Rob Wilson is a driver coach that the best racers in the world turn to when they want to become just that little bit better. Jonathan Crouch takes to the track with him….

Just how much better a driver could you be? It’s a question that crosses most peoples’ minds at some point. Much of the time, it goes unanswered. Today though, it’s time to find out. I’m at the wheel alongside world-renown driver coach Rob Wilson. And we’re doing 110mph flat out through a 90-degree bend in his car of choice for our circuit training. A Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport.

You probably won’t have heard of Rob, but almost everyone who matters in motor racing has. This New Zealand-born ex-racer has competed at almost every level in the sport and currently coaches more than half the drivers on the current F1 Grand Prix grid. As for his teaching tool of choice, well with that in mind, you might expect it to be a pretty extreme piece of machinery.

Maybe an ex-DTM racer. Or perhaps some sort of supercar. Wilson’s tried all these kinds of cars of course, but he doesn’t hold with their use for high performance track driving tuition. For that, he reckons, you need a really well engineered standard roadcar. Which is why I’m pounding around the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire in a standard production 1.6-litre turbo diesel Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport.

Wilson has long insisted on using the Griffin maker’s products. ‘I’ve tried other brands’, he says ‘and something always seems to go wrong after continual really hard use. All the Vauxhalls I’ve come across though, have been engineered to last’. For the last few years, he’s been tutoring F1 pupils like Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg in Vauxhall Astras. Today though, is one of his first opportunities to put the brand’s new Insignia Grand Sport model to the ultimate test.

‘The drivers who come to me are usually surprised by just how good the Astras are that I usually use and I think they’ll like this Insignia too’, says Rob, taking over behind the wheel and instantly showing me just how much more smoothly I should have been driving. ‘Vauxhall tell me that they’ve taken up to 200kgs of weight out of this new generation model and you can really feel that on track. It’s beautifully balanced, with precise steering and great stability – plus it’s deceptively quick. You’ll be surprised at the lap time we can get out of it’. I was.

When it comes to improving technique, on road or on track, Rob’s thinking is deceptively simple: ‘Whatever you’re driving, ultimate speed has a lot to do with weight transfer through the steering and the amount of tyre scrub you get on the exit of a corner. As a driver, it’s all about how much you can harmonise with the road surface. When you’re competing, all of this becomes even more important. If you’re a better master of your craft, you’ll be more confident. And if you’re more confident and your driving shows that, the pressure passes from you to your competitors. Ultimately as a racer, it’s not really about out-driving people: it’s about how few mistakes you can make.’

And that’s key. ‘In an F1 car, the mistakes you make are over in a fraction of a section, which can make them difficult to analyse. On track in a car like this Vauxhall, we’re able to experience everything at a slower pace: get your driving right in one of these and in a race car, all you have to do is repeat the same techniques more quickly.’ Apparently it works, because the F1 drivers keep coming back for more Vauxhall track time. As we drive around, Wilson tells me how Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen did this here, how Valtteri Bottas did that there and how he taught Nico Hulkenberg to perfect his ‘heel and toe’ brake/throttle gear changing technique.

There’s rather more to work on with me of course, mainly because I’m continually having to change the software in my head. It’s not just my tendency to gently lift through flat out corners – which it turns out isn’t prudent but highly dangerous. I’m also driving in a way that I hoped would be smooth but which, it turns out, doesn’t properly take into account that crucial issue of weight transfer - the way that shifting the weight of the car can give you extra traction and save you precious time exiting the bends.

And as all this is going on, I’m continually surprised by the response and sheer eagerness of the Insignia Grand Sport I’m driving. Under the bonnet is a 136PS diesel 1.6, but it feels like a much bigger and more powerful engine than that. And the car, though not dressed as a hot hatch, has more poise and finesse than most models developed for that market.

Poise and finesse of course is the essence of what Rob Wilson is trying to teach. At the end of our session, I felt my driving had gained a little more of both.