Four winners of the JA on F1/Shell V Power “Ultimate F1 Road Trip” competition drove down to Spa Francorchamps for an unforgettable weekend and were in the circuit for qualifying and race day, taking in a visit to the paddock, the Ferrari garage and the Shell Track Lab, testing out a simulator, enjoying hospitality at Eau Rouge and even meeting Bernie Ecclestone in a local restaurant!
Here, one of the winners, Andrew Jacobs, recounts his favourite moments from the trip.
Andrew Jacobs writes: “Having been treated to a sumptuous four course meal at the rather chic Hotel Derlon in Maastricht Ruth and I decided to venture out to improve Anglo-European relations. Having drunk copious amounts of beer and wine with Luc and Valpor, whilst discussing the future of the Euro, we eventually found our way back to our room at around 2:30am.
“Having made the 9am reveille with just five minutes to spare we hit the road with our intrepid driver, Fiona from Shell. Two minutes later we found ourselves at some playing fields where a local Saturday morning football match was about to kick off.
“Realising that we were not in the heart of the Ardennes Forest we reset the Sat’ Nav’ accordingly. Ninety minutes later we arrived at the motor circuit that is Spa Francorchamps. Anticipation was palpable amongst the group as we glimpsed the sacred tarmac that is Eau Rouge. Having been informed year in and year out by many an F1 TV presenter how steep the climb is, I was still stunned at the gradient. The excitement of the gathering crowd was like the buzzing of a swarm of flies and the merchandise stalls were busy with people jockeying for position to acquire a memento.
“As we walked through the tunnel under the track final practice three had just begun and we could hear the cars roaring above us. We emerged into bright sunshine and had our first glimpse of the Shell hospitality building that was to be our home for the day. This strangely resembled a Tudor mansion yet once inside we realized how vast the structure was. Shell had invited around 800 guests from all walks of life. The drink stations were already busy with people queuing for beer, wine and assortment of refreshments. We saw FP3 to its conclusion, and had been convinced Alonso would be in pole position.
“Lunch was one of the finest large scale catering events I have ever attended, the smell of the gourmet chicken kebabs and frankfurters enticed us to join the line. Mike, our group’s resident expert on Shell fuels was commandeered to give an impromptu briefing to the assembled masses. It is more than impressive the efforts that he and his 40 strong team go to in providing Ferrari with the Shell V-Power fuel that gives them the competitive advantage.
“It was now time for qualifying and the intensity of the ‘flies buzzing’ had now increased whilst we took our amazing seats in the stand on Eau Rouge. We could hear James’ BBC 5 Live commentary on our fanVision handsets and even this F1 media veteran appeared to be incredulous at the way the sessions evolved.
“Following the pit lane tour as described by my co-blogger we were treated to a private session in the Shell F1 simulator, with the group’s times varying from 2 minutes and 21 seconds to over 5 minutes to complete a lap of this most historic circuit. It was now time for dinner with James, and for me this was the highlight of the weekend. The privilege of spending three hours with someone who had lived and breathed F1 for over 20 years was one of unrivalled value. Of course there were some tales I cannot repeat but that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
“All in all a priceless day that money can’t buy and one that will live with me forever.”