One hundred and seven million different people watched television coverage of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2011, it has been announced, an increase of 35 per cent over the amount recorded in the previous year.
The figure, published by the independent German sports research consultancy IFM Sports Group, is, organisers say, further proof of the rising popularity of the IRC, an international motorsport competition backed by Eurosport Events, the sports broadcaster's wholly-owned subsidiary.
In total, the IRC enjoyed 500 hours of programming in 2011, while press coverage totalling 3293 articles achieved a value of eight million euros, thereby underlining the growing appeal of the series, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last season.
“We are delighted with this figure because it's not only further proof of the IRC's appeal around the world but also another demonstration of how beneficial the IRC is to car manufacturers and other commercial partners,” said Antonello Lodoletti, the IRC's Commercial Director.
“They are using the IRC as a platform for their marketing and promotional activities so it's very satisfying to discover the value and worth of the television coverage. Furthermore the IRC consistently produces some of the most thrilling action on television so it's fantastic to learn that so many people are watching it unfold.”
Three rounds of the IRC were shown live on television in 2011 when Eurosport pioneered the use of SimulCam technology in rallying. The system allows viewers to watch two cars tackling the same section of a stage at the same time for comparison purposes and will be utilised in the coverage of eight rounds of this year's series. In addition, all coverage on Eurosport will be shown in high definition.
Featuring 13 rounds between February and November, the 2012 IRC season includes several events in the increasingly important Eastern European marketplace.
The series, which began with a round on the islands of the Azores from 23-25 February, also includes a number of classic events such as Tour de Corse and Rallye Sanremo in Italy.
The next event of the season is the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally from 6/7 April.