Heart pumping ride with F1 driver at over 190km per hour

Heart pumping ride with F1 driver at over 190km per hour

The engine is revved up. The lights go out. Sitting in the car, my heart rate begins to shoot up.

I am in the passenger seat of a sleek red Ferrari California T for a lap around Shell's specially designed performance driving circuit in Senawang, Malaysia.

Next to me is Marc Gene, a vastly experienced former Formula One (F1) driver who is now a test driver for the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team.

The Shell and Ferrari teams were in Senawang for the Malaysian Grand Prix, held in Sepang, the second race of the 2015 F1 calendar. Shell and Ferrari have a long-standing partnership in the development and innovation of premium performance fuels for use on both the track and the road.

On this race weekend, AsiaOne was invited to Shell's special "The Science of Driving Excitement" event. The event includes activities that explain the innovation behind Shell's development of performance fuels, as well as a special "performance driving experience" with heartbeat and breathing sensors connected to measure participants' excitement levels.

Once the five little lights go out, I felt myself being pulled back by sheer force as Mr Gene steps on the gas and we accelerate from the starting line like a rocket.

While it is not an F1 car, the Ferrari I am sitting in is still a force to be reckoned with. Mr Gene said: "An F1 car is a lot more radical in its movement, like braking and cornering, because it has downforce which makes it very light. But the acceleration is not so different."

The California T can sprint from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds. By the end of the opening straight of about 100 metres, the car has already accelerated to a speed of about 120 miles per hour (193 km/h).

Mr Gene tackles a corner where water is being sprayed onto the track to recreate rainy conditions with a sleek drift. He swiftly manoeuvres through a slalom course of sharp corners and turns, then accelerates through a pitch black tunnel that slowly lights up with laser lights on both sides.

Even though we were going at extremely high speeds, I felt safe throughout as Mr Gene always appeared to be in control of the powerful vehicle. He was constantly cool answering my questions about his driving experiences, while I was gripping tightly to my seat throughout the lap.

The whole exhilirating experience is over in under two minutes, and then it is off to the analysis room to find out what the physiological sensors learned about me.

I am told that while on the track, my heart rate shot up to a high of 146 beats per minute (bpm), while my breathing rate went up to 36 breaths per minute (rpm).

According to Wikipedia, the normal heart rate for an adult at rest ranges from 60-100 bpm, while the normal breathing rate for an adult at rest is 12-20 rpm.

Unknown to many, Shell's V-Power petrol is actually quite similar to the fuel mixes used on the F1 track. In fact, Shell says that the V-Power petrol found in commercial pumps worldwide is 99 per cent similar to the fuel used by the Ferrari F1 team on race day.

All this is down to the close linkage between the teams that develop Shell's consumer petrols and racing formula.

"The information sharing and the transfer of technology goes both ways," explained Mr Guy Lovett, Shell's Technology Manager for Ferrari.

"It can go from road cars into racing, or from our road-going products to F1."

The partnership still appears to be bearing fruit in what turned out to be a good weekend for the Ferrari team, with new boy Sebastian Vettel taking the chequered flag in his second ever race for the Prancing Horses.

seanyap@sph.com.sg

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