Trial of a prototype car at the Shell Eco Marathon

Test-drive eco marathon shell

At the Shell Eco Marathon, which was held in Rotterdam from the 16th – 19th of May this year, I had the pleasure of getting behind the wheel of a “cigar on wheels” for one lap around the track. This unique experience gave me some insight into the competition, and into what extent driving style plays a role in fuel consumption.

On thing is for sure: not every one can drive a prototype because you need to have the right body frame. The space inside the vehicle is extremely tight, and you have to “become one with the car”. I even traded my running shoes for some flat women’s shoees so that my feet would fit as tightly as possible into the nose of the car. This position then allowed me to get in with my knees under the steering handles, after which I had to lie completely horizontally, with my chin pressed against my chest. So, now I was in position and obviously it was far from comfortable.

After a quick briefing, the team closed the door, and believe me, I’m lucky that I am not claustrophobic! I was pushed to the start line, motor off, by the racing marshals: I really felt like a racing car driver at that point.

It was time to start the motor, and the flag marshal gave me the green light: I was off! I tried to accelerate gently in order not to burn too much fuel, but I had to put my foot down to give the car some speed. So my strategy was to put my foot on the gas, give the car some thrust and then to coast as much as possible.

The layout of the racing track was completely unknown to me, and I understood pretty quickly that I had very limited visibility. It took me a few seconds to understand the course markings. I needed maximum concentration was to understand the layout of the circuit and to maintain a miniumum speed without stepping on the gas pedal too often.

In the end, the lap was over pretty quickly, and I had the impression that I was quite fuel efficient. Back at the stands, Shell engineers started a series of measurements to calculate my fuel consumption. The result: 1.89 liters/100 km. I was a little disappointed – I thought I had done a lot less, especially as I was coasting most of the time.

In any case, this was an extremely interesting experience. I would have loved to have installed my camera inside so that you could have shared the experience with me, but didn’t have the permission to do so. So here’s a video of me getting into the car, so that you understand better what racing car drivers have to go through.

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