Today NASA Rally Sport announced the release of the first smart phone app that allows rally spectators to time rally cars for themselves. The software is available now and works for any rally race, including the premier series, the World Rally Championship (WRC). As a sanctioning body, NASA Rally Sport, the innovation leader in rally in the US, is looking forward to expanding the technology as 2012 continues.

“We’ve been thinking about smart phone apps for a couple years now, looking for an activity that was engaging for fans and went beyond presenting the same data that a web browser could,” said Anders Green of NASA Rally Sport. “Then we finally realized we could take one of the oldest spectator tricks in the books, modernize it and computerize it, and do the whole thing in the middle of the woods even with no data connection at all. That was worth putting some time into.”

Experienced rally fans will immediately recognize the technique. By marking the time that each rally car as it passes, one can tell whether each vehicle is faster or slower than the previous car, simply by assuming that they all started one minute apart somewhere down the road. The result is that the roadside fan can determine that the first car was 1.5 seconds faster than the second and that the third car was 2.3 seconds slower. The technique can’t discover the overall scores of the drivers, but instead shows split times that reveals the raw performance of the stage that the fan is experiencing at the moment.

“Split times are the most visceral scores in racing, because they are telling you what’s happening in the race before it’s over,” says Green. “Especially in a sport like rally, where you can’t visually compare two cars at the same time. The infrastructure required to have the organization deliver official split times for rally is massive and expensive, it would involve communication towers, light beams, power supplies, and data connections, all set up in remote and hostile environments. It’s mega-dollars to build that kind of a system. Being able to get the same thrill from a split time you generate yourself for with a 99 cent app is a lot more exciting and appealing. Plus this method works at any rally regardless of what scoring technology the event happens to be using.”

NASA Rally Sport, the grassroots rally sanctioning body in the US, focuses on competitor fun and providing support for rally organizers. Stepping into the smart phone arena is a natural extension of its existing technologies in volunteering databases, cloud-based scoring software, and virtual volunteering. Providing tools to the racers, organizers, and fans to increase their enjoyment of rally is a core mission of NASA Rally Sport.

The app, currently available in the Android Market at http://RallyBarcode.com/pr1, uses no special features and is designed to work on any version of the Android operating system. Future expansions, which could take advantage of GPS location and crowd-sourced split times, are currently being planned.

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