Sakhir Circuit chairman Zayed Alzayani told Reuters the decision
to turn the 10th anniversary event into a night race was a statement
of intent for the future of motorsport in the Gulf kingdom.
"There's more to come," he said in an interview at the Sakhir desert
"We want to branch out. Not just the racing aspects of motorsports
but the other stuff that goes around it. The development of teams,
research and manufacturing relevant to the motorsport industry.
"A racing school, to develop talent. The missing pieces of the
puzzle to make motorsport happen."
Another piece of that jigsaw was fitted into place on Sunday with
the announcement that Bell Racing Helmets would be relocating its
global research and development and manufacturing operations to a
facility within the circuit grounds from 2015.
Bahrain is an important stakeholder in Formula One, with state
investment fund Mumtalakat owning the circuit as well as half of the
The country also has considerable influence within the governing
International Automobile Federation, with FIA president Jean Todt
making Sunday's race the first he has attended this season.
By installing floodlights, Bahrain intends to keep activities
running at the circuit throughout the year and at more fan-friendly
"The floodlights will definitely open up a bigger spectrum for us,"
"We will be able to use the track throughout the summer now, whereas
in the past we had to shut down practically from mid-May to
September because of the heat.
"In the past the only thing that was running through the summer
months was the drag championship because it's a floodlit strip. We
will take advantage of the lighting now."
Sunday afternoon, the traditional slot for races in Europe, is the
middle of the working day in the Middle East and when temperatures
reach their peak. The shift to evening opens up far more
The circuit said the race drew its biggest crowd yet with 31,000
attending on Sunday.
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This year's grand prix was the third round of the season but Bahrain
has opened the championship before and Alzayani was coy on whether
the race might seek that slot again next year.
"We are in constant talks with Bernie (Ecclestone)," he said. "It's
premature now to talk about next year's calendar. Towards the end of
the year we'll talk and exchange ideas and see what suits better.
"They also have to look at logistics and team movements and cargo
movements. But I think we did well this year by securing testing
before the season.
"It's not out of reach. But it's something we have to agree mutually
Alzayani painted an upbeat picture for the future, despite a
continuing backdrop of civil unrest — which led to the event being
canceled in 2011 and has triggered subsequent calls by human rights
activists for the race to be canceled.
"In terms of public perception, I don't think our image was
affected," he said of 2011 and its bloody aftermath.
"I think 2012 wiped out the misery of 2011. We had a fairly good
attendance, good support and the race went on despite all the
speculation and negative media.
"In 2004 we had Humvees at the gates with machine guns. That was
because of concern from the F1 traveling family that because of the
Iraq war we wanted extra security. We had cement blocks ... we don't
have any of that today."
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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