From Ron Salter [ 28/10/2008 ].
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Eurosport made a surprise early debut with live tv coverage from the Rally du Valais last weekend, penultimate round of the 2008 IRC series. Earlier in October, the series promoter announced that January's Monte Carlo Rally would feature live footage from the stages, using a combination of onboard, stageside and helicopter-mounted cameras but they decided to trial the system in Switzerland, sucessfully televising 4 stages live.
All the televised stages were around 10km in length and the programming followed the first car all the way through the stage before swtiching to the following participants through the last 2 minutes of the test. Given the complexity of the operation one could have forgiven them for any early technical glitches but the coverage was virtually fault free.
It is quite clear that live coverage is the only way to go if we want to convey the excitement of rallying to sofa-based fans. It's pretty hard to get excited watching something that happened 5 hours ago that you already know the result of. Not only that but the IRC has managed to do all of this without harming the sprit of rallying. These were proper, fast asphalt stages through spectacular Swiss mountain scenery, not stadium based rallycross superspecials. WRC has undergone many changes in format over recent years in order to become more "TV Friendly" but in fact the coverage seems to have only declined in quality. 9-5 days, no nightime action, repeated stages and repeated results! Just take a look at the 2009 Rallye Monte Carlo provisional TV schedule, we have 5 stages live, including the famous Col de Turini stage, twice, at night, last stage of the rally! Given that IRC events often end with tight battles, what better way could you promote the sport of rallying?
An IRC spokesman today told Rallye-Info.com that it's not just Monte Carlo we can expect live tv for in 2009: "The idea is that this format will be used in Monte Carlo, and providing that works successfully, for the rest of the 2009 season." This is sure to be a huge draw for fans, sponsors and manufacturers and is an absolute revolution for tv coverage of our sport.