The international motor racing world knows him as ‘Rob Wilson’, but to me he is Robert Wilson – and always will be. I make no apologies for referring to him as Robert in this story.

He left New Zealand for the UK in 1972 at the age of 20, having owned just one car (an old Rover 75) and never having sat in a racing car, let alone driven in a race. But as he boarded the aircraft at Mangere, he had two ambitions: to go motor racing and to get involved in the British music scene.

He achieved both goals.

Since then he’s won numerous races – plus various class wins and other podium placings – driven just about every sort of car with wheels on it, had four Formula One opportunities, played in a band that had a number-one international smash hit, and formed two bands of his own.

But all of that is almost incidental to his major achievements – training drivers, and teaching established Formula One stars how to shave thousandths of a second off lap times and become winners.

Front end adjustment on the Formula Pacific March in the pits at Pukekohe. (Photo Terry Marshall)

His list of clients is enormous and includes hero drivers, household names, big business tycoons – and royalty, although he draws the line at naming names here.

His ability to analyse a driver’s ability and how to improve it is some sort of black art. Today he’s quit racing, but is still training drivers, still analysing Grands Prix with Peter Windsor, and still belting out music.

This is a remarkable story that sounds like a work of fiction. But it’s not. It’s as true as the fact that Tuesday follows Monday.


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