Racing under floodlights

sp lightsF1 heads to Singapore this weekend for their annual night race. 22 Drivers racing at speeds of up to 200mph under floodlights through the evening. During the event, 108,423 metres of power cables, 240 steel pylons and around 1,600 light projectors with a total power requirement of 3,180,000 watts will be used just to light the circuit. Of course we have been racing under floodlights for years at Daytona. Our very first circuit, in Wood Lane, Shepherds Bush, was indoors and was lit by about 240 fluorescent tubes when we first opened in 1990.

Over the first couple of years we would see fluorescent tubes fail one at a time and, due to the cost and complexity of replacing tubes high up in the ceiling, we would wait until a few had gone before we arranged for scaffolding or a cherry picker and bought some new tubes. This was the early days for Daytona and every penny was being re-invested in the venue – and sometimes we didn’t have enough money to replace the tubes as often as we wanted to.

Back in Summer 1992, we were looking at the cost of replacing about 40 blown fluorescent tubes, including the hire of cherry pickers etc, and were having to decide whether to spend the funds on the lights or on more advertising. We decided to go with the advertising as we were confident that the light levels in the circuit were high enough to be safe and we hoped that the extra promotion would bring in more drivers and we would be able to afford the tubes before too many more blew.

The British Grand Prix weekend was coming up and the BBC Live and Kicking producers contacted us and asked if they could do some live broadcasting for the circuit as part of the BGP weekend show. Of course we agreed.

Next thing we know, they sent over a team to plan the broadcast and they asked us if we minded if they replaced all the blown tubes plus any that looked like they might blow as the TV cameras needed the maximum light. Unsurprisingly we were very happy for BBC licence fee payers to foot the bill for our lighting. We reckon those tubes lasted nearly two years!

Back to Singapore, where the race promoters have to foot the bill for the lighting, and everyone bar the Vettel fans are all hoping that he doesn’t win. In fact most of us want him to retire from the race with no points. Otherwise yet more of the top drivers will be announcing that their 2013 Championship hopes have faded. Next year F1 has a massive raft of rule changes, including new 1.6 litre turbo engines replacing the 2.4 V8’s currently used. Hopefully this will shake up the order with rumours that the Mercedes 2014 power plant being significantly more powerful than Renault’s or Ferrari’s.

Whilst we will have to wait until the Winter Testing to see the 2014 competitiveness, we can but hope that Red Bull won’t be so dominant in Singapore this weekend. If you fancy trying a race under floodlights, Daytona Sandown Park, Milton Keynes and Manchester are all open this weekend – and all our floodlights are working fine!

Jim Graham