MotoGP set for first nighttime GP
Barely two months after the announcement that next season's MotoGP curtain raiser in Qatar would be run under floodlights, subject to approval from the Riders' Safety Commission, a successful test at the Losail International Circuit this evening gave the project its final go-ahead.
As such the 2008 Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar will become the first motorsports World Championship Grand Prix to take place at night, an historic moment for MotoGP and Qatar. Five MotoGP riders were present at the night test on Monday, which took place at 7:30pm at the circuit on the outskirts of Qatar's capital city Doha. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki), Marco Melandri (Ducati), James Toseland (Yamaha), Anthony West (Kawasaki) and Alex de Angelis (Honda) all did several laps of the circuit and were unanimously in favor of next season's race taking place in the dark.
"It's going to be so exciting to race under floodlights," said MotoGP veteran Loris Capirossi. "The difference from when we first tested here at night is amazing. Back then I wasn't too sure what was possible, but the lighting is perfect out there! There's hardly any difference between day and night riding in these conditions, and of course it's going to be more exciting to race at night. There's no problems with shadows or reflections, I'm very happy with this."
The riders used road versions of their MotoGP prototypes, which are currently travelling to Malaysia for a pre-season test session later this week, and Capirossi added that this wasn't a problem, "We reached nearly 300km/h here on these bikes, so I don't think there will be too much difference to come here on a MotoGP machine. We could see the warning flags and braking markers and even when they tested the rare possibility of a power cut, there was no problem because of the back-up systems. I can't wait for the whole circuit to be illuminated." Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation President Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah added, "When we first built the circuit we had the idea of running a night race along with His Highness the Prime Minister, and finally it is great to see this project is going to go ahead. I'd like to thank the riders for making this effort, MotoGP is our number one priority and we are excited about next year's race."
The lighting at the circuit is being provided by US based Musco Lighting, and their President Joe Crookham remarked, "Our team have worked very hard to get this test going in just 65 days. Tonight we had the first part of the circuit fully lit, and we aim to complete the rest of the project by early February. It is the biggest project we have ever undertaken, but we are confident that everything will be as successful as this first test." Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, MotoGP's commercial rights holder, said, "This is a landmark moment for our sport, and we would like to thank the efforts of the QMMF and Musco for bringing this project to this stage. We can now confirm that next year's race will take place under floodlights, and we hope it will be successful event."
The Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar will take place on March 9, 2008