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Melbourne to look at night race option

NEWS STORY
13/03/2007

As Bernie Ecclestone repeats his call for Formula One to consider the option of night races, his good friend Ron Walker, Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation , has admitted that exploratory talks will take place this weekend with a view to Melbourne hosting a night time event.

"We are looking at it and when Bernie gets here, we'll talk to him about it again," he told The Age. "He hasn't said to me that we have to do it. It's an option."

As Ecclestone seeks pastures new in the East, he is mindful of the fact that races in countries such as Australia, China and Malaysia are broadcast in the early hours of the morning in Formula One's European heartland, which has a detrimental effect on viewing figures. Wanting the best of both worlds, Ecclestone is looking at the possibility of holding races at night in order that they can be broadcast at a more user-friendly time in the West.

Walker admits that a switch to night racing is by no means straightforward.

"It's not a fait accompli by any means," he said. "There are problems with the power grid in Albert Park. It will take a massive amount of kilowatts to light up the track for the drivers, plus there are also environmental issues."

Local hero Mark Webber is keen on the idea: "It'd be absolutely fantastic," he said. "I've been saying it for years, and I'm sure Ron will work closely with Bernie to make sure we can get one. "It'd be great in Melbourne."

En route to Melbourne, Ecclestone stopped off in Singapore, and though the Englishman is giving little away his good friend Walker was a little more forthcoming: "Singapore would be the test bed to see if it works," he admitted, quickly adding, "if indeed Singapore gets a race."

With Ecclestone currently seeking to change the points system and also hinting that the Drivers' Championship might be awarded on the basis of race wins as opposed to points, one has to wonder if the F1 supremo has given any serious thought to calling on the world's governments to scrap time zones, thereby eliminating the need for night races.

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