Exclusive: Qatar poised to join F1 calendar

Race at Losail Circuit expected for 2016, or 2017 at the latest.

Exclusive: Qatar poised to join F1 calendar
The lights at the Losail International Circuit
Welcome to Losail Internatial Circuit
Welcome to Losail Internatial Circuit
Welcome to Losail Internatial Circuit
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Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team
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While the proposed Formula One race in Las Vegas for 2016 has been getting the majority of the publicity, another potential race has been quietly working its way toward the F1 calendar: Qatar, which has long been hoping to host a race.

According to well-placed sources, plans for the inaugural race are much farther along than most expected, and the track, Losial International Circuit, is likely to join the calendar in 2016, or 2017 at the latest.

It will not take much work for the track to be ready, as the track already holds FIA and FIM homologation licenses. Built in 2004 at a cost of about $60 million, Losial is a 3.375-mile road course that already hosts MotoGP, GP2 and several other series including rallies and enduros. Full lighting was added three years after it was built, well before the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi became the largest lit circuit in the world.

The 2008 MotoGP race was the first night race, and GP2 ran its first night race there in 2009. MotoGP has raced at the track since 2004. Most of the track’s activities are from October to April, a time when weather prevents much of the racing world to stage spectator events. The track is less than a half-hour from Doha International Airport in the country’s capital, and plenty of luxury lodging is available nearby.

Could host testing first

The track is expected to host some F1 testing before the actual race. Upgrades to F1 standards continue, and given the wealth of the area, financing should not be a problem. In addition, Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Attiyah, president of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation, is expected to retain his vice-presidency of FIM when elections are held later this month.

Technically, Formula One has privately visited the track multiple times, including in late 2009, when His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani became the first Qatari to drive a Formula One car when he drove a Williams FW31 there. His Highness, who owns the Al-Anabi drag racing teams, made five laps in the car.

 

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