I recently had the honor of being chosen as the ambassador for Shell in the Philippines. When I got the news, I could hardly believe it! A huge brand I use and trust, trusted me to endorse their brand.. I am humbled and proud at the same time.
So part of my "duties" as ambassador for Shell was to do the Shell FuelSave Celebrity Driving Challenge. For the first part of the challenge, I drove from the Shell Refinery in Tabangao, Batangas, passed by a Shell station along SLEX, met some of the brilliant student teams from DLSU, UST, and Mapua to learn all about the prototype cars they made for the Shell Eco-Marathon, and we ended the day in Intramuros for a closing program with all the teams and with the Shell executives.
I am no car fanatic, nor am I a science whiz who knows the technology behind creating fuel. I am just like any other ordinary driver on the roads of Metro Manila who wants to make sulit every bit of gas I load in my car. I did wonder why Shell chose me, and apparently, it was precisely because of this. They want people to know that all of us, regardless of background, with the right choice of fuel and tiny changes in our driving habits, can get the most distance out of our fuel.
A few easy tips I learned?
1. Keep a cool head: It is so easy to get hot headed when stuck in traffic. The more you jam on the gas pedal and the brake pedal, the more fuel your car consumes. So steady lang.
2. Lighten your load: The more stuff you have in the car, the heavier it is, the more gas you consume.
3. Check your tire pressure: The wrong tire pressure (too little or too much) can greatly affect how much fuel you consume! No harm in putting (the right) air in your tires every time you gas up.
Proof that these simple tips work? From a full tank, all the way from Batangas to Manila (with traffic pa yun ha!) I only consumed less than 1/4 of a tank of a Ford Fiesta. Not bad at all right?
Then came the day of the main event. On the 100th year of Shell in the Philippines, for the first time ever, Manila hosted this huge international event, the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2014. Over 100 student teams from over 15 countries came together to present their prototype cars. The Philippines had 15 amazing teams in the competition, and at the end of the day, they made our country proud!
I am so proud to share that DLSU Eco-Car Team Electric took home Second Prize in the Urban Concept - Battery Electric Category! Congratulations!!!! Aside from that, the DLSU team also got the Team Spirit award. Know what they did? The prototype car from the India team wasn't able to get their car to Manila, so the DLSU team lent them a past SEMA car for India to modify so that they can still enter the competition. Filipino hospitality at its finest!
So aside from the student teams, there was the main event for the Celebrity Driving Challenge. It is a super surreal experience driving a prototype car of the future, so allow me to share a blow by blow account of my briefing:
So first, you get into your race suit and put on ballet-flats-type shoes.
Then the gloves come on. (Yes, that red car is what I need to drive. Crazy right?!)
Slide your feet in, put on your helmet, and put on those intimidating 5-strap seat belts.
Lie down, (yes, you drive lying down!! Gaah!!) and steer and drive using your hands. See that silver bar below the seatbelt? Left top handle is gas, right top handle is the front brakes, left bottom handle is back brakes, right button is the horn, left button is to kill the engine, and to start the engine is a key on the right side. The steering bar is ultra sensitive so the slightest movement will make the car turn!
Last minute briefing by the Shell Team and me putting my thumbs up for the photo as if I was calm but in reality I was so, so, so nervous!
They put the top of the car on and voila! I was the first to try the track and it was a crazy insane experience! They gave us one test round first. Being the speed devil that I am, I totally floored the accelerator! When else will I get to drive something like this right?! I just had to do it. I studied my turns, studied how hard a press I will need to get 100 metres or so, then came back into the pit. After they checked my fuel and if everything was okay, the pit crew told me, "You were going too fast!" Whoops. To be fuel efficient, we had to go around 30. I was told I went 46!
I was ready with my real round. We did two laps for the competition proper and as soon as I was done, I wanted to drive it around more! Hahaha! Truly a once in a lifetime experience. How did it feel? Well it was extremely hot, the whole car was vibrating, it is kind of awkward driving lying down with your neck just wedged up, but I loved it!
I wasn't the only one who had to drive this. We took turns, and I was first. Meet my fellow Shell ambassadors for Asia, and those I competed against in the Driving Challenge!
Meet Lisa Surihani, an actress from Malaysia:
Next is Alex Rendell, an actor and host from Thailand:
And last is Jean Danker, a radio DJ and TV host from Singapore, with her fiancé, radio partner, and also a Shell ambassador for Singapore, Glenn Ong:
They were all super cool with the most endearing personalities and I wish we could've had more than a day to spend together!
We all took our turns, did press interviews, took a breather, then gathered around together for the awarding ceremony. Mr. Asada Harinsuit, Vice President for Shell Retail, made the announcement.. and with such tension! He announced the results in reverse order, starting from fourth place. To be honest, I really was not expecting anything, I just knew in my heart I really, really did my best!
Finally, he said, "And the Celebrity Driver of the Year is, Bianca!" Waaaaaaaah!!!! The whole table from the Philippines jumped up in (shock!?) joy and we were all just so unexpectedly happy!!!!
The official press release said:
"Gonzalez beat the competition by driving an astounding distance of 67.61 kilometers on just one liter of Shell FuelSave fuel."
WOOHOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Akalain mo ba naman?!
I have never competed in anything that I had me wearing a flag of the Philippines on my uniform, nor have I ever had to "represent" the Philippines in any way, shape, or form. It was really just a great experience and "winning" the competition was an amazing bonus! Thank you to everyone who wished me luck and to those who congratulated me in person and on social media. It means a lot and I truly appreciate it!
Thank you Shell for this unforgettable once in a lifetime experience!!!!