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Toronto action proves popular with viewers

The on-track action and post-race fall-out from the Honda Indy Toronto seemed to work wonders for the television ratings, with much-needed strong ratings for the event.
The on-track incidents during the Honda Indy Toronto may have brought scathing comments from drivers and experts about double file restarts, the street course, the officiating and the standard of others' driving abilities, but it all proved a hit with television viewers all the same.

The US cable channel Versus reported a 0.5 rating for the race, which made it the second-most watched IZOD IndyCar Series race ever shown on the network after the June Firestone Twin 275s that were held in prime time on Saturday night.

In all, Versus says that there has been a 21 per cent increase in ratings so far this season compared with the 2010 season average.

The race was also extremely popular in Canada, where Canadian sports cable channel TSN carried the Versus coverage and reported that the race had received the biggest audience for any IndyCar race on the station with more than 1.2 million unique viewers over the course of the race, peaking at 735,000 during the closing laps of the race.

It was the largest audience recorded for the Honda Indy Toronto since 1997.

Versus have certainly been putting a lot of work into their coverage in recent works, with their signing up of Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon for three races as an expert contributor/commentator being hailed as a particular master stroke.

During the Toronto race, fellow racer Tomas Scheckter tweeted that "I can't stop thinking how much sense and how good its to have [Dan Wheldon] calling the race. He [is] as good a driver as commentator," adding that Wheldon's contributions in the booth were "the most impressive performance of the race" while attaching the hash tag #newmurraywalker.

Wheldon's contribution certainly seemed to bring something of a British F1-style feel to the American coverage, echoing the expert 'colour' approach of the likes of James Hunt and Martin Brundle pioneered on the BBC when they partnered Walker for Grand Prix coverage in the 80s and 90s. Wheldon was also key to the staging of the channel's first "F1-style gridwalk" prior to the Iowa Speedway race in June.

However, Versus' attempt to launch a weekly IndyCar TV magazine show faltered after the Indy 500 on cost grounds, and Versus have also been forced to pull live streaming of races for website subscribers.

Versus' efforts come as TV rights for IndyCar are coming up for renewal, with the series keen to not only get the best financial terms but also to negotiate a deal that gets the best cross-network publicity and promotion for IndyCar as a whole as the series attempts to rebuild its popularity to the levels it enjoyed before the highly damaging ChampCar/IRL split in the 1990s.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Will Power directs the Penske #12 Verizon car through Exhibition Place on the streets of Toronto. July 2011. [Picture credit: LAT Photo USA for IndyCar Media]
Honda Indy Toronto race grand marshal Dan Aykroyd with race winner Dario Franchitti [Picture credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon joins the Versus TV coverage team for the Honda Indy Toronto. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
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SP3 - Unregistered

July 13, 2011 1:15 AM

More likely that anyone tuning in would tune right out when all they see if racecars being lead around by a pacecar for half the race. One lap at speed for you, one lap under yellow for me, two laps for you, two laps for me, three ....

SP3 - Unregistered

July 12, 2011 8:33 PM

The idiocy (in all areas) during the race were not the reason for the tv ratings, you fools. Do you believe that the viewers can see into the future and knew what was to transpire?!?

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