Rob Wilson and the Flat Car Mantra

Driver Coaching. A hot topic as ever in motorsport and an ever growing area for discussion in Historic Motorsport. This is something we’ve written about before, so it was interesting to spot this film about the legendary Rob Wilson. Karun Chandhok says almost word for our our own beliefs:

Tennis stars have them, golfers have them, footballers have them. Racing drivers have them too. But you’ll never see them. They are that shadowy figure at the back of the garage, rarely seen on the pit wall with a stop watch.

They are driver coaches.

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Probably the most legendary of all is New Zealander Rob Wilson. Here he discusses the dark art of driver coaching and lifts the lid, very very slightly, on his philosophies and wisdom that has mentored eleven of the current Formula One drivers.

Rob has been coaching drivers for many, many years. He has no website, you won’t really find him on social media and when we met him a few years ago at his second home of Bruntingthorpe, his Nokia 6310 phone was polished with all the patina of a classic Bugatti’s drivers seat. Want to call him? You need to ask somebody. His mobile number doesn’t appear in a Google search.

His philosophy and mantra of ‘flat car’ takes the dynamics of a car’s behaviour and explains it in really simple terms that even an F1 or WRC driver can understand. And to teach it, he uses the ever busy Brunthingthorpe test track and whatever saloon car he happens to be driving as the platform.

For many competition drivers, accepting the fact that they may benefit from a driver coach is utterly alien. Over the years I have witnessed drivers spending huge amounts of money on expensive engines, transmissions, suspension and yet when it comes to the most vital element, what’s happening inside the driver’s head, they cannot accept that they could be wrong.

For those who’ve met him, Rob is a wonderful guy. In the film, it’s great to see that his durable Nokia 6310 is still in evidence and for sure, there will be a pack of Rothmans somewhere in the glovebox. He’s as down to earth as ever. He’s not a Life Coach, he won’t be asking you to look up at the clouds and tell him what you see. He won’t be suggesting scaling the heights of the Andes to find your inner self.

Like many of the best driver coaches, including Ice Driver’s McKenna, he simply tells it like it is.

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Author: Neill Watson

If you love the sound of the Cosworth V8 as much as the V12 Merlin, the smell of Jet A1 as much as Castrol R and admire the late Ray Hanna as much as Sir Stirling, you’ll find you’re both on the same page. Neill's love of art deco buildings means that his ideal home would be a brilliant white, 1930′s control tower in Southern France, with crisply mown grass, biplane parked on the driveway and a Ferrari 288GTO in the garage. This is something that those around him tolerate, though it does concern them from time to time.

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