Malaysia eyes night race

Malaysia's Grand Prix chief Tuesday voiced interest in hosting a night race at the Sepang circuit, saying it would help reverse declining audiences for the Formula One event.

"I think a night race will be interesting. The F1 race at night will be cooler," Sepang International Circuit chairman Mokhzani Mahathir told reporters as he kicked off a month-long ticket sales drive.

Mokhzani in 2008 ruled out a night race because of the heavy cost of lighting the circuit.

Malaysia will host the second leg of this year's Formula One calendar on April 10 after the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for March 13 was cancelled due to deadly political unrest in the Gulf state.

Last month Razlan Razali, chief executive of the Sepang International Circuit, said steamy tropical temperatures have caused ticket sales to plunge for Malaysia's event.

Sepang should stage a night race before its rights to host F1 expire in 2015, Razlan said.

The Malaysian event has also been outshone by neighboring Singapore, which offers not just adrenaline-packed night racing on a street circuit, but teams it with live entertainment by big-name performancers like Beyonce.

The 13-year-old Sepang event which has a daily capacity of 130,000 has failed to pull the crowds.

Last year just 97,000 people were drawn to the circuit over three days. In 2009 there were 126,000 while 2006 recorded the biggest crowd with 140,000 over three days.

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has said he is keen to hold all Asian races at night to attract maximum audiences in Europe. Currently neighboring Singapore and Qatar hold night races.

Mokhzani, the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, said it was a natural evolution for the Sepang circuit to organize a night race.

"In Qatar and Singapore, we see it works," he said.

Mokhzani said the Sepang circuit would need to fork out about $15 million to host night races.

Organizers have planned a string of events at the circuit on race day to lure the crowds including a live performance by South Korea's version of Justin Timberlake, the singer-dancer Rain.

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