Qatar To Be Moved To February, Resurfaced, Substrate Heating Added

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. While the Losail International Circuit is indeed due to be resurfaced after thirteen years of use, as yet, no contract to do so has been agreed. No plans exist to fit underfloor heating, as far as I know, and given the astronomical cost involved, it seems very unlikely to happen. Normal service has now been resumed... 

The Losail International Circuit is to be resurfaced, with the aim of moving the opening race back to February. The question of resurfacing came to a head after last week's season opener MotoGP round at Qatar, when light rain caused the start of the MotoGP race to be delayed, raising concern among the riders over the evening dew, which starts to form on the track surface at around 10pm. There were serious concerns that the track would become too treacherous to race on, if the race were to be delayed for too much longer.

The surface and condition of the Losail circuit was a talking point all weekend. The asphalt itself is nearly fourteen years old, as the track has not been resurfaced since it was first built. Because the MotoGP race runs at night, the evening dew makes the track slippery, but the dew patches are impossible to see. And the fact that the race runs at night means that the event is in peril if it rains.

Dorna had a possible solution in place for a rain race. If the track had been sufficiently wet during the course of the weekend, an extra session of testing was to be convened, to allow all three classes to ride on a wet track under the floodlights. That would have given everyone a chance to assess how much of a problem glare from the floodlights would have been.

It did in fact rain on Saturday, but the rain was so torrential, and so much fell in such a short time that the track became flooded, and was unsafe to ride on. There was standing water in several corners, as well as in the gravel traps. Testing glare from the floodlights was impossible.

In a series of meetings about the track over the course of the weekend, the circuit reached agreement with Dorna about a radical solution, Motomatters.com has learned. One which would address both the issue with dew forming in the evening, and remove any concerns over running a race at night in the wet. The circuit is to be resurfaced, and in the process, it is to have a heated substrate fitted.

The heating installation is to be fitted below the surface of the entire track, and used to keep the track at a steady 37°C any time the track is used. By keeping the track surface at a constant temperature, the system, based on underfloor heating systems used in large scale industrial facilities where temperature control is critical, will give the Losail circuit a much wider range of use.

The biggest advantage for both MotoGP and WorldSBK is that it will prevent condensation forming on the track in the evening. This will give Dorna much greater freedom in the timing of events for both series. Qatar has the rights to be the first race of the MotoGP season, and the last race of the WorldSBK season, and a heated track will allow both events to be moved earlier and later respectively.

The heated track is a key requirement for MotoGP, especially. With more races being added to the calendar, Dorna are keen to start the season earlier. In 2018, when Thailand joins the calendar, one of the three preseason tests (most probably, Phillip Island) is to be dropped, and the season opener at Qatar held several weeks earlier. That has always been a problem because of the evening condensation, but subsurface heating removes that element from the equation.

Likewise, the heated track also allows the WorldSBK season to be extended. New circuits in Asia can be added, and the season finale moved back to November, instead of October. Sources indicate that Dorna would dearly like to hold the WorldSBK and MotoGP season finales on back-to-back weekends, with a grand awards gala to be held for both series together.

The subsurface heating offers several other benefits. With the evening dew no longer a factor, practice in Qatar can run longer at night. The Qatar MotoGP race is the only event to be held over four days, and teams would welcome having the race weekend be just three days, like the others, as it means lower costs for accommodation, car rental, etc. It might even be possible to cut the length of practice sessions, as constant conditions would allow teams to find a working setup much faster.

Preliminary modeling had shown that a heated track would also help combat the rain. If rain fell during the race weekend, circuit engineers are reportedly confident that the subsurface heating would be able to dissipate the water within approximately 20 minutes, greatly helped by the dry desert winds which constantly blow across the track. This would eliminate the need for a wet track test, and remove any concerns over glare.

Above all, a heated circuit would make it much easier for the official tire suppliers to all three Grand Prix classes. With a constant track temperature, both Michelin and Dunlop can bring tires tailored very precisely to the conditions at the circuit. They could cut down on the number of tires transported, as they would not have changeable conditions to contend with, and be assured of circuit records being broken.

The only objection to a track with subsurface heating is one of cost. The amount of gas required to heat the track to a constant 37°C would be huge, and extremely costly. However, given the amount of money the circuit spends on the floodlight installation to allow the races to run at night, this is not believed to be an issue.

Though a preliminary agreement to fit subsurface heating has already been made between Dorna and the Losail International Circuit, there is still the matter of finding a supplier capable of handling such a complex operation. Motomatters.com understands that a local engineering firm is the current front runner among interested parties. The most likely scenario is that the subsurface heating will be the work of Poor al-Ifl.

Source: 

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Comments

Just resurface the place and run in daylight. Selling the lights and Gennies will cover the cost of drainage to the circuit, and more. They prove yet again money is no object, if you want to be different.

David, worst thing about this post is it's actually believeable :)

I was suprised Losail didn't have a fleet of trucks with helicopter turbines strapped on the back  COTA stye.

Does this also include some decent drainage for when it does rain, ?? or do they hope with a change of dates there won't be the need, weather these days is highly erratic, Queensland has just had its first cyclone at the end of March - and a Category 4 at that - and considering cyclone season  is usually Dec to Feb how can they rely a date change for not getting rain.

 

You've gone and done it again, just remebered the date

There is also a strong rumour that Sidecar racing is to be re-introduced to the Grand Prix weekends with the intention of letting them go out on track first to disperse any surface water that may be laying! 

Nice work David. I've been checking the site all day (Aust time) for this. 

i have the same system in my bathroom and it's beautiful in winter. Makes perfect sense to do it in the desert

I was not surprised to see that Poor al-Ifl is involved. This Al Khor-based tech company was also working on the private cloud tech project to strategically locate robot clouds to provide directed "small shade" to clients at 2022 World Cup, but the project was put on hold when the Qatar World Cup was rescheduled for winter...a company to watch.

....over the circuit to keep the weather out? I heard one of the commentators suggesting it when we were waiting for action on Saturday. It would also keep the sand out and probably work out cheaper in the long run. Racing during the day is another alternative and obvious solution.

.... Sadly I'm very much #LateToTheParty on on this one.

Due to work & real life I needed to avoid all social media. This however was a good read ! 

Great article David. I also heard Poor Al-ifl were developing a special formulation of asphalt that included a dessicant clay that would absorb moisture from dew and light rain, thus making the track drain and dry instantly. This could also be mixed into the gravel traps to avert the flooding, meaning the riders running off track really would be in the kitty litter wink