The British Touring Car Championship has seen a huge increase in spectator support and viewing figures on its new channel, ITV 4. The series reached a peak in the 1990s, with up to 30,000 spectators and three million people tuning in to watch highlights on Grandstand. At the turn of the century, however, viewing figures dropped dramatically and crowds diminished to an average below 10,000 for a race weekend.
Over the past few years numbers have increased again and series director Alan Gow (above right) says the growth has been “very visible”.
“When I took over [again] in 2003 our crowds were probably less than 50 per cent of what we have now,” he said. “We are seeing crowds of 30-35,00 sometimes. But our average is about 20-25,000, so it’s a bit less than in the ’90s.”
BTCC PR consultant Jonathan Gill believes the proliferation of the tin-top series is down to a strong movement towards reaching new fans, increased awareness of motor sport following Lewis Hamilton’s F1 success and good value for money entertainment.
“A lot of the marketing has been towards families wanting entertainment at the weekend,” he told Motor Sport. “I also think motor sport is more on the radar and Lewis is the halo on that.”
Gow, who masterminded the ’90s boom, expects the BTCC’s popularity to keep growing despite the credit crunch. “People still enjoy themselves, even in bad times. They don’t stay away from sporting events – it’s their escapism from their real-life problems. In the early ’90s when we had the last economic slowdown, we didn’t see that issue at all.”