with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.”

Klimenko opened the door so that the earth bound ponies could hop into the climate controlled SUV for a comfortable ride to the top of Mount Panorama while reminding Twilight of the designated meeting point.

“McPhillamy Park campgrounds, I remember.”

It would take Klimenko around 10 or 15 minutes to navigate through the campsites both inside the paddock and surrounding the circuit and follow the road to the campsites at Mcphillamy Park, and although it would be a shorter distance as the pegasus flies, Twilight had the disadvantage of having to corral the over-enthusiastic Rainbow Dash.

“Right, McPhillamy Park at the top of the mountain,” said Dash as she rubbed her hooves together, “We can be there in 30 seconds.”

“And before we go, we have to pick up some supplies.” Twilight noticed the strange looks her friends gave her, “What?”

“It’s kinda strange to see you without a checklist.”

“Rainbow Dash is right!” Agreed Fluttershy

Twilight rolled her eyes at her friend's observation and trotted into the Erebus garage. Since Wednesday, Twilight had made it a habit to leave her saddlebags in the garage on the off chance she needed to pull double duty as ‘Pack-Pony’.

With her saddlebags equipped, Twilight started raiding the team fridge with the assistance of the engineer Wischisen.

“You’ll need plenty of water and some snacks,” he said as he loaded Twilight’s bags, he also held up two bottles filled with colourful liquid, “Don’t mix the two,” he cautioned

Twilight was taken back by the engineers words, “What happens if I do?” she asked

“Nothing, it just tastes really bad.”

In the interim while Twilight was getting supplies, Rainbow Dash had taken to the air and was doing ‘Lazy 8’s’ to pass the time and although she had caught the eyes of the passing crowd, the consensus could be summed up as ‘not enough horsepower’ while Fluttershy had found a nice quiet corner out of the way until Twilight came for her.

Fluttershy did not enjoy the luxury of waiting in her hidey-hole for long as Twilight returned, her saddlebags full of supplies and confidence in her stride.

“C’mon everypony, Let's take an aerial tour of the circuit.”

“Finally!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash as she quickly gained altitude.

Twilight also went airborne but only to about the height of the surrounding buildings where she was joined by Fluttershy coming up and Rainbow Dash coming down.

Rainbow Dash was many things, brash, impulsive and occasionally reckless but she was able to take the hint that Twilight was in control of the tour. From the rear of the garages, the trio flew directly to Mountain Straight and began following it up the mountain.

“I don’t see what’s so special about this place, Twilight,” Said Dash, “There are fields and houses and… Twilight, why are there houses so close to a race track?”

“Well, for eleven months of the year, this is a normal, average, public road,” said Twilight with a smile as she watched her friend attempt to process that new piece of information with what she had seen less than an hour ago. “Oh, look! A vineyard.”

Instead of following the circuit at Griffin’s Bend, the trio few straight on towards Skyline and aimed for the large and iconic sign proclaiming to all who entered the town, that this was indeed the Mount Panorama.

“Um, Twilight, it’s a long way down to the valley floor,” said Fluttershy, “Do any cars, um, fall off?”

“No, they’ve always had safety barriers to prevent that from happening,”

While not exactly a lie as safety barriers in one form or another had been in place and evolving with advances in design and technology for over 30 years, it was the preceding 20 years where a grievous enough error on the downhill sector of the circuit could mean that the car and driver got an up close and personal view of the local flora during their unscheduled decent.

Dropping her altitude slightly, Twilight continued leading the flight until they were at the mountain face near Skyline but far below the level of the circuit. With a few flaps of her wings, Twilight soared high up over Mount Panorama with Dash on her tail and Fluttershy bringing up the rear.

“Nice maneuver, Twilight,” said Dash with a hint of sarcasm, “They teach us that in the first month of flight school.”

Twilight brushed off her friend’s brashness with a smirk, “Look over there,” she said, pointing to the camping grounds.

“Oh, my, gosh!” squeaked Dash as she saw just how vast the camping grounds and viewing areas were and just how crowded they were.

“The official estimate is for two hundred thousand people over the weekend with one hundred and four countries taking the local telecast.”

Dash couldn’t comprehend the enormity of the numbers that Twilight was casually rattling off, even at it’s peak capacity, the colosseum at Cloudsdale could only hold a small fraction of that number and Ponyville only had a population of around one thousand during market days.

While Dash had seen part of the viewing area on a television from the comfort of the VIP room at the bottom of the circuit, the main task for the cameramen was to concentrate on the circuit and the cars with everything else considered ‘fluff’. As such only Twilight had seen the crowds picnicking along the ribbon of green grass stretching from McPhillamy Park, through Sulmans Park and onto Reid Park.

From their position above the camp grounds, the trio could see that a wide variety of tents, caravans, motorhomes and swags were set out with an order that would make instructors in the Equestrian military swell with pride.

They could also see the SUV with the remaining ground bound ponies pulling up in the car park. As they approached to land, Twilight saw something that could only be described as Applejack ‘pouring’ herself out of the rear passenger compartment and flopping onto the ground.

“Mah stars, that was not nice.”

“Really, Applejack,” scolded rarity, “the ride wasn’t that bad. I thought it a rather pleasant journey.”

“Well then, next time you can be in the back and I’ll ride up front!”

Oblivious to the ongoings of her friends, Pinkie Pie was merrily bouncing around the SUV trying to take in all the various sights, sounds and smells of the heart of Mount Panorama.

“Rough trip?” Twilight asked Klimenko as she pointed to her prone friend

“She’s okay,” replied Klimenko, a sentiment that was echoed by Applejack, if somewhat muffled.

“Now, Twilight, what are we doing here?” asked Rarity,

“Are you crazy, Rarity?” said Pinkie, as she sprayed confetti everywhere, “this is a party!”

Klimenko brushed a few pieces of confetti off of her shoulder before whispering in Pinkie’s ear about bushfire safety and the importance of not leaving small pieces of easily flammable fuel around during a hot October.

“Pinkie’s right, we’re here to mingle and learn about Australian culture,” began Twilight, “In about an hour, there will be a warm up session for the Dunlop Series followed by the final practice for the V8’s.”

“So, Twilight, you expect us to just go out there into the crowd and mingle?” Applejack was naturally skeptical about six ponies being able to mingle in a crowd of humans.

“That’s the good part, those badges you’re wearing are a conversation starter,” said Klimenko, indicating to the lanyards that the ponies wore, “that and the fact that everybody wants to have their picture taken with you.”

“Oh, that sounds scary.” Naturally, Fluttershy was more than a little hesitant to interact with such a large crowd.

“I’ll be right by your side, Fluttershy,” Klimenko promised, “you won’t find a friendlier group of people at any other sporting event in all of Australia.”

Klimenko’s words seemed to relax Fluttershy as she meekly nodded and moved closer to the larger than life team owner. Reaching down to give the shy pegasus a quick neck rub,

“C’mon, Fluttershy, somewhere around here is a very large tent called the ‘Bathurst Hilton’!”

Saturday October 11, 2014 Part II

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Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part II

Mingling with the crowds at the top of Mount Panorama was an experience that Applejack would fondly remember for the rest of her life. She had originally thought that she would either be shunned, as no person knew how to interact with a pony, or be swarmed by a mob of beings that stood at twice her height.

The reality was that while some people were nervous about saying or doing the wrong thing around the farm pony, people tended to see her as a Holden supporter first and as a pony second and were keen to fill in the gaps in her knowledge.

“So this Brock fella, he won nine times?”

“That’s right,” replied the mountain of a man who crouched down next to Applejack, “He was considered Holden’s greatest driver and when he died eight years ago, they created the Peter Brock trophy in his honour.”

Another fan came running over having made the dash to his caravan and back to Applejack with a history book chronicling the history of Holden at the Bathurst 1000. While the assembled fans did not expect Applejack to read through the large tome, there were many glossy pictures that were helpful in illustrating the various Holden triumphs at Bathurst.

With the help of the nearby fans, Applejack leafed through the text. She saw how the cars had changed and how some drivers had aged, old drivers retired and were replaced by fresh faced youngsters, eager for a chance at glory and over the course of five decades, even those young faces grew old. The driver that held the admiration of the small crowd around Applejack was Peter Brock.

No story of the Bathurst 1000 would be complete without mentioning Peter Brock, in his heyday, the media dubbed him ‘Peter Perfect’ while the legions of his fans crowned him ‘King of the Mountain’. Both titles made him uneasy, to his friends he was just ‘PB’.

It took Brock a few attempts before he was able to obtain the first of his many victories on the mountain and for fifteen years after that, he dominated the great race having as his co-drivers many famous names that would go on to etch their names into Australian motorsport.

As Applejack continued through the book, she saw that there was a second ‘changing of the guard’ in the world of motorsport and among the names of the current generation of winners was a familiar name.

“Land sakes!” exclaimed Applejack as she pointed to a picture, “I’ve met this fella.”

One of the crowd looked over Applejack’s shoulder, “That’s Craig Lowndes, nice guy. When did you meet him?”

“Well, I had breakfast with him this morning.” To a farmer like Applejack, there was no difference between having a meal with a celebrity and having a meal with friends or family.

This caused the crowd to break out in laughter and a few affectionate shoves while others chose to give her a scratch around the ears or a pat on the neck. At this point, Applejack knew that she had made the right choice and come tomorrow, she would be happy to wave the red banner for Holden.

Further along from where Applejack stood at Skyline, Rainbow Dash was certain that she had found a lost tribe of pegasi in human form. From her vantage point at ‘The Grate’ she had noticed that the group had earlier set up their soft canvas chairs and a pair of commercial sized eskies in prime viewing positions for the upcoming practice sessions.

Being true to her outgoing nature, she casually strolled up to the group and introduced herself, their response was most unusual.

“Is this a Ford lover I see before me?” one asked

“She is true and blue!” replied another

“Is she loyal to the badge or the racer?” questioned a third

The mention of loyalty to Dash made her wings flare up, “Look, I may not know much about this race, but I do know that without loyalty, teams are nothing. So instead of ragging on me over a badge, start telling me about the team and manufacturer behind the badge!”

“Side by side,” said the first one, looking older than his years, “I wasn't even born in 1977 when Alan Moffat and Colin Bond drove side by side on the last lap down Conrod Straight for a one-two finish. The straight was longer back then too, The Chase wasn't added until 1987. They drove a pair of Falcon hardbacks and they dominated for the Ford Dealer Team.”

“How did they dominate?”

“They were almost 2 laps ahead of the Holden Torana that came in third!”

“What about other wins, were they just as good?”

Of the trio of Ford supporters, it was obvious that the two older ones were brothers and the youngest was a son and nephew. It was the nephew that spoke, “The rock!”

The brothers agreed, roughly dragging Rainbow Dash in closer to the group. “If you want to know what it is to be a Ford supporter and an Australian, then you must know about The Rock!”

“In 1980, a young Queensland privateer by the name of Dick Johnson had qualified on the front row of the grid and drove hard at the beginning of the race and ran away with the lead. Back then, there was no safety car to guide the field around the track. Instead, when a car dropped out of the race, a flatbed truck went out onto the course and retrieved the dead car while the marshals put that section under caution.”

“It was early in the race, only lap 17 when Johnson had passed The Cutting and was going up Reid Park. What happened is still up for debate, but according to Johnson, someone threw a rock on the track as he was passing the flatbed, he had nowhere to go and the rock totaled his car and put him out of the race.”

“All this from a dumb rock?” questioned Rainbow Dash, “How big a rock was it?”

“Bigger than your head!” was the reply, “But that’s not the story.”

The second brother opened one of the eskies and passed out cans of beer to his brother and nephew, after a moment, he passed a freshly opened can to Rainbow Dash as well before picking up where his brother left off.

“During the interview on Channel 7 after his crash, Johnson was angry and disappointed, saying that he’d never return to Bathurst unless something was done to prevent the crowd from doing something similar. He was told that the phones at Channel 7 stations around the country were being contacted and people were donating money so he could rebuild his car.”

“That sounds like great news, did he build his car?”

“He did more than that, the boss of Ford Australia matched, dollar for dollar, everybody's donations and that was enough for Johnson to rebuild and the following year, he achieved his first victory at Bathurst.”

“Wow, just, wow.”

“Ford has had a mixed history at the mountain. In ‘83 when Johnson crashed at Forrest’s Elbow during his shootout lap, his car was a wreck. The only thing salvageable from that crash was the steering wheel.

“This is where Australian motorsport comes into its own. Johnson’s wife and his major sponsor, a guy by the name of Ross Palmer, rented an XE Falcon that was already entered into the race from another driver by the name of Andrew Harris and bought that driver a Commodore for him to race in, which was sponsored by a Bendigo Ford dealership.”

“Sounds complicated!”

“Getting permission from the stewards, scrutineers and other teams was the easy part. Johnson’s team had to work through the night to turn the former car #9 into a new car #17 for Johnson, not just cosmetically but in technical development and Harris had to turn a stock standard Commodore into something that could compete in facilities that were a lot smaller and nowhere near as well equipped than what they have now.”

Entranced by the story, Rainbow Dash took a long drink, idly noting that it had a nice taste, but not as sweet as the cider produced at Sweet Apple Acres. “What happened during the race?” she asked, “They had to have won after all that.”

“Johnson dropped out on the 61st lap, but Harris finished 10th and won that years ‘Rookie of the Year’ award.”

It was the nephew who took control of the conversation, “A few years ago, one of the legends of Australian motorsport died,” he said with sorrow, “During the last half of his career, he was semi-retired, more of a teacher and a mentor than a driver. On the morning of the race, the drivers, officials, crews and fans all said their farewells to the King of the Mountain, Peter Brock. I watched on television as Craig Lowndes, who was driving a Ford back then, break his 10 year drought and hold the trophy named after his mentor above his head. I’m not sure if Lowndes was holding up the trophy, or if the trophy was holding him up.”

Rainbow Dash was speechless, to hide her unease and recompose herself, she hastily finished off her beer before she spoke. “That’s really touching,” she said before realising, “Wait a minute, does this Lowndes guy drive a Holden for Redbull?”

“He does now, yeah. Why do you ask?”

“I had breakfast with him this morning, pretty sure that Dick Johnson guy was there too!”

“Should’ve gotten their autograph!”

It was an irrefutable law of the universe, no matter where in the world she is, Pinkie Pie will find the party, and McPhillamy Park was, by all accounts, party central. Doing the rounds around the various campsites were elements of the Australian Army Band performing a brassy version of ‘Tequila’.

During events such as the Bathurst 1000 or one of the football grand finals, the role of the Army Band was to both perform for the public and to become a temporary de facto recruiting arm of the Australian military by showing a more human face of the service.

In front of the impromptu column was a bouncing Pinkie Pie who had replaced the key word from ‘The Champs’ hit single with ‘Party’. As with all things that Pinkie gets her hooves involved in, what started out as three Bandsmen and a Corporal soon turned into a minor street party.

As the final note and cry of ‘Party!’ faded, Pinkie looked around at the small gathering of mostly children and their older siblings who had flocked to the music like mice to the Pied Piper. Being the premier party pony in Ponyvile, Pinkie was well versed in what to do when the music stops.

“Hi everypony!” she said, waving her foreleg around like it was made out of rubber, “Is everypony having a good time?”

The young crowd laughed at Pinkie as the bouncy Earth Pony used her special talent to see who had assembled around her. “Oh, lots of Ford and Holden fans here,” she said before turning her attention to the bandsmen, “You know, if it wasn’t for the saxophone, I might have lost you in the trees!”

As per regulations, the band members were decked out in their AUSCAM uniforms, camouflage designed for Australian conditions. In reply to the inferred slight on the uniform that he proudly wore, the saxophone player let out a note that could only be described as ‘Blat!’, a move that the crowd thought was hilarious.

“Where are all the Nissan fans, I bet they’ve won here lots of times.”

“I don’t think they’ve ever won,” said one teen, looking at his fellows for confirmation

“Ma’am,” began the Corporal, “Nissan has had two victories at Mount Panorama. The first was in 1991 and it was followed in 1992.”

“But nothing since?” asked Pinkie as she tried to hide her disappointment.

“No Ma’am, but with the new Car of The Future design being implemented last year they could be in with a shot. They did qualify inside the top ten.”

The news that there was a small glimmer of hope for her adopted brand cheered Pinkie up somewhat. What added fuel to the happiness fire was one of the children handing Pinkie a can of the local soft drink.

“Pasito,” said Pinkie, carefully enunciating the unfamiliar word before taking a long drink of the sweet liquid, “Oh, bubbly!”

In the years to come, Pinkie would often import such carbonated beverages from all over the globe for the various events that she planned, calling it ‘Happiness in the mouth’, it almost became her signature piece.

“C’mon, strike up the band, open more bubbly drinks, start dancing, let’s party!” She said, spraying confetti everywhere, before hastily gathering it all up, “Sorry, bushfire hazard,” she said, blushing at her mistake.

Taking their cue from the premier party Pony of Ponyville, the bandsmen struck up a brassy number about a Hawaiian police group while Pinkie led the group off on a different tangent while she asked about local party games. A small boy whispered into her ear and Pinkie replied, “Yes, I have a ball, I always keep one handy for ball emergencies!”

And that was how Pinkie was introduced to the game of Australian Handball.

While elements of a brass band played in the distance, Rarity had sought out the culture and refinement of her fellow unicorns and had no trouble finding Fancy Pants and Fleur De Lis relaxing in the morning shade of a eucalyptus tree.

Fleur was relaxing, looking prim, proper and fresh from the fashion pages while Fancy Pants was rummaging around in the large commercial sized esky, searching for a particular beverage. Such was his focus, he was unaware of Rarity’s presence until he surfaced.

“Rarity,” said Fancy Pants, “what a surprise to see you here.”

“Nevertheless, dear, here I am,” replied Rarity as she searched for the diplomatic term, “You’re looking quite, relaxed.”

The truth of the matter was that Fancy Pants had gone past ‘Relaxed’ and was on his way towards ‘Rustic’ at speeds rivaling the motorised entertainment that comprised the weekend. “Ah, well,” began the dapper stallion, “fresh air, good food and the finest company anypony could ever want will revitalise body and soul.”

Being the canny businessmare herself, Rarity was not fooled by the casual wording Fancy Pants employed, “I take it that you’re finding new business and cultural opportunities.”

“Indeed I am,” he said, “For example, under current laws, there is a limit on how much alcohol you can consume over a 24 hour period. This means at the end of the day, leftover alcoholic beverages are consumed so as not to effect the following day’s allowances.”

“Fancy Pants, are you telling me that you got involved in some sort of drinking competition?”

“Oh no, my dear. I won the drinking competition!” boasted Fancy Pants with a slightly pained expression, “Which brings me to this fascinating tonic.”

Fancy Pants held up a bottle of sports drink, “It is my understanding that Princess Twilight has also tried this, rather delicious, drink and has shared in its restorative powers.”

“Restorative powers?” questioned Rarity, “I’ve come across tonics and potions that make similar claims and they have been shown to be nothing but fraudulent every time.”

“That’s what make this drink so special, it was originally formulated to be used by athletes. While Princess Sparkle may know of this tonic’s ability to temporarily recharge a unicorn’s magic, I believe that there is a market for this tonic on the campuses of Equestria's finest centres of learning.”

“So they can perform better during examinations?” Rarity’s own imagination was on the verge of running wild at the implications, “I’m sure that Twilight would not approve of such ‘Performance Enhancing’ tonics.”

“This beverage is too important for academic use,” agreed Fancy Pants, “I see it being used to bring relief for the morning after, a task that it performs marvelously!”

Rarity could see that Fancy Pants expression was less pained than at the start of the conversation, “Well, one cannot argue with the results, but do tell me, what other moments of ‘Cultural Exchange’ have you been participating in?”

“Well, I have made a few contacts with a representative of the Australian wheat board and met a farmer from North Queensland who grows tomatoes and melons.”

“Such a diverse group of people attend this event.”

“And I just discovered a lead on where to acquire more of this wonderful tonic,” said Fancy Pants as he peered at the label of the sports drink.

With a name like ‘The Bathurst Hilton’, it would be easy to imagine a luxurious hotel with all the modern amenities a traveler could wish for. The reality was that the famous Bathurst Hilton was a very large marquee that sprawled over four individual campsites.

Over 30 years ago, while other campers were in small single and double person tents, a man by the name of Dale Sudholz set up his much larger and better equipped tent. One of his neighbouring campers commented that “Well, this feels like the Hilton!”, and a Bathurst tradition was started.

Over time the original tent was retired and replaced with a large marquee that was hired locally and outfitted with what modern concessions camping would allow. In its current configuration, the Bathurst Hilton had a Barbeque, a beer keg that had been modified into a campfire, accommodation for those who had overindulged during the day and actual powered refrigeration among other camping essentials.

Due to the nature of being at a powered campsite, this year in addition to the lights around the Hilton, there was a large screen television showing various short clips highlighting many historic moments of The Great Race.

It was easy for Fluttershy to be caught up in the excitement of watching Greg Murphy complete what was later known as ‘The Lap of the Gods’ around the Mount Panorama circuit. The lap in question was during the 2003 top ten shootout and, at that time, it was the fastest lap ever recorded by a V8 supercar. As a testament to what is considered a near perfect lap by drivers, commentators, journalists and fans alike, the record stood until it was broken by Craig Lowndes in 2010.

Fluttershy watched the clip play out, more out of curiosity than anything. For the first minute or so, it was another average qualifying lap and it was accompanied by strong and knowledgeable commentary.

When Murphy passed through Reid Park, the timing showed that he was point four of a second faster than the current pole sitter, the commentary kicked itself up a notch on the excitement scale.

As Murphy started his descent down Mount Panorama, he kept a tight racing line through The Dipper and The Esses all the way to Forrest’s Elbow. As Murphy entered Conrod Straight, the split time for the second sector showed that he was almost point seven of a second ahead of pole position. This new revelation caused the commentators to exclaim their disbelief and for Fluttershy to start fidgeting.

The excitement from the commentators was infectious and Fluttershy started to trot in place as Murphy made his run down Conrod Straight much to Klimenko’s amusement. “This is so exciting,” said Fluttershy as Klimenko stood beside the normally timid pegasus, “I know it has already happened but I just can’t look away!”

In the few seconds that Fluttershy was talking to Klimenko, Murphy had powered his way down Conrod Straight and into The Chase. On the screen, a nonchalant John Bowe was watching his chances of keeping the pole position be reduced to near zero.

It was a combination of the electrifying commentary, the shot of Murphy taking the checkered flag a whole second ahead of Bowe, and the sight of the K-Mart pit crew losing their respective minds at what they had just witnessed that proved too much for the shy pegasus.

“Yay!” said Fluttershy before covering her mouth and blushing, “Too loud?”

Before Klimenko could answer, Murphy had entered Pit Lane via the exit, loosened his seat belts and roared like a lion. Driving down Pit Lane and cheering all the way, crew members from every garage came out to applaud the white Commodore, a sight not seen in Australian motorsport before or since.

It was unfortunate that after such an exciting video the next one was, at least to Fluttershy, so tragic. As with the previous video, a title splashed on the screen. This one said ‘2010: When Coulthard escaped The Chase’.

This video started with that years race already underway with the lap counter in the corner of the screen showing that the field was on the first lap entering The Chase. Around half the field had passed the camera that was implanted in the track when the incident happened.

Keeping his level of emotion down to that of a person describing their lunch, the commentator, Neil Crompton stated “That was Bargwanna, That was Bargwanna. He’s had a huge moment and it’s rolled.”

Fluttershy could only gasp in horror as she watched the large vehicle lose control and slide into the sandtrap at high speed only to roll with enough force to be physically thrown up into the air and start shedding body panels.

With the energy from the roll spent and the cameras watching the now silent and unmoving Commodore, Crompton was heard again.

“Apologies, I’ve called that wrong,” he said, his calm voice the ideal of professionalism, “That’s going to bring out the safety car.”

Fluttershy was in a conflicted state of ‘Fight or Flight’ panic, the only thing keeping her rooted to the spot was the small part of her mind reminding her that the incident itself had happened several years ago and that there was nothing she could do to help.

Beside the rigid pegasus, Klimenko could only rub Fluttershy’s neck and gently talk to her. “Look, the driver is out of the car and he’s walking around,” she said in a soft voice, “he’s okay, he’s safe.”

In Pony society, a neck rub might be a bit forward for strangers meeting for the first time, but after what Fluttershy had witnessed, the physical touch was a welcome sensation. It was its own form of strangeness that the characters who looked the roughest had the gentlest touch and softest voice.

Fluttershy watched as the driver, now identified as Fabian Coulthard, walked around his destroyed car while slowly stripping off his gloves and helmet. Further viewing was halted when the television was shut down.

“I think thats enough for now,” said Sudholz as he pocketed the television's remote control and handed the distressed pegasus a can of drink. Taking the blue can in her hooves, Fluttershy eagerly drank the cool, sweet and bubbly liquid.

“Thank you,” she meekly said, “was the driver okay?”

“He was a little shaken and a little sore, he’s racing in the main event tomorrow.”

“Maybe you’ll see him down in the garages later on,” Said Klimenko

“That would be nice,” replied Fluttershy, “Um, where is Twilight?”

After several days of minimal sleep and reduced food, Twilight was finally beginning to relax enough to properly recharge her magic and take in the scenery of Mount Panorama and the town of bathurst. It was something that wasn’t talked about very often, but a Unicorn can deplete their magic faster than normal if they didn’t get enough rest and time to recharge their own ‘mental batteries’. The festive atmosphere at McPhillamy Park and the second breakfast she was enjoying was most helpful in accomplishing this feat.

“So, Bruce, How’s the shop doing?” asked Twilight as she munched her way through a plate of scrambled eggs.

Bruce was one of the people that had their photo taken with Twilight the previous day, while the photographer was setting up, he had mentioned that he was the owner of a small engineering workshop.

“Pretty good,” replied Bruce, “people are always doing restorations and modifications. We’re turning out custom parts all the time.”

Twilight thought while she ate, a person like Bruce could help in standardising Equestrian measurements and engineering, “If you have a business card, I’ll pass it along to Fancy Pants.”

Bruce seemed to consider the idea, “I might do that,” he said as he continued his cooking, “But first, how about some more eggs?”

Twilight held up her plate, eager to start her third breakfast!

It would be easy to think that with six talking, flying and magical ponies scattered amongst the general populous of the McPhillamy Park campgrounds, all other activities would come to a screeching halt.

As a testament to the character of those at the campgrounds and to the Australian spirit, everybody treated Twilight and her friends like they were just another fan of the big race. Twilight found that Australians were a strange lot, they were quick to find a use for both her magic and her wings.

“Here you go,” she said as she handed back the borrowed camera. Taking aerial group shots was something that Twilight had never considered doing before and with the majority of the campers wearing either Holden red or Ford blue, she was beginning to get a few creative ideas.

Within minutes, Twilight had somehow managed to corral a dozen blue shirted Ford fans into the beginnings of a design. With such a grand endeavour it was inevitable that it would not only attract a small crowd, but more willing participants.

“Okay, can you two swap places,” Twilight instructed to two of her design pieces, “and can someone get that colt in the white shirt to lean back a little, great!”

The pieces were quickly falling into place and while there was a lull on the motorsport front, several photographers were mingling among the crowd taking shots to both fill in time and hoping to get the one magic shot that every photographer dreams of.

It was one enterprising shutterbug who had the idea to hand off one of his smaller and more general purpose cameras to Twilight who was using it to great effect from her position above to document her impromptu living sculpture.

“Alright,” said Twilight, as she looked down at her creation. Below on the grass was a small throng of Ford supporters arranged in such a way as to recreate the iconic shape of the Ford badge.

Giggling in the slightly maniacal way that had been known to send parents running towards imminent danger, Twilight rapidly took a series of shots of her living sculpture with the borrowed camera before Klimenko called to her from the below.

“Time to pack it in,” she said, releasing the fans from their shot at Bathurst history, “we have an autograph session back down in the paddock.”

For some strange reason, Twilight felt like she was a foal again and had been told to put away her books and get ready for bed. “Aww Betty, do I have to?”

Klimenko gave Twilight a smile that spoke of understanding Twilight’s position. In truth, Klimenko loved interacting with fans and would more than likely be sharing a beer with a few supporters in the paddock at the end of the day.

“Sorry, Princess, duty calls and we obey,” said Klimenko, leaning in close to whisper to Twilight, “besides, I think it would be a good idea if Fluttershy met Fabs over at Brad Jones Racing in the garages.”

There was something about the tone of Klimenko’s request that commanded Twilight’s attention. “We’d better get going then, do you need any help rounding the others up?”

“Oh, I’ve got that sorted,” said Klimenko as she let out a shrill whistle that forced Twilight to fold her ears over. Looking at the slightly pained expression on Twilight’s face, Klimenko snorted, “Toughen up Princess, it wasn't that bad”

On one of the walkways far away from the green parkland, Pinkie was enjoying herself with the local ‘two legged colts and fillies’, better known as children to the rest of the population, watching the competition between two players when she heard Klimenko’s whistle.

“Oops, that sound means I have to go,” said Pinkie, slightly saddened at the thought of leaving her new friends.

The game stopped abruptly, “Do you want your ball back?” one of the players asked as he offered Pinkie the toy.

“Oh no, you can keep that, I always have plenty for ball emergencies,” replied Pinkie as she bid her farewells to the group. As she trotted off, she sang a little ditty that she had just recently learned from her new friends.

For Rarity, Klimenko’s signal meant that she had to put an end to her little ‘garden party’ with Fancy Pants and Fleur. It could be said that one of the advantages of having members of the Canterlot elite present was that the quality of their fare was several grades higher that the local average.

While one of the sponsors of the V8 Supercars was Coopers, Bathurst was located in the heartland of New South Wales, far from the metropolitan areas of Sydney where Coopers had the majority of its market share. The prefered beer in New South Wales was Toohey’s and Bathurst could be described as stereotypical New South Wales.

The market was large enough that Coopers was in the process of distancing itself from its premium beer label and was in the process of introducing itself as the official beer of the V8 Supercars with various promotions and discounts that were only available on race weekends to viewers of the telecast.

As per his standing in Canterlot, Fancy Pants went beyond drinking the ‘Official’ beer and had ordered several cases of Crown beer, in particular, Crown Golden Ale which he magically kept at just above freezing point to enjoy its full flavour. Sharing his trick for keeping his beverage of choice cold had won him several admirers when a scheduled ice delivery had been delayed.

Complementing Fancy Pants’ choice of beer, Fleur had acquired a selection of fruit and nuts ranging from apples imported from the isle of Tasmania, oranges from New South Wales, and tropical fruits from the Northern end of Queensland.

Mixed in were native macadamias and non native, but still Australian grown, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. In all, it was quite the bounty of Australian produce, perfect for a pair of ponies picnicking in McPhillamy Park.

“Oh, dear,” said Rarity as she heard Klimenko’s whistle, “It appears that I must bid you a good morning as my time here has ended.”

“Quite understandable,” replied Fancy Pants, “I take it that you and your friends will be viewing tomorrow’s races from the corporate boxes?”

“With the exception of Twilight, we shall. I take it that you’ll be here at McPhillamy Park for the day?”

“Due to the spectacle that this event seems to enjoy, I fully intend to be here at least an hour before the start. Though I will be having breakfast inside the paddock.”

While an outsider may not have seen it, Rarity and Fancy Pants had agreed to meet for breakfast by using a method that was commonly used by the Canterlot nobility. Stemming from the early years of Celestia's rule, she would inform trusted nobles of where to meet her in such a roundabout way that it slipped past many early spies. Spymasters being the crafty beings that their profession demands, started training actual spies instead of relying on paid informants overhearing conversations by chance.

With plans set for the next day, Rarity gave a polite bow before hurrying off to where the SUV was parked for the return journey back to the garages and the VIP pavilion.

To the majority of ponies that resided in the larger centers like Canterlot or Manehattan, the country pony was considered slow of movement, slow of speech and slow of thought. Country ponies are well aware of this stereotype and use it to their full advantage when possible.

In this case, Applejack had taken a page out of Twilight’s book and was using the opportunity that being surrounded by people of different backgrounds offered, to pick up on any new ideas on running her farm more efficiently but some things didn’t translate too well.

“You do realise that I can’t drive one of them Ute thingys,” said Applejack in response to a suggestion on how to transport her produce to the Ponyville market more easily.

For most people, this revelation would require some head scratching and consulting an engineer or two to find a workaround but for the fact that Australians are known for their instinctive lateral thinking.

“Modifying a quad bike would be easier” said one person, “no doors, automatic gearbox, can pull a couple tons in a trailer. It’s ideal for farmers.”

“How do you know all this?” asked Applejack

“I sell them in Bendigo!” said the man as he slipped a business card into the headband of Applejack’s hat, “Give me a call and we’ll do a deal.”

Any remark that Applejack was considering was cut off when she heard Klimenko’s whistle, “Well, shoot. Looks like I’m gonna have to leave you fellas but it’s been real nice meeting y’all.” said Applejack as she gave each person a quick hoofshake before trotting off towards the area where the SUV was parked.

Loading the SUV for the return journey to the garages was surprisingly easy considering the troubles that the initial trip to McPhillamy Park caused for Applejack’s constitution. “I’m in the front this time!” said Applejack as she gently pushed Rarity away from the prized position.

With an amused snort, Rarity took her place directly behind Applejack with Pinkie sitting behind the driver's seat. Outside, Klimenko was giving final instructions to Twilight who was with Fluttershy.

“You two find Rainbow Dash and head back down to the garages,” said Klimenko before she headed back to the SUV to transport the non flying ponies back to the VIP pavilion.

“Um, Fluttershy,” began Twilight, “Do you know where Rainbow Dash went?”

“Well, I saw her fly off that way,” replied Fluttershy as she pointed along the circuit towards Sulman’s Park.

“Let's go find her before she gets into trouble.”

It was fortunate that Rainbow Dash was too far away to hear Klimenko’s whistle as this was one of the few times her attention was focused on something other than fast flying. Despite the ‘Jock’ aura that she projected, Rainbow Dash was an inquisitive mare. She just didn’t want to be labeled a ‘nerd’.

“Let me see if I’ve got it,” said Rainbow, “The engine connects to a drive shaft, which connects to the transaxle. And the transaxle controls how much of the engine’s power goes to the wheels?”

“That’s right,” said the father, “Now, the brakes.”

Before Rainbow could expand her automotive knowledge, Twilight and Fluttershy landed next to her. “Hi Rainbow,” said Twilight, “Ready to go back to the garages?”

Twilight was treated to the unfamiliar sight of her friend shooting up into the air and her fur suddenly standing on end.

“Oh hey Twilight, we were, um, drinking beer,” said a flustered Rainbow Dash, “Just me, the boys and beer. Nothing else!”

“Okay, if you say so,” Twilight was sure that there was something else going on, but decided to let the matter drop. “Well, girls, who’s up for a flying tour of the remainder of the circuit?” asked Twilight

“Oh, is it safe?”

Twilight managed to stop her eyes from rolling, Fluttershy was a great friend but there were times when her timid nature was infuriating. “Don’t worry, Fluttershy,” said Twilight, “The next session isn’t for a while and we can fly above the cars if necessary.”

With all the work that Fluttershy did with the local wildlife around Ponyville, there were times when she seemed to forget that she had wings. “Oh, yes, you’re right.”

“Right. Well people, it’s been nice meeting you,” said Rainbow as she rapidly shook hands with her human educators, “but we have to fly, because we have the wings and that’s what we do.”

Not wanting to explain herself further, Rainbow took to the air back towards Skyline leaving Twilight and Fluttershy to hastily and diplomatically smooth things over with the amused trio before chasing after the wayward pegasus.

Rainbow Dash was sitting on the concrete barrier that overlooked the valley and the township of Bathurst. One side of the barrier was a crisp white, indicative of the refurbishment that the council had performed over the course of the previous year, while the other side bore the name of the mountain’s greatest driver along with countless signatures of fans and well wishers.

“Okay, Rainbow Dash,” began Twilight, “Follow me and try to keep up!”

Rainbow Dash snorted at the implied insult, “Like I couldn’t beat you!” she boasted.

“Let's make it interesting, shall we,” replied Twilight as she pointed to the white lines that skirted the edges of the track surface. “We follow the circuit back to Pit Lane, we stay inside the track lines and we keep the speed low so we don’t upset the local homeowners, agreed?”

Over the years of knowing her friend’s fondness for procedures and lists, Rainbow Dash was nonplussed about having to follow yet another set of instructions. Had she been paying attention, she would have seen the mischievous glint in Twilight’s eyes that suggested a ‘fix’ was in play.

“Agreed,” said Rainbow Dash, “Last one to Pit Lane buys lunch.”

Twilight nodded before suddenly taking off down the circuit. Rainbow dash rolled her eyes knowing that she had the speed advantage before following her friend across Skyline and to her shock, having the surface of the circuit disappear beneath her.

While it was shown during the support races, Rainbow Dash lacked the familiarity of the circuit that Twilight had picked up over the last few days and as such failed to make the turn coming off Skyline and ended up in the runoff area.

Rainbow Dash had her own particular set of guidelines when it came to aerial racing. Due to the three dimensional nature of Pegasus competitions, it meant that she always performed her best but at the same time she would not take advantage of another competitor.

Realising that she was off the circuit, Rainbow Dash quickly turned around to make a clean reentry before continuing. The move may have cost her precious seconds, but it was a fair move that she could live with.

Further down at the beginning of the Esses, Twilight slowed to a trotting pace as she waited for the inevitable sounds of her friend doing an impression of a pinball.

“Ouch, whoa!” came the cries from Rainbow Dash as she clipped the concrete barriers at The Dipper and left hoof prints in the advertising at the corners exit. There was good news for the speedster as she began to pass Twilight at Forrest’s Elbow.

For the uninitiated, Forrest’s Elbow is a strange corner. In racing, the quickest way around a corner is to go wide at the approach to the corner, come in close to the edge of the corner at its apex and to extend away, allowing physics to push the car to the high side of the track. Done correctly it can be a marvel of racing, performed poorly and the unlucky driver can lose position.

Forrest’s Elbow had what is known in racing circles as a ‘false apex’, a viewer watching from the comfort of their home would never know of its existence but every driver knew to take the initial turn a little bit wider than normal before hitting the true apex of the corner and exiting smoothly.

Not knowing about the particulars of Forrest’s Elbow caused Rainbow Dash to, once again, clip the concrete barriers and take emergency measures to regain control. This allowed Twilight to pass her and take off down Conrod Straight.

Having been caught out by the mountain three times, Rainbow Dash was no longer treating this as a wager between friends. Her own sense of competition demanded that she put on a show of speed and the long straight was the perfect place.

The aerodynamics on most modern racecars are designed to be stable while in the ‘tow’ of another car, keeping up with the vehicle in front while still having some engine power in reserve. For a Pegasus the best place to be to experience a similar ‘tow’ wasn’t directly behind but off to the side where they would meet air that had already been ‘broken’ by the lead Pegasus and would require less effort to power through.

Twilight was flying at her limit and Rainbow Dash had recovered and caught up by the time Twilight had made the first crest of Conrod Straight. At her top speed, Twilight could manage a bit over 200 Km/h, far below her friend’s top speed, but she still had one trick up her metaphorical sleeve.

The entrance to The Chase was the fastest corner in Australian Motorsport with unofficial speeds of over 300 Km/h recorded by some teams. It was a measure of the skill and commitment that drivers kept the accelerator flat to the floor as they went around the right hand corner, braking as late as they dared before the sharp left at The Chase itself.

More than one car and driver had either mistimed their braking or had suffered a mechanical failure from the extreme stress of braking and turning, and have ended up bogging their car in the soft sand that comprised the runoff area for the corner.

As Twilight made her approach she altered her course so she could take the approach to The Chase at full speed. This meant that Rainbow Dash lost both the aerodynamic assist that she was getting from her friend and she momentarily had her vision blocked as Twilight swept across the track at high speed.

The maneuver was performed with such smoothness that Rainbow Dash was, quite literally, caught flat footed and ended up skipping over the sand in an effort to wash off her speed. Rainbow Dash's efforts were only partially successful as she had somehow managed to change her orientation while sliding along the sand.

With her friend in the midst of developing a new Pegasus craze, Twilight had rounded The Chase and was greeted to the sight of Rainbow Dash sailing across the track, fresh from one sandtrap and into another, her face a mixture of shock, surprise and indignation.

“Oh C’mon!” cried Rainbow Dash as she finally washed off enough speed to regain control. Twilight had already made it to the entrance for Pit Lane. With nothing left to lose Rainbow Dash took off for one final sprint with the idea of overtaking Twilight before she got to the control line.

“Get out of the way you mobile roadblock,” said Rainbow Dash. For an athlete of her caliber, catching up to Twilight was foal’s play, passing her in the narrow confines of the twisty chicane that fed into Pit Lane without becoming unsportsmanlike was, to Rainbow Dash’s dismay, impossible.

“Well, at least I beat Fluttershy,” said Rainbow Dash in an attempt to sooth her damaged ego, “I mean, she’s probably talking to birds back at Skyline.”

“Um, Rainbow, I hate to burst your bubble but,” Twilight looked like she was caught between the juiciest secret and the funniest joke, “It looks like she beat the both of us back here.”

“What, how?” asked Rainbow Dash as she poked her head into the Erebus garage. Sitting with an apple and a bottle of water was Fluttershy calmly talking to Len, the Transport driver. The experience was too much for Rainbow Dash to take in at once, the disappointed mare took two steps into the shade of the garage, and fainted.

“Oh, my.” said Fluttershy, “Didn’t anypony tell her that I flew back here from the park?”

Saturday October 11, 2014 Part III

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Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part III

If there was one thing that working with Twilight had taught the team at Erebus, it was that strange things happen every day, and having a Pegasus faint in the garages was on its way to becoming the new norm.

Much to the disappointment of the pit crew, Rainbow Dash was only unconscious for a short time, pranks that were still in the planning stage were scrapped and the tools of pranking were hastily put away.

“Enough of the melodrama, Rainbow Dash,” said Twilight, “We’ve got work to do.”

The work that Twilight referred to was the upcoming autograph session that was scheduled for the intermediate period between the previous race and the warm up for the Dunlop Series. Before any of that could happen, Twilight had a responsibility that she took very seriously.

Brad Jones Racing was different from most other supercar outfits. Other teams normally had an overall team sponsor like Red Bull for Triple 8 or Pepsi Max for FPR, but BJR had a separate sponsor for each individual car. This approach meant that fans tended to cheer for individual drivers rather than any particular sponsor.

Being a three car operation meant that BJR was allocated two garages and two pit bays, but it did have to share one of those garages and a pit bay with another team, in this case, the Tekno Autosports Commodore that had been ‘Punching above it weight’ all season and making some of the other teams take notice.

From the results of the previous day's qualifying session, the top three qualifiers were occupants of those very garages and were understandably in high spirits leading up to the shootout in the afternoon. It was into that metaphorical lion's den that Twilight had coaxed a reluctant Fluttershy.

“Oh my,” said Fluttershy as she looked around the crowded garage, “Are you sure that we’re allowed to be here?”

“It’ll be OK, Fluttershy,” replied Twilight, “I just need to find somebody.”

Inside the BJR garages, the cars were going through a series of checks and diagnostics. Even though they had managed to secure positions inside the top ten, there were still stability and control issues that needed to be sorted out in the next practice session before the afternoons shootout.

With the information from each driving pair combined with data from the car taken during the previous sessions and qualifying, race engineers were able to make educated guesses as to what changes were needed to the current setups.

A quick glance inside the garages told Twilight that the person that she sought wasn’t there so Twilight improvised.

“Hey, Skippy,” Twilight called out, “Where’s Fabs?”

If there was one trick that Twilight had learned, it was that there’s always someone in a crew with the nickname ‘Skippy’, it was a near universal Australian constant, and she was using it to her advantage. “He’s with the engineers in the transporter.” came the inevitable reply.

“Ta, mate!”

It took a few seconds before the team ‘Skippy’ looked up from his laptop and asked “Who the bloody hell was that?”

It was a common thought that the Transporters were nothing more than covered trailers that moved each teams cars and equipment from their base to whichever circuit was being used that weekend. In reality, the transporters were a combination of a mobile office, workshop, data centre and break room.

With a full crew at their home base, it typically took an hour to load a transporter for a two car team. Having around 15 race events per season led to each crew having a military like precision when it comes to loading and unloading each transporter.

Once empty of equipment, the trailers were then repurposed into offices for the race engineers, as a quiet space to work on delicate and sophisticated components, and as a preparation room for the drivers where they can get a massage, an ice bath or just a place away from the track to gather their thought before their stint behind the wheel.

Each team parked their transporter behind whichever garage they were allocated. The teams that ran more than two cars used two transporters and BJR was no exception. From the outside, the BJR trailers were a stark white with minimal signage beyond having ‘Brad Jones Racing’ in bright red lettering down each side.

Another thing about the fleet of transporters that were lined up was that they were all classified as ‘B Double’. Unlike the common configuration of a prime mover with a single trailer that was seen in the cities and towns around Australia, the ‘B Double’ was setup to carry the maximum amount of equipment while still being legal to drive inside some built up areas.

Outside of Australia, most countries restricted the overall size and number of trailers that any one truck could haul with the majority limited to two trailers or about 36 meters overall length. The road trains that dominated the roads between various mine sites and cattle stations could be over 50 meters long and consisted of the prime mover and a total of three or four full sized trailers and were the largest road legal vehicles in the country.

Even the mechanical beasts that traveled along the roads of the Australian interior could be dwarfed by the monsters that hauled ore from mine site to port. As the roads that they used were private, weight limitations didn’t apply to the gargantuan contraptions that were nearly triple the length of a standard ‘B Double’. Standing next to the fleet of transporters made twilight feel very small indeed.

Poking her head inside the trailer via the side door, Twilight saw that it was also white with only a pale blue flooring that was coated in a strange non-slip substance providing relief for her eyes. Along one side of the trailer was a workbench and on the other was Fabian Coulthard who was stretching after a briefing session with his race engineer.

Coulthard was an English born New Zealander of Mediterranean heritage, it gave him a distinctive appearance with a piercing set of eyes that were almost yellow. Seeing the object of her search Twilight called out.

“Mr. Coulthard,” she began, “do you have a moment?”

Coulthard was surprised to see Twilight. While he knew that she was working in the pits, he hadn’t as yet a chance to talk to her during the event.

“How can I help you, Princess?”

“Well, I have this friend,” started Twilight, “and I think that it might be a good idea if she met you, please?”

Like any driver, Coulthard was familiar with the various promotional work required to keep the funds coming in, and while his time at the circuit was carefully managed he had a few minutes grace up his sleeve and he could see that it would do no harm to indulge the Equestrian princess.

“Okay, where is your friend?” he asked as he stepped outside the trailer

Twilight began to answer when she was bowled aside in a strangely familiar manner by Fluttershy as she rushed to Coulthard

“Oh, it’s you,” said Fluttershy as she hovered around Coulthard and methodically running her hooves over the drivers head and neck.

Coulthard was no dummy and had been subjected to a similar examination four years ago after serious crash, “I take it you’ve seen my little rollover?” he asked the yellow Pegasus.

Fluttershy blushed at being caught out. She was torn between her instinct to check up on a being that she saw go through a horrific incident and her intellect at knowing that the incident in question was four years old and Coulthard would have been checked over by human medical personnel both at the track and later on in a hospital.

“Um, yes” said Fluttershy, “It’s just that it was so scary and there was metal flying everywhere and-”

Coulthard gently wrapped his arms around Fluttershy, cradling and comforting her for a few seconds before he spoke, “Hey, it’s okay. Everything worked the way it was supposed to, I didn’t even have to open the door to get out afterwards.”

Coulthard tactfully omitted that the drivers side door was one of the first parts of his Commodore to fly off in the rollover.

“Just relax and take a deep breath,” said Coulthard as he idly rubbed Fluttershy’s neck, “It was a bad crash, but there were safeguards in place back then to reduce the chances of me getting hurt. I knew and accepted the risks when I started racing”

Coulthard noticed that Fluttershy had gone from a being a bundle of energy that was giving him an medical once over to a soft and vaguely Pegasus shaped mass in his arms that was cooing softly.

“Are you okay?” he asked

“Oh, I’m fine now that I know you’re okay.” replied Fluttershy with a contented sigh,

Not wanting to make the situation more awkward than it already was, Coulthard gently set Fluttershy back onto solid ground. “What’s next for you ponies?” he asked Twilight, eager to shift the conversation from past incidents to more current events.

“Well, we have to rescue Applejack from Triple Eight,” said Twilight, after a moment of thought, she continued, “Or maybe we have to rescue Triple Eight from Applejack, either way, we have to round up our friends before we start on the next item on the schedule.”

Coulthard nodded sagely, the life of a driver was no longer the carefree days of decades past where legends like James Hunt smoked, drank and ‘socialised’ his way to a Formula 1 championship. Nowadays it was fitness training, practice and studying the next circuit with few days per fortnight to truly call their own.

Some drivers didn’t even have that small luxury as they would fly to another country to compete in an altogether different series with a radically different type of vehicle before returning to Australia for the next Supercars round.

“Well, have fun storming the castle,” joked Coulthard as he watched the pair trot off towards the Triple Eight garage.

“Have they left yet?” came the voice of the race engineer from inside the transporter

Slightly weary, Coulthard climbed the stairs back into the makeshift office, “You know, you’re going to have get over your hippophobia one of these days.” he told the engineer

“Horses are dangerous at both ends and crafty in the middle!” was the engineer's reply

Coulthard ignored his engineer’s words, he considered it endearing that someone was still worried about him and his rollover years after it happened and the event itself had become part of Bathurst legend.

Fluttershy was understandably apprehensive about the quick journey to the Triple Eight garage, the average human was almost twice her height and she honestly feared that she would get trampled as the tide of human motion washed over her.

She was pleasantly surprised to find out that humans had a built in sense of their own surroundings and they had a strong idea of where an object was relative to themselves, it was not a perfect sense as Fluttershy noticed that there were a few people bumping into each other while trying to maintain their individual ‘bubble’ of space.

Fluttershy was more relaxed about the crowd by the time she and Twilight had reached the Triple Eight garage where she heard the familiar twang of Applejack’s accent. “Shoot, it ain’t no big deal,” said Applejack, “Ah don’t see what all the hoo-ha is about!”

It was Triple Eight’s race engineer, the Frenchman Ludo Lacroix, who was having a minor fit over what Applejack was doing. The farmpony had innocently passed an errant piece of paper to Lacroix, an act that defied Lacroix’s extensive engineering knowledge and experience.

Like any engineer worth their wage, Lacroix tried to investigate and verify this new discovery by having Applejack pick up and pass to him various objects around the garage while he watched on in fascination.

“The ‘Hoo-ha’, madam, is like the bumble bee,” said Lacroix, his French accent thickening with his excitement, “you should not be able to perform such acts and yet you do.”

“Well of course ah can do it, I wouldn’t be much use on the farm if’in I couldn’t,” said Applejack as she waved her hoof in the air for emphasis, “And I don’t need you to go babbling in fancy about it”

Seeking to defuse the situation before Applejack was carted away to some secret Triple Eight testing facility, Twilight boldly placed herself between the engineer and the farmpony. As diplomatic manoeuvrers go, it was not Twilight’s brightest idea.

Unfortunately for Twilight, by putting herself between Applejack and the curious engineer she had suddenly become the centre of attention. “Your horn, your wings,” began Lacroix as he examined Twilight’s appendages, “how do they work?”

Not used to being on the receiving end of an examination, Twilight picked up the engineer, who suddenly started swearing in his native language, and fixed him with a stern stare before stating, “Magic.”

It took a cough from the team principal, Roland Dane, to draw Twilight’s attention from the magically suspended Lacroix. “Can I have my engineer back, please?” he asked.

There was something about the short and stocky Irishman that ran the Triple Eight outfit, while not the most physically intimidating person in the pits, he carried about him an aura that strongly suggested compliance was the better option.

Not wanting to start a diplomatic incident that had the very real possibility of getting out of control, Twilight released the over eager engineer after making sure that he was outside of arm's reach.

Not knowing exactly what to say to Dane, Twilight gave a modest, yet respectful, bow to the team principal before retreating from the garage with Applejack in tow. “Well, that was interesting,” said Fluttershy in an attempt to break the ice, “Who do we pick up next?”

Fluttershy’s question was quickly answered as the trio made their way up one spot to the factory Ford team’s garage. Like the Triple Eight garage, it was a hive of activity in preparation for the final practice session, yet unlike the situation with Applejack, Rainbow Dash was nowhere to be seen.

The mystery of the missing Pegasus was quickly solved when one of the FPR technicians opened the door and Rainbow Dash’s voice could be clearly heard from inside the cockpit of the previous year's winner, Mark Winterbottom’s, car.

“You ready for me to start this thing?” she asked

After a few seconds of conferment, the technicians gave Rainbow Dash the signal to start the engine. It took a few seconds for Rainbow Dash to go through the startup sequence but when she pushed the starter button, the Ford V8 in the engine bay roared to life.

Twilight had been exposed to engine noise during her induction at Erebus and she noted that the tone of the Ford engine was more ‘throaty’ when compared to the Mercedes with its noticeably higher pitch.

“Lan’ sakes!” exclaimed Applejack over the engine noise, “Does it have to be that loud?”

Twilight turned, eager to explain to Applejack the differences between the race and road models of the various marques that were competing when she saw Fluttershy shivering in dread from the noise.

“Um, is it always that loud?” the Pegasus asked after a few false starts, “I mean, will it sound like that for the whole race?”

Twilight could see the conflict on her friend's face and realised that all the time she had spent in the Erebus garage during her training meant that she had become accustomed to the noise from the garages and the paddock. Sounds that the average Equestrian would never have heard in their lifetime had become entirely familiar to her.

“It is loud,” Twilight admitted, magically amplifying her voice over the engine noise, “but the viewing area is back from the track and has some sound proofing. It shouldn’t be any louder than one of Flim and Flam’s mechanical contraptions.”

The universe is not without its own sense of timing and the FPR technician had signaled Rainbow Dash to turn off the engine just as Twilight had finished her attempt to calm Fluttershy’s frazzled nerves.

“That was awesome!” cried Rainbow Dash as she extracted herself from the driver's seat before she began to babble, “It was like Vroom, and then there was the shaking that I could feel in my everywhere. I want to do it again!”

The look of annoyance on Applejack's face spoke volumes but with all of Rainbow Dash’s bluster, it was Fluttershy timidly trying to hide behind the farmpony that caught her attention. “Oh geez, Fluttershy. Are you okay?” Contrary to the popular image that Rainbow Dash had worked to project, the weather mare cared deeply about her friends feelings and wasted no time rushing to comfort her fellow pegasus.

Most people are used to cartoonish bursts of speed in cartoons, having a protagonist cross a room in the blink of an eye only to stop firmly on their feet was a staple of Warner Brothers cartoons that had been enjoyed for three quarters of a century.

Seeing it happen outside of a cartoon was an experience of its own. From the perspective of the FPR crew, one second Rainbow Dash stepping out of the driving seat and crowing about the thrill of the raw power that she had controlled and the next she was consoling her friend at the opposite end of the garage.

Tim Edwards, the manager of the FPR team, saw Rainbow Dash’s performance and an idea began to form. Every year at the Bathurst 1000 there is a special ‘Speed comparison’ event where the winner of the previous year's event faced off in a handicapped race against a performance version and a standard road going version of the current racing cars.

As the current champion was from the FRP garage, Edwards had planned to have Mark Winterbottom in the supercar with Chaz Mostert in the in the FPV Falcon with Jim Richards to be the third in his classic Falcon from 1964, but with Richards’ car temporarily unavailable while he troubleshot a brake problem on the vintage car, it seemed that he might be able to add some ‘Pony’ power to the demonstration.

Musing about what may come in the next few hours would have to wait for now. Edwards still had two cars to prepare, four drivers to wrangle and his Equestrian guest had trotted off with her friends.

Team Nissan was similar to BJR in that they occupied two separate garages and two separate pit bays that were next door to the Erebus garage. Like many of the teams, Nissan had used a retro livery on one of their cars in honour of the first ever pole position by a Nissan in 1984.

Being a four car team, Nissan chose to segregate their outfit into two separate teams, each with their own major sponsor. For the Kelly brothers, it was Jack Daniels with its traditional black and white livery while the other two were normally a dark yellow colour to reflect their major sponsor, Norton 360.

Being Bathurst, only one car was carrying the yellow vinyls while the other was sporting the previously mentioned brilliant white with the traditional blue and red Nissan striping from three decades past.

Mechanical sounds from inside the garages weren’t unusual as historically teams have worked through the night to prepare, repair and in some cases rebuild cars for Sunday’s race. The sounds of a particular party pony from Ponyville tap dancing and singing about the daughter of someone called ‘Rosie O’Grady’, however, were a first..

“Oh, hi Twilight,” said Pinkie Pie, not breaking her stride,”look, I’m dancing!”

Pinkie Pie was indeed doing a very complicated four hoof shuffle in what was the ‘lounge’ area that had been set up in the back of the Jack Daniel's section of the garage. With the two halves of team Nissan in such close proximity, they were able to pool their resources and keep some of their equipment on the transporter, this allowed the freeing up of enough space to install a few Bean Bags and a locally rented couch.

Twilight could see the immaculately styled hair of Rick Kelly as he pointed what she presumed was a small camera at Pinkie while she danced all the while, the team owner was grinning like he had heard the best joke in the world.

Pinkie could clearly read the expression on her friend's face telling her that there were other fun things to do and that her time with Team Nissan must be tragically cut short. Turning to address the younger Kelly, Pinkie said “Welp, it looks like I’m going now but I’ll bring the party back soon!”

Unsurprisingly, Team Nissan swarmed around Pinkie, giving her farewell hugs and ear scratches as Twilight ushered her friend next door to the Erebus Garage for the last pickup.

Watching the pink pony merrily bounce away, the Kelly brothers shared a look that only brothers could share. “No,” said Todd to his younger brother, “We’re not going to give her a triple espresso.”

An initial impression of the team principal behind Erebus Motorsport was that Betty Klimenko would be a hard drinking, hard smoking, no-nonsense character who had no time for the fineries of tact or etiquette.

The truth was only slightly more complicated as Klimenko did indeed prefer having a cigarette and a beer with the fans over the corporate warfare of the Westfield boardroom where she had to hold her tongue and speak in a more diplomatic manner. What Klimenko also enjoyed was the smaller, prettier things in life.

One of the pretty things was her habit of decorating the headset that she used to listen in and communicate with the drivers and crew. The most common accessory that she added was a sparkly and brightly coloured bow.

With the assistance and direction of Rarity, Klimenko managed to craft a set of pony style ears for her headset. “Betty, darling.” said Rarity as Klimenko tested out her new accessory, “They’re simply exquisite.”

“Just in time, too.” replied Klimenko, “The warm-up for the Dunlop series is due to start in a few minutes.”

“Oh, that sounds exciting, but tell me, Betty, what is the ‘Dunlop Series’?”

“The best explanation is that it is the feeder series for the V8 Supercars. Last year’s winner was Dale Wood.”

The casual revelation that one of the leading contenders for the coveted pole position had only been a part-time driver the year before made Rarity think about how many other drivers in the field are graduates of the development series and how many took a different pathway to the V8 Supercars.

Rarity's musings were cut short as her friends had passed from Team Nissan to Erebus signaling the next stage of the groups morning jaunt. “Terribly sorry, Betty.” said Rarity, “But it appears that my friends are here and I’m needed elsewhere.”

With a polite nod to Klimenko, Rarity followed her fellow Equestrians out the back of the garages where the hustle and bustle of circuit life was continuing on. Even though Rarity knew little about the world of motorsport, she could see the parallels between the preparation for the upcoming warm-up and the backstage of any number of fashion shows that she’d been a part of.

“So, Twilight,” began Rarity, “Do tell, what’s next on your little agenda?”

“A ‘meet and greet’, with the cars from the Dunlop series putting some rubber on the circuit and the next practice being an open session, we’re here to mingle with the crowd, just like at McPhillamy Park.”

Fluttershy was a tad unsure about Twilight’s optimism, her experiences at the top of the mountain were more than a little unsettling. Seeing her friend do the ‘Fluttershy Shuffle’, Twilight was quick to add, “Most of the people in the paddock are families and corporate sponsors, a quick hoofshake and a photo and they’ll move on. The attention will be on the circuit, not on us.”

As with all well laid plans, it was the unexpected that made all that planning moot. In this case it was Neil Crompton, breathless from his short sprint from the media centre where he would be doing the commentary for the upcoming sessions, corralling the ponies for a quick discussion.

“Princess, glad I caught you,” said Crompton, “As you know, between the end of practice six and the start of the Medic one Enduro for the Dunlop Series, there is a bit over an hours gap that we have to fill in the telecast.”

Twilight nodded, unsure of where the conversation was going. Taking Twilight’s uncertainty as his queue, Crompton continued. “Normally during the lunch intermission, there is the speed comparison demonstration, but one of the cars won’t be able to take part in the demonstration.”

Hearing this, Rainbow Dash felt her wings quiver with anticipation, certain that she’ll be asked to fill in for the absent car. “So instead of the speed comparison, the teams have agreed to a ‘Pit Stop Challenge’”

Disappointed, Rainbow Dash’s wings drooped, only to perk up once again as Twilight asked a very important question.

“That sounds interesting, Mr. Crompton,” said Twilight, “but, um, what is this ‘Pit Stop Challenge’?”

Crompton was enjoying his chance to explain something to the Equestrian Princess, a task that was commonly undertaken by the pit reporter, Mark Larkham. “One driver from each manufacturer drives from the control line to their pit bay, their crew swaps out all four tires and the car is released.” He explained “They then drive down pit lane, past the control line and out the pit exit. Each car is timed from control line to control line.”

Twilight nodded, pleased that she understood the technical terms that would have eluded her less than a week ago. There was, however, a question. “Mr. Crompton, am I correct in assuming that you’ll want to film myself and my friends cheering for various marquees?” Asked Twilight.

“Well, your friends would be cheering for their chosen manufacturers,” said Crompton as he indicated to the various symbols attached to the girls lanyards, “But as an Erebus crew member, wouldn’t you be competing?”

Realisation dawned on Twilight as she mentally put together a plan that would show Ponies as a whole off to a wider audience. “Instead of cheering, wouldn’t having my friends acting as car controller make better viewing?”

Crompton made a face, while he agreed that it would make good coverage for Channel 7 and give the station some interesting filler for the archives, there were other concerns. “I’ll raise that idea with the teams,” he said, diplomatically, “they have the final say and there might be some difficulties in making that happen.”

Crompton thought it wiser not to mention that it takes a certain type of person to act as a marker for one and a half tons of precision race machinery as well as the trust that was between the car controller and the driver.

With the unexpected meeting with Crompton, the time that was allocated to milling around the paddock was cut too short to be of any practical use. Taking the initiative, Twilight lead her friends back up to the VIP area for the short wait before the cars of the Dunlop series began their short warm up session.

Being a ‘feeder’ series to the V8 Supercars, it wasn’t uncommon for teams to be the workshop for an up and coming driver. In the past, teams sold their older chassis, engines and transmissions to drivers who were looking to make their mark as race drivers.

More recently with the Car of the Future plans, some of that engineering was steadily making its way down from the main teams making the transition from the Dunlop series to the V8 Supercars easier. It also meant that events like Bathurst allowed some of the co-drivers a chance to put in extra laps by driving in both their support category and the main race.

The session itself was only 15 minutes, just enough time test out a new aerodynamic setting and make sure that any new components such as new brakes or suspension systems are properly bedded in before the race that afternoon.

Due to the local laws and customs, Australians don’t traditionally drink alcoholic drinks before 10 o’clock. This meant that in the VIP area that Twilight and her friends occupied there were several businessmen and women who were ready to have their first beer of the day before getting down to the business of making deals.

As the girls found a nice spot that offered them both a view of the Pit Straight and one of the many television screens that showed the telecast of the circuit, the teams from the Dunlop series made their final preparations before Pit Lane was opened and the session commenced.

With the background chatter and the servers passing around plates of hors d'oeuvres, the opening of Pit Lane and the start of the session was almost missed, almost if not for Pinkie Pie’s habit of constantly looking around.

“Oh, oh! It’s starting!” Pinkie cried out, “Look at them go!”

On the televisions around the room, Twilight watched the cars go through their routine of warming up the tires and brakes so that they could make an accurate test of the car's setup and systems before the short warm up session finished.

“This will be interesting for a lot of the drivers.” said Twilight

“Whatever do you mean, darling?”

“It’s the longest race on the calendar for this series and it has a compulsory pit stop included. Betty was telling me that each Dunlop car has been paired with a Supercars team that will look after the refuelling and car control but the Dunlop team has to provide their own tire changers. Which means I get to sit on my rump up here while everypony at Erebus has to work.”

“So ya get to watch the race instead of being part of it, right sugarcube?”

“Something like that.”

While the girls were talking, the field had made it’s way across and down the mountain and on cue, several cars peeled off down the entrance to Pit Lane to perform a practice pit stop. Unlike the stops that Twilight had practised, the requirements were different for the Dunlop Series.

For safety reasons, the car had to be fuelled first and the regulations specified that 80 litres of the E85 blend had to be taken in over the course of the race. As each car had a 120 litre fuel cell, this would not present much of a problem, it was the delicate balancing act of managing the tire wear and fuel consumption over the 41 lap race, that would prove to be the challenge.

Unlike the drills that Twilight had practised, there were only two people changing tires, one person did the front two and the other took care of the rear tires. The setup was closer to the way that GT racing did their pit stops instead of the V8 Supercars method of doing both the fuel and tires at the same time.

The short nature of the session meant that drivers and teams were more interested in performing final checks before the afternoon's race rather than putting in any fast laps. After a handful of laps the field was called into the pits and the session ended.

In the intermission between sessions, the course car did it’s inspection of the circuit, ensuring that there was no debris or oil left on the track and that the volunteer marshals were ready for the next session.

Driving at the normal speed for an Australian suburban road, it would take a little over six minutes to perform a lap of the circuit, with the professional driver behind the wheel the course marshal was able to inspect areas where cars had lost control during the practice sessions since Thursday and still manage to make it back into Pit Lane before the short intermission was over.

With the Course Car doing it’s inspection, the televisions around the VIP area switched from the ‘Canned’ transmission that was for inside the circuit and the paddock area to the ‘Live’ transmission from Channel 7 with the same six minute long introduction that had prefaced every telecast of the 2014 Bathurst 1000 and it’s supporting categories as well as a brief recap of the Friday’s qualifying session before cutting to a commercial break.

Taking the opportunity presented by the commercial break, Twilight led her friends out onto the balcony that was directly over Pit Lane itself where the field was assembling in preparation for the final practice session before Sunday’s main event.

“That’s where I’ll be tomorrow,” said Twilight as she pointed to the Erebus pit bay

“How will we know which one is you?” asked Pinkie Pie. Twilight had to do a double take at Pinkie’s question but quickly realised that she was being serious

“My helmet has a gold circle on the top.”

“What’s meant to go there?” asked Rainbow Dash, pointing to an empty spot in the lineup of cars

Twilight looked at the empty spot and at the cars on either side of the vacated position. Like at all V8 Supercars events, pit positions were predetermined based on several factors, the number one team was Triple 8 who occupied the prime spot at the end of Pit Lane while Erebus commanded the first pit bay at the entrance past the control line.

When she had first arrived she, like all crew members, was issued a directory that laid out not only where each team had their garage and pit bay, but other useful tidbits of information like how much space behind the garages they could use for promotional displays and the like. To the average crew member, it was a dull piece of legal necessity, for Twilight, it was as valuable as any textbook in the library.

“That would be David Reynolds,” Twilight said with a groan. She had unfortunately crossed paths with the driver of the green Bottle-o sponsored Ford on Friday night and quickly found out that while he was a competitive driver, he seemed to lack the part of his brain that prevented thoughts from becoming speech.

“He crashed during qualifying and his team have been working to fix his car for this session so they can make any adjustments needed before tomorrow’s race.”

On cue, the absent car rolled out into assigned position just as the race control announced that Pit Lane was now open and the final practice session had begun.

Saturday October 11, 2014 Part IV

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Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh my.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Orange Earth Pony with the hat,” clarified Twilight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pleasure to meet y’all!”

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

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

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

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

“Continuing on. Next is Fluttershy,”

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

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

“Why, thank you, kind sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, she’s just being Pinkie Pie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, is that good?” asked Fluttershy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday October 11, 2014 Part V

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Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part V

With the segment completed and the station going to its scheduled news break, the next item on the agenda was lunch. Being quite the lady, Rarity turned to Larkham. “Would you care to join us, Mr. Larkham?”

Throughout his career as both a driver and a television personality, Larkham had learned to recognise opportunities big and small and few opportunities came bigger than being invited to a meal with ‘foreign’ dignitaries, this was an opportunity not to be missed. If nothing else, he’d have a story to tell the grandkids..

The relatively central location of the Tech Centre meant that it was a short walk from there to the catering marquee that served as the main eating establishment for the Queensland based teams of Triple 8, Dick Johnson Racing and Erebus.

With the upcoming race for the Dunlop Series due to start in less than half an hour’s time, lunch would be a rushed affair. Fortunately the marquee was virtually empty with the crews preparing for their part in the race and the drivers fulfilling their sponsorship obligations. At Bathurst, most drivers barely had time for a sandwich between an autograph session and the standard ‘Meet and Greet’.

Occupying a table at the back, the ponies were offered large servings of fresh garden salad while Larkham choose a simple pre-made sandwich from the menu. “Mr Larkham,” began Rarity, “I understand that you’ve had some experience on this particular circuit, could you give us a quick rundown?”

Larkham nodded. Traditionally, when a television performer is off air, they tend to revert back to their ‘regular’ personality. The more happy and over the top hyperactive they seem on air, the more jarring it can be to an observer to see them act at a more normal level.

Throughout Larkham’s career as a driver, owner and as an engineer, one of the small things that gave him a sense of satisfaction was explaining and demonstrating racing concepts to those new to motorsport.

Taking a few quick bites of his lunch before reaching into a pocket of his own Channel 7 firesuit, he withdrew a marker similar to the ones that he used during his segment. Absentmindedly, he drew a line on the bare table top, one long continuous line that Twilight recognised as a rough drawing of the Mount Panorama circuit.

The change in demeanor from the relaxed fellow diner to professor teaching a Master class was subtle but still noticeable to the assembled group. Twilight and, surprisingly, Applejack fell into old habits and sat up straighter with their ears forward.

“You never forget it, you never forget it because there is nothing like it.” said Larkham as he labeled turn one with its proper name of Hell Corner, “This is Mount Panorama, this is Bathurst. If you can’t make the judgement call, 120 meters into a 1000 kilometers to just be a little bit sensible, don’t start the race.”

The ponies leaned in closer, while the ‘Happy go Lucky’ personality that Larkham usually deployed was being downplayed, the serious manner in which he spoke was enthralling and made everypony pay attention.

“It’s a great corner, second gear, the engine is right in it’s sweet spot, but remember, while you have to carry mid corner speed and use that exit kerb, you want to get to 100% throttle early. So don’t get too greedy, Don’t get caught up in the moment, the moment is six hours later.”

Larkham quickly drew Pit Lane from its entrance before Murray's corner with the chicane to the exit just past Hell Corner, pointing to it, he continued, “If I could offer one bit of free advice to every driver out there, it would be, every single time you exit the Pit Lane, grab your belts and tighten them. Every other lap you think of it, you tighten them again. And after a pit stop, whether they’ve changed the brake pads or not, tattoo it under your eyelids - Pump the brake pedal, because if they put the pads in and you forget, you’re a goner.”.

Using his marker as an improvised pointer, Larkham indicated to the circuits second corner. “Griffins Bend, it’s one of the toughest on the circuit. If you don’t get this one right, Psychologically, you’re gone for the rest of the lap. It’s about 260 on the way in and you have to knock off 130 Kilometers per hour, but you’ve got to do that on the bumps on the way in.”

The marker flew as notations and arrows were quickly added to the map. Larkham was beginning to slip from ‘Professor’ mode to ‘Race Boss’ mode as he began to get more animated.

“Let me give you a tip, when you’re challenging for Griffins Bend, either make the commitment or get the hell out of it.”

Pointing to the next major corner, he continued, “The Cutting, I can’t tell you anything simpler than this. There is one racing line up there, make sure you’re on the tram tracks, there is no room to put your front right tire even a foot outside of where it needs to be.”

More notations were made to the map as Larkham continued his narration. The one sided lecture was just about to exit the first of the timing sectors that was used by the commentary team and the viewers alike to compare individual lap times.

The first sector went from the start line on Pit Straight all the way to Reid Park. Sector two was across the top of the mountain from Reid Park to Forrest’s Elbow with sector three taking in the remainder of the circuit including Conrod Straight and the insanely fast entrance to The Chase.

“When we come up to Reid Park, you need to hug the wall. Put the car right over there hard on the wall but be careful, don’t over use the curb on the inside, it’ll feed you into the wall. This is a great part of the circuit where we go from going up the hill and we transform to going down the hill.”

Larkham took a quick mouthful of drink before he continued, narration was thirsty work and he was only a third of the way through the circuit. “So we’re out of Reid Park and now we’re going to head down to that damn grate.” The venom at which Larkham practically spat out the name of that particular landmark spoke to how it had vexed him over the course of his career.

“It’s a horrible, dirty drain that’s up against a wall on the right hand side of the circuit. Now the problem here is you’ve got to commit really, really early and you don’t know because there is nowhere in Australia where your front tire and your car get more downward load then at The Grate, you don’t know way back then if your power steering is going to suffer it or give up and feed you into the fence.”

Changing to a slightly softer tone, Larkham indicated to a point on the map that made Rainbow Dash groan, Skyline where the morning’s humiliation had started. It still chafed her ego to be beaten so comprehensively by Twilight, her only comfort was knowing that in the event of a rematch, she would be victorious.

“We’ve gotten past The Grate, through Sulman to McPhillamy Park.” Larkham was gesturing wildly as he did his best to explain just how the drivers had to rely less on what they could see of the circuit, but on what they could feel through the car. “This is Mount Panorama, this is where you need to be thinking corners ahead of where you are, you can’t see the road way up ahead, but you’re going to average from The Cutting to Skyline, around 200 Kilometers an hour. This ain’t kids play.”

“So you’ve got through the top of the mountain, you've done the tough driver stuff. Now, throw that bit away, you’ve got to be a ballerina.” This got Rainbow Dash’s attention, on her only trip on the downhill side of the circuit, she ended up putting a few hoof prints on the concrete barriers as she struggled to keep control.

Larkham continued, “You’re going to need to dance all the way through the esses until you arrive at The Dipper and when you get to The Dipper, yeah sure it looks really cool with two wheels hanging up in the air.”

Rainbow Dash had to agree, when she tackled The Dipper, she found that due to the way the surface twists and drops, her left side ended up higher than her right. An event that cost her speed, stability and time while Twilight cruised ahead in their little competition.

“You can’t get the throttle on with two wheels in the air! Get the thing back on the deck and the moment your rear tire hits the ground is the same moment your foot hits the firewall. Weave through the concrete walls, but don’t get too clever and try to get an inch away from them. There’s nothing to be gained by doing that.”

When Larkham started his talk, he was like a professor going over a classroom syllabus before getting more excited and slipping into ‘Race Boss’ mode as if he was lecturing a group of young hopefuls who were trying to land a full time driving position.

Now Larkham had calmed down and was back to ‘Professor’ mode as he laid out a series of simple facts.

“Forrest’s Elbow.” he said pointing to the corner that connected to the long Conrod Straight, “This is the second time and the only other time in the lap that you’re not going to feel your front tires. You’re going to come over the little crest there and downhill and at a ton and a half, she won’t want to pull up.”

For Rainbow Dash, it was another embarrassing memory from that morning. When she clipped the inside wall at the corners ‘False Apex’ she had to scramble to recover before she could leave a lasting impression on both the outside wall at the exit to Forrest’s Elbow and the small crowd of racing fans who were setting up one of the prime viewing spots on the circuit.

“So this is where you need to be really measured, slow it up, ‘cause your big drama here is understeer. The car does not want to turn there. For goodness sake, be aware on what’s going on around ya. If there is one gap you can leave open for your competitors, it’s right there.”

Larkham made some notes regarding the section of the diagram that dealt with Conrod Straight. At the beginning of the straight, it was simple, ‘Commit’

“Think about this, you need to either position yourself outright, commit yourself to Conrod Straight and your top speed. Or, you’re going to need to defend, ‘cause that is one of the great spots for attack. And if you’re going to defend, there’s nothing surer, you’re going to compromise your top end speed.

“So if you’re going to defend, you defend. You block him, you pull him up so you get your foot to the gas first. There is nowhere else that you can go where a ton and a half of race car at 300 Kilometers per hour actually feels like a ton and a half of race car at 300 Kilometers per hour, and you’re approaching the fastest corner in Australian motorsport.”

In big bold numbers, Larkham wrote ‘300’ before putting a circle on the figure. Fluttershy suppressed a shudder, viewing the incident with Coulthard was still fresh in her memory.

“The Chase, you want a tough bit of roadway, that’s it. You want to talk about commitment, this is it.” Larkham used his improvised pointer to indicate a point just before the actual entrance to The Chase, “You come down here and you’ll see that there is a meter of tarmac that’s been laid down on the left hand side of the entrance for the driver to use every single millimeter of it.”

Facing his audience, Larkham pointed his marker at each one of them. The look in his eyes was eerily similar to that of a stern father chastising a group of unrulely youngsters.

“If for one lap, you do not go out there and use that, you’re going to compromise your lap time and compromise your result, so you need to use that every lap. And why do you need to do that? You need to get the car around there at 300 Kilometers per hour.

“You do not lift your right foot off the throttle until the car is squared up, and when it is, and only then, you put your foot on the brake and you push it so damn hard that you want to bend the brake pedal!

“Last corner. You’ve got six kilometers of the six point two one three kilometer circuit done. Do not get it wrong here, finish the job right.”

Twilight stole a glance at her friends. Pinkie was listening with such intensity, she managed to fall off her chair at the conclusion of Larkham’s lecture before hastily returning to her seat. If the stories about wing position in pegasi were anything to go by, both Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy were in the grey area between ‘Shock’ and ‘Awe’.

Applejack had been so moved by the sheer amount of passion that Larkham emitted that she had taken off her hat and Twilight had found herself with a bad case of cottonmouth from all the heavy breathing that she had gone through over the last ten minutes.

Always the one to be a tad over dramatic, Rarity had taken to fanning herself. “I must say, Mr. Larkham, that was quite the,” Rarity paused, partially for dramatic effect, partly to come up with the right word. “Rundown. Such forcefulness, such passion. Your wife must be quite the lucky mare.”

Larkham wasn’t too sure about how his beloved wife and mother of his children would feel being called ‘a mare’, but he could at least appreciate the sentiment. Taking the moment to polish off the remainder of his lunch, he prepared to himself for an the epic retelling of how his car stopped on Pit Straight with a faulty fuel pump.

Epic retellings and grand adventures were put on hold as Larkham’s fellow pit reporter, Riana Crehan had wandered into the marquee in search of her wayward boss. The live nature of the Bathurst telecast meant that there was always more happening in the background of the telecast and that time was a precious commodity. Having one of the big names from the commentary team disappear for 15 minutes had the potential to cause a major disruption.

“Larko,” said Crehan, “Sorry to put an end to your ‘High Tea’ with the Princess but we need to get finalised for the Dunlop race.”

Larkham nodded. Always the professional, he made an effort to wipe the diagram of the Mount Panorama circuit from the surface of the table only to realise that instead of standard whiteboard markers, he had accidentally used permanent ink.

The catering crew quickly waved off any attempt at an apology before shooing the entire group out of the marque. “What the ho-ha just happened?” asked a stunned Applejack as she looked to her friend for an answer.

“Off hoof, I’d say that lunch is over.” replied Rarity, “And not a moment too soon, if Twilight’s schedule is to be believed.”

Rarity was right, it would take a few minutes for the group to be herded back up to the VIP room above the garages and get settled for the next event and the rest of the afternoon's entertainment.

Before she could join her friends, there was a rather important task that Twilight had to finish, “Rarity, if you could?” she asked with a vague wave of her hoof towards the staircase that led up to the more exclusive areas of the pit complex while indicating the firesuit that she still wore.

“Of course, Twilight, We’ll see you upstairs.”

While the VIP area was almost directly above the garage assigned to Erebus, it was still some distance from the marquee where the group had finished their lunch yet only a short distance to where Twilight’s temporary accommodations were located.

With a quick burst of magic, Twilight was safely inside the motorhome and methodically began stripping off the protective garments before giving them a magical clean and freshen up before teleporting back out to the pre-designated ‘Unicorn Transportation Area’.

Twilight’s arrival went unnoticed by all and sundry. It was one of those strange characteristics of the Australian way of life that could be summed up as ‘If it’s not urgent or life threatening, don’t worry about it’. Although, Twilight did notice that one of the signs attached to the teleportation area had been changed.

“Why do the vampires in me?” she read, growing more confused with each mental rereading, “That makes no sense, I wonder who wrote that.”

A quick trot up the stairs and Twilight was reunited with her friends. Rarity and Fluttershy had taken up some prime couch real estate that had views of both the array of televisions and Pit Straight. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were at the bar with it’s television, deep in discussion over the merits of beer.

A brief flash of pink indicated that Pinkie was on the balcony overlooking Pit Lane and was no doubt making friends throughout the corporate suites. This left Twilight feeling a little out of the mix.

“Beer, ma'am?” asked the steward Daniel as he presented her with a still sealed bottle in its cooler. Like all good stewards, Daniel had learnt the art of anticipating the needs of the guests while still remaining outside of their awareness.

Accepting the beverage, Twilight watched as Daniel seemingly waved his hand over the top of the bottle before removing the cap at the top. Twilight nodded at the way Daniel had skillfully used the bottle opener without being too overt.

Idly,Twilight wondered what a certain traveling magician would think of such sleight of hand, magical dexterity was one thing, manual dexterity was a whole different bale of hay.

“Oh, come on!” Rolling her eyes as she took a rather large drink, Twilight looked to the bar where she could see Rainbow Dash covering her head while Applejack was giggling like a school filly.

Channel 7 had been running some ‘filler’ broadcasts on the closed network before the switch to ‘live’ transmission for the upcoming Dunlop race and one smart cameraman who had his camera pointed in the right direction managed to record Rainbow Dash skimming across the sandtrap at the entrance to The Chase, getting turned around and clearing the circuit in front of a startled Twilight.

All Twilight remembered from that particular incident that morning was Rainbow Dash’s shocked face as she was catapulted over the track. It was an image that Twilight would remember for many years to come.

“Ah,shoot, Rainbow,” said Applejack once she had her giggles under control, “It ain't too bad, maybe ya can start a new trend.”

Rainbow Dash took another, albeit smaller, drink and turned her attention to the television. She had heard the field leave Pit Lane to start their parade lap and while the commentary team gave a rundown on who qualified where for the race, Rainbow Dash took the time to have a better look at the cars on the close up shots.

Unlike the Car of the Future model that the current teams were running with its various standardised components, the Dunlop series were running the mechanical equivalent of a big brothers hoofball gear.

Besides the slight variations in body shapes from the older models of Commodores and Falcons, the older chassis were not standardised. This meant that as long as they remained inside certain dimension and weight tolerances, each team was free to design and manufacture the chassis that they felt was the best fit for their engine.

Because of the sheer number of variations, each chassis was required to have a ‘Larry Bar’ installed. The Larry Bar, named after its designer and driving force to have the device installed on every car, Larry Perkins, was a safety device that created a safe area around the driver in the event of a roll over.

The bar was welded onto the chassis from the bottom left of the windscreen to the top right in front of the driver and as a safety feature, it made headlines in 2005 when a loose wheel at that years Bathurst 1000 impacted the windscreen of Craig Lowndes Falcon.

The laminate in the glass prevented the shrapnel from entering Lowndes’s cabin, the force of the impact caved in a section of the roof and forced Lowndes to pit a lap later for repairs. It was the installation of the Larry Bar that is credited with protecting him from injury.

With the parade lap completed and the grid forming, Twilight decided that this was an experience that she should see for herself and not through the filtered lens of a TV camera. Magically passing her unfinished beer to a helpful steward, Twilight quickly exited the VIP room and into the bright Australian sunshine.

The overwhelming majority of fans only get to experience motorsport from the comfort of their living rooms in front of a large TV. For the chosen few who managed to gain admission to any of the various events around Australia and the world, they felt sorry for those who had to stay at home.

A human’s primary sense is sight and the average person is bombarded with an array of visual information from the moment they crawl out of bed to when they return to the darkness of sleep at the end of the day.

The average Equestrian pony gets most of their information from what they see, even though they utilise their sense of smell and hearing to a higher degree than the average person and Twilight was getting a wealth of information from her nose. Her exposure in Pit Lane meant that she could mentally catalog the different scents of fuels, oils and other assorted liquids that were in use throughout the many garages.

What got her attention was the unique scent of 27 race cars in formation waiting for the marshals to declare the field ready and the lights to turn green. It was a blend of exhaust heavy with unburnt fuel, the warm rubber of the tires, the hot metal of rapidly warmed brakes and rotors in 27 variations of power.

“Whoa,” she said as the realisation struck her. The race she saw while sipping Australian Champagne in a tent at Sandown the previous month was nowhere near this level of closeness.

So caught up in her memories, Twilight nearly missed the marshal at the rear of the grid wave her green flag as the noise of the engines went from idle to a throaty roar as the drivers prepared for the start.

With a change of the lights from red to green, the grid was released with a mighty roar. It wasn’t a clean release as one car stalled in place, forcing a small portion of the grid to go around as the driver managed to restart before he too was under way.

Having experienced the rush of her first ‘Live’ motorsport start and with the field now past Hell Corner, Twilight retired back to the comfort and the air conditioning of the VIP lounge.

As the pack made its way around Hell Corner and up Mountain straight, the telecast showed that several of the drivers could have used Larkhams advice from lunch as the mid field jostled three wide for position into Griffins Bend.

Once past the second corner, the narrowness of the road meant that the cars formed a single file on the racing line but would still continue to push the car ahead to force a mistake. It was its own conundrum, many drivers in the field had a codrivers position for Sunday’s main event and were trying to leverage that into a full time position, driving too recklessly could be interpreted by the team bosses as a driver that will cost too much to be beneficial to the team.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were drivers that were vying for a full time drive but barely had the resources to keep their current team afloat. Those drivers attempted to get the team bosses attention through driving consistency and by not damaging their rides.

As it stood, the field had begun to spread itself out as the cars made their way down Conrod Straight with two New Zealand drivers fighting for position all the way down to Murry’s Corner and down Pit Straight.

The serious nature of the ‘Red Line Fever’ that plagued drivers of any category in motorsport was lessened somewhat by both drivers scheduled to start as driver and codriver in the wildcard ‘Superblack’ entry, an all New Zealand team that was making its debut tomorrow.

With the first lap of the scheduled 41 down, the front runners of the field were beginning to settle into a rhythm. Unlike the other Dunlop Series events, this one required at least an 80 liter transfer of fuel and the changing of all four tires.

With each Dunlop Series car being paired up with a Supercars team, it meant that there was a division of labor between the two organisations. For safety, car control and refueling were to be performed by the Supercars team while the Dunlop team worked on the tires. One person for the front pair and another for the rear pair, but the car could only be refuelled after the fresh tires had been put on.

The stops had more in common with the world of GT racing than Supercars and even before a lap of the Mount Panorama circuit had been completed, a driver by the name of Dan Day, a Dunlop Series debutante, had managed to have one of his tires deflate on him and had limped back to Pit Lane.

Having a two stage pit stop also meant that instead of being able to have a relatively short stop and be out in under a minute, a stop would extend to almost two minutes or more if there was a mechanical issue to deal with.

This would effectively put a driver half a lap down on the rest of the field at a minimum but at the same time it opened up a number of possible pit stop strategies for the teams to consider.

Relaxing in air conditioned comfort and enjoying the refreshing taste from one of the event sponsors signature product, Rainbow Dash was looking at the television screen with a confused expression.

“Is this all they’re going to do?” she asked, “Just go around in circles?”

Twilight understood her friends confusion, while her initial exposure to the world of motorsport was on the technical side before seeing a proper race. To the uninformed and unaware, it looked about as interesting as watching paint dry.

That was until the team in the control centre showed a replay of the incident that caused Day to limp into the pits on the opening lap. The young driver was a little too aggressive in his braking and ended up trading paint with another driver and causing some damage to his own car.

“How’s that for ‘goin’ around in circles’?” said Applejack as her friend did her best not to choke on her drink, “What’s that voice sayin?”

“That’s race control calling for the Safety Car,” said Twilight, “But it can’t be for that incident.”

It took only a few seconds for the replay to show one driver get caught out of position at the exit of Reid Park and hit the concrete wall with the rear quarter of his car and the force of the impact twist his car so that it impacted the side of the car as well.

The skill of the driver was all that prevented it from becoming a multi car incident. “My word!” exclaimed rarity from her comfortable seat, “What is that thing?”

“That would be the fuel cell,” said Twilight before the camera switched to a close up shot of the damage, “And it’s leaking.”

“Oh dear, that doesn’t seem safe.” said Fluttershy. In all the excitement, Twilight hadn’t noticed that the pegasus was reclining next to Rarity. What was strange was just how much attention Fluttershy was paying to the race itself.

“As I understand it, during the blueprinting stage for the Car of the Future, a lot of safety issues were looked at and addressed” said Twilight as she slipped into ‘Lecture Mode’, “One of the issues was moving the fuel cell from its previous position behind the rear axle where it could be ruptured to in front of the axle where it is protected from rear impact by the axle itself.”

“Well, why was the fuel cell placed in such a dumb position in the first place?”

Twilight had to do a quick double take, it wasn’t unheard of for Rainbow Dash to have a sensible and on point question, but it was rare enough to catch most ponies off guard. “Back in the days of the old Touring Car specifications, they were using the same chassis as the road going cars. On that design, the fuel tank is in the back, behind the rear axle. Until recently, it had never been an issue.”

“Sugarcube, what do you mean ‘Until recently’?”

Even though Twilight had no involvement with V8 Supercars in any form until early this year, her own research had uncovered video of two separate incidents in 2011, and while she knew that the drivers involved were alive and well, the pure violence of one incident in particular had caused Twilight to rewrite Equestrian fire safety standards and procedures in a mad attempt to prevent history from revisiting innocent Ponies.

“A few years ago there were two incidents that made V8 Supercars consider a redesign of the cars and the series from the ground up. The end result is the Car of the Future design that is running today.

“They moved the fuel cell forward and redesigned with new materials to better withstand impact and prevent a spill. Electrical systems were redesigned and standardised inside the chassis and the chassis itself became a controlled component.”

As the field could be heard going down Pit Straight under the control of the Safety car. The throaty rumble of engines passing by broke the uncomfortable silence that had put a temporary dampener on the afternoon’s festivities.

“Well, uh, I’ll just go and make sure that Pinkie is keeping out of trouble.” said Twilight as she made a hasty exit back out onto the balcony.

Pinkie being Pinkie managed to find what she considered the best party in the whole pit annex. Whereas a fashionista with Canterlot friends like Rarity would have been at home, or at the very least, comfortable, in the Monet room with its sweet Australian Champagne and light conversation about everything bar motorsport.

Pinkie was relaxing with Chris Wilesmith from Supercheap Auto, the event’s major sponsor, and a trio of winners of the ‘Bathurst Day’ promotion. Unlike the stuffy scene at more formal gatherings, the atmosphere inside this corporate suite was far more relaxed.

It was a simple fact that a person does not become the managing director of a large international company like Supercheap without being able to adapt when the unexpected bounces through the door.

Wilesmith had made the educated guess that the premier party pony form Ponyville would turn up inside the various corporate suites over the afternoon and again tomorrow if nobody objected. As a good host, he wanted to make sure that there would be some Pony friendly food available.

The humble ‘Chiko Roll’ had its own particular history at Bathurst, being that they were made locally in the town for the Australian market. For about the last 50 years, the Chiko Roll had been a staple produce in every Milk Bar, Take Away, and Fish and Chip shop in Australia.

In a typical Australian twist, three sitting members of Parliament have tried to claim the Chiko Roll as having originated in their electorate. The debate ranges from Bendigo, where the inventor was working as a boilermaker when he got the idea, Wagga Wagga where they made their first appearance at the local show and Bathurst where they were being manufactured.

It was a deep fried, savoury and, most importantly, a meatless snack that should not offend the Pony stomach. The primary ingredient in the Chiko Roll was cabbage, making it nothing more sinister than an oversized Spring Roll.

“Crunchy, spicy,” said Pinkie as she bit into her first roll before discretely exhaling through the corner of her mouth, “A little hot, though. I can use these in my parties.”

Pinkie, ever in the search for more additions to her party repertoire, asked about the pies that everybody else was eating. “Well, they are meat pies,” said Wilesmith, “Beef to be accurate.”

Not one to be put off from trying a new type of food, Pinkie deployed her most powerful weapon, the dreaded ‘Puppy Dog Eyes of Doom!’. “You sure I can’t have a little bit of one?” she asked.

Wilesmith was not a man made from stone and as such, he was powerless before the force of Pinkie’s formidable weaponry. Taking a plastic knife and cutting one of the square pies into quarters, he allowed the pieces to rest while the steam escaped.

“Are you sure about this?” Wilesmith asked, “This is meat taken from a cow after it was alive.”

“I know that, silly. How can I be a proper party pony and prepare parties for everybody everywhere if I don’t know what I’m serving them?”

Wilesmith had to admit that Pinkie did have a point and he had explained the origin of the main ingredient so as far as he was concerned, his hands were clean.

With a surprisingly nimble tongue, Pinkie snagged one of the offered quarters and slowly chewed. To the average lay-pony, Pinkie was just your average mare who liked to put on parties. To her friends, she was a conouisior of all foods, regardless if they were sweet, savoury or spicy.

“Hm, slightly salty but overall very bland,” was Pinkie’s initial assessment after a brief chew and swallow, “The pastry is commercial and kind of heavy and there wasn’t as much meat as I was expecting.”

Wilesmith looked at the remaining sections of pie on the plate. While it was true that Supercheap paid for bulk catering pies over the more expensive store bought variety he didn’t think that there was anything wrong with them.

“Pinkie, there you are!” said Twilight from the doorway, “The girls were wondering where you’d wandered off to.”

“Don’t be silly, Twilight. I’ve been here the whole time. Would you like some pie?

Twilight looked at the three remaining pieces on the plate, “No thanks, I had enough meat when Shining Armor joined the guard.”

It was a little known fact that as part of their training, Royal guards were trained to be able to eat meat, mostly fish but insects and their larva were used as a protein substitute when necessary. As with all groups of young males with more bravado than common sense, it quickly devolved into a competition of who could eat the most without being sick. Apparently, Shining Armor had a cast iron stomach, a trait that his sister shared.

“What’s on your mind, Princess,” said Wilesmith as he popped a piece of pie into his mouth, while Supercheap Auto was picking up the majority of the expenses Twilight and her friends accrued during their stay in the VIP room, there were several third parties that had shown an interest in what the Ponies ate and drank to more than cover any expense short of arson.

“Just keeping tabs on everypony while the yellow flags were waving. It seems that there have been more yellow laps than green.”

Pinkie looked at the television, “Don’t look now, Twilight, but that big white car with the flashing lights has just gone down Pit Lane.”

As per the regulations, the field had remained at 80 Km/h while the safety car accelerated away to provide a clear air for the field. The remaining cars would stay in line until the driver in first place decided to accelerate.

It was a waiting game. Paul Dumbrell, the driver in first knew that putting the power of his Holden V8 to its full use at Murray’sCorner would be the sensible move, but it was a move that everybody would be expecting and any advantage that he gained would be minimal.

Instead, he used the car’s slower speed to his advantage and accelerated as he passed the braking zone for the final corner of the circuit. That way he was able to navigate the corner at near normal race speed and leave the other drivers behind.

His idea almost worked and while the second place driver had the reflexes to keep up with the sudden acceleration, the rest of the field were caught flat footed and a gap of several seconds had opened up and was growing at a steady pace.

"Will you be okay here, Pinkie?" asked Twilight as she prepared to leave Pinkie to her own devices

"Oh I'll be super duper with everybody!"

One of the Bathurst day prize winners, a typically large Samoan came over and gave Pinkie a hug. "Don't you worry 'bout a thing," he said, "The pink pony is fine with us."

“Well as long as she doesn’t get eaten,” replied Twilight, “I’ll pop back in later.”

With excuses made, Twilight returned to her friends in the VIP room to continue watching the race unfold. It might have only been the seventh lap but Twilight had a feeling that the safety car would be making a few more appearances.

Judging from the relaxed state of her friends, it was clear that everypony just rolled with Twilight’s sudden departure and return. The racing on the television clearly had their attention, at least for now.

While the two front runners were increasing their lead, it was the dueling mid-pack that was the centre of attention for the commentary team. Not only had Twilight had witnessed a pass on the inside of Forrest’s Elbow, a bold move that required the cooperation of both drivers involved, and possibly the strangest drag race she’d ever seen.

Of the three drivers involved, two had taken part in the outrageous pass seconds before at Forrest's Elbow and neither driver wanted to relinquish the position. The third driver was fortunate enough to be able to tuck in behind the car on the left hand side of the circuit and was using the tow for everything it had.

The design of the circuit meant that the entrance to The Chase favoured the cars on the left side of the track and the driver who initially lost one place to a bold pass, ended up losing a second to poor track position as the third car few by at the kink in The Chase.

“Yee Ha!” Applejack hollered as she gave Rainbow Dash a shove, “Y’all can’t tell me that’s boring?”

Not wanting anything to show through her layer of ‘Coolness’ Rainbow Dash replied, “I admit, that was kinda cool.” After taking a mouthful of her drink, she turned to Twilight, “Hey, Twilight, what’s a Black Flag mean?”

“It means a car is being penalised” replied Twilight, “Where did you see that?”

In lieu of any reply, Rainbow Dash pointed to the television where the announcement had just been made. It seemed that Day, the driver of the #25 car was being punished with a Drive Through Penalty for his infraction on the first lap.

It didn’t take long for the next incident to get the yellow flags waving again. The challenger for the Dunlop Series Championship ended up hitting the wall at McPhillamy Park in a near identical manner to what Reynolds did yesterday.

The incident caused several teams to bring their cars into the Pit Lane for the compulsory pit stop. While they would not be able to meet the entire fuel requirements so early in the race, it did give them an opportunity to put on fresh tires.

Twilight knew from conversations with members of the Erebus pit crew that under normal racing conditions, you could comfortably drive for 22 to 23 laps of the Mount Panorama circuit before tire degradation started to affect lap times.

It seemed that teams were running under the assumption that there would be several more periods under the yellow flags where drivers would be able to slow down and preserve the limited grip on the tires. The obvious downside was that slow driving tended to heat up engines and cool down tires which meant that the cycle of yellow flags would repeat itself until the end of the race.

The other interesting thing to note was with the elimination of the main challenger to the Dunlop Series championship, it was highly possible that Dumbrell could be declared the series winner in as little as 30 laps.

Each round win was worth 300 points and the current leader was only four points ahead of his rival at the start of the race. If Dumbrell could stay in the lead, an idea that was a distinct possibility, he would end up 304 points ahead with one race left. It would be mathematically impossible to beat him, but it all hinged on him winning this race.

At the tail end of lap 11, the safety car had pulled away and the field was, once again, poised to react to whatever strategy Dumbrell was considering. Unlike the last safety car period where Dumbrell waited until the last moment before accelerating away from the field, this time Dumbrell accelerated as soon as he was allowed.

The safety car had compressed the field and the tires had cooled down so Dumbrell was unable to capitalise on the restart.

“Aww, yeah.” For all her feigned disinterest, Rainbow Dash was keeping a close eye on the race as it unfolded. She knew that, unlike at the start of the race where all the cars were relatively even, some cars had the advantage of coming in during the safety car for fresh tires and a top up on fuel while others still had to come in for a driver change in addition to their compulsory stop.

“Don’t count your apples until they’re in the basket,” cautioned Applejack,

Seeing two of her friends banter at the bar, Rarity turned to Fluttershy and said, “Well, it seems that they’re enjoying themselves.”

Fluttershy jumped slightly at Rarity’s voice. While the race was being telecast on several of the television screens inside the VIP room, a few screens were dedicated to displaying the timing information from the cars.

With the two sets of information at her hooftips, Fluttershy was caught up in her own form of race analysis as she watched some of the cars at the tail end of the field start to overtake their rivals and gain positions.

“Fluttershy, darling. What has gotten you all wound up?” said Rarity as she did her best to smooth down a few ruffled feathers

“Oh, I was just, um, watching the numbers.” Fluttershy replied, “They’re showing some cars going faster than others”

Rarity had to stop herself from rolling her eyes, while she cared deeply about all her friends, there were times when dealing with Pinkie Pie was an easier task than talking to a distracted Fluttershy. “Yes dear, that’s the point of the race.”

Fluttershy pointed to a position on the timing board, “But these cars are at the bottom of the list.”

Rarity looked in the indicated direction. As Fluttershy had explained, there were indeed a small group of cars that were progressing through the field at a remarkable speed. While the names were unfamiliar to Rarity, she did know the car numbers as the ones that had come into Pit Lane during the last safety car period.

“Oh, those are the cars with the fresh tires, I suspect that they’ll be the lead pack soon.”

The race continued on uneventfully for the next five laps until one of the cars that Fluttershy had indicated was having the perspex window on the left hand side of the car come loose enough to be visible on the television.

Cam Walters had surged through the field and had secured 12th place since the previous yellow flag and now being told by Race Control to have the window ‘seen’ to on the next lap, effectively destroying the gains that he’d made since the safety car.

As luck would have it, Walters didn’t need to pit to have his errant window seen to, physics did the job for him as it was ripped from its frame part way down Conrod Straight. The sudden change in aerodynamics did cause him to slow down to keep control of his car and lose some track position but he no longer had the threat of the Mechanical Black Flag forcing him into Pit Lane.

The race on the circuit wasn’t the only action to be had. With everypony’s attention focused on either the timing screens or the televisions, a steward called Twilight over to speak on the wall mounted phone.

“Um, hello?” said Twilight, unfamiliar with both the correct protocol and manner to use the strange device.

“Luff and Tander are out,” said Klimenko on the other end of the line, “Everybody’s moved up a spot and Triple 8 are chucking a big hissy fit at the race stewards.”

Twilight was in mixed minds about this turn of events. With one car officially removed from the race it meant that the majority of the field benefited from the advance in grid position. The drawback was that the second of the factory Holden cars was elevated into tenth position after missing out on qualifying for the afternoons shootout.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Sit back, relax and have a beer. We’re too far down the order to take advantage of the change but your friends might hear some of Dane’s fireworks.”

The resigned sigh in Klimenko’s voice suggested that the short Irishman in charge of Triple 8 was as adept in raising a ruckus as he was as managing a team. Left with little to do with the situation, Twilight took her team boss’s advice by passing the phone back to the steward and asking for a fresh drink.

Off track problems gave way to on track drama as the race hit lap 20 and teams started to bring their cars in for the compulsory stop. This was a critical moment in the race, the cars that had pitted earlier during the safety car for tires only needed a small amount of fuel to reach their 80 liter minimum.

Other cars that came into the pit lane needed fresh tires and a full load of fuel, that would cost the teams both time and track position but had the payoff of having tires that were 10 laps fresher than a portion of their competitors, an advantage that may be crucial in the final laps of the race.

Due to the safety regulations that governed the pit stops for the Dunlop series, as the backmarkers made their way out of Pit Lane, the 2nd place driver, Chris Pither, was making his way into Pit Lane for his compulsory stop.

Pither and the race leader Dumbrell were on their own with an eight second lead over the rest of the field. With the majority of cars still to make the required stop, Pither was betting that he’ll be able to make up the lost track position in a lap or two.

Twilight watched as drivers began to flow into Pit Lane. The television showed the pair of tire changers rush out of the garage as soon as Pither came to a stop. They were well drilled and it showed in how smoothly they swapped the passenger side tires before hustling around to change the ones on the drivers side. It was at this point that the tire changer that was working on the rear tire encountered a problem, Twilight took careful note on how the first crewman hesitated and was ready to assist his partner if he was unable to resolve the issue on his own.

Even through the sound deadening glass and concrete that made up the garages and the corporate annex, Twilight could hear the cars in Pit Lane and she even imagined that she could feel the vibrations from the engines through her hooves.

With cars entering and leaving Pit Lane along with driver swaps for the few cars that had a co-driver and the race ticking over the halfway point, the only thing that was clear was that Twilight had no idea who was where on Mount Panorama.

What the numbers on the timing screen did show was that Dumbrell was still in the lead and that he had not taken his pit stop. Even with the small amount of fuel saving safety car laps, he would still need to pit in the next few laps or risk running out of fuel.

It was on lap 23 that Dumbrell made the slow crawl down Pit Lane to the bay operated by Triple 8 racing for their sponsor Red Bull. While there was still a strong chance that he would be able to clinch the Dunlop Series championship, this pit stop was of critical importance.

Rolling firmly into the pit box, the tire changers from Eggleston Motorsport got to work while a Triple 8 crew member removed a device from the nose of Dumbrell’s car to better allow airflow into the radiator and brake ducts before removing one of the windscreen tear-offs.

While Dumbrell was taking his compulsory pit stop, Walters was on Pit Straight and it was now a race between the refueller from Triple 8 to hit the 80 liter minimum before Dumbrell was released and how much distance and traffic Walters could put between the pair as he unofficially took the lead for the final 17 laps.

Twilight looked at the timing board. Officially Walters was in 8th place and over 45 seconds behind the lead, but the car that was leading hadn’t made the compulsory stop while the other cars in front of Walters had only pitted once and would still need a top up of fuel if they had any plans on finishing.

All this didn’t seem to matter to Rainbow Dash as she crowed to Applejack. “Looks like a Ford’s going to win this one!” she said

“Y’all remember what Ah said about apples and baskets?” asked Applejack, “There’s still a good way to go and your badge boy ain’t in the lead yet.”

What the duo didn’t realise was that they were getting some odd stares from Rarity, Fluttershy and Twilight. “Dears, I do believe that all this competition is affecting our dear friends.”

“Oh, pegasi are naturally competitive and will rally around most forms of sport. So long as it doesn’t come to blows, it’s really quite harmless.”

Rarity and Twilight were surprised at Fluttershy’s statement. While Twilight was prone to the occasional bit of academic explaining, hearing it come from Fluttershy was was something that neither pony knew how to properly handle.

“I know things,” said Fluttershy as she wilted slightly under her friends gazes

“It's not that dear,” said Rarity, “it's just unexpected to hear something like that to come from anypony who isn't Twilight.”

Ignoring Rarity’s backhanded compliment, Twilight leaned in close to whisper into Fluttershy’s ear. “I expect to see you in the library when all this is over.”

Dumbfounded, Fluttershy could only nod.

Although fascinating as the glimpse into pre-Equestrian history was, there was still a car race going on outside the VIP room and it was beginning to enter its final stages. Cars from smaller teams were making their stops. The majority were at the limit of their fuel range and would have long stops as they took on a heavy fuel load.

Ahead, Walters had charged into third through a combination of clean driving and the cars in front coming in for their compulsory stop. The car that was currently second, driven by Paul Morris, was due to make his stop for fuel but made the decision on lap 26 to stay out for another lap.

The safety cars early in the race had made it possible for the cars to drive longer on their current fuel loads but tire wear was still an issue and Morris was rapidly approaching the point where he would have to pit for fresh rubber or slow down so as not to push the tires beyond the limits of their decreasing grip levels.

The ongoing battle between the Ford and Holden marques was happening almost 40 seconds behind Morris when Morris succumbed to the inevitable and pulled into Pit Lane for much needed fuel and tires.

This change of lead elevated the race positions of the lead pack by one and handed the lead over to the New Zealand driver, Ant Pedersen. While Pedersen had not completed his compulsory stop for fuel and tires, the truth was that he was not in the same class of driver as Walters and Dumbrell and would not be able to hold his lead over the two hard charging drivers once he chose to pit.

With this being the longest single drive for the majority of the Dunlop Series drivers, it was not surprising that driver error had called out the safety car once again. At the exit of Forrest’s Elbow, Geoff Emery had misjudged the turn and ran wide. Unable to complete the turn, he had hit the concrete barrier and bounced back across Conrod Straight and currently rested on the grass just past Forrest’s Elbow.

Due to Pedersen’s position as Race Control called the Safety Car, he was able to pit under Yellow flags and rejoin the compressed field at the end of the train of cars. This also had the effect of erasing the 40 second gap between first and second while promoting Walters to the lead with Dumbrell in the perfect position to capitalise with his fresher tires.

With eleven laps to go, Rainbow Dash was riding an emotional roller coaster that rivaled the most trashy soap opera. If the stories about a pegasus wings were even partially true, then the Weather Mare’s seemingly calm face was betrayed by her wings waving about like semaphores.

“Ya’ll still think your badge is gonna come in first?” Asked Applejack as she eyed her friend

“Of course he is,” replied Rainbow Dash with a snort, “It’ll take two or three laps to recover that busted car, tires will need to be heated back up to racing temperatures. By the time all that’s been done, he’ll only need to hold that Holden guy off for five or so laps for the win. Easy.”

“Ya feeling alright there, Rainbow Dash. Ya didn’t hit your head or somethin’?”

“Just watch Ford take the win.”

Twilight did her best to ignore the bravado coming from Rainbow Dash as the safety car pulled away from its position at the head of the train of cars at The Chase in preparation for a quick 10 lap sprint.

Idle boasting aside, Rainbow Dash was correct in that it would take some time for the tires to warm up to race temperatures and that Walters would be doing his best to make his Falcon as wide as possible to make Dumbrell expend tires and fuel whenever an overtaking opportunity was even hinted at.

At the restart, Walters appeared to be using a slower, lapped car to slow down his adversary but the skill difference between Dumbrell and the slower driver was too great and Dumbrell had safely cleared the traffic by the time he had gotten to Hell’s Corner.

The question that the commentators raised wasn’t the upcoming battle between Walters and Dumbrell, but if the current third place driver, Chris Pither, would play a part in the action at the front of the field.

While under the safety car, the field had compressed, but it was out of order. Cars on the lead lap were stuck behind slower cars that were a lap, or more, down and were desperate to get by at the restart.

Due to the limited number of legitimate passing areas at Mount Panorama, the slower cars were moving off line to allow their faster brethren by where it was possible. The reality was that across the top of Mount Panorama, space was limited and often, there wasn’t anywhere for the slower cars to move to.

With the help of the volunteer flag marshals signalling the slower cars by waving the blue flag, passes were made in spots where only the bravest, or most foolish, drivers would pass. It was only through the cooperation and understanding between drivers that the passes were executed in an uneventful, if a little reckless, manner.

Stretching out their lead, the trio of Walters, Dumbrell and Pither had navigated Forrest’s Elbow and were accelerating down Conrod Straight. Dumbrell doing everything in his power to get a tow from Walters and Walters doing everything he could to prevent Dumbrell from gaining any advantage as he moved from one side of the straight to the other.

The amount of time that the field had spent under the safety car was having another effect on the race. While the Medic One Enduro was scheduled to go for 41 laps of the circuit, there were also other support races scheduled for that afternoon, including the shootout. According to the information on the television, the race would be stopped in just over 13 minutes to keep everything else on schedule.

The little factoid of a time certain finish was almost immaterial as Walters made the slightest of mistakes exiting Murry’s Corner. As he was forced wide, Dumbrell capitalised on the error and executed a textbook passing maneuver on Pit Straight right as they passed in view of the VIP box.

Fluttershy looked like she wanted to faint but her body wasn’t letting her as the television showed the view from inside Dumbrell’s car as he made the pass. The question was ‘Could Walters have the pace to take the lead back, or will he be relegated to third if Pither decides to attack?’

“Fluttershy, are you alright, dear?” asked Rarity. After seeing Dumbrell take back first place, Fluttershy looked like she wanted to say something, but was unable to make any sound.

“That was beautiful,” she said before shutting her eyes and mentally slapping herself, “It was so clean, so well executed. He was brilliant!”

There was no doubt in Rarity’s mind that the ‘he’ Fluttershy was referring to was Dumbrell. Most residents of Ponyville naturally assumed that the timid pegasus was afraid of her own shadow, and to be truthful, that depended on the season.

Rarity knew that there were few situations that set off her friends ‘internal trigger’ but throughout the day they had been exposed to various levels of motorsporting and the drivers were progressively becoming more skillful. If the current trend were to continue, Rarity wasn’t sure if her friend would be able to handle tomorrow’s main event.

Fortunately for Fluttershy’s heart rate, the person who was directing the cameras had switched focus from the leading trio to the cars that made up the remainder of the first 10 positions as they jockeyed back and forth while settling into a new racing rhythm.

Twilight did some quick mental calculations, “Based on the current lap times and the remaining time before the race is forced to end,” she began, “the lead pack should be able to squeeze in six or seven more laps before the checkered flag.”

Rarity was no slouch in the math department and noticed a discrepancy in Twilights calculations. “Twilight, dear. Wouldn’t they be able to only do six laps before the time runs out?” she asked

As part of Twilight’s education at Erebus was memorising the current driving regulations. Specifically the regulations surrounding time sensitive events like the current race. “Plus one lap,” said Twilight, “They race to the end of the time, plus an extra lap.”

For all her easy going nature, Applejack was having a measure of satisfaction at watching Rainbow Dash’s face go from smug certainty at a Ford victory to the very real concern that her chosen marque would drop another spot to third by the time the race finished.

“Don’t worry, Rainbow Dash,” said Applejack, “That Dumbrell fella is only a whole second ahead of your boy, Walters. I’m sure that anything can happen in the next four laps.”

“You really mean that?” Rainbow Dash asked

It was with a sly smile that Applejack replied, “Nope.”

The numbers were not in Rainbow Dash’s favour. While Applejack was right that Dumbrell had pulled out to just over a whole second away from Walters, it was Pither in third place that had caught up half a second and was doing his best to menace Walters into making a mistake.

With the lead trio so far ahead of the rest of the field, the focus shifted to the minor placings. Several drivers that were competing in tomorrow’s event were busy cementing their positions by getting as much track experience as they could.

What was interesting was that the two New Zealand drivers that had traded paint on the opening lap of the race seemed to have no intentions of stopping as the fierce duel between Ant Pedersen and Andre Heimgartner continued on with neither driver willing to concede.

“I do believe that there is more going on between those two than meets the eye.” said Rarity

“They’re both in the same car tomorrow,” replied Twilight, “Probably told that whoever places highest gets to start the race. It’s a pretty big prize.”

Six and a half minutes left on the clock and it looked like there was nothing that would prevent Dumbrell from taking the victory and the Dunlop Series win when he had a flutter at the chase that gave Rainbow Dash a glimmer of hope.

Even though Dumbrell was on fresher tires, his brakes were becoming well worn and losing their effectiveness. The combination of worn brakes and Dumbrell missing a gear at the kink of The Chase meant that he ran wide and had to correct before he ended up bogged in the sand trap.

This allowed Walters to temporarily close the gap but he was hampered by his older tires and Dumbrell was already beginning to open up the gap between first and second as he crossed the finish line to start his next lap.

Rainbow Dash had visibly perked up when she saw Dumbrell’s error. From what she understood from the commentary and what she had learned that morning at McPhillamy Park, what starts out as a tricky gearbox can quickly turn into a broken gearbox and a stranded car.

As it stood, Walters and Pither were close enough in skill levels that the latter was unable to close the gap as Dumbrell smoothly finished the 36th lap with a bit over four minutes remaining before the checkered flag.

To keep the television viewers interested, the commentary team was focusing on the remainder of the field, talking up the various newcomers to the category and generally finding ways to fill in time.

Sometime during the race, Twilight noticed that Rarity had acquired herself both a glass of beer as well as a small selection of assorted nuts and dried fruit and was looking rather relaxed on the couch. All that was missing was the adoring stallions cooling her off with large fans.

“Don’t get too comfortable, Rarity,” said Twilight, “The race is almost over.”

“Oh, posh!” replied Rarity as she magically flicked an almond at her friend, “I was rather enjoying myself too.”

“Don’t worry, Rarity,” said Fluttershy, “Tomorrow’s a big day and you’ll be back here for the shootout, right?”

The fashionista put on a brave face for her friend, “I’ll most certainly try to get back here for the shootout, but I can’t make any guarantees.”

The timer had officially run out before Dumbrell had crossed the line on the 38th lap. As the final lap was started, Rainbow Dash gave out a sound that was somewhere between a moan and a wail.

While the television cameras and commentary stayed on Dumbrell as he completed his final circuit of Mount Panorama, his lead over Walters was too great and in a flawless lap he had crossed the line to win both the shortened Medic One Enduro and the Dunlop Series.

Applejack consoled Rainbow Dash over the victory that the weather mare was taking a little too hard. Quietly, Rarity and Twilight left the VIP room to head back to the Erebus garage. Rarity had about two and a half hours to work on the shirts before the start of the shootout.

“Will you be able to get the shirts done before the race tomorrow?” asked Twilight

Rarity considered her answer as she weighed up the task ahead of her, “I should be able to make the alterations on the shirts for Applejack, Pinkie and myself. These shirts are big enough, I’ll more than likely be taking fabric in than doing any large scale alterations.”

“What about Rainbow and Fluttershy?”

“I don’t fancy that they’ll want their wings covered so those will take more time but I’ll have them ready for the race tomorrow, even if I have to work through the night.”

Twilight considered Rarity’s claim. It wouldn’t be the first time that an all nighter had been pulled at Mount Panorama, but it would have to rank up there as one of the strangest. A quick glance at the clock showed that it was only a quarter to three and there was still a lot to be done.

Saturday October 11, 2014 Part VI

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Conquering the Mountain
Saturday October 11, 2014
Part VI

The paddock area behind the garages was locally known as ‘Transporter Row’ for obvious reasons. The amount of skill required to precisely park the massive vehicles was not a skill that came quickly or easily to Len or the other transport drivers.

It was with Len’s personal sewing kit that Rarity had retrieved from the big driver before heading out to the empty transporter to make the necessary alterations to the new shirts she was preparing for her friends.

Unfortunately, Rarity crossed paths with a wandering driver by the name of David Reynolds. To the uninformed and the unwary, Reynolds appeared to be flighty as he drifted from one event to the next, seemingly without a care. He knew that he was a strong driver and he enjoyed the great Australian pastime of ‘Shit stirring’

“Hey, whatcha doing?” he asked Rarity

For her part, Rarity was taken back slightly. Ponies were a new enough sight that most people were hesitant to approach in case they accidently caused offence. “My dear sir, I’m off to alter these garments so my friends will be properly attired tomorrow.”

Reynolds was known for having a mouth that was always in gear while his brain was in neutral and as such would say whatever was on his mind, regardless of the consequences.

“You guys are naked all the time.” he said, “How good can the clothes be if that’s the case?”

Being the elder sister to one third of the mobile mess makers known as the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Rarity had learned to be a beacon of calm and as such, there were few things that got Rarity’s temper to flare up. Unfortunately for Reynolds, insulting her trade was one of them.

“Oh. It. Is. On!” said Rarity, her eyes growing ever so slightly madder with each word. It was at that moment that Reynolds knew, he’d fucked up.

Managing, somehow, not to compound his error any further. Reynolds began to back away from Rarity. When her horn began to glow with its normal blue energy, Reynolds threw caution to the wind and turned his retreat into a full blown rout.

It was unfortunate for the luckless driver that his back was the very target that Rarity sought and with the skill of a master seamstress, Rarity pushed a pin into the green ‘Bottle-O’ shirt, stopping just short of touching the skin.

Of course, as soon as Reynolds leaned against anything, he would feel the slight prick against his skin with no idea as to the cause. With any luck, the irritation should last the rest of the afternoon.

Satisfied that honour had been suitably defended, Rarity’s focus returned to the task at hoof. Making her way inside the Erebus transporter, she took the time to properly size up the shirts. In their current unaltered state, the shirts would drape over the wearer like a tent and would need to be taken in while not disturbing the colourful sponsorship logos.

Making sure that she had adequate light before closing the door, Rarity laid out the borrowed sewing kit so that it was displayed in a manner that would be familiar to many a surgeon. Humming a bouncy tune, Rarity made the first cut.

Inside the Erebus garage, it was also relatively calm. While the mechanics and race engineers ran a series of tests and checks on the various components and sensors that were spread around each Mercedes, Twilight was finding herself being used as a long range set of hands.

“Hold it steady, Twilight.” said Wischusen as he entered a series of commands into his laptop.

Under normal circumstances, Wischusen would be forced to balance the laptop on his knee as he changed the settings in the vehicle's engine management computer from the cramped position of the Erebus safety cell.

This was all because the V8 Supercar regulations put the engine management computer along with the recordings from the onboard camera in what would be the passenger’s footwell.

To save Wischusen the strain of contorting himself into various positions, Twilight was holding up the laptop with her magic. All while sitting at the engineering station, safely away from the controlled chaos of the cars.

“It would be easier if that was the only thing I was holding.” said Twilight

Wischusen snorted in disbelief, “You told me that you could reshelve an entire library of books at once, how hard can holding up a laptop be?”

“I’m holding up two laptops, four toolboxes, a dozen individual tools, keeping a firm grip on a 10mm socket and reading the paper. It’s a tough job but somepony has to do it.”

Wischusen could hear the smile on Twilight’s face as he finished up and somehow managed to exit the cockpit relatively easily. A quick look around the garage revealed that Twilight wasn’t exaggerating when she listed off all the items under her control.

Following the various mechanics like obedient dogs, the wheeled tool boxes that were normally at the edges of the garage were now constantly within the mechanics reach without being underfoot.

Slowly backing away from the surreal nature of what he was seeing, Wischusen made his way to the engineering station where Twilight was engrossed in the local Bathurst newspaper.

“You do realise that you’re reading yesterday’s paper?” he asked

“Oh,” said Twilight, “I wondered why it was so familiar.”

“It’s also upside down.”

“It makes more sense this way,” Twilight replied in a vain attempt to cover being caught out by the engineer, “This ‘Football’ game does sound exciting, it’s a pity I missed the season.”

Wischusen began to set up his laptop to transfer the data to the engineering station, “The Bunnies are a good side, they deserved their victory.” he said as he indicated for Twilight to vacate his chair.

“I’m just having trouble believing that a team called the ‘Rabbitohs’ won the grand final. Better not tell Angel or he’ll be even more insufferable!”

Wischusen wasn’t able to ask who, or even what, Angel was when Len hurried up to Twilight looking more than a tad distressed. “Um, Twilight” he began, “Is it normal for Ponies to sing at the drop of a hat?”

“It’s not unusual, ponies sing whenever the situation seems appropriate. Why?”

Len hesitated, “I can’t explain it, you’d better see for yourself.”

This intrigued Twilight, whenever a variation of the phrase ‘You’d better see for yourself’ is used, it normally meant that something interesting was happening.

“One moment please, Len,” said Twilight before she directed her attention to the garages and the mechanics working there. “Grab your tools, fellas!”

The sounds of a mad scramble inside the garage as mechanics secured the various floating tools and equipment. After a few seconds and with ears forward, Twilight concluded that all the tools had been secured and turned off her magic.

Which led to the distinctive sound of the 10mm socket hitting the ground and a string of profanity that would make Fluttershy faint! Sharing a look with Len, the pair did the only sensible thing and made a hasty retreat out of the back of the garage and into Transporter Row.

Safely away from the wraith of mechanics, the pair approached the door on the side of the Erebus transporter. From the inside, Twilight could indeed hear Rarity singing but she couldn’t make out the exact words.

Steeling herself for any number of possible disasters, Twilight poked her head through the door of the Transporter. Inside, in the eye of a maelstrom of fabric and sewing accessories was Rarity belting out a familiar tune

“... And that’s the art of the shirt!” sang Rarity

Twilight closed the door, “Yeah, that’s perfectly normal.”

At the back of the paddock, the current race had ended and the next scheduled support race was preparing to file out for their warm up lap as soon as the course car had completed its inspection of the circuit.

Everything was going smoothly. Rarity was altering shirts and was in a good enough mood to be singing about it, the two cars in the Erebus Garage were in the final stages of being checked and going into Parc Ferme so that the scrutineers could give them the once over before tomorrow’s race.

Up in the VIP room, her friends were being entertained as well as being plied with food and drink and Twilight was sure that Pinkie was off finding the next party somewhere along the corporate suites.

“Hi, Twilight!”

The surprise of having Pinkie seemingly pop out of nowhere caused Twilight to launch into the air and into the strong arms of Len

“Zoinks!” the driver deadpanned, “where did you come from?”

“Well, when a mommy pony and a daddy pony love each other very much-”

“PINKIE!” exclaimed Twilight as she covered Len’s ears with her hooves, “That’s not what he meant.”

It was taking all of Len’s considerable control to keep his stoic expression stable as a flustered Twilight tried to regain some sense of composure. With a calming cough, Twilight continued, “What Len meant was, ‘What are you doing here’ instead of being in the VIP room?”

“Well a party isn’t a party without all my friends and with Rarity sewing shirts for us and you working with Erebus I didn’t want you to miss out.”

Once again Twilight was impressed with Pinkie’s lung capacity. Indicating for Len to put her back onto the ground Twilight began, “That’s great, Pinkie, it really is.” she said, “I’ve still got some work to do but I’ll be with you when the shootout happens.”

“Pinkie Promise?” pleaded Pinkie as she unleashed the powerful combination of soulful eyes and a slightly quivering bottom lip

“With a cupcake in my eye. I’ll be there.”

Like a switch had been thrown, Pinkie’s demeanor had been changed from dower back to Super Happy with a cherry on top. Pinkie bounced on her way, happy that all was right in her world.

“Pinkie Promise?” asked Len as he watched Ponyville’s Premier Party Pony disappear into the crowd

“A very strong promise that Pinkie takes seriously. Nopony breaks a pinkie Promise, they’re forever.”

“Forever” came a voice in the distance.

As it stood, that was the high water mark for Pony related weirdness for the afternoon as the garages were the centre of attention for crew members of all the teams. Upstairs, Pinkie had joined Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy as they watched the rest of the support races. All in all, it was a relaxing afternoon.

Pit Lane came alive as soon as the final support race had ended. While in non-racing circles, the 20 minutes between sessions might seem like a fair amount of time, to the teams that were competing in the Top Ten Shootout, it may as well have been the blinking of an eye.

While Channel 7 filled in the televised gap with fluff about Red Bull’s involvement with the RAAF and George Fury’s historical 1984 pole winning Bluebird and the tribute livery on the #23 car, Twilight hurried back up to the VIP room.

Twilight’s timing couldn’t have been better as Neil Crompton was weaving in and out of the various garages and somehow had managed to corral Damian White, the head of Motorsport for V8 Supercars, to address the controversy about the withdrawal of one of the top ten.

“Just updating those that will play inside our top ten,” said Crompton as he apologised to White for dragging him out of his current conversation. “We’ve been throwing up the possibility that James Courtney may be brought forward from position number eleven from yesterday into the Top Ten because of the demise of car number two, his teammate Garth Tander. What’s going on there? I understand that we won’t see James move forward.”

Like any good manager, White knew the secret to looking good in a surprise interview is to initially deflect while mentally centering himself before actually answering the question. “Firstly, how good is the passion of this Pit Lane?” White asked rhetorically, “There’s a lot of energy up and down here right now and a lot of people making decisions about decisions that weren’t yet made.”

Once White was in control of the conversation, he continued. “A couple of things. He will be elevated to position ten, but not until tomorrow morning’s race, because that is standard practice. If a car withdrawals we move them up and fill that grid. In terms of the Shootout, yes there were discussions around whether or not the car should fill the position of a car that has been withdrawn, irrespective that they are from the same team.

“When you look at the rule, it’s clear and the intention of that rule is that the people that are the fastest ten people in qualifying should be in the shootout. It’s disappointing that we’re only going to have nine cars but the fact is that it’s for the ten fastest and one can’t take part.”

In the VIP room, Twilight nodded in understanding, she had reviewed the Operations manual for the V8 Supercars and had come to a similar conclusion. “Where’s Rarity?” Twilight asked as she looked around the room, “Don’t tell me she’s still working on the shirts?”

“Oh no, darling,” came the slightly out of breath voice the Ponyville dressmaker, “I just finished.”

“What, all of them?” asked Applejack, “Ya didn’t overwork yourself, did ya?”

“Of course not, these were merely alterations on some interesting designs. It’s not like I had to create the shirts from scratch.”

“So, when do we get to see them?” Rainbow Dash was trying and failing to hide her excitement behind a thin veneer of casual ‘Coolness’

Beyond rolling her eyes at the transparent display from her friend, Rarity showed no outward emotion towards her friend, “Really, Rainbow Dash. They will be ready for you to wear tomorrow morning before the race and not a minute earlier.”

It was a combination of the finality of Rarity’s statement and the first of the nine drivers competing in the shootout exiting Pit Lane put an end to any further discussion on the matter.

The official confirmation that there would only be nine competitors in the shootout didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the fans at the top of the mountain as Craig Lowndes passed through McPhillamy Park on his ‘Out Lap’, their cheering loud and unashamed.

Twilight knew from her own experience that the crowd could be heard from inside the car, even over the noise of the engine. As Lowndes drove down Conrod Straight, he went through the same series of manoeuvres to heat his brakes and tires that he did when he was taking Twilight on her ‘Hot Lap’.

For Twilight, it was interesting to see how the Triple 8 Commodore reacted to the forceful actions. Each jerk of the steering wheel or application of the brake made the Commodore lurch in one direction or another as momentum was converted into precious heat to ensure that the tires were at their maximum grip and that the brakes were at the right temperature to arrest the Commodore at the right moments.

With brakes and tires at optimal temperatures, Lowndes started his lap and it was immediately apparent that this shootout lap was not going to set any records.

“Ah thought that he’d be going faster than that.” said Applejack as the timing information was displayed on the television.

“It’s a shakedown lap, his car has had some major work done in the last five hours and he just wants to get an official time in while making sure that everything works.”

Five pairs of eyes stared at Rainbow Dash, the mare at the centre of attention wilted slightly under the gaze of her friends. “What?” she asked from her seat, “I know things.”

“Oh, I thought that you were doing your Twilight impersonation again.” said Pinkie Pie. A remark that made Twilight stare wide eyed at Rainbow Dash.

While Rainbow Dash loved being the centre of attention, she prefers it to be on her own terms. Fortunately for Rainbow Dash’s ego, a convenient distraction was displayed on the televisions in the form of the next car coming around to do a hot lap.

The normal procedure for single car qualification laps is that the next car in line starts their out lap when the proceeding car has passed the Pit Lane exit on their qualifying lap. That way the two cars don’t interfere with each other.

The Moffat name had a strong legacy in Australian motorsport. The historic first and second place finish in 1977 with Alan Moffat leading Colin Bond over the finish line became one of the most talked about moments in the race's history. On this day, it was James Moffat, Alan’s son, who was about to start his lap of the shootout.

For the younger Moffat, the day was special for another reason. In the four starts that he’s had since his debut in 2010, this was the first time that he’s been fast enough to have a place in the Shoot Out.

Moffat was fully committed as he started his hot lap, his tires protesting ever so slightly as rounded Hell Corner and up Mountain Straight. The tires continued their protest all through the first sector as he came up two tenths of a second slower than Lowndes.

Through the second sector, the new surface that had given all the cars speed was also causing problems with handling for Moffat as he descended Mount Panorama, by the time he reached the end of the second timing sector, he had clawed back almost a whole tenth of a second.

It wasn’t until Moffat had reached the kink in The Chase where he was forced to take a wider line than usual due to his braking a fraction of a second later than usual, an act that could have ended badly for the young driver but by the time he had completed his lap, he was only slightly behind Lowndes.

The next qualifier was Jack Perkins, the son of another Bathurst Legend. His father, Larry Perkins, had won at Bathurst six times, three times with the legendary Peter Brock and three times under his own banner.

The most famous of his wins was in 1995 when after having a tire blow out on the opening lap, he limped back to Pit Lane while going a lap down in the process. During the race, he fought to get back onto the lead lap. Once on the lead lap, he made his way through the field and when the checkered flag was waved on lap 161, Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall were the winners.

As a youth, Jack Perkins was a staple of the Perkins Engineering garage and he had learned a lot under his father's tutelage. Unlike Lowndes and Moffat, there was no protesting sound from the tires as Perkins made his way through the first sector. His cars setup had minimised the understeering issues that had plagued the teams from the first practice session.

Completing the first sector fractionally faster than Lowndes was proof that the setup used was good. The main issue was that the shadows were beginning to lengthen as the late afternoon wore on, as the air temperature cooled, so did the track and it’s grip level increased. The result was faster lap times for those who would come later in the Shootout.

The comparative time for the second sector between Lowndes and Perkins was again in Perkins favour as he was over a tenth of a second faster as he started down Conrod Straight. Everything looked set for Perkins to be elevated to provisional pole but a brake lock up and recovery at Murray’s Corner cost half a second and relegated him to third.

“Garh!” came a sound somewhere between a cry of shock and surprise combined with a mouthful of liquid. Unsurprisingly, it was Rainbow Dash who was taking a drink of her beer when the time was displayed on the television. “Oh, c’mon! How did that happen?”

Having gotten used to her friends' outbursts over the years, Applejack ignored the obvious rhetorical question and decided to offer some down to earth advice.

“Doncha go fretting, there’s still that fella with the funny name,” said Applejack, “He also drives one of them Fords.”

Rainbow Dash had to concede Applejack’s point, “Mark is a funny name,” she said, “That’s probably why he goes by ‘Frosty’”

After a moment of thought, Rainbow Dash continued, “I know a Frosty Winterbottom, he designs clouds in Manehatten.”

The introspection from Rainbow Dash meant that the group missed the first half of Jason Bright’s lap. Over the course of the last 5 practice sessions, the new surface that had been giving every team a hard time and while most teams took a holistic approach to the problem and worked to find a setup that allowed for the fastest overall lap time.

For Bright and the crew at Brad Jones Racing, their approach was a little different. They understood that there were sections of the circuit where the car's suspension and handling would come into play more than others and by taking a corner-to-corner approach to find a workable setup.

Bright was also an experienced driver who had 18 starts in the Bathurst 1000 with a win early in his career. His consistency in finishing in the front half of the field in the majority of his starts meant that while he may not have the fastest car on the day, his ability to set up a car for his driving style was strong.

The running joke in Pit Lane was that the team had changed everything on the car except the stickers!

It was only the roar from the crowd at McPhillamy Park that brought Rainbow Dash back to the present with the timing showing that Bright was up by almost a quarter of a second as he started the journey across the top of Mount Panorama.

By the time he had reached the end of the second sector, Bright was faster than Lowndes by more than four tenths of a second. A clean run through The Chase and Murrays Corner allowed Bright to take the provisional pole from Lowndes by seven tenths of a second and very nearly breaking the two minute and six second barrier for the first time in the shootout.

With the exception of the two Erebus Mercedes, every manufacturer was represented in the shootout and as the shootout progressed, the lap times would only get faster. The next car was a truly international entry.

Proudly displaying the Swedish flag on its roof and being driven by the combination of a New Zealander and a Frenchman. Fluttershy was eagerly looking forward to seeing the Volvo perform its solo lap.

“Oh, this is exciting!” she said as she clapped her hooves together. Even though Fluttershy had only limited exposure to humanity in general, she had found a sort of tranquility in bonding with the light hearted and easy going nature of the Gary Rogers crew.

The shadows were stretching across the surface of the track and there was talk from the commentators on the television that the Volvo would be the first car to break into the 2:06 bracket for the session.

What Fluttershy noticed was that due to using a different engine layout, the tone of the Volvo engine was dramatically different from the previous sounds made by the Holden, Ford or Nissan entries.

With an open circuit ahead of him, the young New Zealander had taken a slightly different line to minimise the understeer that had been plaguing the teams. At the end of the first sector he was slightly faster than Bright as he crossed the top of Mount Panorama.

At the completion of the second sector, McLaughlin was a third of a second faster than Bright as he powered his way down Conrod Straight. Knowing that his car was oversteering, McLaughlin turned in slightly early at both the beginning and the kink in The Chase, this allowed him to position his car under hard braking for a faster exit of that particular corner.

The end result was a clean run across the finish line a whole quarter of a second ahead of Bright in provisional second and nearly a second ahead of Lowndes in third. McLaughlin was also the first car of the session to break the psychological barrier of two minutes and six second around Mount Panorama.

The reaction from Fluttershy was the most telling. Her normally calm demeanor was offset by the occasional vibration that coursed through her frame as she struggled to contain her excitement.

It took only a few seconds for the eventual release of emotion in a manner that could only be described as ‘Typical Fluttershy’. “He did it, he did it!” she cheered, hopping up and down on the couch, “Two minutes and six seconds!”

Rarity calmly put a hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder, it was a nice, if non-verbal way of indicating that while excitement was all well and good, there was a decorum to be followed. Embarrassed at her outburst, Fluttershy meekly cheered “Yay” while the next driver began his lap.

The second Ford in the Shootout was being driven by the current holder of the Peter Brock Trophy, Mark Winterbottom, and this time it was Rainbow Dash who was having trouble containing her excitement.

Winterbottom’s approach to Hell Corner and Mountain Straight was slightly more aggressive than the previous drivers. Being one of the faster drivers over the practice sessions, Winterbottom was evaluating the entire circuit based on the response he felt from his car on that one corner.

His entrance to Griffins Bend was slightly earlier than other drivers, Winterbottom focused on making sure he had a clean exit from the corner to ensure that he was correctly placed on the circuit for the next corner.

The tires made the characteristic ‘Chattering’ noise that had become familiar to both drivers and spectators alike. Winterbottom had set his car up for a single qualifying run, it meant that while his car may be quicker than normal, he had to work harder to keep it under control. During the race, his setup would quickly lead to increased fatigue, driving errors, and eventually, towards an incident serious enough to bring out the Safety Car.

Winterbottom’s tactics had bore fruit. At the end of the first sector he was better than a tenth of a second faster than McLaughlin as he began his descent of Mount Panorama. There was a scare for Winterbottom as he oversteered at the exit from The Essess and was a car width out of position as he approached The Dipper.

Instead of attempting to correct the oversteer, Winterbottom allowed the car to drift wide of the apex and take a more controlled angle to The Dipper and back onto the racing line. While the change in racing had prevented Winterbottom from hitting the concrete walls, the gains that he had made in the first sector were all wiped out as he went through Forrest's Elbow and onto Conrod Straight.

With the difference being only a tenth of a second in the split between McLaughlin and Winterbottom, it was possible that Winterbottom could recover in the final sector. At the end of Conrod Straight and entering The Chase, Winterbottom was hard on both the brakes and using the engine to slow himself down enough to force his way through the slow kink and exit faster. Due to the strain such a maneuver placed on the engine, it was not a tactic that was used often. But for a shot at Pole Position at Bathurst, no driver held anything back if they thought they had even the slightest chance.

It took a few tense seconds before Winterbottom crossed the line but the timing results were immediately displayed. Under normal circumstances, Rainbow Dash was considered to be a ‘Sore winner’, always ready to crow in the face of whoever dared to challenge her and come off second best.

When it came to Fluttershy, the vast majority of Rainbow Dash’s unwritten rules were put on hold. The prismatic Pegasus couldn’t bring herself to taunt, tease or mock her sensitive friend.

“It’s okay, Fluttershy,” said Rainbow Dash with a cough, “It isn’t where you start, but where you finish in a race.”

Fluttershy nodded, intellectually she knew that tomorrow over the course of 161 laps, anything could happen. Drivers could make a small error and be forced to retire, cars could break down under the strain of running at peak performance for hours at a time. Emotionally, it still stung to see a young and talented driver be pushed into second place so close to the end of the Shoot Out.

There were three remaining drivers still to take their shot at Pole Position and the next one to make the attempt was Dale Wood. Wood had a checkered career in Australian Motorsport, his performance in the development series was enough to get him noticed for a co-drivers position but he was having little success in obtaining a full time drive.

The previous year he had finished first in the Dunlop Supercar Series, that combined with Britek Motorsport’s vacant Racing Entitlements Contract and a partnership with Brad Jones Racing gave Wood an opportunity to showcase his talents in the main series.

Before he even started his qualifying lap, Wood’s took a more aggressive approach as he exited Murray's corner with a slight squeal of the tires under load as he did everything he could to shave off the precious fractions of a second that could be the difference between being recorded as a Bathurst pole winner and second place on the grid.

The extra speed from Wood’s approach to Hell Corner meant that he had to work harder to control his car as he passed through the apex to position himself for the ride up Mountain Straight, but the payoff was a faster exit from the corner with an eye to an overall faster lap time.

At Griffin’s Bend and the approach to the Cutting, Wood’s took a more conservative line as evidenced by the lack of tire ‘chattering’ that had become common over the course of the weekend. By the time he finished the first timing sector he was more than a tenth of a second slower than Winterbottom.

In the second sector, Wood’s drive was cleaner than Winterbottom’s but the earlier aggression that was on display at the start of the lap had evaporated and the difference between the two drivers had stretched out to just over a second in favour of Winterbottom.

Wood was by no means cruising down Conrod Straight but it was clear that he had been instructed by his race engineer to complete a clean lap and not stress his cars components. As it stood, Wood crossed the finish line in sixth one point three seconds slower than Winterbottom.

Following the lackluster performance of Wood was the New Zealander Shane Van Gisbergen in the Tekno Autosports car. It was to Applejack’s delight that she recognised the distinctive red ribbon and logo on the bright yellow bonnet.

“I’ll be. That’s that fella, Tony Quinn’s product.”

“Oh, do you think that they might have something for Opal?” asked Rarity

“Ya, know. I reckon they just might.”

As thrilling as the conversation in the background was, Van Gisbergen had finished his warm-up lap and had, in actuality, started his shootout lap early by treating the section of the circuit from The Chase to the Finish line as part of the shootout lap. His aggressive handling of those few corners had allowed Van Gisbergen to heat his tires up a few degrees more than the previous drivers.

Van Gisbergen was not an inexperienced driver at Mount Panorama. Earlier in the year, he had achieved the lap record for a GT class of car and that reflected in his driving style. At the end of the first timing sector, Van Gisbergen was in first by less than an eyeblink.

By the time Van Gisbergen had crossed the top of the mountain, and using every millimeter of track to his advantage, he was almost four tenths of a second faster than Winterbottom as he powered down Conrod Straight.

Like some of the previous drivers, Van Gisbergen took a faster approach to the Kink in The Chase than what was normally used during racing conditions. To prevent wheelspin and brakes locking up, Van Gisbergen used a series of quick gear changes to force the engine to slow down. This trick meant that while he would lose as much speed as any other driver going through the corner, his engine speed and gear selection meant that he would be able to regain speed a fraction of a second faster. The risk was that this type of engine abuse increased the chance that he would either damage the transaxle, damage the fickle racing engine, or both.

Holding nothing back as he came to the penultimate corner, Van Gisbergen took the turn cleanly to cross the line a third of a second ahead of Winterbottom and into provisional pole.

The final car to do a qualifying run in the reduced shootout was Fabian Coulthard, the feeling inside the VIP room was electric after seeing Van Gisbergen’s qualifying lap and knowing that the final driver was also the current lap record holder.

Coulthard’s run up Mountain Straight was fast, as was his approach through Griffin’s Bend and into The Cutting. At the end of the first timing sector, Coulthard was slower than Van Gisbergen but over the previous practice and qualifying sessions it was in the second timing sector where Coulthard had made up ground.

It was not to be. Couthard’s approach from McPhillamy Park was slightly out and he had to tap the brakes to help line the car up for Skyline and the approach to the Essesses. That singular misstep had a flow on effect so that by the time Coulthard had arrived at Forrest’s Elbow and the end of the second timing sector, he was half a second down on Van Gisbergen’s time.

Coulthard’s run down Conrod Straight was fast, as was his passage through The Chase, exiting The Chase he managed to put a rear tire onto the grass. This mistake increased the time difference between Coulthard and Van Gisbergen to over seven tenths of a second at the finish line and relegated Coulthard down to fifth for Sunday’s race.

With the end of the shootout, the day was officially over. After the course car had done a final check of the circuit, officials reopened Mount Panorama for public use the ‘Mane Six’ as various teams had dubbed the Ponyville Ponies went over Twilight’s itinerary for the final outing, and most challenging event in any diplomatic event of the day, dinner.