Which Motorsports Are the Most Watched Around the Globe?

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As soon as we figured out how to make cars that could move, people started trying to compete in races with them. Historically, motorsports may be traced back to 1894, when the first sanctioned race took place along a 50-mile route between Paris and Rouen. Of course, hundreds of motorsports have emerged since then across the globe. But which ones have gained the most traction?

In 2020, around 87 million people will watch a Formula 1 race, making it the most-watched motorsport in the world. IndyCar just had its most-viewed season with an average of 630,000 viewers each race; NASCAR, which primarily appeals to an American audience, had 2-12 million viewers every race.

Even though the first competitors could only manage an average speed of about 10.2 mph, the first “real” motor race was held between Paris and Bordeaux the following year. They were rising from a mere 50 miles in 1894 to 730 miles by 1985!

Two years later, in 1897, Nice, France, debuted as the world’s first purpose-built auto racing track. From that moment on, it began to grow globally, eventually becoming one of the most popular sports in the world.

Today’s Motorsports

How would you describe the current state of motorsports? The first step toward formalizing and standardizing motorsports was the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) founding in 1904. The FIA has recognized and staged World Championships in eleven different events over the years, seven of which still operate today. Of course, there are uncountable sorts of motorsports around the world.

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How to Measure Motorsport Popularity?

Arguably, two perspectives exist on why motorsports are so widely followed. The first technique involves analyzing the typical audience size for each significant or frequent event. To determine which race is more popular, for example, we may compare the number of viewers for the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula 1 to that of the Indianapolis 500.

Is that the sole yardstick, though? Popularity in sports is typically measured by how many people tune in to watch. Still, other factors, such as the number of countries where it is practiced and the sport’s prestige and brand recognition, can also be taken into account.

Counting the world’s nations is simple, but does it paint an accurate picture? Twelve small European countries with a combined population of less than a third of the United States might be fans of the same motorsport. Do European countries have a greater affinity for the sport?

Similarly, prestige is difficult to quantify because it depends on individual perception. In light of these factors, we have narrowed the field down to the eight motorsports that we feel may justifiably claim the title of “The World’s Most Popular Motorsports.”

Most Popular Motorsports

Formula 1

They are often regarded as motorsport’s highest achievement on a global scale and the FIA’s greatest accomplishment to date. It was officially recognized for the first time in 1950, and today more than 20 races take place in different countries each year. Over the years, 770 drivers representing 40 different countries have competed in the sport. Because of this, it has become the most prestigious motorsports competition in the world.


Attending a NASCAR race is the best way to get a true experience of Americana in motorsport. NASCAR is an abbreviation for “National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing,” which encompasses three different national series in the United States: the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, the Xfinity Series, and the NASCAR Cup Series. The first season aired in 1948 and attracted millions of spectators in the United States and beyond, making it a bit older than Formula 1.


When it comes to motorcycle racing, MotoGP is unrivaled. It’s the highest one ever held on a paved track. Motocross races on dirt tracks are also rather common (see below). It’s important to note that there are four distinct categories within MotoGP: Moto3, Moto2, Moto Grand Prix, and the all-electric MotoE. The MotoGP (the GP stands for Grand Prix) series, much like Formula 1, holds its races in different locations worldwide.


Although some may equate IndyCar and NASCAR, these two series are distinct. IndyCar has been around for fewer than half as long as Formula One, having debuted in 1992. The races themselves look similar, leading to confusion. However, the vehicles utilized in each are quite distinct.

The weight of an IndyCar is around half that of a NASCAR, and the driver sits in the middle of the cockpit. It’s common for NASCAR races to include up to 60 vehicles, whereas an IndyCar race will only have 33. Last but not least, in the IndyCar series, physical contact is strictly forbidden. With the potential for flight, if contact is allowed, these vehicles are featherweight at best.


Unparalleled in the world of motorsports, and the only item on our list that originates in Asia, Japan especially. It was made famous by motorcycle racer turned drifting icon Kunimitsu Takahashi, who competed in the All Japan Touring Car Championship.

Drag Racing

Before the advent of drag racing, no one could have imagined the limits of horsepower and torque. In a typical drag race, two high-performance vehicles race each other down a narrow, straight track. Top Fuel Dragsters are the quickest, capable of speeds more than 330 miles per hour while producing up to 9,400 horsepower at 7,200 revolutions per minute (rpm) and 7,000 pound-feet of torque at 7,075 rpm.


Rallying is a type of off-road racing in which modified street automobiles race from one location to another. Ouninpohja in Finland, with its 75 jumps; Rally Wales in the UK, with its 94 miles and 7 stages through difficult weather and ultra-challenging conditions; and Panzerplatte in Germany, with its 25 miles but sudden shifts from asphalt to cobblestone and other surfaces, not to mention the random artillery pieces littering the place, are all famous roads in the world of rallying.


Motocross, the most popular off-road motorcycle racing discipline worldwide, was developed in the United Kingdom and had massive muddy jumps throughout each course. The FIM World Championship, the American AMA Championship, the British Championship, and many others are now among the top competitions in the world. Many people associate motocross with freestyle riders who perform daring antics on the jumps.

Final Thoughts

While we’ve defined popularity in terms of viewership, we think there’s more to popularity than just statistics. For instance, in the United States, NASCAR and IndyCar have far more viewers than Formula 1 and MotoGP combined. Even though it’s harder to quantify and generate headlines around, another crucial metric is the level of interest and enthusiasm among the sport’s fan base.

The task is to bring the excitement of American motorsports to the world’s other motoring enthusiasts, where they remain a niche market—a solid beginning in the rapidly expanding NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in Europe.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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