Singapore Grand Prix to be first Formula 1 night race

History will be made at the Singapore Grand Prix when the first Formula 1 is held at night providing a new dimension and challenge for racers, reported dpa.

Twenty drivers from 10 teams will zoom around the new 5,067-kilometre street circuit rimmed by 1,500 lighting projectors.

It's "boom time" for Formula 1 in Asia, said sports promoter Bernie Ecclestone, who proposed racing under floodlights three years ago in a bid to further enliven the sport.

For Singapore, the race is part of a drive to boost tourism and business.

More than 40,000 spectators from overseas have snapped up tickets for the September 26-28 event while viewers projected at 100 million watch on television.

While McLaren's Lewis Hamilton said he is looking forward to racing at night and views the sophisticated lighting as a challenge, others have raised concerns over the prospect of greater glare should it rain.

None of the drivers have ever raced at night before.

Two practice sessions on Friday start at 7 pm (local time) and 9:30 pm. The qualifying session on Saturday begins at 10 pm and the race at 8 pm.

Inspections will be made on Thursday before final approval is granted by FIA, motorsport's governing body.

The 150-million-Singapore dollar (112-million-US-dollar) tab for the race is not expected to generate an immediate financial bonanza, economists said.

It is the intangible benefits that are sought. "This iconic event will help to put us firmly in the global spotlight, said Muhamad Rostan Umar, communications director for the Singapore Tourism Board.

The public relations value including the live TV air-time has been estimated by media analysts as worth 300 million US dollars.

Singapore's debut on the Formula 1 circuit is aimed at turning the city-state into the "Monaco of Asia," enticing the super-wealthy who come to the race to consider setting up homes in the city-state.

Lavish parties and race-themed festivals are abundant this week. Top disc jockeys such as Johan Gielen from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom's Rob Wilder and Carl Cox are scheduled for many of the events.

Yacht parties and a variety of gala night festivities are being held. Adding to the carnival atmosphere are a Jamaican reggae band, Brazilian samba dancer, stilt-walkers and break dancers.

Raffles Long Bar and rivals are setting up outlets throughout the circuit park.

For culture buffs, 12 sculptures and 12 paintings from such famous artists as Picasso were arranged to be brought to Singapore by the Opera Gallery.

The winner will receive a 580-millimetre-tall trophy featuring three sections layered with 20 pewter panels. The creation of artist Zulkifle Mahmod, the core is painted black while a section is highlighted in red, projecting the chequered flag colours.

The avalanche of guests hotels were expecting has failed however to materialize. Few of the spectators from abroad are coming earlier than right before the first night race or staying after the event ends.

Initially expecting to be forced to turn away guests, many hotels ended up cutting prices. Even trackside hotels such as Pan Pacific Singapore are not full and those farther away have been hard it.

Hostels charging as low as 20 Singapore dollars (15 US dollars) a night have been pleasantly surprised. "We expected to have some business but didn't expect to be full," said Spender Han, who runs Hive Backpackers.

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