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TECHNOLOGY

Shell works at winning formula

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Shell organizes the Eco Marathon, a competition where the prototype car that consumes the least fuel wins.

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Chester, England (CNN) -- If you drive a car, then chances are Andy McDougall and Dan Jamieson have played a role in the types of products you put inside your vehicle.

Both work for oil giant Shell, with McDougall specializing in fuel and Jamieson in lubricants.

They divide their time between Formula One circuits, including Ferrari's test track at Maranello, Italy and the Shell labs in Chester, in the northwest of England.

They say knowledge gained from racing is an indispensable testing ground for ordinary driving.

"The Formula One race track is probably the toughest lab test there is, and if we can pass that test it's good for the consumer," McDougall told CNN.

However, Jamieson accepts there are some crucial differences.

"(Racing) engines are designed to last for two race weekends -- so roughly 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) -- whereas your car at home is going to last more than 1,500 kilometers, so the lubricants are different."

By its usually high standards, the Ferrari F1 team has had a fairly disastrous year on the track, but Shell has no plans to bring the relationship to an end. As Ferrari's technical partner, Shell develops and supplies fuel and oils to the F1 team.

F1 world champion and Ferrari team member Michael Schumacher told CNN he maintained a keen interest in what went into his vehicle.

"The competition is so extreme that every detail is important everything has to be on the edge of competition and you have to work with your partner, you have to understand the product." (Full story)

President and CEO of Shell Oil Products in the U.S., Rob Routs, told CNN that ultimately any advances in technology on the racetrack benefit consumers.

"In the end, the consumer is the winner because they have a cleaner engine. That's what we're working towards with Ferrari," he said.

"The consumer will also have a higher performance engine because of the fuel formulations that we develop. And the lubricants should actually reduce the wear and tear on the engine by quite a bit so it'll have a longer life and better performance."

But a company like Shell will always have its detractors.

Lorne Stockman, ecological campaigner for London-based environment group Platform, told CNN that it was important to remember that Shell was an oil and gas producer, which had negative implications for the environment.

"Shell is very good at making a big noise about some of the projects it's involved with, which are beneficial to communities or are reducing the impact of the industry, but it's very much silent about its core business which is producing a lot of oil and gas."

But Shell is all too aware that to endear itself to the public, it has to improve its environmental credentials.

Every year, it organizes events like the Eco Marathon, a competition where the prototype car that consumes the least fuel wins, to try and address its critics.

The current record stands at 11,195 miles (18,000 kilometers) per gallon, but unlike F1, the average speed is just 15mph (24 kilometers per hour).

At the Shell Global Solutions Centre in the north of England, meanwhile, the information gathered from all F1 circuits around the world comes together to become a commercial reality.

It is also where McDougall and Jamieson can be found when they are not on the F1 track.

"Part of my day-to-day role is testing the end of race samples which we receive from Ferrari, said Jamieson.

"Coming up in the next year or so we'll be launching what we call green fuels with bio-components."

-- CNN's Andrea Sanke contributed to this report.

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