The 2016 Circuit of Ireland broke new ground for rallying with live streaming going around the world on the internet.
Craig Breen’s second win in a row was watched in 130 countries from Australia to Azerbaijan, from Brazil to Bahrain, and viewed for just short of an incredible two million minutes.
It was fantastic to show off Northern Ireland like this, not just our beautiful scenery and the rally’s demanding special stages, but to be able to do it with a team of home-based IT specialists is a measure of the talented people we have here.Circuit of Ireland Rally Director Bobby Willis
It is believed no other rally worldwide has attempted such as ambitious project but it proved a huge success for the Belfast-based event which was part of the European, British and Irish Tarmac championships. More than 100,000 people logged on to watch the continuous coverage which was hosted by former World production championship-winning co-driver Trevor Agnew and experienced WRC and Sky TV presenter Jon Desborough.
The 30-strong team also included Hyundai World championship co-driver Seb Marshall and WRC radio producer Lissa O’Sullivan who were experiencing life on the other side of the microphone as end-of-stage reporters.
Millions now watch live streamed sports, from NBA basketball in America to international tennis tournaments and streaming will be available from the Olympic Games in Brazil later in the year, all available thanks to the rapidly changing technology now available. Locally, the streaming by BBC of the International North West 200 has proved hugely successful.
But almost all of these sports are staged at fixed venues whereas rallies such as the Circuit of Ireland cover large distances, this year from Bushmills in north Antrim to Downpatrick in south Down, presenting huge logistical problems. Even the World Rally Championship only provides streaming from fixed cameras in the service parks and just has live coverage from the final Power Stage of each event.
Now, however, the Circuit of Ireland has pushed rally streaming to a new level. Coverage, including live stages and end-of-stage driver interviews, was beamed around the world from a studio and control centre near rally headquarters in Belfast and involved TV satellite vans and drones, in-car and crane cameras, all bringing the rally direct to computer screens, tablets and mobile phones around the world.
“Streaming was something that I pushed hard to do, and I really believe that it’s the future of rallying,” said Circuit of Ireland Rally Director Willis. “No one else has attempted this, partly because of the costs involved, but also because of the logistics. It was a huge independent undertaking and the backroom team who made it happen were all local people.
“It was fantastic to show off Northern Ireland like this, not just our beautiful scenery and the rally’s demanding special stages, but to be able to do it with a team of home-based IT specialists is a measure of the talented people we have here.
“Their technical expertise and enthusiasm were crucial and I’m extremely proud we were able to pull it off. I think we have raised the bar to new heights in the coverage of rallying.”
The United Kingdom and Ireland recorded the most views – well over a million – but Poland was high on the list too, European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, production winner Wojciech Chuchla and ERC Junior leader Lukasz Pieniazek attracting a strong following. The coverage also proved popular in the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Sweden and the United States and it was watched as far away as Argentina and India, even the Philippines and New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean.
“It is astonishing to realise how far the Circuit of Ireland name has spread,” said Willis. “It was always a famous rally but to see it being viewed in such faraway places as Bangladesh and Taiwan really brings home what an iconic brand it is.”
With satellite station Eurosport also providing worldwide coverage and Hayfisher Productions filming the rally for Channel 4 and BT Sport plus Irish company On the Limit Sports on the stages to provide coverage of the Irish Tarmac Championship element for UTV, UTV Ireland, Setanta, TG4 and Motors TV, the Circuit of Ireland was one of the most televised motorsport events ever staged in Ireland.
Edited highlights of the coverage is now available to view on the rally’s website, www.circuitofireland.net.