Malaysia night race still a possibility

Malaysian Grand Prix officials are still considering holding the Sepang race at night but have insisted that the financial burden must not be too high.

Formula 1 s first night race will be held this season in Singapore. Other races such as the Australian Grand Prix have also been asked to follow suit and hold a night race to suit European schedules.

The chairman of the Sepang International Circuit, Dato Makhzani Mahathir, has said that the night race does make sense but only if costs are not too high.

“We actually started talking about lighting up the track with Bernie Ecclestone as far back as September 2006 for night racing by installing a lighting system that would give almost daylight quality light,” Mokhzani explained. “Since then, he has spoken to Singapore and Melbourne about it because he would like to see the broadcast of F1 in Europe at a more decent hour. Having a race in Asia at night makes sense.

“Singapore and Melbourne are temporary street circuits whereas we are a permanent racetrack. So, putting up lighting systems would allow us to rent out the track more.

“European viewers will enjoy it because they’ll get to watch it live at a more decent time. For example, the Melbourne race is at 2pm which is something like 6am in Europe and for the first race of the reason that doesn’t go down very well with the F1 fans. So, they should enjoy it even more if they can watch it at midday or afternoon. For Asia it would make a difference to the spectators who come to the track but not much to TV viewers at home.”

Mokhzani Mahathir denied Ecclestone had given officials an ultimatum to run a night race or risk losing the Grand Prix altogether.

“No, it was never an ultimatum from Bernie where either we do a night race or get the contract cancelled,” he replied. “Our current contract is up to 2010 and then last year when we were negotiating for an extension a clause was put in to the contract saying that we need to be ready to host the race at night.

“We also said that the pricing must not be too big a financial burden for us. Our new contract is now up to 2015.”