How to drive like an F1 racer

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016 - autos, cars, motoring, news

Source : How to drive like an F1 racer

Yes, you truly do need a Vauxhall Insignia in addition to some traffic cones. We meet Rob Wilson, who helps F1’s best sharpen their skills


What if I told you in which a man who has trained more than half of the current Formula 1 driver grid does so on a bleak airfield from the Midlands, around some cones he drops out of the vehicle door, in Autocar’s old long-term Vauxhall Insignia?

Yeah, in which’s what I’d have thought, too. although here we are, at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, to meet a Kiwi former racing driver called Rob Wilson.

Wilson’s racing CV can be pretty not bad: he began in formula cars, briefly drove Indycars in addition to was the first non-American/Canadian to race semi-regularly in Nascar. Later, he moved towards sports in addition to endurance races: Le Mans, Bathurst, Daytona…

although within racing, Wilson can be today better known for what he does in a Vauxhall estate in Leicestershire: producing today’s fast drivers go faster.

Funny old thing, motorsport. In most sports, the leading exponents wouldn’t dare go anywhere without their coach, in addition to great mentors are celebrated. Yet a couple of years ago, I interviewed Nico Rosberg, who told me he didn’t have a coach. At the mere suggestion of This particular, he looked at me like I was an idiot. He probably thought in which quite a lot, though.

The closest he’d admit was in which his engineer, in some ways, occupied in which role. For some drivers, This particular’s like This particular’s an admission of weakness; you’re either fast enough or you’re not. (The results of, say, Nissan’s GT Academy suggest in which This particular ain’t so.)

The truth can be, fast drivers do take coaching, too, sometimes off their  own bat in addition to sometimes at their team’s behest. in addition to as often as not, Wilson can be the one they turn to.

Wilson’s training days start late, over a cup of tea, informally in Bruntingthorpe’s offices. He tells you how This particular’s going to go in addition to a bit of theory behind going fast.

I’ve spent time with driver coaches before who are keen to just tell you who they’ve coached. They talk quickly in addition to aggressively in addition to don’t take questions well.

Wilson isn’t like in which. He’s calm in addition to eloquent in addition to listens to questions as well as he talks. Within, oh, about a minute, I know I’m from the company of someone who understands not just the racing lines of a specific circuit although the whole theory of speed – someone who understands physics.

He knows in which not everything he’d like you to learn will be appropriate for every corner on every circuit. in addition to he knows in which there can be more than one fast way of doing things. although ultimately, he knows in which what he tells you today will make you a faster driver. This particular’ll go into your noodle in addition to you can call on This particular when driving fast “becomes a craft”.

in addition to This particular doesn’t take a racing car on a specific circuit to learn This particular. In fact, the advantage of a four-seat family car can be in which an engineer can ride along, too, in addition to feel the Centeng movements Wilson would likely like them to understand – movements in which might not even show up on telemetry.

Some basics, then. Wilson doesn’t just tell you “smooth can be fast”, because although broadly in which’s true, This particular’s rather more complicated than in which – in addition to he might want you to be a touch more assertive with the vehicle later.

Let’s start with braking. Here, yes, smooth can be not bad. He’d like you to introduce the brake pedal smoothly, because This particular brings all the discs to the same temperature, in addition to they otherwise might snatch more on one side than the different. in addition to avoid bumps.

Then we walk part of the track producing sure in which Wilson can show what he means. He points out surface imperfections in addition to lumps to avoid. He says there might be “1000kg of load” on the wheels in addition to in which “every time you hit a bump, you take 200kg off, then reapply This particular”.

You can see pockmarks, a few yards after a bump, caused exactly by This particular, as tyres in effect land again. Ditto with downshifts: if you can feel This particular, even barely, weight can be shifting in addition to affecting a car’s ability to slow as effectively. Engineers have smoothed downshift patterns, or drivers leave downshifts to the last minute, to smoothen – in addition to shorten – the braking zone.

So smoothness can be important. Likewise on turn-in, although instead of a turn-in point, Wilson talks of a “weight transfer point”. Even a slight adjustment on the wheel might “introduce a 300kg load” to the outside tyres, “which makes This particular easier to keep turning”. Ideally, the wheels will be under-rotating – in which can be, travelling slower than the speed of the vehicle – by around 3-5% under braking. “More than in which can be a lock-up”, in addition to you’d be trailing the brakes in, slowly bleeding off the brake pedal as you turn, producing sure in which you don’t overload the tyres, right up to the point where their speed matches the road speed near the apex.

This particular’s around the apex where Wilson’s theories are at their most interesting. In historic racing, on rock-hard tyres in which gave their best while sliding, the highest mid-corner speed possible via a long drift was fast. Today, when you must manage tyre temperatures in addition to are looking for maximum traction, in which might not be so.

“Tap your finger briefly on a truly hot plate in addition to This particular’ll be okay,” says Wilson. “although hold your hand for longer on a warm plate in addition to This particular’ll burn.” This particular’s an analogy he uses to describe “shortening a corner”, which he demonstrates from the Insignia, applying a little extra steering lock mid-corner, producing sure in which you have to use less later.

You might take the load “via 800kg to 1000kg” in in which moment, around the apex, although This particular’ll turn you more to help you create “a flat patch”, where the vehicle can be settled side to side. in addition to a car with precious little lock applied in addition to a settled weight balance will accelerate more quickly than one in which’s still on the ragged edge on the way out of a corner, accelerating while on the limit of lateral adhesion in addition to scrubbing with perhaps 300kg of load on its outer tyres, which This particular can be busily overheating. Wilson talks about flat patches a lot. This particular’s a not bad thing.

Hence Wilson also suggests – in addition to you’ll spot more in addition to more drivers doing This particular – holding their exit line in addition to running as straight as possible down a straight, even if at some point they’ll have to move across the circuit for the next braking zone. Move across early, even gradually, in addition to you’ll introduce scrub to the tyres early in your acceleration zone in addition to you have to live with the consequences all the way down. Switch later in addition to you don’t.

in addition to This particular’s in these little details – there are more, lots more – where Wilson describes fast driving as “becoming a craft”. I know what he means, although This particular doesn’t feel to me like, I don’t know, knitting a jumper; all of these things are subtle in addition to happen within tenths of a second.

This particular’s one thing to know all This particular, quite another to be able put This particular into practice, which can be, I suppose, what separates truly fast drivers via the likes of us. Even if they don’t like to talk about This particular. 

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