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Lighting up Singapore for a night race - How the Marina Bay Circuit has been bathed in light

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

This weekend sees the first ever Formula 1 night race, and it takes place around the streets of Singapore. The idea first arose as Bernie Ecclestone wanted to expand his calendar, but keep the European audiences, and therefore advertisers, happy. None of that matters though, as the Grand Prix is shaping up to be a completely spectacular event, even though it only took a year for the circuit to come together.

As any other street circuit, the track layout came from the placement of the roads, and designer Hermann Tilke had to work with what was available to him. However, he also had the added problem of the lights. With the race starting at 8pm local time, it will be after sunset, and the city will be in darkness.

Except that it won’t be.

All of the track, and run off areas are going to be lit up – with the run off’s slightly less than the track to distinguish between the two. The lights will be on just one side of the track, to help the television cameras avoid glare, and will be placed at four metre intervals. There were some concerns about shadows, but Formula 1 cars are very low to the floor, and hopefully any shadow problems will be minimal.

The lighting will run on 12 generators, stuck in sound-proof containers – and there will be a main control room to monitor all 12 generators at the same time. If any fail, then the other 11 would be an instant backup, and there will be engineers on hand in case of problems. If any of the lights blow, they are all rigged to be separate and alternate, so that there should always be some lighting across each stretch of track.

The numbers used in this project are astonishing: over 108,000 metres of cables, 240 pylons, 1,600 light projectors, over 3.1 million watts of power. The lighting will be four times brighter than at any football stadium.

It seems over-the-top, a crazy amount of organisation, power, and effort for a single Grand Prix. However, the drivers will take their Formula 1 cars to the track in good faith, and will be reaching over 300 km/h at various points along the track. There can be no chance of any blackouts. If this Singapore weekend is successful, then more night races will surely follow, and the organisers will want theirs to be the benchmark any future night races look up to.