Forty-six competitors lined up at Tankersley Manor, near Sheffield for the start of the event, and the eventual winners of the contest to achieve the best outright MPG proved that you don’t have to be an eco-driving expert to clock up a winning performance.
Driving a Ford Fiesta ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi – the same vehicle that took Andy Dawson and Andrew Marriott to victory in the 2012 MPG Marathon – were Leicestershire County Council employees Nick Chapman and Rosemary Homer.
The pair, who had never even met each other before the event, were nominated for the drive by the head of Leicestershire County Council’s Road Safety Unit, Jonathan Clarkson. He said: “We were looking for a way to acknowledge the achievements of our two ‘greenest’ employees by entering them into the MPG Marathon and they have fully justified their involvement with a superb performance.”
Chapman and Homer admitted they were disappointed with their performance on day one of the event. But some eco-driving tips from some former winners during the evening saw them make light work of day two, eventually returning 88.69mpg over their 339.3-mile course, for an impressive win against the best in the economy driving world.
Former BBC Top Gear presenter, Sue Baker, came agonisingly close to victory in a Renault Clio dCi 90, but her 87.36mpg fell just short of the mark and saw her finish in second place.
Third place went to Mark Armstrong-Read of Derbyshire NHS Trust – winner of the percentage improvement prize in 2012. His impressive return of 84.87mpg in a Honda Civic 1.6i-DTEC could have been much better were it not for a traffic hold-up in Sheffield city centre.
MPG Marathon organiser, Ross Durkin, said: “Once again we recorded some excellent driving performances, but the conditions were really tough this year with strong northerly winds throughout the event, long hills to climb and heavy traffic in places.
“Under the circumstances, Nick and Rosemary’s performance was all the more remarkable as they’ve never taken part in an economy driving event before,” he added.
Alongside the competition for the best outright MPG, the Marathon also challenged drivers to improve on the official fuel consumption figures issued for their vehicle. And this year’s winners proved that the manufacturers’ ‘combined cycle’ figures need not be a barrier.
Winners of the ‘Percentage Improvement’ award were MPG Marathon veterans John Kendall and Paul Nieuwenhuis, who coaxed 59.39mpg from their Peugeot 208 GTi, a remarkable improvement of 23.99% over the published figure of 47.9mpg.
Second place in the percentage improvement trial went to motoring journalist Chris Russon and Peugeot PR man Kevin Jones, in a new Peugeot 308 HDi 92, with an uplift of 10.41%, while third place went to the Honda Civic of Armstrong-Read with an 8.12% improvement.
Ross Durkin commented: “Overall, this year’s performances in the percentage improvement class were down on last year’s, reflecting the extremely difficult conditions faced by drivers. But the average improvement over published combined cycle figures across all the cars in the event was 5.6%, which clearly demonstrates what can be achieved with the right skills.”
The MPG Marathon is designed to be a ‘real world’ test that demonstrates the benefits to both the environment and the motorist’s back pocket of employing simple, smarter driving techniques.
This year’s event saw the introduction of a new ‘navigational scatter’ format with competitors being required to visit a number of fixed points via the route of their choice, as opposed to the fixed route used in previous years. As a result, drivers were faced with a number of decisions to find the optimum route, without incurring time penalties. The location, speed and direction of travel of each competitor were monitored in real-time by TRACKER satellite tracking technology fitted to each vehicle.
Event organiser, Ross Durkin said: “We aim to make the MPG Marathon as representative of everyday driving as possible. Some economy driving events have got a bit of a bad name with contestants crawling along and holding up the traffic, but that’s certainly not a criticism that can be levelled at this year’s MPG Marathon.
“The new format meant that hardly any drivers took the same route and it was absolutely fascinating to follow their progress via the TRACKER website. We impose strict time penalties on anyone who is late at the controls, so they have to keep up with the traffic or face the consequences.”
Commercial vehicle manufacturers have a lot to gain from the MPG Marathon and none more so than Ford, whose Fiesta Sport Van covered 362.9 miles on just 3.33 gallons of Shell FuelSave diesel. The van – driven by BBC transport correspondent Paul Clifton and his son Doug – notched up an incredible 108.82mpg, trouncing the Fiesta Van’s combined figure of 78.5mpg by 38.62%, to underline the potential cost savings to businesses.
Runner-up for the second year in succession in the LCV section was VAN Fleet World editor Dan Gilkes. His 52.08mpg in the Isuzu Eiger double-cab pick-up represented a solid 36.32% improvement over the official combined figure of 38.2mpg. The Citroen Berlingo of ALD Automotive customers Status Heating with economy driving debutants, Leigh Skillet and Richard Bone, was third with a highly creditable 29.1% increase.
Event organiser Ross Durkin commented: “The MPG Marathon highlights the fuel – and hence emissions – savings that can be achieved by any driver in any vehicle. And as this year’s winners will testify, you don’t have to be a seasoned, hyper-miling pro to do it.
“The drivers had strict time limits to make sure they kept up with the traffic at all times, and faced some really challenging conditions at times. The motor manufacturers and technology suppliers have done a tremendous job in improving the fuel efficiency of all news cars and vans, but motorists should see their published fuel consumption figures as a target to beat, not the maximum achievable.”