Michael takes Idris through his pacenotes for the Circuit of Ireland

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BANGOR World Rally Championship driver Michael Orr has been putting ‘Nelson Mandela’ through his racing paces.

For Michael has been helping actor  Idris Elba try out a new role as a rally driver on the roads of Monaghan, before taking part in this year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally.

Car enthusiast Elba, who played Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom, as well as winning a Golden Globe for his role in the BBC crime thriller series Luther, has been test driving in Monaghan to get a true feel of the driving skills needed for the Rally on Easter weekend.

The career change for the actor and producer comes as he embarks on a new and exciting challenge pushing himself to his limit, racing on land, water and in the air for a new four-part TV documentary series airing on Discovery TV.

Each challenge will see Idris join a team of professionals who will work with him to help achieve his goals, and this week he was learning the tricks of the trade from experienced World Rally Championship co-driver, Michael Orr from Bangor, County Down.

Elba, aged 42, will learn the mechanics of British Junior Rally Champion Gus Greensmith’s Ford Fiesta R1 and how to handle pacenotes and practice on closed roads in the most testing of situations.

As part of the series he will also work with seven-time Circuit of Ireland winner and rally legend Jimmy McRae on advanced tuition.

Rally director Bobby Willis said it was a ‘major coup’ that the acclaimed actor was so keen to take part in the historic international event, one of the world’s oldest rallies, first organised in 1931 as the Ulster Motor Rally.

Mr Willis added, “We are so thrilled to host such a well-known celebrity at the rally as he takes on a new challenge. He will be truly pushed to his limits as he learns the finely-honed skills, precision and dedication needed to take part in the adrenalin-fuelled Circuit of Ireland this Easter.

“In recent years we have built up the rally to become a major event in the sporting calendar of Northern Ireland and last year over 74,000 people came to view the various stages while it was viewed by over 14 million people across the world.

“The fact that Elba’s series will broadcast on the Discovery Channel in the UK, US and across more than 220 countries and territories showcasing Northern Ireland and the Circuit to an audience of  many million more viewers is staggering but amazing news.”

The three-day 2015 Circuit of Ireland Rally will get underway on Thursday April 2 when Europe’s top drivers rev up in the heart of Belfast, with a ceremonial start taking place at the City Hall.

The Circuit, which will run across stunning stages in counties Antrim and Down, will be part of the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship for the second year and counts as round two of the 2015 FIA ERC Junior Championship.

The rally will finish back in Belfast on the evening of Saturday April 4 and the winner will be crowned at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the site of the Rally HQ and Service Park, which will welcome competitors and team personnel over four days from Wednesday 1 April.

• For up to date information on the 2015 Circuit of Ireland visit www.circuitofireland.net