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Pass the pace-notes. There’s a new game in the venerable Dirt series, called Dirt Rally, and you can download it right now for your PC. Well, sort of.

Released via online store Steam’s ‘Early Access’ program, the game is purchasable and playable today, but still very much in active development.

So while there are already 17 cars from five decades of rallying - yes, including Group B - plus 32 stages across the Greece, Wales and Monte Carlo events, this is only a fraction of what you can expect from the game as it evolves.

“We have a schedule for updates and we have some pretty firm ideas for content for the first few months but the further down the line we go, the more flexible it becomes,” explains chief games designer (and rally co-driver) Paul Coleman.

“We will of course be taking fan feedback along the way, listening across all mediums; Twitter, Facebook, our own forums. All of these are important channels for people to let us know what they think.”

As the name Dirt Rally implies, it’s a return to a solid core of stage rallying for the series formerly known as Colin McRae Rally. The focus has shifted from the Hollywood tyre slaying of TG chum Ken Block to the simple thrill of churning up vast tracts of the Welsh countryside in a Mk II Escort. Swap that canister of luminescent energy drink for a thermos of tea.

An example of the unashamed physics nerdiness powering all this: when you pitch your chosen ton of metal into a slide on a loose surface, Dirt Rally is feverishly calculating the amount of drag caused by gravel bunching up against the sidewall of each tyre. And the best part is, you can actually feel that through the steering. This is the Large Hadron Collider of rally games.

That realism does mean a steeper learning curve, but also a more rewarding one. Every extra mph carried through an off-camber-four-right-don’t-cut is a hard won victory, made that bit sweeter by its authenticity. Expect to develop a new-found respect for the job Messrs Ogier and Meeke do every other weekend.

And what’s next in Dirt Rally’s schedule of updates? Well, there’s a tantalising ‘coming soon’ label on the Hillclimb option in the menu, and we’ve heard there’s a certain scenic Colorado toll road - one generally frequented by rally lunatics - waiting in the wings.

Dirt Rally’s available right now on Steam for £24.99. If you’ll excuse us, we’re off to Sweet Lamb with a Metro 6R4 to put the ‘car’ in ‘cartwheel’…

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