I was more than a little surprised to recently learn that smartphone sales have only just managed to outstrip those of basic feature phones.
Approximately 435 million mobiles were sold worldwide in the April-to-June period, of which, 225 were smartphones while prehistoric devices – which feature fewer functions than a bedside alarm clock – saw sales drop to 210 million units.
Just who is buying those things? The same people who have wooden-panelled television sets with a Betamax system in close proximity, I imagine.
Those of you who have embraced the wonders of smartphone technology will already know that they are a great way to access information quickly, and nowhere does that hold true than at a race circuit.
As as often been the case, spectators are generally neglected by venues and race organisers alike: punters pay reasonable money to watch their favourite past time, so they deserve reasonable amenities and easy access to event information.
But that is hardly ever the case, especially in the lower rungs of the motorsport ladder where things are run on a shoestring budget, leaving fans at the mercy of the trackside commentary which varies in degrees of quality depending on who is behind the microphone.
And then, of course, there is the fact that the tannoy system is more often than not drowned out by the sound of cars and a typical pair of headphones reach a similar decibel level as the aforementioned vehicles, making them near useless.
It’s fun being a spectator, isn’t it?
But step forward TSL Timing – the purveyors of live timing services for the majority of British motor racing series – whose recently developed real-time facility works rather brilliantly on most smartphones and fills the information void.
I put the service through its paces while traipsing around the Grand Prix loop at Brands Hatch during the British F3/GT meeting last weekend, which was not the easiest of events to follow as a spectator.
With on-the-road time penalties being dished out to drivers with alarming regularity in the support races – mostly for exceeding the track limits – it was difficult to know who was where at times as on-track positions did not reflect the actual running order.
While I dislike post-race penalties, increasing a driver’s time while they are still racing invariably leads to all manner of confusion in the commentary box, on the spectator banks and even among the drivers.
There needs to be a simpler, more visual way of slapping their wrists – like a brief trip through the pitlane – to discourage any further misdemeanours, but I digress.
Then, of course, there was the main event which featured over 30 GT cars all fighting for track position on the relatively modest 2.6-mile circuit for a couple of hours.
I have no problems following the overall flow of a race, but with so much going on with pitstops, driver changes and constant lappery by the frontrunners, it was somewhat futile relying on the commentary to paint a picture of what was actually happening.
But in both examples, it did not matter because all I had to do was fire up my mobile browser, pop along to the TSL website and there, in all its responsive design glory – meaning it fits all screen sizes – was the live timing information, listing the order, times, gaps and even messages from the bigwigs in race control.
Perhaps I am just easily pleased – I don’t think I am – but I can’t understate how essential this service is for anyone who is partial for a bit of national motor racing and is keen to know what is actually going on when they are trundling around the circuit.
So, without further ado, I encourage you all to click on the following link and add it to your mobile bookmarks list: http://www.tsl-timing.com/
Now, if only they would get around to creating a dedicated live timing app…