Swift tailor made for Austin


COTA chairman delighted with US GP attendance figures... but should he be.

In the wake of last year's appalling weather conditions which left organisers fearing that many fans would never return, officials at the Circuit of the Americas were absolutely delighted when 269,889 passed through the turnstiles over the course of last weekend's event.

However, the biggest weekend attendance in the event's five year history owes a lot more to the pulling power of pop music's biggest star at present than to the likes of Messrs Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel and Verstappen.

For Taylor Swift attracted an estimated 83,000 fans to her gig at the track on Saturday night, the pop sensation's only live gig of 2016. And while COTA has yet to issue official figures, attendance on Saturday was higher than on Sunday - a complete reversal of the usual trend.

"We really had two crowds Saturday," COTA chairman Bobby Epstein told the Statesman. "Some people left after qualifying and a lot more came in for the evening. We had a massive Saturday, well over 100,00, Sunday was around 100,000 or a little more."

"We’re still collecting data, but we had more international visitors," added Katja Heim, COTA’s chief operating officer. "The added entertainment and music helped. There was a vibrant feel. The festival-style format, surely we will do that again."

According to the Statesman, Austin's Chamber of Commerce estimates the economic impact of this year’s event at $597 million, which over the course of the five years the event has been running means around $3bn.

While circuit officials are happy, the fact is that NBC alone reported ratings down 18% on last year as the Mercedes steamroller continues.

The circuit is popular with drivers and fans, those that attend and those that watch on TV, and rightly so, but can the sport really be happy that it was the pulling power of a pop superstar that got people through the turnstiles rather than "twenty-two of the greatest drivers in the world" and the "pinnacle of motor sport".

It's the sort of thing that will excite the likes of Liberty Media, but will have the purists ever more concerned.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Mexico City, here.

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Published: 27/10/2016
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