More than half of the drivers on this years Formula One grid had training in the most unlikely of cars, including world champion Kimi Raikkonen. Each has had tenths of a second shaved off lap times at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Astra.
Not some modified super-hot Astra either, but an ordinary Sports Tourer. Driver coach Rob Wilson teaches the best in the humble estate car, alongside an Insignia Sports Tourer and an Astra GTC.
The trio form the basis of Rob’s high-performance driving school which has benefitted drivers from F1, Indycar, DTM and even WRC.
“The Vauxhalls will do everything that an F1 car does dynamically, just at a far lower speed,” explained 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.”
Rob’s students are all expected to have a very high standard of driving ability to start with, so don’t think about booking him to knock a few seconds off your Gran Turismo lap times. Instead, any pupils will be focusing on cornering and braking weights, minimising both by adopting some counter-intuitive cornering lines; even gear-changing comes under the microscope.
Vauxhall cars have been chosen for the past 15 years as they offer “stability, handling predictability and durability – these seem to come as standard in every Vauxhall I’ve used.
“The cars have an unbelievably hard time out on our track, as drivers try to beat my lap time,” added Rob, “so I need to know that they’re not going to break, or do something unexpected when we’re cornering at over 100mph.”
Once done for the day, Rob steps in to another Vauxhall for his 100 mile commute home, an Insignia Sports Tourer. “After spending a day being looked after on the limit in Vauxhalls there’s really no other option!”