Sand an issue at Qatar Losail circuit

The 2008 MotoGP World Championship will make history at Losail on March 9, with the first-ever night-time Grand Prix race. Losail hosts its fifth MotoGP race this year, but the 2008 Qatar GP will be very different from the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 events, thanks to its night-time schedule. Track temperature will be dramatically different from previous events and that alone changes the character of the circuit and the race. Riders had the opportunity to acclimatize to these very different conditions during night-time tests on February 28 and 29. The circuit is lit by an amazing 5.4 million watt lighting system, the biggest of its kind, which could illuminate a road from Doha to Moscow or 70 FIFA football fields.

The circuit itself, constructed in 2004 to bring MotoGP to the Middle East for the first time, is a sinuous test for man and machine, with the layout of individual corners inspired by famous corners at racetracks from around the world. Corner speed and machine agility are vitally important at Losail with only one straight worthy of the name – the 1.068km/0.664 mile start-finish, which demands plenty of horsepower.

Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says, “This certainly isn’t my favorite circuit. Most of the time it’s quite windy at Losail, which blows sand from around the circuit on to the track, making it dirty. The tarmac itself is grippy but when it’s dusty there’s not much grip. Also, it’s always dusty off the racing line, so if you get off the line you lose a lot of time because you have to be very careful not to fall. Fortunately it’s not bumpy and the safety is good. Technically, this circuit requires very precise bike setup, with good agility and good straight-line speed; these two factors are very important at Losail. When choosing tires we usually go for intermediate tires, neither too hard nor too soft. You have to ride quite aggressively at Losail, though there is a section – the three fast curves approaching the corner before the start-finish – which requires you to ride more carefully. Riding at night here is a new experience, but for my liking there is too much humidity as night falls, and you really notice it on the track."

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