Circuit of Ireland rally to reach global audience with live stream
The Circuit of Ireland is going global. For the first time, this year's rally will be available to watch around the world as it happens via the internet.
Coverage is to be streamed live from many of the special stages and from the service areas and will include end-of-stage interviews with the crews.
Rally Director Bobby Willis said: "I don't think this has been done on this scale on any rally anywhere in the world before and has taken many months of negotiations to obtain the requisite permissions to broadcast the Circuit of Ireland globally.
"But more and more people are accessing their entertainment and their sport via computers, tablets and smart phones and we believe this is an important way to broaden the rally's appeal.
"Much of the coverage will be provided by our television partners Eurosport, who will of course be screening the rally with highlights programmes each evening.
"In addition, there will be coverage from drones and from in-car cameras as well as live pictures and commentary from the Ards TT stage which has proved so popular in the past."
Access to live streaming will be via a link on the rally's website circuitofireland.net.
The programme will be presented by Jon Desborough and Trevor Agnew, with Seb Marshall, Gareth Stewart and Lisa O'Sullivan leading the reporting team.
Desborough is familiar to many rally fans as the commentator for both the World and British Rally Championship's TV programmes.
Marshall is Kevin Abbring's co-driver in the Hyundai Motorsport WRC team, Stewart is a popular Northern Ireland radio host and motorsport fan and O'Sullivan produces the WRC Live radio programmes.
Agnew, who is originally from Markethill, Co Armagh, is a former Production World Rally Champion co-driver and is excited about the programme.
"Like the majority of the population, I grew up with the Circuit of Ireland, going to the rally for the first time aged 10," he said.
"With the phenomenal entry for this year's rally, our live programme will allow us to bring the excitement to many more people throughout the world as the drama unfolds. Whether you are in Sydney, London, New York or standing at the side of a Special Stage at the rally, fans will have access to a lot more information in a new and innovative way."
The rally, which has attracted a record entry and includes European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz and last year's winner Craig Breen, will also have coverage from Channel 4, BT Sport and Irish company On the Limit Sports, making it one of Ireland's most televised events.
It begins on Thursday with the qualifying stage which is based at Antrim Castle Gardens and will be followed by a ceremonial start outside the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum in the evening.
Breen, meanwhile, has firmly declined an invitation from TT race winner Lee Johnston for a trip around the Ulster Grand Prix circuit as a pillion passenger on his motorbike.
The offer came after Johnston, a triple UGP winner, climbed on board Breen's Lakeland Tyres-backed Citroen R5 for a run through the rally's test stage on Sunday.
It was his first time in a rally car and Johnston was highly impressed.
"It was brilliant!" said Johnston. "It was scary enough over the first few crests, then I got the feel of it and saw how well Craig was steering the car. I couldn't believe the grip it got in the wet, it was what I was expecting in the dry. It was a brilliant experience, something that I would like to do more of.
"I've offered Craig a run as a pillion passenger on the back of my bike at the Ulster Grand Prix to get my own back."
Breen was having none of it. He replied: "The only way I'll get on that bike Lee, is if they ratchet strap me to your back."