PHOTO: World champion Sebastien Ogier and actor Idris Elba (right) share a joke after their blast around the Monaco grand prix circuit.
BRITISH film and television star Idris Elba experienced the thrill of top-level rallying when Sebastien Ogier took him on a high-speed blast around the streets of Monte-Carlo in a Volkswagen Polo R world rally car on Thursday afternoon.
The star of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and TV series “The Wire” and “Luther” jumped into Julien Ingrassia’s co-driver’s seat at the WRC season launch in Monte-Carlo’s Casino Square to find out more about the sport for a documentary during which he will compete on a rally in Ireland.
He was among a big crowd of entertainment and sports celebrities, fans and rally people who packed Casino Square and part of the grand prix circuit for the high-profile prelude to Rallye Monte-Carlo, which will start on Thursday night with the first two of 15 scheduled Special Stages.
While dual world champion Ogier demonstrated his skill to Elba on a specially-designed short course, teammate Jari-Matti Latvala hosted a passenger more used to speed, retired Le Mans legend Jacky Ickx.
Elba has described rallying as “the pinnacle of motorsport”. Last year he got behind the wheel himself for a BBC documentary “Idris Elba King of Speed” and had lessons on a Finnish rally stage with 1981 world champion Ari Vatanen and his rally driving son Max.
“I just had an amazing lesson from Seb – the number one driver in the world,” Elba told wrc.com after two laps of the harbourside Monaco course.
“Okay, it’s a safe course, a spectator course, but I learned so much. I’m competing in the [non championship] Irish Rally and I’m lucky to drive [here] with the number one driver. I learned some interesting, subtle, things about safety and car control as well.”
Ari Vatanen was on hand to provide advice as he was strapped into the car and Elba credited him with firing his passion for the sport.
“Ari is definitely my grandfather in this business,” he said.
“He is the man who brought me into a car first – along with Max too. It was good to see them here.
“And he’s going to help me progress. Before I compete in April, I’m probably going to see Ari again for some tips.”