Fernando Alonso's popular participation in this year's Indy 500 has "reawakened" IndyCar's push to connect with an international audience, according to series chief Mark Miles.
Alonso was the star attraction of the 101st running of the famous race, which he contested instead of the Monaco Grand Prix. The Spaniard impressed throughout, qualifying fifth and running competitively until a Honda engine failure, and endeared himself to North American fans by embracing the event.
Miles says Alonso's participation had a huge impact on viewing figures in some key markets in Europe.
"I'm told by our broadcaster in Spain, which is Movistar, that their broadcast of the Indy 500 achieved nearly twice the audiences of their broadcast of Monaco," he told ESPN. "They've been pretty much on par in previous years, so it represents a very significant increase in attention and viewership. Then we know there was a very marked increase in audience in Italy and France as well."
In recent years IndyCar has explored the possibility of starting the season overseas -- Brazil was set to host the opener in 2015 but the event was cancelled. Miles thinks the interest generated by Alonso's participation at the Brickyard shows IndyCar can attract fans outside of North America even if it is not racing there.
"If anything it has reawakened us to communicating internationally. We have very broad television distribution, we have the same broadcasters in Italy and Spain as Formula One does but will be looking for opportunities for further exposure both broadcast and digitally. I think we can be a lot more effective at connecting with international audiences beyond those mechanisms and communicating with international media. I think when people see IndyCar, they love it. I expect we can make a lot more fans."
Miles is also open to exploring the series' options in Europe.
"We hadn't seen much of a possibility in Europe, simply because there are so few places where the climate is accommodating in February. But there's some places in the southern part of Western Europe which we should take a look at. But while most of the attention was in Spain and in Europe, Fernando's engagement wasn't lost on fans in South America and all over the world.
" So you take that, plus Takuma Sato being the first ever Japanese winner in a country where there's a significant automobile and racing culture... the sum of all that is likely to mean that we have a better chance of finding a couple of good opportunities to host the championship in terms of where to host events."