You may have never heard of Rob Wilson before, but in the world of racing, he’s known as one of the best driving coaches around. The Kiwi mentored Kimi Raikonnen throughout his time spent in Formula Renault and has also taught F1 greats like Juan Pablo Montoya and David Coulthard. On top of this, he’s given pointers to at least 12 of the drivers on the current F1 grid.
You might expect Wilson to coach these elite drivers in high horsepower supercars or racecars, but in fact, his race school uses bone stock Vauxhall Astras. Wilson currently has an Astra Sports Tourer, Astra GTC and an Insignia Sports Tourer at his disposal, cars which he says are perfect for driver education due to their stability, handling predictability and durability.
“The Vauxhalls will do everything that an F1 car does dynamically, just at a far lower speed,” Wilson said. “This allows me to explain the physics behind what the car is doing out on the track in real time, which I’d never manage in a performance car. The other advantage is that the driver’s engineer can ride along too, and this is crucial since a change in driving technique could result in a different set-up for the race car.”
Vauxhall says Wilson’s training sessions focus on cornering and braking weights. He’s known for teaching drivers counter intuitive driving lines, including to ‘shorten’ the corner with sharp steering inputs at the apex. To teach techniques like these, a car doesn’t need to be fast, which is what makes a simple hatchback like the Astra ideal. The manual-transmission economy cars also present a different challenge to today’s F1 drivers, who are more used to a paddle-operated gearbox.
“Many top drivers have never heel-and-toed during down-changes, because they’ve never needed to,” Wilson explained. “But the discipline makes them appreciate the importance of smoothness and how it can have a positive effect on the balance of the car into corners.”
The majority of Wilson’s schools are held at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome in Leicestershire, United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, he completes his daily commute from London to Bruntingthorpe in a Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer. If you trust it around a corner at 80 mph, you might as well trust it to get you from A to B, right?