In the shadow of MotoGP, endurance seeks a new audience

Confidentiality discipline motorcycle endurance has been trying for a few years to export itself, relying on its "differentiation" to convince a wider audience, without denying its traditions. Hard, hard to face the juggernaut that MotoGP represents, its star riders and its racing format, short and fast, much easier to follow than the World Endurance Championship (EWC) and its team events of eight or 24 hours ...

Falling attendance, loss of sports interest and almost total lack of TV broadcasting: the finding was worrying in the early 2010s. "We must not hide our faces, there are fewer people than before in endurance races," admits Jacques Bolle, president of the French Federation (FFM). Striking example: the 24 Hours of Le Mans Motos, a historic event in France with the Bol d'Or, lost a quarter of their spectators between 2010 and 2012, penalized in particular by a change of date.
Relaunching hearings

François Ribeiro, boss of Eurosport Events, saw a market there and gave himself the mission, by becoming the promoter of the EWC in 2015, to restore the image of a discipline in decay. First challenge, the audience. How do you attract viewers on a long run of up to 24 hours? "By telling all the stories of these events full of twists and turns," the promoter replies. To do this, it relies on its parent company, Eurosport, which "had a good base of viewers fans of endurance and two-wheelers" and above all of a global reach, to broadcast in full all stages of the championship.

The EWC now prides itself on distributing its images to 18 broadcasters and in about 100 countries, including Japan, the other major endurance market. "This internationalization is in the interest of all, and especially of France, which will see the prestige of its events (Le Mans and Bol d'Or) continue to increase," says Jacques Bolle.
Still far from the figures of 10 years ago

The question of attendance remains. Although it has stagnated for five years at the Bol d'Or, according to the organizers it has risen again at Le Mans (76,000 spectators over the weekend, up 7.8% in five years). But still far from the record figures of 2009 and 2010 (92,000), and those of the last French MOTORCYCLE GP, where 105,203 people moved on Sunday alone.

Yet the Automobile Club of the West (ACO), which organizes the event, does much to expand its target audience. Introducing pilots in the city centre, concerts, workshops-discovery reserved for women... "It's first and foremost an event, we come to spend three days there, we watch the race from different places, we live a lot of experiences," explains Vincent Beaumesnil, Director of Sport at the ACO. "Obviously we want to bring in the bikers, but not that. A person who accompanies a biker, without being passionate, will also appreciate," continues Ghislain Robert, Events Director.

This is far from the case in the less prestigious events of the championship. Behind Suzuka, Le Mans and the Bol d'Or, the Eight Hours of Oschersleben and the Slovakia Ring have struggled to exceed 10,000 spectators over the past two years.

Nevertheless, in its quest to "raise the level" of the World Championship, the EWC wants to add stages to its calendar. A sixth race is already planned next year in the heart of the juicy Asian market, in Sepang (Malaysia). And Eurosport Events has even hinted that it could organize a 7th.

Post a comment