The Proving Grounds
"You ever drive a power-wagon before, kid? Tell me what you know." The mechanic pushed the flywheel cover plate closed and tossed Tarvo a pair of well-worn leather gloves. "Only once at a traveling fair." He tried the gloves on, a bit small. "Three levers, one to clutch-bind the flywheel to the shaft, one to adjust the gearing for speed, one for the brake, and a linkage sever to break the binding plate if necessary." "Must have been an old model to still have the severs." The mechanic gave a grin. "This one's a new model, they're experimenting. Flywheel binds to a funnel shaped gear with a belt linking it and the main driveshaft, and the belt adjusts itself up and down the funnel based on speed. All automatic, doesn't require driver input at all. You clutch in and go, adjust the clutch lever to control speed, brakes on its own, no gearing needed." "Seems simple enough." Tarvo climbed onto the power-wagon. It was fresh from the manufactory, with freshly varnished levers and a leather cushioned seat that needed breaking-in. Sure enough, there were only two levers, and no sever handle. "How many laps do you want me to run?" "Three. Don't need to go that fast, just get ready to describe if anything feels strange or weird to you." The mechanic pointed away down the track. "Take it slow around the second turn, we got some birds on the ring, looks like." Tarvo slowly pulled the clutch lever back, and the power-wagon began to roll forward. "Got it. Be back in a bit."
Purpose / Function
The Proving Grounds is a private ring-shaped open track for testing Power-Wagons and holding wagon races, located outside the Etoile Capital City. Power-wagon manufactories found testing on public roads inconvenient and occasionally dangerous given the level of public traffic, and a consortium pooled resources together to construct a track well outside the Capital where new designs could be safely driven. Not long after the construction of the track, one manufactory had the idea of running races on the track open to the public, in order to showcase new power-wagon technology each year, and the seasonal races attract large crowds.
Originally merely a coachhouse and a gravel ring road on an open spot of land next to a waterwheel, the growing popularity of the races required the addition of a grandstand and more coachhouses, as well as improvements to the access roads leading to the grounds. The Proving Grounds are not connected to Capital power linkages, and the original waterwheel was insufficient to charge Power to the large number of wagons present on race days, so a water reservoir and power substation were constructed to handle the power load.
The Proving Grounds is a roughly three mile long gravel loop, shaped like a square with rounded corners, in the middle of the plains west of the Etoile Capital City. All of the infrastructure is at the southern part of the road, with coachhouses for repair work situated in a working area just off the track, next to a grandstand. Due to some incidents, all buildings are made of stone and built to withstand the impact of a wagon striking the building at high speeds.
The Ring was constructed in 695 and public racing began in the year 699. Though the seasonal races are a perennially popular event, wagon crashes and power accidents are relatively common, and there have been a number of deadly incidents. Each has resulted in improvements to safety architecture at the Grounds, but advances in wagon technology and speed have made crashes deadlier. Though the actual danger is somewhat low, the reputation of the races has made them even more appealing to younger Capital nobility, with front seats at the stands commanding a premium price.
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