In the shadow of MotoGP endurance seeks a new audience

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Spanish driver David Checa (Kawazaki) ahead of Frenchman Gregg Black (Suzuki) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. – J-F.Monier / AFP

Discipline confidential and historically very French, trying to export endurance motorcyclists for several years, relying on its "differentiation" to convince a wider audience, without denying its traditions. Hard, hard to cope with Moloch represented by MotoGP, his star riders and his race format, short and fast, much easier to follow than the
World Endurance Championship (EWC) and its eight or 24 hour team events …

Decline in attendance, loss of sporting interest and near total absence of TV programs: early 2010, the finding was worrying. "We must not hide the face, there are fewer people than before on the Internet long-distance race," admits Jacques Bolle, president of the French federation (FFM). A striking example: the 24 Hours of Le Mans Motos, a historic event in France with the
Bol d & # 39; Or lost between 2010 and 2012 a quarter of its viewers and was particularly disadvantaged by a change in the date.

Restart the target groups

However, Fran├žois Ribeiro, head of Eurosport Events, saw a market and was mandated to become the sponsor of the EWC in 2015 to rebuild the image of a discipline discipline. First challenge, the audience. How do I lure spectators for a long race that lasts up to 24 hours? "By telling all the stories of these events that are rich in twists and turns," the developer answers. For that, it relies on its parent company Eurosport, which had "a good base for endurance fans and two-wheelers" and, above all, had a global reach to all stages of championship.

The EWC is proud to distribute its images to 18 broadcasters and more than 100 countries, including the other major endurance market in Japan. "This internationalization is in the interest of all, especially France, where the prestige of its events (Le Mans and Bol d & # 39; Or) will continue to increase," says Jacques Bolle.

Still far from the numbers 10 years ago

It remains the question of prosperity. According to organizers, if it stagnates at Bol d & # 39; Or for five years, it will return to Le Mans (76,000 spectators at the weekend, + 7.8% in five years). But far from the record numbers of 2009 and 2010 (92,000) and the last GP of France, where on the single day on Sunday 105,203 people have moved.

The Western Automobile Club (ACO), which hosts the event, does a great deal to expand the audience. Presentation of the pilots in the city center, concerts, discovery workshops for women … "It is above all an event, we come to spend three days, we watch the race from different places, we experience many experiences." , explains Vincent Beaumesnil, sports director at the ACO. "Of course, we want to bring the bikers, but we do not, and a person who accompanies a biker without being passionate will appreciate that as well," says Ghislain Robert, Events Director.

This is far from the less prestigious championship events. Behind Suzuka, Le Mans and Bol d & # 39; Or, the eight-hour Oschersleben and Slovakia ring had problems for two years to exceed 10,000 spectators.

Nevertheless, the EWC wants to include stages in its quest for "raising the level" of the World Cup. Next year, a sixth race is already planned in the heart of the lush Asian market in Sepang (Malaysia). And Eurosport Events has even hinted that he could organize a 7th place.



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