By Jonathan Noble Friday, August 31st 2007, 12:45 GMT
MotoGP will beat Formula One to the accolade of holding a first world championship night race after announcing plans for an evening event in Qatar next year.
While F1 still considers holding night races in Malaysia and Singapore, MotoGP bosses have signed a deal with Qatar for the opening event on next year's season, on March 9, to take place in darkness.
At a press conference in Misano on Friday, MotoGP commercial chief Carmela Ezpeleta from organisers Dorna said: "It's a great day for us. Maybe three or four years ago we started to talk about the possibility of using the circuit in Qatar in the night.
"We did some tests during the 2006 Grand Prix, and the Qatar people continued working on this matter. I think if everything goes well, Qatar will be the first world championship race in the night. It's a fantastic possibility for us to do it."
The lighting for the Qatar race is being presided over by American sports lighting company Musco Lighting, who conducted an F1 night test event at Indianapolis ahead of this year's United States Grand Prix.
Musco president Joe Crookham, who believes that the Qatar race will be the biggest ever sports lighting event, said: "We very much appreciate the opportunity to take on this challenge. We've been in the motor sports lighting business for 25 years, but this is going to be a new challenge for us.
"Safety will of course be the first priority. We will be spending time understanding the riders' needs. We're doing testing to understand that.
"We are quite confident that this can be done in a manner that the riders, television and spectators will all be able to enjoy. It's going to be a quick project. There is not a lot of time left to get all this done. The first products have already been shipped from the United States and tests will be going on between now and March."
Night tests at the Qatar track are due to be conducted throughout this autumn while the entire lighting setup will be completed by February 15.
Ezpeleta said that it was not decided yet whether all three classes of MotoGP will race at night, but he did make it clear that the practice sessions will also take place under the lights throughout the weekend.
With the Qatar event having agreed to race at night, there is also the possibility of the Malaysian event switching to an evening schedule as well.
Ezpeleta said: "We have some ideas and they are developing the project but we don't know exactly what will happen."