Mention the name Rob Wilson to a Formula One racing driver and you’ll probably get a mixed reaction.
Rob Wilson isn’t a household name, winning drivers haven’t dedicated their podiums and championships to him, but for some of the biggest names in the sport he’s been the difference between being fast and faster than everyone else.
In almost all sport the coach or in some cases multiple coaches on hand to hone an athletes kick or stroke and believe it or not it’s the same for racing drivers. It’s just not common knowledge. Blame it on the secretive nature of Formula One, or the fact that drivers might not like to freely admit they have a driving coach, the fact is they do exist and Rob Wilson is the best in the business.
Rob doesn’t have a website and he doesn’t have an agent, but when someone needs to go a little bit quicker in the business of racing he’s the first call they make.
He currently works with almost half of the Formula One grid and has helped the likes of former World Champion Kimi Räikkönen, even though he himself has never raced with motorsport’s elite.
It wasn’t because Rob wasn’t fast enough, it was because he didn’t get lucky.
“I usually went quicker than Nigel (Mansell), in the last few races prior to him making his debut in Formula One I was the one crossing the finishing line ahead of him. He wasn’t any faster than me, but he joined a team that wanted a British driver.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Rob missed out for all the wrong reasons.
“I got very close a couple of times, in 1981 I was offered a seat with the Tyrrell Racing team, by Ken Tyrrell. Ken had told me the only way I’d miss out was in the unlikely circumstance of Italian driver Michele Alboreto walking down the pit lane with a hand full of sponsorship cash, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Alboreto failed to score a single point during his debut year.
The problem for Rob was that he was born in New Zealand, and that proved to be of little attraction to the team’s looking for sponsorship to help bankroll their race season.
“I got near but that was that, I moved on.”
A career racing everything from Le Mans to NASCAR followed, before helping other drivers and motorsport enthusiast perfect their talents including film and fashion icon Paul Newman.
“I was in America, Paul asked me to work with him in California. I got to know him well. He was a very good driver, I’d say he was better than Steve McQueen, I’d put him above Steve as a competitor. He was good guy and really happy in a racing environment, you wouldn’t know he was any different to the rest of the drivers.”
Rob currently offers his unique services from his base in South Leicestershire, Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, the perfect location for driving at speed and he doesn’t it all in a Vauxhall Astra.
Typically for the down to earth Kiwi it’s all about having something that is capable of doing the job, it’s just a shame Ken Tyrell didn’t think the same in 1981.