During 2011 JA on F1 reached out to F1 fans like never before, playing a central role in organising and hosting the three FOTA Fans Forums in Montreal, Woking and Milan, organising one of the first UK screenings of “Senna” for over 200 fans with a star studded list of speakers, sending 14 fans to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and last month we sent a fan ambassador to Abu Dhabi in conjunction with our partner Shell.
After a competition in which the contestants were asked to write a post and submit a video, Rachel Clarke was selected as the winner and duly made the trip to Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit.
Here is her account of the once in a lifetime experience.
Rachel Clarke writes: In November, I travelled with Shell to Abu Dhabi, to take part in the final event of their programme called the V-Power Network of Champions.
The Network has people from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and the Philippines, it’s Shell’s way of connecting with journalists and bloggers to talk about the Shell fuel story through motorsports and their support of Ferrari.
The final event of the year was a chance for everyone to get together again and take part in some activities around the Yas Marina circuit. Before we got anywhere near any cars though, there was a chance for the bloggers to feed back to Shell what they thought of the year. In general, it was extremely positive, with everyone being surprised at the level of access they had been given to the team and to the work that the fuel company does on the track. There were a few minor concerns but everyone thought the programme had been a success, including the Shell people. Once the chat was done though, it was onto the activities for the day, we were split into 4 teams and went out across the track to try stuff out.
As well as experiencing the cars, there was a fun exercise making mocktails – relating it to the components in the fuel – and answering a quick quiz. They had us all dressed up in wet weather gear for this, as there were lots of water pistols involved!
We all had a go at karting, in my case, a very poor attempt. Having only ever been karting once, I was completely outclassed by my group, being last by a long, long way! But at least I made an improvement between sessions. I don’t think I’ve found a new career though. The other activities at the circuit were less tasking for my driving abilities, as we just got to play passengers.
Yas Marina uniquely have a 3 seater drag car, which was driven by Champion Rod Fuller, who took us to 215kph in about 4.5 seconds. With this straightline acceleration, all I could feel is my insides being pushed backwards. I could see why they had strapped down our hands to keep them inside the car!
My final event at the circuit was the one I was most looking forward to, hot laps around the full F1 track. This was something I had never experienced before, going round at racing speed and I wished I could have had longer. Having watched the Abu Dhabi GP the week before, it was brilliant seeing the track from a driver’s perspective and even trying to spot my room as we went under the hotel. Even though, according to some of the more experienced people at the event, it wasn’t that fast, it was quicker than I’d been round corners in a car before and a lot of fun.
Once we’d all finished at the track, we went onto our next destination – < href="http://www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com/">Ferrari World. They’d cleared out a couple of the rides for us, the simulator (where i got disqualified for crashing once too often) and the Formula Rossa roller coaster, which is just a brilliant experience with its super fast acceleration at the start – if you’ve seen the video of Alonso and Massa on the ride, that’s exactly what it feels like.
And that was it. A final dinner, a really, really hard quiz and a few speeches later and Shell wrapped up their V-Power Network of Champions for 2011. I spent time talking to many of the people involved and it seemed the programme was a great success; they will probably be doing it again next year, with some of the same people and some new ones.
I think Shell successfully blended fun and motorsports with learning about the technology behind the fuel and why it works for both the race engines and the normal cars on the road. Everyone had learnt something, from the visits to the fuel development labs trying to make their own blends to how the scientists testing the fuel and oil at an F1 track can determine when the engine will need to be changed. For myself, I had a brilliant time and came out if with a far richer appreciation of the role fuel technology plays in my favourite sport.
(Group photo copyright Shell used with permission, all other photos RachelC, used under CC)