Discussions are currently underway to review the schedule of the MotoGP event at Qatar. The current time schedule, with all three classes taking place after sundown, creates significant headaches for the class, as was apparent at the opening race of the 2017 season, when rain caused qualifying to be canceled and threatened to postpone the race to Monday.
MotoMatters.com has learned that discussions opened at Jerez on alternative time schedules for the event. At the moment, nothing is decided and IRTA, who are tasked with organizing the event, are fielding proposals from everyone. They are at the very beginning of the process, one source told us.
The most obvious solution would be to move the Moto2 and Moto3 races to the late afternoon, and then start the MotoGP race a couple of hours earlier, around 7pm instead of 9pm. This would allow Qatar to keep its position as both the first race of the season and a night race, while offering the possibility of moving the start of the season earlier to make room for an expanded calendar.
An earlier start would avoid the dew which starts to settle late at night, around 10pm, and which has caused so many crashes in the past. That would give more flexibility to move the dates of the race to earlier in the year. And it would also allow the possibility of either waiting longer to start the race if it start to rain, or to move the race earlier and into the daylight.
But it would also cause several headaches. The current event is spread over four days, with practice and qualifying taking place at different times. Whether it would be possible to reduce the event back to three days is unknown, though having Moto2 and Moto3 qualifying during the day would give more flexibility there.
Nothing is decided yet, however, and retaining the current schedule is also an option. Changing the schedule would need the agreement of all parties involved. The Qatar federation and Losail Circuit would have to consent to keeping the MotoGP race as an evening race, but perhaps giving up Moto2 and Moto3 as a night race. The teams would have to agree to the new schedule. The riders would have to believe the new schedule would be safer or better, in terms of track grip and in terms of riding. And the tire manufacturers Michelin and Dunlop would have to agree to develop tires capable of dealing with the new schedule.
Talks will continue over the next few races, with proposals to be submitted at the next IRTA meeting. The official timing of the schedule is likely to be released only once the provisional 2018 calendar is published, some time in late September.