Hav­ing fi­nessed the skills of many of the world’s top rac­ing driv­ers, Rob Wil­son demon­strates the art of speed… in an As­tra


Want to win a world cham­pi­onship? You’ll be need­ing Rob Wil­son, his Vaux­hall As­tra and a dis­used air­field

THERE MUST HAVE BEEN A DE­FIN­ABLE MO­MENT when ev­ery­thing changed, but no mat­ter how many times I re­peat those brief sec­onds in my head, I just can’t de­tect any dis­cernible shift in body lan­guage or con­cen­tra­tion, or any vari­a­tion in driv­ing style. It was com­pletely, ut­terly, quite won­der­fully seam­less.

Pic­ture the scene: Rob Wil­son driv­ing, me in the pas­sen­ger seat, driv­ing se­dately around Brunt­ingth­orpe Prov­ing Ground in an un­sus­pect­ing and hum­ble 1.4-litre As­tra, deftly nav­i­gat­ing Rob’s own time-served ‘cir­cuit’. He’s talk­ing lines, tech­nique, all in a con­stant but mea­sured stream of con­scious­ness. And then BAM!

Rob is still talk­ing in his quiet, 50-a- day voice, still fi­ness­ing the con­trols as though he’s try­ing to ca­jole a pet­ri­fied mare back into a sta­ble. But the As­tra, oh the poor As­tra – it now ap­pears to have been booted up the back­side by a run­away ele­phant. We’re en­ter­ing the long right at the end of the run­way at a ve­loc­ity – a level of raw de­ter­mi­na­tion – I don’t think I’ve ever seen or felt be­fore, and my right foot in­stinc­tively starts to com­press the car­pet. Nails dig pa­thet­i­cally into plas­tic.

But the As­tra’s will is ruth­lessly un­der Rob’s com­mand, and con­tin­ues to be so for the next cou­ple of laps, at a fe­roc­ity matched only by the lack of ef­fort shown by its driver. This is truly the art of speed, and I’m here, like over half the cur­rent F1 grid have been, or cur­rently do, to try to learn how on earth the man does it.

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