BLOG: Shell V-Power & Ferrari: "A Special Relationship" Part 1: F12 Berlinetta & Marc Gené

Like a fine bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild 1982 Pauillac, 1er Grand Cru Classé and a shiny Dartington crystal wine bowl, so Shell V-Power fuels and legendary super car manufacturer Ferrari have a special relationship – each established, luxury, market-leading brand feeding into each other's sensibilities, each adding its own know-how and strengths and each working in perfect symbiosis and harmony, to create perfection. Ever since the first Ferrari 125 S rolled out of the gates at Maranello in the Summer of 1947, it's been powered by Shell fuels. And today, the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team and its 700+bhp F14 T F1 car is still powered by Shell fuel... interesting, a version of V-Power Nitro + that's "99% the same" as the 'Super Unleaded' fuel you can buy on most Shell forecourts across the world, so Shell informs us. It's so similar in fact, the F1 car is more than capable of running on it, as you can see here. That's pretty mad. But more on all that in a bit.

Road Magazine has been invited to a secret test track, just a stone's throw from Spa-Francorchamps (on Belgian GP weekend no less!) to discover more about their new high octane 99RON V-Power Nitro + unleaded fuel.
We have the assistance of an army of Shell's fuel boffin elite (some even in white coats!), two of the best modern Ferraris – the track-focused, 600bhp, high revving V8 of the 458 Speciale and the ballistic 740bhp V12 of the F12 Berlinetta stunner – and two fellas who know a fair bit about driving Ferraris, test aces, Marc Gené and Andrea Bertolini. Wow!

Shell has lined up a first of its kind experiment to measure 'driving excitement' ahead of the 2014 Shell Belgian Grand Prix – hooking us up to a heart rate monitor and biometric finger sensors, before sending us out sideways, at full chat, with Marc and Andrea in the aforementioned Ferraris, around a unique track peppered with novelties.
I get to go out with Marc, in the Daytona-esque F12 Belinetta, which makes me very happy, as it's got the most grunt, a V12 (like all the best Ferraris) and is quite obviously the most tail happy. Sweet.

Marc is a proper gent, and one of the most smiley men in motorsport (see above!). Now 40, economics graduate Marc came from being the youngest ever driver to win the Spanish Kart Championship (at 16) to F1 in under a decade and has driven for Minardi, Faenza and BMW-Williams (where he raced three GPs). And he's been on Ferrari's books since 2004 as a test driver, as well as travelling the world with Shell.
I climb into the F12 and get hooked up with the science clobber, and he breaks the ice with a question: "So, have you ever done extreme anything like this before?" I tell him no, and yes, and mention co-driving with Colin McRae in a 350bhp Mk2 Escort. Marc laughs and says: "Well, I'm never going to be able to top that. The things he did with a rally car are unreal." And he goes on to tell me about an eye-opener of a drive with Colin at Rallye Catalunya, smiling wider still.... then, as the proper racing start track lights go green, Marc wakes up the monster of a V12, lights up the back tyres and launches us onto the micro track, maximum attack style, in a style I am sure Colin would have approved of.
The F12 is utterly phenomenal. It looks big and heavy, but feels so lithe blasting off the line, hitting 60 in a shade over three seconds, then breaking broadside into the first bend, feeling magnificent as it glides into a slide.

Marc's car control is, as you would expect, perfect – extracting every last one of the 740 ponies on the straight sections, which absolutely pins you into the luxurious leather seats, and standing on the car's nose in the braking sections – one of which feeds into Shell's first surprise, a "Winter scene' low-friction surface, with fake snow and water... cue, full opposite lock and lots of barking from the V12 as Marc feathers the throttle to find the grip. Wicked.
Marc then fires us up a short hill hard on the gas and flicks the Ferrari into a totally blind right hander and into a 100m 'tunnel' – first dark, then lit with lasers, strobes and filled with smoke. Nuts.

The F1 test ace is now fully on it and mashes the F12 Berlinetta's throttle to the maximum, snaking sideways out of second and into third, to the redline – out of the tunnel and back into the light – for the best, fastest corner of the track. And, just before he stamps on the brakes and flicks the car into a lurid, beautifully balanced and automotive acoustic dream of a power slide for the final corner, he reveals "even for a guy who's driven F1 cars and races, the power of this F12 is still shocking to me." Christ, he may not be showing it dancing this £250,000 Italian Stallion about, but he is human. He's also very excited... and still smiling, as indeed am I.
Drifting in and out of the final bend, Marc stamps on the anchors and the F12 stands on its nose again, carbon brakes and ABS chattering. The bonkers blast is over for me, sadly. I'd have been happy doing that all day, and chatting with Marc, who adds: "This has been one of the most special PR events I have ever done, I've really enjoyed something so very, very unique." And I could not have put it better myself. 
Excited? You bet your ass I am! I may not have reached the 170 bpm average heart rate that F1 drivers have in a race (unreal!), but the excitement analysis data reveals my heart rate peaked at 118 (the group peak was 134!), and I also achieved a 108% increase in levels of excitement... whatever that means! I've never been that into numbers, being a wordsmith. All I know is: Petrol head + V12 Ferrari + F1 test ace + Shell V-Power circuit with cool stuff on + drifting + noise + tyre smoke = pretty darn exciting! Simples. 

You can find more images of this fabulous driving experience – powered by Shell V-Power Nitro + – on our Facebook page & Twitter feed. And tune in later this week for Part 2, where we get to grips with what the new V-Power fuel is all about, and have a hunt around the Ferrari F1 paddock and pit garages. Sweet! 

Oh, and watch the video of Scuderia Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen doing the experience we did here.

"For me, driving is my biggest passion so it was fascinating to find out what it is about getting behind the wheel that really sets my heart racing. Thanks to Shell, I now know to go looking for tunnels when I’m not on the track." Ferrari Formula One Driver, Kimi Räikkönen said.


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