'Uniquely Singapore' is the strap-line on the country's tourism website, and that mentality is exactly what the organisers of the first Singapore Grand Prix hope to apply to the Formula One experience when it touches down next September.

Although racing in the Far East, on a street circuit or in an anti-clockwise direction aren't exactly new concepts, combining them is - and the organisers aren't content at stopping there either, as they will also throw in the original addition of floodlights as Formula One prepares for its first ever 'night' race.

A Singapore Grand Prix was first mooted as far back as 2005, when the national Electric New Paper reported that talks had taken place between the Singapore Motor Sports Association and the tourist board about a street race on a 2.4-mile layout around the sea-front, and incorporating a number of Singapore's more prominent landmarks, including the Raffles Hotel and the Victoria Concert Hall.

Little more was heard for a year or so, until a contingent from Singapore travelled to Monaco in May 2006 to hold discussions with Formula One paymaster Bernie Ecclestone and representatives of the sport's governing body, the F?d?ration Internationale de l'Automobile, about staging a race on an extended 3.1-mile layout.

Although Formula One has always been keen to expand its boundaries, particularly eastwards, the queue to join the circus was already lengthy with hopefuls, and there remained the question of whether a race around the streets was even viable. However, after further talks, approval for the proposed layout was officially granted in September this year, several months after tacit approval and, subsequently, confirmation of the race's place on an unexpanded calendar.

The issue of a night race was, at the discussion stage, very much in the realms of fantasy, but grew stronger after Ecclestone's comments that perhaps far-flung races should fall in line with European time zones to pander to the sport's biggest audiences. The comment was seen as a sop to those disgruntled by the fact that F1's history was being uprooted in favour of more lucrative markets, where investment was readily on tap to build new venues, but soon became a focal point for various events east of the international date line.

While Melbourne discarded the idea, the Singapore organisers quickly took it up, sensing an opportunity to make an immediate impact on the F1 world. Confirmation that the race would indeed take place under lights came in May, following detailed proposals of how floodlighting would work and track tests elsewhere - notably Indianapolis and Paul Ricard - to determine the practicality of the idea.

All the while, work has been pressing on, with the track layout being finalised - and slightly altered from the original - and the infrastructure gradually put in place to ensure that the event lives up to expectation.

Slated for 28 September 2008, the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix is set to be the biggest sporting event the republic has staged, and it knows it has to be ready to welcome the eyes of the world, especially as it has given itself an even more spectacular stage on which to take its bow.

"We have pulled out all the stops to ensure that the teams and spectators get a first-class experience at the inaugural grand prix come September 2008," Colin Syn, the deputy chairman of Singapore GP, insisted. "The street circuit will ensure that the visitors are right in the heart of the racing action. It is also minutes away from the Marina Bay's shopping, accommodation, entertainment and fine dining districts - further enhancing the whole race day experience for all the visitors."

Despite being billed as 'the Monaco of the East', the track layout will ensure that Singapore stands apart from F1's most famous event. Just minutes from exclusive five-star hotels, transport links and a vibrant entertainment scene, the circuit promises to be one of the fastest street circuits yet graced by F1 as it will be much wider and feature fewer tight turns than its Mediterranean counterpart. At ten metres, the narrowest and slowest parts of the Singapore track - at the Anderson Bridge and the National Day grandstand - are equivalent to the widest parts of Monaco.

Designed to give the drivers technical challenges and challenge their bravery to the full, the layout passes some of Singapore's most distinctive landmarks, as foreseen in the original plans back in 2005. That first layout has been closely traced by Kellogg, Brown and Root, the Melbourne-based architectural practice responsible for the Adelaide circuit which once hosted the Australian GP, and then expanded to make more of the surroundings.

Incorporating 24 turns of various radii, 14 left and ten right, the circuit includes Raffles Boulevard - complete with 300km/h kink - before the equally high-speed St Andrews Road takes the cars to the Anderson Bridge, a 100-year old feature of the city. Like Monaco, the circuit also features a sea-front section, with the more modern Esplanade Bridge taking the field past contemporary icons such as the Theatres on the Bay and the Singapore Flyer as it runs parallel to Marina Bay.

The layout is designed to have more obvious passing spots than Monaco too, with the end of Raffles Boulevard and the right-hander after Esplanade Bridge already earmarked as candidates for action.

The circuit also restores F1's complement of anti-clockwise venues to three after the demise of Imola, joining Turkey and Brazil as alternatives to the more common clockwise layouts.

In all, 1.2km of new roads are being built to accommodate F1, while a permanent state-of-the art pit building is being erected on the start-finish straight. Impressively, however, the construction work is being completed within a very tight timescale, as the organisers and co-operating government agencies are working to achieve in 18 months what many grands prix take two years to create.

Perhaps the most complex aspect of the entire project, however, is the lighting, which needs to satisfy not only safety criteria for the drivers, but also provide the right conditions for spectators, both at the track and watching, around the world, on television.

To that end, the organisers have contracted Valerio Maioli SpA, an Italian company that brings experience spanning more than 40 years, to install a bespoke lighting system with requirements specific to a street circuit.

As well as delivering optimal visibility for night race conditions, the system must also minimise glare and reflection from a wet surface or spray thrown up by the cars. Maioli plans to achieve this by using lighting projectors strategically positioned around the circuit, illuminating the action from one side of the road only to enhance the televisual aspect of the event, but being careful that the direction of the beam does not impair visibility should a driver spin and be facing the wrong way.

The logistical set up is vast, requiring 108,423m of power cables, 240 steel pylons, approximately 1600 light projectors with a total power requirement of 3,180,000 watts. At 3000lux levels, the lighting will be four times brighter than the lights at most modern sports stadiums.

As the light system is a temporary one, the set-up and dismantling needs to be as easy as possible to minimise disruption to everyday life. Because of the limited time-frame, it is be impossible to place the cables in underground ducts, so aluminium trusses - similar to those seen at rock and pop concerts - will be used to house the cables.

Power will come from a dozen generators, with back-ups in place should any fail. As a precaution, engineers will also be assigned to each generator, which can be quickly interchanged in the event of a problem. In an effort to minimise disruption should lights fail, neighbouring projectors will be powered by different sources in order to keep the track illuminated at all times.

Environmental concerns are also being addressed, with the lights set to be lower than the tree canopy to prevent unnecessary uprooting of trackside greenery.

The deal to stage the grand prix is currently for five years, with an option to extend the arrangement to twice that duration should the event prove to be a success.

With title sponsor SingTel coming on board in November to add one final piece to the jigsaw, corporate hospitality beginning to be snapped up and general admission tickets due to go on sale in the middle of January, it is hard to see how the Singapore can fail to set Formula One alight.



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