BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL IN QATAR The lights were switched on at 17.45 hours, local time, at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar today as MotoGP's first official night test kicked off, prior to the first round of the 2008 season next ...
BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL IN QATAR
The lights were switched on at 17.45 hours, local time, at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar today as MotoGP's first official night test kicked off, prior to the first round of the 2008 season next week. It all happened in preparation for the race on 9th March, also at the track, which will be the first Grand Prix ever to be run at night.
The history-making illuminations, powered by nearly five and a half million watts of electricity and which represent the largest permanent sports lighting system in the world, lit the 5.4km circuit as the premier class riders started the first of two nights of testing.
Kawasaki Racing Team rider, John Hopkins, took to the track on the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR despite still recovering from a groin injury sustained at Phillip Island in January. The 24-year-old Anglo-American managed 71 laps and a best time of 1'56.614, putting him in an impressive seventh position on the leader board, just over a second off Casey Stoner, the fastest man of the session, and a mere 0.043 seconds off sixth placed rider, Andrea Dovizioso.
Getting used to the lighting was the first hurdle and one which all the riders seemed to overcome fairly quickly. However, as Hopkins pointed out as he tested Bridgestone tyre combinations throughout the seven hours, low, night time track temperatures will make for a difficult decision on the rubber come the race.
He did, however, continue to forge ahead and recorded his fastest lap of the session right at the end: a positive sign of things to come.
Anthony West, after making great progress during the last test at Jerez earlier this month, continued to test new chassis components on his Bridgestone-shod machine and was feeling increasingly confident in the revised set up.
The 27-year-old from Queensland, Australia, had just put in his fastest time of the test when he lost the front and crashed at turn 16, the final right-hander before the long stretch down the start/finish straight. Bruised but otherwise unhurt, West climbed aboard his second bike and went back out to do some further laps.
The test ran until 01:00 hours, one hour later than scheduled, due to the official, switching-on ceremony delaying the advertised start. Tomorrow's test will begin at 17:00 hours, local time, and run until midnight.
John Hopkins: 7th - 71 Laps -- 1'56.614
"The priority today was to decide on a tyre for the first race next week and we evaluated many different combinations of both race and qualifying tyres. It's been a while since I've been able to get on the bike and get stuck into testing because of my injury, although this is slowly improving day-by-day. The most difficult thing has been maintaining fitness whilst recovering but I managed to do some training this week and, despite still feeling sore, we got through quite a lot of laps today. The lighting around the circuit is good fun as it's a bit different from the usual, but the track temperature is quite low and I could really feel it in the tyres, which are going to be a crucial factor for the race. Now we know what tyre selection we will be using, we are going to concentrate on the machine set-up tomorrow."
Anthony West: 18th -- 51 Laps -- 1'57.787
"Tonight, our main task was to get accustomed to the floodlit circuit and to try a new chassis option we have. The frame we tried has made a big improvement to the rear grip, which we have had trouble with previously. The bike felt really good and I started pushing a bit hard, which caused me to crash. I lost the front at the last corner and I'm a bit bruised but no major problems. The lighting of the circuit is not totally consistent and it is a bit strange riding at night. The track does look a bit different, and it's hard to find my lines, but overall it's not hugely dissimilar to how it is in the day. I hope that tomorrow we can get some more laps on the bike in these conditions and continue working with this chassis."
Kaneko: Kawasaki Technical Manager
"This was the first practice under the lights at night. These conditions are quite unique because in usual circumstances the track temperature increases throughout the day, whereas in this situation the track temperature decreases and the humidity increases the closer we get to midnight. We completed various tyre tests, which indicated some direction we could take on race tyres, although we may need to adapt our set-up tomorrow to be able to make the most of the best race tyre. We have also tested some new machine components which, combined with the different tyres we have used, will bring some advantages and some disadvantages. Tomorrow, our main aim is to find the best compromise and finalise our race set-up."