World Rally Championship promoter ISC believes rallying is the ideal sport for the digital media age and that new broadcast technology will be crucial to the sport's growth.
In a presentation at the Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco today, ISC's Neil Duncanson and Simon Long revealed plans for more access to live on-board footage and service park webcams on the internet, plus high definition and 3D television coverage in the future, as well as a new WRC video game into which live action from the stages could be integrated.
"Only a Luddite few still see the internet, mobile, social networking and interactive gaming as 'new media'. Today it's all just media. We think WRC is tailor-made for this next generation," said Duncanson. "When we began as a TV partner, we created 250 hours of material at every event and used less than 10. We now have the technology to use every second – live, in highlight form, on the internet, mobile, even involving a global gaming audience driving from their homes in real time in a real WRC event."
Long explained that as ISC also provides the WRC's timing and satellite tracking systems, it can transfer live data from the stages to online gaming.
"From September next year we'll be back in the gaming marketplace," he said. "We haven't been there since 2005. For the rally fans, they've been short-changed. There is no definitive rally video game out there right now, so we're going to come back with a bang, delivering the ultimate in off-road racing.
"This will be all of the official cars on all of the official tracks, and because we own and deliver the timing systems and all of the satellite GPRS solutions, we're able to give you the real version of rallying, delivered to your gaming platform. The holy grail is to deliver a real, simultaneous live race experience where you'll be able to go after Sebastien Loeb at the same time on the same stage, and compare your performance against his. In addition you'll be able to have his live on-board camera footage integrated into the live game-play experience."
Paul Hembery, motorsport boss of WRC tire partner Pirelli, believes the video game plans fit well with ISC's ambitions to restructure rallying's feeder series.
"We believe that one day a future champion will come into contact with world rallying for the first time via new media," said Hembery. "We then need to provide a platform for those people to go on in the sport, so once they've touched it and gotten excited by it, they will then go out in those buggies, start driving the cars, and come through to the top level."
He also pointed out that Colin McRae's highly successful range of video games had massively increased the 1995 World Rally Champion's public profile.
"Colin McRae became so famous in America that everyone thought he was Lara Croft – they thought he was virtual, not a real person," Hembery joked. "That got all of us stakeholders here thinking. We thought, 'Hold on, people really like the product, they love playing it.' It is probably the prime motorsport gaming platform for around the world. It's about bringing new people into the sport and getting them to feel rallying, and understand how exciting the sport is."