Rally Driving Mentor

Jimmy McRae is the most successful rally driver of all time. He has been British Rally Champion five times, and won the legendary Circuit of Ireland competition seven times. Father to rally champions Alister and Colin McRae, Jimmy is still going strong in his seventh decade. Driving the narrow streets of Northern Ireland is a skill Jimmy has mastered better than no one else: and now it is his turn to pass those skills onto Idris Elba. Has Idris bitten off more than he can chew?

WHAT SKILLS DID IDRIS HAVE BEFORE YOU MET HIM?
Idris was a petrolhead. There was some raw talent there but we had to tame him.

WHAT SORT OF TRAINING DID YOU DO WITH IDRIS?
We spent two days on tracks where he practised twists and turns. On the third day, he learned how to respond to the co-driver’s pace notes.

 

HOW DID HE RESPOND TO THAT?
He had a lot to learn. You get a set of pace notes from the organisers that tell you the angles of the corners and the state of the road surface. The co-driver will say things like, “100m straight, turn 90 right, slow over a small crest”. Idris struggled at first.

WHAT DOES THE CIRCUIT OF IRELAND INVOLVE?
It’s one of the hardest rally races because the roads can be very narrow and full of pot holes. And you’re in the country. If the farmer’s been out that morning, you’ve got mud on the road. You have to have your wits about you to contend with all the hazards.

WHAT DID IDRIS FIND HARD, AND WHERE DID HE EXCEL?
Idris had a lot to learn, which was tough for him. Also, we did all the preliminary instruction in a right-hand drive, then got to Ireland and his car was left-hand, so that was tricky. That said, Idris was great at taking instruction. And he wasn’t scared to put his foot down!

WERE THERE ANY MISHAPS?
He had a crash during a practice run. When the countdown clock went 54321, the blue mist came down and he just wanted to go as quickly as he could. He wasn’t listening to his co-driver, and it was his own fault.

DO YOU THINK HE COULD TAKE IT UP COMPETITIVELY?
He has the ability to drive a car, no doubt about that. It’s just fine-tuning.

HOW WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM?
He was a great guy. There was no airs or graces about him.