Top F1 driver coach, Rob Wilson, isn’t the most sympathetic driver you’ll meet. Since Vauxhall loaned him two ex-press Astras last April in which to train some of the world’s leading race drivers, the cars have covered the equivalent of five Le Mans 24-Hour races, all completely flat-out at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire.
Rob Wilson is possibly one of the most important players in Formula One that you’ve never heard of, and is instrumental in carving split seconds from the lap times of at least 12 drivers who’ve been on the grid in 2015. Their skills are honed in two standard production Astras – a 1.6 CDTi 136PS diesel Sports Tourer and a 1.6T 200PS petrol GTC.
“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 on the track in real time.”
But as Rob swapped his beloved Astras for three models from the all-new generation range, it wasn’t without some regret. ‘The Astras have been as tough as old boots. Between them, they’ve covered over 16,000 track miles at Bruntingthorpe in the hands of successive F1, GP2, WRC, DTM and Indycar drivers, and they haven’t missed a beat. They’ve chewed through 400 tyres and 40 sets of brake pads, but despite nearly 100,000 gearshifts and 43,000 severe braking manoeuvres, the cars are as nice to drive as they were on Day One.
“I often have a driver’s race engineer in the back seat and everyone has commented how comfortable the cars are, and how predictable and stable their handling is. The cars have an unbelievably hard time out on our track, so I need to know that they’re not going to break. I have tried other makes of car, but they’ve always suffered some kind of breakdown. I’m really looking forward to spending next year in the new Astras.”
Rob is taking delivery of three new Astras this month – all SRi models, two 1.6 CDTi 136PSs and one 1.4T 150PS – and has already sampled one on track, taking a full three seconds off his best lap time in the outgoing car. ‘You can feel the benefits that up to 200kgs of weight-loss has brought straight away,’ said Rob. ‘My drivers are going to enjoy their training even more in 2016.’
So What Have Rob’s Astras Endured?
- 16,000 track miles at full race speed
- 7,250 laps of Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground
- 2,250 corners on the limit
- 43,000 hard-braking areas driven through
- 95,000 manual gearshifts
- 400 replacement tyres
- 30 sets of front brake pads
- 10 sets of rear brake pads
- 10 front brake discs