The weather was not always perfect and Mark Marquez may have clinched that MotoGP World title five rounds from the finish in Thailand but still the fans voted on their feet. To be precise an average of 150,691 pairs of feet propelled those fans to each grand prix this season. A staggering average attendance for the three days which makes up a grand prix weekend. Over two million eight hundred thousand race fans travelled to the 19 grand prix this season and next year with Finland making a welcome return to the 20 race calendar there are going to be more.
When I returned to full time grand prix motorcycle racing after a six year defection to Formula One 19 years ago there was concern about just how people were attending or in some cases not attending certain circuits. You could almost count the number of spectators on one hand in many of those vast empty Sepang grandstands in Malaysia. Just 18,500 fans made it over the three days for the 2000 British Grand Prix at Donington Park .Jeremy McWilliams who finished third behind Valentino Rossi and World Champion Kenny Roberts in the 500cc race, the Doctor’s first premier class victory, nicknamed Great Britain as Superbike Island and he was right.
Roll on 18 incredible years of four strokes, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez plus so much more and it’s a very different story. This year Sepang. which has dropped its Formula race because of poor attendances, attracted over 170,000 spectators cheering on their home based Petronas Yamaha SRT team. This year it was a case of counting the empty seats on one hand. Last year the British Grand Prix at Silverstone has to be cancelled on race day because of heavy rain which the new track surface could not handle. This year nearly 115,000 returned to this classic re-surfaced venue to witness a classic Marquez/Alex Rins fight to the flag. Even more will return next year.
Three circuits attracted over 200,000 spectators this season. The massive crowds packed two classic venues at the Sachsenring in Germany and Le Mans in France. Innovative marketing and spectator events such as concerts, stunt riding and rider appearances has doubled the Le Mans attendance over the last decade with double World titles for Johann Zarco playing their part.
There was no home – based World Champions or even race winner to cheer on in Thailand but still the Chang International Circuit at Buriram attracted the largest crowd of the season for the second year running. A staggering 226,655 fans travelled to the track in East Thailand. MotoGP has a massive new following in Asia and with Indonesia poised to join the Championship in the next couple of years those crowds are just going to get bigger and bigger.
Of course increased attendances are not the only indication of just how successful the MotoGP World Championship has been over the last couple of decades but surely 2,863,119 fans can’t be wrong.