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Let there be light - illuminating the Singapore Grand Prix 08 Feb 2008

Scenic Singapore Singapore Grand Prix Circuit Preview, Singapore, 21 November 2007. World © Sutton Scenic Singapore Singapore Grand Prix Circuit Preview, Singapore, 21 November 2007. World © Sutton Anderson Bridge at Night Singapore Grand Prix Circuit Preview, Singapore, 21 November 2007. World © Sutton The view from the seating gallery of Turn 19 Singapore Grand Prix Circuit Preview, Singapore, 21 November 2007. World © Sutton Scenic Singapore Singapore Grand Prix Circuit Preview, Singapore, 21 November 2007. World © Sutton

This September’s inaugural Singapore Grand Prix will represent a major milestone in the history of Formula One racing. Not only will it be the first race to be held in the Asian city, it will also be the sport’s first-ever night-time event.

Drivers and viewers are set to make a journey of discovery together around the Singaporean streets during what will be a unique experience for all concerned. Behind-the-scenes, the realisation of the race, which will begin at 2000 hours local time, will also mark the culmination of months of preparation.

When the idea of a night race was first tabled, one of the biggest issues the organisers faced was that of lighting the 5.067-kilometre circuit. With over 40 years’ experience under their belt, specialists Valerio Maioli S.p.a. were handpicked by Formula One racing’s governing body, the FIA, to take on the challenge.

In next to no time, the Italian firm set to work designing a bespoke, state-of-the-art system to deliver optimal visibility for night-race conditions. The system they came up with fits the brief perfectly, minimizing glare and reflections from wet surfaces or spray from cars, by using lighting projectors strategically positioned around the track.

In terms of numbers, the logistical set up is understandably vast. 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. With an illumination measurement of around 3000 lux, the lighting will be four times brighter than the lights at sports stadiums.

Here Valerio Maioli presents the ultimate guide to their unique lighting system…

Q: What are some of the challenges in setting up the light system?
Setting up a light system in a street circuit involves a number of challenges. To prevent the unnecessary uprooting of trees, the height of the lights would have to be lower than the tree canopy lining the circuit. As the Singapore Grand Prix will be held on a street circuit, the light system is a temporary one. Other challenges include setting-up and dismantling the system in the quickest possible time to minimise disruption. A logical solution is to use special power-lock connectors to connect the cables, as well as pre-preparing equipment such as the various lengths of cables required, in Singapore.
Because of the limited time frame to set up the system, it would be impossible to place the cables in underground ducts. As a result, aluminium trusses - similar to light fittings at a concert - will be used to house the power cables.

Q: How extensively will the track be lit?
The entire track, including the run-off areas, has to be consistently lit. However, the run-off areas will not be as bright as the rest of the track, so as to avoid confusing the drivers. The light beam has to be controlled so that, if the cars spin and end up facing in the wrong direction, the driver’s vision is not impaired.

Q: How will the aluminium trusses be set up?
The light projectors are mounted on aluminium trusses, measuring 400 by 400 by 4000 millimetres. These are installed 10 metres above the track, supported by vertical steel pylons placed 32 metres apart. The vertical steel pylons, measuring 252 by 360 by 10,000mm, will be supported by prefabricated concrete blocks. The height of the pylons, which varies from 8 to 12 metres, will have to be individually adjusted according to its location along the circuit, without compromising on the luminosity.

Q: How will the lighting system be powered?
Twelve twin-power generators, located in sound-proof containers, will be providing electricity for the light system during the race. The diesel and power levels of the generators will be closely monitored via a main control room located at the pit building.

Q: What happens if there is a power fault?
Should any of the generators fail, the other generators would serve as a back-up by default. As a precaution, engineers will also be assigned to each generator. If there is a power fault in any of the cables, the devices can be interchanged quickly due to the use of power-lock connectors. Neighbouring lighting projectors will be powered by different power sources and phases, therefore it is unlikely that in the case of a technical fault, that two adjacent projector lamps will fail.

Q: Will the lighting be even throughout the circuit?
Yes, each light consists of a projector with internal reflectors individually modified to adapt to a particular area of the circuit. Each projector consists of a 2000 watt white metal halide lamp. The projectors will be installed at four-metre intervals on the aluminium truss.

Q: Will the lighting system be installed on both sides of the track?
The lighting projectors will only be placed on one side of the track, fixed at the same side of the track as the television cameras, to reduce glare when broadcasting the race. As the height of the Formula One cars is only one metre, the shadows cast would be minimal. Thus, it is not necessary to have lights on both sides of the track.