The Interactive Sportscar Championship was a very large bundle of oddness.
Firstly, you may be asking - why was it interactive?
Well, the year was 2001. The beginning of the 21st century saw a digital revolution. The idea of home computing becoming a normal part of everyday life was settling in for many households, but internet access was still very limited. The internet in itself was still relatively crude, and the thought of a digital world became a craze for many.
In motorsport terms, telemetry was still exclusively reserved for team members - there was no way of accessing it from home. The ISC planned to exploit that one gap in the market, with a big focus on technology. Everything from onboard cameras, dashboard displays, team radios and even heart rates of drivers would be broadcast to to public with a terrestrial television package. It sounds unimpressive and almost gimmicky to a modern fan, but this was a very promising and revolutionary concept to take the appeal and understanding of motorsport further than it had ever gone before.
The grid itself was a largely uninteresting affair - it had a comfortable array of GT cars, not dissimilar to a British GT field, but the organisers knew that the entry list would suffer if teams were presented with such a basic concept. The only thing that could entice teams to enter would be prize funds - so they decided to make that a selling point.
Approximately £500,000 was on offer to the teams, with a further £15,000 per race win for a driver. Money is almost impossible to recoup in motorsport, meaning that this offer was too good to pass up for many. The TV deals were reached, and a goal of 260,000 digital subscribers and 1.25 million terrestrial viewers was set. The organisers had a vision of effectively turning the drivers into celebrities. This is the point where things began to unravel slightly.
The first weekend dawned, and on Saturday the second of June, a grand total of 12 cars took part in qualifying. There were 21 cars entered, but around half failed to show up. Regardless, qualifying took place, and despite a few incidents disrupting the session, a grid was set for Sunday.
The first major flaw was the lack of interaction - the promised party-piece of the series was scheduled to come two months later, making the first round no different to a normal GT race. As the grid lined up, a series of mechanical failures and some slight spontaneous combustion meant that even less cars than planned took the start. The race was scheduled to last 75 minutes, but it was cut short to just 56 minutes. At this point, the championship was beginning to look like a shambles. The number three CSG Lister Storm took the chequered flag, leading home just seven more cars, only four of which were on the lead lap. After the Mike Haines Lotus Esprit was disqualified for being underweight, it left only seven classified finishers.
The opening round had not been a success.
However, this wasn’t the end. The finished product was far from appealing, meaning the organisers were unable to secure any more rounds of the championship. It sank as low as it could possibly ever go - but there were still teams entered, and the series wasn’t dead.
Ironically, it was the prize funds that killed the championship.
There were none.