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GP Week : Issue 148
Say what you like, there is still something weird about racing after dark. The first such was at Qatar in 2008, managing to celebrate this particular 'first' several months before F1 in Singapore. Something that people who think this sort of thing is important like to brag about. There are very few logical reasons for doing it. You can murmur about avoiding the heat of the day, or being friendly to European TV schedules, but these are herrings in various shades of red. If European TV schedules were really the target, surely it would be better to slot in with the usual European race time, already catered for in existing schedules. This would mean running it at 1pm local time to hit the standard European 2pm. Truth is, it’s all about vanity and national pride on the Qatari side, and money on Dorna’s. Other than a touch of novelty – as fake as the Astroturf that lines the circuit, it contributes nothing to the racing. Rather the reverse: the grand prix routine severely disrupted by the wacky timing. The need to avoid sunlight at one end of proceedings and the likelihood of heavy dew at the other leaves such a narrow window that the schedule has to be extended to take in an extra day. For Qatar only, practice begins on Thursday, while the smaller classes have their race “warm-up” run the evening before the race. Which, as you might imagine, gives them plenty of time to cool down again. Particularly since these sessions, used to test out final race set-up and tyre choice, take place (for Moto2 and Moto3) two hours earlier in the evening than their race-time, in very different conditions as well as on a different day. The lighting is highly impressive and effective, though it serves to make a featureless circuit all the more so. But there is one major drawback: if it rains reflections on the surface mean everyone has to park. It becomes unusable. Fat chance of rain, they must have thought when the original agreement was struck. But it was only in the second night-racing year that a massive storm meant the race had to be cancelled, then hastily rescheduled for the next day. But you know what? In spite of all this, it was all quite fun anyway. The track itself is large and testing, if a touch unrideable off line (desert sand, of course); the quirkiness in all respects also means it’s not necessarily an indicator of the season to come. And the new thousands sound just as good in the dark. It’s good to get going again. New big bikes in MotoGP; an interesting start for CRT and Moto3; Moto2 as usual. And the prospect of a more diverse and close season to come. There are 17 more races. All held in daylight. They promise a great deal. Out of darkness indeed. OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor OPINION OUT OF DARKNESS INTO LIGHT 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: