Cars wouldn’t reach the road without test drivers. Here are the best of them
1 DARIO BENUZZI
Before there was drifting, there was Benuzzi at Fiorano. The veteran Ferrari test driver was capable of sliding anything from the Italian lineup around the company’s private Fiorano test track— however, his real job was tweaking and tuning the cars to make them a supercar benchmark.
2 VALENTINO BALBONI
How good was he? Lamborghini paid the ultimate honour when it named a car after him. Like Benuzzi at Ferrari, Balboni was the go-to man at Lamborghini thanks to his driving skill and engineering ability.
3 ALLAN MOFFAT
The touring car legend had a reputation for endless testing and tweaking to get the best from his cars, from his mighty Mustang through to Mazda RX-7s and Ford Sierras. After he retired he became a consultant and a driver trainer for BMW, and his latest work is on the hero cars from Ford Performance Vehicles.
4 ROB TRUBIANI
No one knows Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground better than Trubiani, who has sublime driving talent matching that of Peter Brock. He’s never raced but he is responsible for some of Australia’s favourite driving cars— and he does all his work in steel-capped safety boots.
5 GRAEME GAMBOLD
Toyota recognised Gambold’s ability with the highest global ranking for its test drivers, including certification to drive its prototypes on the Nurburgring in Germany. He now puts Aussie tuning touches to the suspension of every new Kia that lands here.
6 JENSON BUTTON, LEWIS HAMILTON
Britain’s two most-recent world champions have been put to work at McLaren— which also provides their grand prix cars— on development of the road going MP4-12C Coupe. Button and Hamilton were used for track tuning on the car, which comes to Australia later this year.
7 RUDOLF UHLENHAUT
His name’s faded into history, but no one in the 1950s was better on new-car development than the chief tester at Mercedes-Benz. This bloke was as quick as Juan Manuel Fangio on a track and often took Benz’s grand prix cars for a shakedown before the races.
8 RICHARD PARRY-JONES
The British engineering chief and sometime rally driver was the man most responsible for Fords that are fun to drive. He whipped his own cars into shape and, when he became global boss, did the same for everything from the Focus to the Falcon.
9 ALEX DE VLUGT
The title of Vehicle Dynamics Manager says everything about his job at Ford Australia and the cars he helps to produce. The latest Falcon has his fingerprints all over it, and even the Territory gets carlike dynamics to separate it from the SUV pack.
The former chairman atGM Holden is also a top-class engineer who also races a bit. He has the top certification at General Motors, allowing him to drive prototypes on the Nurburgring— and also took a top-secret hot lap in Garth Tander’s HRT V8 Supercar during his time in Melbourne.
Driven men: (Clockwise, from top left)Touring car legend Allan Moffat, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Juan Fangio, whodid shakedowns for Benz