Review of the handheld device

For the 2009 edition of the 24 hours Le Mans race, our hard working staff in France has rented a wireless handheld device, and this is a review of the experience with it:

There are two ways of following the Le Mans race: To be present in France where the show happens, or to be sitting at home in the sofa and watch the race at the television. The first one is absolutely the best experience but the latter gives you good pictures, an overview of the race and commentary. But what if it was possible to combine the two ways? Then the race experience would be taken to a higher level - and what more could you ask for?

As a spectator at Le Mans it is possible to follow the race from the spectator areas along the track. This allows you to see some hundred meters of the track (depending of where you are standing). And if you tune in to FM 91.2 MHz on your little radio you will be able to hear Hindhaugh and co at Radio Le Mans throughout the whole event. Also there has been placed a lot of big TV screens along side the track. But still you miss to see the lap times, standings and the TV pictures if you are not in front of a big screen.

The Canadian company have since 2008 offered a solution to all our wishes; They have developed a small handheld TV device, where you can choose between the lap times and TV pictures, and even select by your self which on-board camera feed you want to view. The device is wireless and battery powered, and has the size of a GPS device. We at got a small demo of the device at Le Mans 2008, but the rental price during the Le Mans event was too high for us, so we did not try it out.

Prior to Le Mans 2009 we decided to try the out. Despite of the high rental price of € 80 for the whole event, we thought the money would be well spent just to be able to follow the lap timing. Besides, when standing in Arnage and Mulsanne Corner we would be able to get a lot of info and would keep us up to date with the race. So we booked a unit prior to the event, and the device would be ready for pickup when we arrived at the track at Wednesday.

Full of expectation we picked up our unit on Wednesday afternoon well in time to be able to follow the free practice. The unit was picked up in kiosk on the inside of the track - just at the entrance to the pit lane. We received a fully recharged battery and a headset together with the device and were told just to come by when the power on battery has been used; then they would change it for us in a jiffy.

We got up on the grand stands by the Ford chicanes and booted the Kangaroo up... but the only TV pictures to be seen was a review of the Le Mans 2008 - no live pictures at all, no commentary and no live timing :-( After about 4 hours of free practice the TV signal was on, but it was not possible to select any onboard views as promised. And still no lap times.

After the free practice we went to the kiosk and told them about our experience with the device. They said they were sorry but that the system was still under development (!). Besides the problems with the missing commentary and live timing was their subcontractors fault. They promised that it would all work fine for the qualifying Thursday afternoon. We were also told that we could not get any refund as the rental price would stay at € 80. But for us it meant that the rental price on € 80 split over 4 days (Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) would have been € 20/day, but instead it became € 27/day as the usage Wednesday was so limited.

We were back for the qualifying Thursday. We believed that had fixed the problems and when we started the device Thursday afternoon there was live video feed, commentary and live timing from the start of the qualifying event. However, it was still not possible to choose any onboard feed. It was just excellent - until the signal disappeared and remained gone. A trip to the kiosk lectured us that if the device did something like that, it should be switched off and on again... Yes, it was still under development!

Thursday night was spent at Tertre Rouge but the device was not extremely happy about that: If you did not stand at the top of the bank it did not receive any signal! This prevented us in sitting down on the slope of the banking if we wanted to see anything on the device. With this limited reception at Tertre Rouge we became a bit worried about the reception in Arnage and Mulsanne Corner as we had planed to watch about 1/4 of the race from there.

We went to Arnage to see the start of the race. When it was close to race start at 15.00 we switched the on. Our worst fear was confirmed: There was absolutely NO reception in Arnage at all! After some hours in Arnage we continued to Mulsanne Corner. But there was no reception here either :-( At 21.00 we were back at the area around the Dunlop Bridge and the device was able to get reception and be useful. On this time 25% of the race had already been run - and we had not been able to use the at all!

On Sunday we discovered that the reception in the Ford chicane was not very good either: The limited signal strength meant that you had to stand on the top of the banking to be able to receive a useful picture without drop outs - just as we expired in Tertre Rouge.

++++++++ PROS ++++++++
  • Possible to watch the TV feed and live timing/standing
  • Possible to receive and listen to Radio Le Mans
  • Rather high picture quality
  • User friendly and easy to use
  • Easy to get a used battery changed at the kiosks
  • Long battery life

-------- CONS --------
  • Very limited reception and coverage area around the track
  • Sensitive for bad signal reception
  • Bad sound quality for Radio Le Mans
  • Not fully developed (a working prototype)
  • No info about its very limited operation area / area of coverage
  • No info about the lack of TV signal Wednesday
  • High rental price

The idea with a portable TV / info center with commentary is a brilliant idea. It has the potential to improve the level of experience at Le Mans to something never reached before.

Unfortunately the device does not live up to the expectations at all. On no time prior to the rental you are informed about the lack of functionality the system obviously have: Most important is the poor coverage area around the track which in practice only makes the device useable from the end of the Ford chicanes and up to the start of Tertre Rouge. This area is only about 1/3 of the spectator areas. To this adds the poor coverage on the many camping areas, which does not reside just next to the Village.

If prior to the rental had informed us about this lack of coverage. Ex. via a map so we knew what we were paying for, or lowered the rental price compared with the usability of the system the experience would have been different. Unfortunately the staff would not refund some of the rental price and could only say they were sorry about the problems.

The many negative things about the are not balanced out with the pleasure of being able to see live TV and follow the lap times within the reception area. We at is therefore not able to recommend the Our advice is: Save the € 80 and use the many big screens around the track together with a small radio tuned to FM 91.2 MHz. This is still the way to be informed as a spectator at Le Mans., 2009