Singapore will join the Formula One circuit next year and may hold the first ever night grand prix under lights on the streets of this skyscraper-filled metropolis, officials said.
"We are pleased to announce that Singapore will be hosting the F1 Grand Prix from 2008,'' Minister of State for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran told a news conference on Friday.
The first race would be in September or October 2008 on a street circuit, he said. "I am also pleased to announce that Singapore could potentially stage the first-ever F1 night race,'' Iswaran said. "A night race will be unique, different and allow the Singapore event to reach out to television audiences in Asia, Europe and the U.S.''
In a video conference from Spain, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone expressed his enthusiasm at the prospect of a night race in Singapore. "Singapore is going to be the leader with the street race at night. Everyone's excited about the idea,'' Ecclestone said.
But Iswaran said the government was still evaluating the safety considerations of holding the race under lights.
"Safety is of paramount concern to all of us. Therefore, we will proceed with a night race only if the safety and operational requirements of all parties ... are met,'' he said, referring to the teams, the Formula One Administration and the sport's world governing body, the FIA.
"If not, we will revert to a day race,'' he said.
The city-state secured the rights to hold the race for five years -- with the option for FOA to extend for a further five years -- and expects annual tourism receipts from the event of about 100 million Singapore dollars (US$65.9 million; euro48.72 million), Iswaran said.
He said the government would cover 60 percent of the estimated annual cost of up to S$150 million (US$98.8 million; euro73.04 million) and that an extra hotel tax would be charged during the race week to help meet the costs.
Singapore's announcement came a day after Ecclestone confirmed that Valencia, Spain, would also stage an F1 race in 2008 on a street circuit. The eastern Spanish city will hold F1 races for seven years beginning next year.
Ecclestone has previously been reported as saying he would like to include several night races on the F1 circuit -- especially in Asia -- in a bid to make their broadcast times more accessible to European and North American television viewers.
The proposal has so far met with mixed responses from teams and drivers, with safety concerns the main issue as F1 cars do not have headlights and reach speeds of more than 300 kilometers (185 miles) per hour.
The rights to the race will be held by a company controlled by Singapore GP Pte Ltd, a company owned by property and hotels tycoon Ong Beng Seng.
Singapore's plan to host the F1 has caused unease in neighboring Malaysia, which is part of the annual circuit. The Malaysians are privately worried that Singapore will draw away some of the many thousands of fans who descend every year to watch its race at Sepang.
But in public, Malaysian officials have put on a brave face, saying they are not concerned. The Malaysian race is held early in the year, and Singapore's schedule puts the two events several months apart, suggesting that fans could travel to both places in equal numbers.
Malaysia this year extended its contract to host F1 by another five years after 2010.
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Source : STAR
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