The number of a sport’s spectators is synonymous with how healthy it is.
It is naturally quite difficult to have realistic numbers. In fact, the parties involved, organizers, TV stations and circuits, have every reason to come up with the highest possible number.
The reason is simple: higher numbers equal higher revenue. However, where it is impossible to cheat at the box office - even if the number is 'inflated' the revenue remains realistic - TV stations and the circuits, on the other hand, have every interest in coming up with a higher number of spectators.
The reason? Advertising sales.
In fact, advertising value is strictly connected to the number of people who see the message.
This initial explanation is essential, because the information we are discussing is the official data provided by Dorna.
The total number, for the 18 Grand Prix races, is 2,676,632 spectators. This is an impressive number and it remains so even after a careful analysis.
The Grand Prix with the fewest spectators - and it comes as no surprise – is the one in Qatar.
This year at Losail, the official data shows 24,866 spectators over the three days.
This is an increase if we presume that the number of 5,089 spectators in 2004 is accurate.
After all, there are not many motorcycles around in this small Emirate, but the night race is still an excellent deal and it holds up, more than on ticket sales, on the natural fuel that Qatar has in plenty.
On the other end of the spectrum, the round with the most spectators was the Austrian Grand Prix new-entry.
In fact, the Red Bull Ring claimed an impressive 215,850 spectators over the three days.
The highest number in 2015 was achieved at the Brno GP with 248,434 spectators, which is also an absolute record.
The Italian Grand Prix round at Mugello and the Misano San Marino round, on the other hand, respectively claimed 152,443 and 158,396 spectators.
Analysing the data from the two Italian races, it is clear that the Mugello crowd increased from 1995 to 2006, then fluctuated the following year, going up and down to a minimum of 88,714 spectators in 2012, the relative minimum year.
Misano, on the other hand, started off with 75,376 in 2007, progressively increasing until almost doubling the number in 2015 and then reaching its personal record this year.
Are these realistic numbers?
As with all the others, we won’t swear by it, but we have a very unscientific method. We base our findings on the amount of traffic we have to fight on Sunday morning to get to the circuit and Misano is definitely one of the races that force us to set our alarms early!
A few interesting facts.
While the entire economic-financial world looks toward China, after four years, from 2005 to 2008, MotoGP has abandoned the Shanghai round.
The enormous circuit designed by Tilke seemed empty and never exceeded the 42,529 fans from its second season and in the final year, there were barely 27,470 fans.
Another flop was Imola: in the last of the four seasons there (1996-1999) just 35,000 spectators were recorded.
On the other hand, there was an incredible drop - and inexplicable in many ways – in the number of fans at Jerez, the round that usually opens up the European season: compared with the 243,570 spectators recorded in 2015, we dropped to just 120,255 this year…
This statistic makes one wonder in light of the various investigations that involved the Andalusian track administration.
In the face of this type of decrease, it is fair to wonder why rounds were skipped like Laguna Seca - from 140,000 to 120,000 spectators over the three days - or Indianapolis, where 145,558 spectators were recorded in its last season.
Of course, the crowds literally disappeared in the massive speedway grandstands, but there were still slightly more than the 131,881 spectators at Austin this year.
They say that the numbers never lie. Perhaps, however, even they tell a fib or two.