A huge crowd of some 18,000 people gathered in Edinburgh city centre on Thursday to watch the Dunlop British Touring Car Festival.

The stars of the UK's top motor sport series - the British Touring Car Championship - spectacularly demonstrated their race cars at high speed along Johnston Terrace right next to the Scottish capital's famous castle.

And the route was packed either side with fans - including many families all eager for a glimpse of their BTCC heroes before they head across the Firth of Forth for their latest race event of 2009 at the Knockhill circuit in Fife this coming Sunday.

Aside from the 18,000 crowd figure - verified by Edinburgh City Council - the event also attracted considerable high-profile media attention with the Scottish Sun and Scotsman newspapers, BBC Scotland, ITV Sport and both the Real and Forth radio stations all present.

After an autograph session that resulted in the BTCC drivers being besieged with people hunting autographs and signed team memorabilia, the cars were then waved off by Edinburgh's Lord Provost George Grubb.

Perhaps the biggest cheers were directed the way of Scottish BTCC driver Jonathan Adam who will surely be hoping for a race win in front of his home crowd at Knockhill this weekend in his Airwaves BMW.

"This has been a truly great spectacle - for the city of Edinburgh, for the public and for the BTCC and its forthcoming round at Knockhill," said BTCC Series director, Alan Gow.

Every driver has come back and expressed astonishment at just how many people were lining the route today. Many of these people of course will be new to the BTCC - here in Edinburgh for the world-famous festivals period - which can only be of tremendous benefit to the championship.

"We'd very much like to thank Edinburgh City Council for its great welcome and also the thousands of people who turned out today. We hope to see many of them at Knockhill on Sunday for some very exciting racing action."

Drivers to star in today's Dunlop British Touring Car Festival included: Fabrizio Giovanardi, Andrew Jordan, Colin Turkington, Jonathan Adam, James Thompson, David Pinkney, Tom Chilton, Martin Johnson and John George.

Cars from the supporting Ginetta Junior, Ginetta G50 and Porsche Carrera Cup - driven by Sarah Moore, Julien Draper and Barry Horne - also took part in the showcase event.