Ocon praises “balls of steel” WRC drivers after course car run

Alpine Formula 1 driver Esteban Ocon says that rally drivers have "balls of steel" after gaining his first experience of the discipline on Thursday at the Monte Carlo Rally.

The Frenchman drove an Alpine A110S on the first two stages of the World Rally Championship season opener as the official VIP course car, carrying his regular race number 31.

He became the second active F1 driver to drive on the Monte in recent years, after former Renault driver Carlos Sainz Jr tackled the final two stages of the rally in a Megane R.S. course car in 2018.

Ocon revealed that driving the sportscar on the slippery wet roads, while being fed information by a co-driver, took some getting used to.

His only previous experience of an Alpine came when he lapped the Nurburgring during the Eifel GP weekend last year.

"It was good fun, awesome. I really enjoyed my time on those roads," he said.

"[For a] first experience in rally, [it was] not the easiest one to start with.

"But yeah, I had a blast. I felt more and more comfortable, the more I was going through those roads.

"There's always like a lot of tricky parts, a lot of grip changes and all that, so it's very different to what I'm used to.

"You need to listen to the co-driver as well, which is not an easy thing. Get it in the right time, and when you are focusing in a corner, you already start to hear what's coming next.

"I was managing that a lot better in the end, and all in all, it was awesome fun. And the car was handling really well, so it was really good."

Asked what he thought of the regular WRC drivers, he said that he now has even more respect for the discipline.

"Heroes! What else can I say?" Ocon replied.

"I was watching the onboards already always, after the events, just to watch.

"And it looks fast, it looks well controlled when you watch [seven-time champion Sebastien] Ogier, when they cut the roads. And it looks cool.

"But when you drive in real, it looks a lot more narrow, and a lot more difficult. So it's not the same animal when you are there in real.

"I tell you, it's very tricky so honestly, hats off to them. They have proper balls, balls of steel."

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