When the Circuit of Ireland makes its debut in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge series next weekend fans are to be given a rare opportunity to follow their favourite drivers from a virtual eye in the sky.
For the first time in the UK they will be given access to a GPS tracking system which has, until now, only been available to rally officials.
It is primarily used as a safety measure, pinpointing accidents or incidents for rescue crews, and is a vital tool for clerk of the course Gordon Noble and his team in rally control.
But Bobby Willis, rally director of the Donnelly Group Circuit, has decided to open it up to the public, allowing them to follow the action stage by stage on personal computers and smartphones fitted with data cards.
“Rally fans, whether out on the stages, stuck in the office or at home, will be able to track competitors throughout the event using software which will be available free at the click of a button on the Circuit of Ireland website next week,” he said.
“Rallying has always had a strong fan base with tens of thousands of spectators attending events like the Circuit.
“But if you are out watching a stage you often have no idea who is leading or which position your favourite driver is in.”
Using Google Earth mapping and data services provided by Vodafone, the system links to a GPS tracking device fitted to every car and they appear on screen as dots which are identified by their start numbers.
Full details of how to access the system will be on the rally’s website, www.circuitofireland.net, next week along with the smartphone app which has been set up by Galway rally co-driver Robbie Ward and the team at Appfluenz.com.
IRC champion and Circuit of Ireland favourite Andreas Mikkelsen will be a attending an open day at John Mulholland’s Randalstown Skoda dealership.
Proprietor Mulholland is also competing on the Circuit of Ireland rally in his ex-works Skoda Octavia WRC.