with 24 days until Spa, here’s a Badger feature where we met Freddie Flintoff with Shell…
Last year English cricket star Freddie Flintoff gave an honest assessment of his skills behind the wheel of a road car: “I’m a shocking driver,” he told Auto Trader magazine, before adding, “I’ve had lots of minor scrapes in the past but the worst was when I filled up my Volkswagen Touareg with petrol instead of diesel”.
And so you’ll forgive this reporter for finding it a bit odd to be sat next to the aforementioned Mr Flintoff in a VW for a lap of Daytona kart circuit in Surrey.
Of course this didn’t all happen by some strange sequence of events, but through Badger’s dispatch of the reporter in question to the launch of Shell’s new FuelSave petrol and diesel range. Mr Flintoff is Shell’s fuel efficiency ambassador, and as such was treating an assembled group of media types to a lesson in economic driving. Make sense now? What do you mean ‘no’?
Escaping the frankly overrated urban sprawl of London (via southbound train) for the more scenic surroundings of Esher, Surrey I am greeted by a breakfast spread to write home about: croissants, pain au chocolat, and melon (cantelope if I’m not mistaken) to name but a few of the food stuffs on offer.
But this is serious business, and soon Shell boffin and all-round fuel aficionado Jo Smith is explaining the new range of fuels: “it’s all about efficiency,” sums it all up very nicely- and about as complexly as this reporter can stretch to- before it all got rather technical.
Put simply the FuelSave range is five years in the making and has pushed the boundaries of waste elimination during fuel use. And, most appealingly to the wider public, it should save 1 litre per fill up at the tanks. “We believe very strongly in that. The results are strong and consistent- this isn’t a misleading figure”. Well we’d hope not!
This is a fuel for the average car user, not the car nut. Whilst Shell’s V-Power range- developed with the Ferrari F1 team- was aimed at those who consider their car a prized possession FuelSave is for those for those for whom it’s a means of getting from A to B. Like Freddie Flintoff, family man and Range Rover driver. Is it becoming a bit more clear why the Ferdster is their ambassador? Okay, he’s a mega rich sportsman, but celeb-wise he’s a pretty average bloke.
So, science done, it’s time to let a cricketer tell us- a group mainly comprising motoring journos- how to drive a car properly.
Freddie educates us in some of the simpler ways we can be more fuel efficient. “Roof racks- they cause drag. I know people with roofracks that they don’t even use,” he says with horror in his voice. “Shut your windows, too,” he says, and he sticks by that mantra during our laps of the track. He might have regretted it, as it’s a very hot July afternoon, but at least he’s a man of his word.
On to the track for a real life demo of economy driving. For the first tour he demonstrates how it’s not done, opening up the throttle and carrying some speed in to the corners with a surprising amount of skill. However to myself this is just how you should do it. He hits the apex, gets the throttle down early and has all the right lines through a winding series of corners. His demo of how it is done is a comparatively dull, but then this isn’t about nailing a lap time.
Of course this is a circuit, not a road. If we’d been driving down a high street I’d have actively discouraged Freddie from clipping the apex- pedestrians often stand on the apex when trying to cross the road.
And he knows that, which is why he’s done a some track days, including a few laps of Silverstone in a Nissan GTR. He’s more of a bike man though, and owns a Harley Davidson no less. “I went to Scotland to take my bike test, but I’d lost my licence so I had to wait,” he says. I smell a scoop, but he soon reveals that he’d just left it in a drawer somewhere, not been banned. Just to repeat: Freddie had not been banned from driving, he’d just left his licence in a drawer. I’d already got the Sun’s nesdesk on the line, too.
And that was that. For myself at least, Freddie’s mission to make Britain more fuel efficient continues (it even has an online presence in Freddie’s Fuel Save Challenge). Okay, so the day wasn’t about racing, least of all Formula One, and I was already aware that short-shifting and using cruise control increase efficiency (though he taught me a lesson with the roofrack).
What surprised this reporter the most was the dedication that Jo Smith and her fellow science types have for developing fuel- a substance most of us take for granted (and complain about the price of). It’s her passion. It’s not everyone’s thing but it’s hers, and she’s really rather good at it. Passion- be it for winning Grand Prix, getting people to take the roofracks off their cars or developing fuel- is the key to success in whatever you want to do. If you love something, if you pour all of your effort in to it, you can succeed- and that’s no more relevant than in the world of Formula One.
And that’s what I took from the day. That and a few croissants I pocketed on the way out.