Misano MotoGP: Night race for Qatar MotoGP in 2008

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The 2008 Qatar MotoGP will create motorcycle racing history by becoming the first to be run under floodlights.

Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta confirmed in a press conference in Misano today (Friday) that the race on March 9, 2008 will take place at night, most likely at 11pm to capture prime time European TV audiences, with the race going out in big markets like Spain and Italy at 9pm.

It has long been rumoured that the Losail International Circuit would be the first to host a premier class race under floodlights.

In 2006, Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi and Kenny Roberts Junior completed a handful of test laps in Qatar under floodlights. The first three corners and part of the home straight were floodlit but the concept seem to have been abandoned after the trio said the a floodlit race needed much more thorough investigation

Ever since Qatar came onto the MotoGP calendar in 2004, circuit bosses have been looking for a unique selling point for the race, after it was the first to be staged in the Middle East.

Joe Crookham and Jeff Rogers, bosses of Musco Lighting, who won the contract to complete the massive project, joined Ezpeleta at the press conference.

Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah from the QMMF (Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation) and FIM President Vito Ippolito also attended.

It was confirmed that the project, which would feature an incredible 3700 light installations, is due for completion on February 15 in what Crookham described as the “biggest lighting project ever at a world sporting venue’.

A million watts would be required to power the lights, which will feature on the outside and inside of the Qatar circuit to ensure rider safety.

At present the plan is to run all three classes at night, with practice also taking place under floodlights.
Much is likely to depend on a test session planned at the circuit at the end of October, though no riders or teams have yet been officially requested to attend.

Ezpeleta said: “Changing the Qatar race to a night time schedule allows for a better synchronisation with European television schedules, where the race can be made available in the primetime Sunday slot. This is obviously a big boost for the broadcasters, and a landmark moment for MotoGP.”

Mr. Al-Attiyah declined to comment on the specific cost of the project, but it is expected to run into the multi-million pound bracket. He said though such a facility would allow the circuit to become a year round venue. Qatar has traditionally baking hot summers, but with floodlights the track could be used at night in cooler temperatures for tracks days and other race events,

“This is obviously a major project for Qatar and we are proud to be able to say we will hold the first Grand Prix event under lights. Whilst this is great for the country’s image as a whole, it also means our track can be used in the hot summer months and we hope this opens up more opportunities for other motorsports events in the future, “he said.”

Experts in providing lighting services for racetracks and all kinds of sporting venues including the Daytona Speedway, Crookham described the complex system as, “The biggest lighting project in the world for any sporting event.” He added, “The system will incorporate over 3700 separate light sources across every section of the circuit, which will eliminate shadowing on the track and in the run-off areas. The quality of the light is the same as any premium lighting system at any other major sporting venue. Based on our experience in other motorsports events, the riders will be able to see as well as during daytime and may even come to prefer it.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt