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Workers wearing hard hats and hi-vis jackets are frantically hooking up cables, pulling up plastic floor covers and draping a “Finish” sign across an empty road. They have spent the last month transforming the historical Luneta Park next to Manila Bay into a spectacular venue that will host a unique student competition and welcome thousands of public spectators.

Starting tomorrow—Thursday, 6 February— Shell Eco-marathon gets under way.

The final leg

“It’s amazing to see it all finally come together,” says May Wong, Shell Logistics Lead. “It’s taken two and a half years of planning – and it looks even better than expected!”

Workers on site in Manila

Workers take a break at Luneta Park

Drive to win

This is the first time the Philippines hosts Shell Eco-marathon Asia. From 2010 to 2012 students competed in 2011 and 2012 on the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

“Driver skill is even more critical on this new urban track with its four tight turns,” says Norman Koch, Global Technology Director Shell Eco-marathon. “The top teams will have been studying the route closely and already worked out their strategy.”

Registration opened today for the 109 teams from 15 countries taking part in the challenge. The first started queuing at 6am, keen to finally put their car to the test after last year’s event had to be cancelled due to smog in the region.

Mohamad Yusof will drive for team Eco-planet from Malaysia for the third year. His team is entering the Prototype category with a streamlined, hydrogen-powered car that previously achieved second place. Wearing a bandana to keep the sun off his head, he is used to the heat.

“I don’t like to tempt fate,” he says, waiting among dozens of other students to register. “But I think I will handle the circuit very well – this year we want to be first!”

Track finish line in Manila

An energetic welcome

The newly-built venue also houses the vast Shell Energy Lab, offering exciting interactive exhibits on the future of energy – from giant energy-generating hamster wheels to a National Geographic quiz where players vote with their feet. Site volunteers have been warming up the kinetic dance floor, while under a shaded awning outside others tested the miniature racetrack for saltwater cars.