Virtual Spectator today announced the launch of its internet-based software package set to transform the way World Rally Championship [WRC] fans view and interact with the World's most demanding and challenging motorsport.

World Rally Virtual Spectator allows fans to watch and compare the performance of their favourite rally drivers, side-by-side on their computer screen for the first time ever, in a unique experience called 'parallel racing'.

Downloadable directly from the internet, Virtual Spectator accurately reproduces rally action in a 3D virtual environment using GPS satellite positioning technology and is based on real-time data.

First show-cased as a TV analysis tool by leading UK broadcaster, Channel 4, at the beginning of March during the Rallye de France, the application of the technology as an internet product will now enable consumers to compare drivers against each other for the first time from the Spanish Rally onwards [Catalunya March 22-24].

Subscribers will be able to watch and compare the performance of up to six cars simultaneously, selecting their own camera angles, and opting for various performance details such as car speeds to be displayed onscreen.

Registration for a free demonstration of Virtual Spectator's new World Rally product is available now on-line at www.wrc.com/vs.

From the Rallye Catalunya [Spain] onwards fans can then subscribe to Virtual Spectator for just $US9.95 (approx ?7.27) per rally. Once the initial software is downloaded, each rally data download is quick & easy and allows fans to unlimited replays of the rally in 3D 'parallel racing'.

A selection of additional data analysis and display tools also allow the viewer to build a multitude of unique viewing actions, depending on what piece of the action they want to catch.

Martin Whitaker, Director of Ford European Motorsport, says: "Virtual Spectator is bringing a whole new dimension to the sport of rallying. This information from the cars has never been available before and clearly demonstrates the incredibly competitive nature of Rallying, where stages can be won or lost by less than a second. For the first time we will have a very clear precise visual indication of car performance against the opposition."

Virtual Spectator will revolutionise not only the viewing of World Rally Championship but also the sport itself as teams, drivers and manufacturers will now have unlimited access to accurate data and performance details from all the WRC drivers, cars and teams from every part of the rally course. This is the first motor sport application of VS technology, in an industry renowned for harnessing technological developments to enhance performance.

Lindsay Fergusson, Chairman and CEO of Virtual Spectator, says: "Just as Virtual Spectator changed the way sailing fans watch the America's Cup, so it will change the way rally fans watch the World Rally Championship. The VS and 3D parallel racing television broadcast applications have taken about two years to develop, with the first year spent in negotiations with organisers and teams, getting our mutual terms right. Filming and mapping the courses and building 3D models of the cars were tasks which required significant resources. On-going operation of the WRC technology involves both Virtual Spectator and our partner, International Sportsworld Communicators (ISC), holders of the TV and commercial rights to the WRC."

How VS works for WRC events:

Working with Virtual Spectator, ISC has developed special in-car technology to capture accurate real time data from each rally car for the VS software. Tracking equipment (using Global Positioning Satellite technology) in each car records the car location five times a second. Accurate to within 80 centimetres, the GPS data transmitted back to Virtual Spectator allows the recreation of the rally stage in a virtual environment.

The VS software powering the World Rally Virtual Spectator subscriber application also processes and delivers the data to provide 3D parallel racing for tens of millions of television viewers in 128 countries around the world. The television application was launched at the Rally of France on March 7 and as well as allowing the direct comparison of drivers - tracking driver lines, acceleration and braking through corners - offers television broadcasters the freedom of 'virtual cameras'. The VS software also provides 'flyovers', an aerial view of the stage highlighting the rally route, and 'flythroughs', a closer simulated preview of the stage.

About Virtual Spectator:

Virtual Spectator is a world leader in 3D animation graphics for sports on television and the Internet. Best known for its groundbreaking live coverage of the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup 2000 on television and the Internet, Virtual Spectator is currently providing television and Internet coverage of the Volvo Ocean Race. Virtual Spectator has also developed television golf applications for the Australasian PGA Tour and the US PGA Tour, and television cricket applications in New Zealand. The company is privately owned and based in New Zealand, with offices in Auckland and Dunedin, and representatives in London and Madrid.