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Under the spotlights

Is it really a surprise changes are already being made to the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship provisional calendar? I mean, when has the first release of the provisional dates and venues ever been set in stone? Some were curious and alarmed that the series would originally had been set to start in Thailand. But what if I were to tell you the series is now kicking off in Qatar, on a Saturday night, under the lights?

Youthstream and the FIM have slowly been introducing the idea of visiting places like Thailand, and Mexico to the series. But they are now fully committing to the idea of visiting continents other than Europe by opening the 2013 season with a race that has never been before in World Championship Motocross. Rumours have been circulating about the possibility of a Qatari Grand Prix in recent weeks; as you are reading this plans are already being put in place to arrange a circuit built on the structure of Losail.

If Losail sounds familiar, then you’re probably a MotoGP fan. The facility has hosted MotoGP events for a few years now and the motocross track that will host the talents of Cairoli and Searle will be built “within the existing structure used for the MotoGP”. Most will immediately dread another GP that will hosted on flat ground next to a MotoGP track. However, whether this will be a man-made supercross-like track or a more traditional motocross track remains to be seen, as sources suggest the ground is rocky, rather than sandy. Racing under the lights however is far from traditional, that’s for sure.

Mr. Nasser Khalifa Al Attiya and Mr Giuseppe Luongo shake on the deal

Although World Championship Motocross might be new to racing under the lights, thankfully the Losail facility has experience with the concept. Hopefully this should eliminate the teething issues that go with running events like this for the first time. If you look at the big picture, this could be a great thing for the sport as a whole. For example, the hype and excitement surrounding the night-race in Singapore for Formula 1 is like no other motorsports event, could world championship motocross under the lights replicate this feeling? If just a fraction of this is transferred into the MXGP of Qatar, it could be a huge positive for motocross.

A night-race may be a new concept for World Championship Motocross, but it isn’t for professional motocross. The AMA National series held a night race in Colorado for a few years, which was generally a success. Of course, there were some problems that you would expect with this type of race, ruts and bumps not being entirely visible, for example. It’s problems like this that make holding a motocross race under the lights a lot more of a challenge than for most other sports.

There really is no telling what we can expect from this race. I’m sure both riders and teams are quite apprehensive about the Qatari MXGP. Traditionally, the World Championship series starts around the beginning of the April, starting the series a month earlier will pose some problems with teams as they desperately try to get testing done in time for the first round. Some were already vocal about this when Thailand was set for the first round, and now it’s even earlier! What about the pre-season internationals? Mantova, Valence and Hawkstone Park will undoubtedly be looking to alter their dates so they are a “pre-season” race rather than taking part mid-season. It definitely will make things a bit more of a rush for everyone involved in the series, but for us fans it means we have one less month to wait before the season kicks off!

My opinion? In a series like the World Championship, variation is good; a Qatari Grand Prix introduces a whole load of new possibilities for the series. A race under the lights is certainly a unique factor in the series and another challenge riders will have to overcome in a bid to be world champion. For the motocross community it is certainly something worth sitting up and taking note of. Perhaps it will open the eyes of some new fans to our sport? Of course, another worry about the race is, how will the attendance be? Some research suggests the MotoGP (held in almost exactly the same conditions as the MXGP will be – except you’ll be looking at dirt rather than tarmac) doesn’t bring in the best crowd numbers.

It all depends on whether the profit Youthstream can make by visiting the Middle East can overcome this; perhaps just the publicity this race will gain can even things out? You never know until you try it, and until the 2013 season is underway (we still have four long months to wait) there is no telling how this unique race will turn out. But change is good, right? I guess we’ll find out next year. The series is just one step closer to becoming a true world championship; who knows, maybe this time next year we could be here talking about the 2013 GP of Qatar being the GP of the year?

Lewis Phillips

MX Vice Editor || 25

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