Riders Call For Earlier Start For Qatar MotoGP Race

The theory behind running the MotoGP season opener in Qatar at night is simple: Because the daytime temperatures in the desert state are so high, causing problems for riders, bikes  and tires, taking advantage of the cooler nighttime ensures the race is easier on man and machine. The evening start also timeshifts the race to a more favorable broadcast time, right into the middle of the evening primetime in key Spanish and Italian TV markets.

But night races have problems of their own: For a start, there's the monstrous amount of energy required to provide sufficient light for the riders to race in. Then there's the fact that if it rains - extremely rare in the desert, but as we saw last year, extremely rare is not the same as never - the racing has to be stopped, as water on the surface reflects the overhead lighting, making it impossible to see properly to race.

Escaping the heat of the daytime has another risk: once the sun goes down, the temperature drops precipitously, causing grip levels to change during the course of the 45 minute race and making choosing tires a bit of a gamble. Worst of all is that the nighttime chill causes dew to form, turning sections of the track completely treacherous. During the last day - or rather, evening - of testing at Qatar on Friday, Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards, Ben Spies and Casey Stoner all crashed at the same spot in the last hour of testing, the three Americans hitting the dirt within a ten minute span.

This has caused two of the favorites to win the season opener at Qatar to call for the starting time of the race to moved to a spot earlier in the evening. In the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport - as reported by Autosport -  both Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi said it would be better to move the race forward a couple of hours, to either 10pm local time, or even 8pm, to avoid the slippery conditions which appear after 11pm, the time the race is currently scheduled to run.

"It upsets me because many of us had crashed there in previous years too," Stoner told La Gazzetta. Crashes were happening without warning, Stoner said, the Ducati rider pointing the finger of blame at moisture collecting in Turn 2. Valentino Rossi said that he would be trying to talk to either Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta or Dorna's safety officer Franco Uncini about the situation, describing the decision to race at 11pm as "not very intelligent."

A 10pm start would be better, according to Valentino Rossi, as that would translate to around 8pm in Italy and Spain, around the time that the Italians are sitting down to dinner, and the Spanish are starting to cook. The earlier start would allow the Europeans to watch the race, then go to a bar later in the evening, to meet with their friends and discuss what had happened.

But Loris Capirossi put it most succinctly. When asked about the night race by La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Suzuki rider said "Do they want to race at night? Okay, it's dark already at 6pm, we can race at 8 or even at 10." With less than three weeks to go before the race starts, a decision will have to be made quickly.

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Come on man...that´s all you have to say? Dorna is a great company...they give the teams alll the power...look at formula one and there debacle... :)

WSBK has been racing during the daytime in Qatar and I don't remember a lot of complaints, certainly MotoGP has raced there during the day as well. I think the night race thing is just a marketing toy. If they are going to keep racing in Qatar, switch it back to day and avoid the headaches.

The races were originally scheduled to occur much later in the year. The idea of the night race was to counter the heat expected that time of year. In an effort to reduce that, AND also trump one over F1, they made it a night race, at the same time as they brought forward the actual event in the calendar, leading to the farcical situation of the rain postponement and the dew forming. Remember that 2(?) years ago the race was even earlier in the season. The reason we need to wait for April for a race is because they have an exclusive contract to be the first race of the season. It was moved to April to improve the temperature and reduce the issues with the damp track.

I take issue with your terminology. What constitutes a "monstrous amount"?

By scanning Musco lighting's webpage (http://www.musco.com/projshow.html), I see that the Qatar circuit uses 4,185 kw/hr. Assuming that the lights are illuminated 6 hrs. each night of the race weekend approx. 75,000kw will be consumed.

By comparsison, the new Yankee Stadium (baseball) will use approx. 698,000kw/yr for the painfully boring spectacle(?) of watching grown men throw a projectile at each other (or whatever this sorry excuse to consume beer is for).
Or, it will use the same amount of electricity as 1000 ave. American homes will use during the same 3 days.

I find your inference to resource profligance to be inappropriate when you consider the entertainment/kw quotient.

You may find it inappropriate. I do not. I believe the night race at Qatar is pointless, and adds little if anything to the spectacle. The sooner it is moved back to the daytime - and earlier in the year - the better.

And comparing the Qatar race to Yankee stadium is interesting, though disingenuous. It's like saying that you're a moderate drinker, because you only drink one bottle of whiskey a day, while your friend Bob drinks three.

Although I disagree with you, I have to compliment you on your research. I cannot fault your findings at all, and it is a pleasure to read something so well founded. I still disagree with your conclusions, however, because I feel that the night race itself is pointless. I would regard it as a monstrous waste of energy even if they only used two 60 watt bulbs to illuminate the circuit.

David, if we take your relativity arguement about Bob we could easily expand it to MotoGP as a whole being a "monstrous" waste of energy or even to heating one's home...its all a matter of degree. Having installed similar ( on a smaller scale projects with Musco) I admire the lighting technology involved as a testament to man's ingenuity..much like the sport itself.

Having seen & competed in nightime motorsporting events my feelings are antithetical to yours; nightime adds a certain intimate ambiance & party atmosphere that you don't get during the daylight.... you either feel it or you don't...but its special. I, and many others, believe it adds another dimension to the event. For decades Saturday night motorsports have flourished throughout the US, in large part because a) alot of people work on Saturdays & b) as in Qatar, its damn hot in the day.

I think you are giving short shrift to the primetime televison aspect, a potentialy huge benefit for the exposure to channel surfers.

2 wheels, who do you think makes it possible for VR to make his $millions..... you surely wouldn't want to begrudge Vale his due, now would you?

And SV, I was just winding you up on baseball, my gf has dragged me to see the Yankees (at night) & I would rather watch corn grow...zzzzzzzzzzz

I completely agree on the technology. What Musco does with the lighting in Qatar is astonishing, and highly worthy of praise. I even understand the attraction of the night races, the atmosphere you describe. It just doesn't appeal to me at all, and I consequently regard it as a monstrous waste of energy. I do not pretend that to be an objective appraisal, but then adjectives so rarely are.

Worst of all, though, is the fact that Qatar is both the season opener and run at night. Because it's at night, it can't be run until April at the earliest, pushing back the start of the season until then, and compressing the rest of the season into  very compact 7 month period. If Qatar was run during the day, we could start racing in early March, and have a more relaxed schedule all round. Perhaps even fit in another MotoGP round, making the sport even more attractive to sponsors.

....even if I don´t like very much the game, mainly because i´ts one american game and we don´t see it over here.
But.....comparing one full stadium full of fans with one empty track with 20 / 30 "oilsheiks" showing off gold watches.

The track is in the midle of a desert! If there is one thing they have got to spare is dayLIGHT !!!!! - hell, you could run the race early in the morning if you don´t want hight temperatures

Logic is not one issue in this matter....there is no logic at all !!!

throwing beer and " thrown projectiles" in the equation....will not help

Should be the comparison. Qatar uses 4185 kW/hr, Yankee stadium uses 1369 kW/hr, or over 3 times less per hour. Qatar has a couple of hundred MotoGP workers and maybe 50-60 spectators and Yankee stadium regularly has 40k+ spectators. I'm not a huge baseball fan and am a huge motoGP fan but think it is fair to say it is a waste of resources to to fly that many teams and motorcycles to the middle of the desert to have a night race with no spectators. Then factor in that the night race makes me have to watch 4 WSB races before being able to watch a MotoGP round!!! And of course let's hope there is no rain.

Not to mention the main reason Dorna did it was to do it before F1 did. How many MotoGP watchers even care what F1 does?


....made the best description possible of this race!!!

I think that after reading it, there is no way of justifing the impossible....or is it ?

Au contraire Chris

Your calculation overlooks the not insignificant matter of....TV viewership. As the MotoGP race has a worldwide viewership of 310 MILLION/race (5.29billion yearly/17) & the Yankees have a (well deserved) 76,000 viewers/game


Even if you include the 40,000 (drunk) Yankee fans & 50 Rolex encrusted Shieks on a kilowatt/ spectator comparison: MotoGP = 74,000 viewers/kw vs. Yankees = 84 viewers/kw.

MotoGP is 880X as energy efficient as the Yankees...call the IPCC!!!

And how many TV viewers do the Yankees get for a night game? Especially for a high profile game, such as the season opener? I'm actually working on a story on this very subject ...

Thanks! See, those are some interesting numbers there. This is pretty interesting...

Edit: Thinking about it, you should look at the whole weekend. The track is lit on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night, from around 6pm to midnight. So perhaps you should compare it to 3 Yankees games, though the viewership on Friday and Saturday is much, much lower than on Sunday. Anyway, I believe that the 300 million figure is the total viewership for the entire weekend.

include 3 nights for my original calculations. So even if you take 3 World Series games you're still only <5,000 viewers/kw.

Point being...MotoGP brings ALOT of joy to MANY for relatively little resource depletion campared to other "major" sports. Sure we can all live in a cold dark cave & gather berries....but I don't buy into motorcycle racing at night is causing any harm to Gaia.

I agree on the environmental issues. But I see the race as a monumental waste of energy because it is being run at night for no good reason. They could run the race in late February, early March, and either fit two more rounds of MotoGP in or else free up the summer a little. The night race is a testament to hubris.

And the environmental impact of motorcycle racing is absolutely minimal in comparison as something as venal as, say, Dancing with the Stars.

1. that i am debating yankee viewership statistics on motomatters

2. that 5% of the global population watches each motogp race live. if this was the case i don't think teams would have any problems finding out of industry sponsors. 5 billion viewers is only 10x more than F1, not bad for a sport with 1% the name recognition of F1.

what is your obsession with drinking and baseball? i guess you are not american in that baseball is not the big drinking sport. tailgating at football games is #1 in drinking with rangers hockey fans a close second. baseball is pretty tame as far as spectators go.



5% of the world's population doesn't watch MotoGP. I think the 310million relates to something like total # of times tv's were turned on to a race during a weekend. Obviously, someone who (is lucky enough to) watch(s) Friday practice will also watch Saturday & Sunday (3 views).

Actually, F1 gets 600million/race weekend (talk about watching corn grow). Please site your source of the 1% name recognition number....You think Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso are 99X more widely recognized than VR...show me.
If you look at Forbes list of the top 100 celebrities Michael Schumacher (#24) is the only F1 driver on the list...Rossi is #58.


If not being a baseball fan annuls my US citizenship...call in the INS. I saw (the lush) Micky Mantle play..have you? I just think that from what I've seen, ALOT of people go to baseball games as an excuse to get drunk & disorderly & not be prosecuted. So what if hockey & football fans are bigger drunks..a dubious distinction.

Your own numbers are very flawed. Sure the Qatar circuit uses 4,185 kw/hr but you throw out that 698,000 kw/yr number like it's huge. That is during the course of a 162 game season 81 of which are played in Yankee Stadium. That's a little longer than one weekend of lighting. And regardless of what you personally feel about baseball we all know that MotoGP and Dorna would love to have the attendance numbers that MLB pulls in year after year.

17 races, 2+ million spectators, 120,000 spectators/race

30 teams (162 games ea), 73 million spectators, 35,000/game

TV numbers (see my previous posts). How exactly is MLB the envy of Dorna??

2 million < 73 million its that easy. You don't see teams like the Kansas City Royals disbanding but you do see Kawasaki leave MotoGP. Last year Dorna barely was able to get enough bikes on the grid. That doesn't scream successful. MotoGP may be a worldwide sport but the average baseball team has profits so high that MotoGP teams could only dream of and MLB is basically a American sport. I love MotoGP but MLB has people in the stands day in and day out and that's something you cannot deny.

Motorcycle racing is a dangerous activity (one of its many attractions) but there is no reason to unnecessarily make it more so. Race officials and promoters must listen to the riders whenever safety is the issue. No one wants to see any of these brave stars of the sport hurt.

Baseball is a fun family sport. Sorry you feel the way you do. Is there some specific reason you picked it out of all the worlds’ popular sports to belittle?

I agree !
These guys don't scare easily, up to 330 km/h and then full on the brakes. Maybe they should listen to them if they think it's a safety issue :)

Sucks badly that the season would have already started if it wasn't for Qatar, maybe Dorna should fly some fans (like 50.000) over to Qatar to fill the stands ?!!
I'd be willing to receive one of those tickets ;)

The Sheiks of Qatar want to not only have the first race of the MotoGP season, but also a night race as it (in their eyes) makes the Qatar GP more prominent, more desirable and more sexy. To those who follow MotoGP it's largely an irrelevance and more of an oddity than a compelling spectacle. I'll grant you the bikes do look good under megawatts of lighting, but if it causes crashes or technical difficulties purely because of its timeslot and geography, then to my mind it's a bad thing.

Try telling that to Sheiks who have invested squillions of dollars in the project, though. For that reason alone, I'd be very surprised if race time gets moved back even an hour. The Qatari Sheiks would see it as a sign of weakness; it's their show after all and the welfare of the riders is vanishingly low on their list of priorities. Common sense counts for diddly in those circumstances.