Rob Wilson – Formula One’s secret weapon
Even hardcore Formula One fans might never have heard of Rob Wilson, the New Zealand-born racer who helps half the current F1 grid drive faster.
ALMOST HALF THE CURRENT Formula One grid rely on the services of Rob Wilson who allegedly helps them to carve split seconds from their lap time. And his weapon of choice? A Vauxhall Astra, or as we know it, a Holden Astra. He also runs an Insignia (below) and Astra GTC.
Clearly a publicity move by Vauxhall in the UK to raise the profile of this model and link it to one of the world’s most popular motor sport categories, it’s still an interesting story. Based at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in South Leicestershire, UK, Wilson uses the techniques he’s honed from his own racing career, see below, to help 12 of the current F1 drivers go a little bit quicker.
“The Vauxhalls will do everything that an F1 car does dynamically, just at a far lower speed,’ said Rob. ‘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,” Wilson says.
Wilson’s technique focus on cornering and braking weights, and how to minimise both by adopting sometimes counter-intuitive cornering lines; even gear-changing comes under the microscope:
“Many top drivers have never heel-and-toed during down-changes, because they’ve never needed to. 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,” he says.
Born in New Zealand, Wilson went to the UK in 1975 and competed in Formula Ford, Formula Three and Formula Pacific through the 1970s and ‘80s. He moved into Sports Cars in 1991 and competed in the IMSA Supercar Championship, before taking on the might of NASCAR and Indycar between 1994 and ’97. After a brief period in British GTs, he focused on first the American Le Mans series, and then the European Le Mans series in the early 2000s, with drives in 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004 and 2006.