World Motocross Grand Prix motorcycle track designer Greg Atkins, from series promoters Youthstream, gives an insight into what the World MX1 and MX2 Championship riders and spectators can expect when the 2013 series visits Qatar and Thailand for the first two rounds of this year's eighteen-round series next month.
Digging the dirt
What can we expect when we visit the Losail circuit in Qatar for the opening round of this year's MX1 and MX2 Championships?
"Qatar: Well we have a good relationship with the people there. It has been a big challenge. The circuit we are building is on the same principles as Franciacorta in Italy, which was of course the circuit for the 2009 Motocross of Nations. Basically, the area there is just rock - many people think it is just sand there - but the area we are at is just rock. We have a lot of different types of soils from the area and we have built it up with good quality dirt. It has been a long process, the general way to work there is with co-operation within the defined of that country, so you have a lot of decisions being made and then being passed onto us. We are really happy with how it has been going and it's ready to go today."
We spoke to Giuseppe Luongo (Youthstream President) a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned the circuit would be a mix of sand, clay and dirt. Can you give us a little more information on that?
"We did a lot of experimenting on what types of dirt is available in that area and when you go there you will look out and see huge mountains of dirt in the distance, so we brought in a lot of dirt from different areas of Qatar. We brought a pure clay base; which came from 180 kilometres away near the border: Those are for the jumps because obviously the jumps need to be really well built, and also because it's a night race. Parts of the circuit are sand and then there are also parts that are the clay and sand mixed together. Those parts of the circuit are the straights and will stay moist in the heat, but the corners will be softer."
Bright lights in the night
What about the lighting - as it is a night race?
"The lighting people are the same people who do the MotoGP races there and also did the Thunder Valley (AMA National) in America. We are dealing with it within Youthstream. We have a lot of information back from David (the promoter of Thunder Valley). I know what David paid for lighting at Thunder Valley and it is not cheap. We have a lot of lighting!"
How long has the process been to make this circuit?
"We started building the circuit after the German Grand Prix last September, so we have put a lot of effort into this race. For just the top layer of soil on the circuit, we are also talking about 40,000 cubic metres of soil. The circuit is pretty big."
With the combined races, will this circuit help the 250 or the 450 guys?
"It depends on the guy on the day. We have things planned to make the racing closer for the 450 and 250 guys, but I cannot tell you what that is at the moment. No matter what type of circuit we build, it will suit one or another rider."
'I love the dirt there'
What about the next race in Thailand?
"Thailand is going really well. The cultures are different from Thailand and Qatar: They have put in a big effort in over the last couple of weeks and I have been there five times and I will go back there again shortly. The track is built in three stages, and the track is now complete. They are just building the paddock area and other things. This Grand Prix will be good; the soil is like Agueda in Portugal, so it will be nice. It isn't hard ground or soft. I love the dirt there. The water system is good, as we will need this because of the heat. I think the uphill start the way we built it in Thailand will help the 250 riders a little, so that will be interesting."
After talking to the Thai MX promoter, he mentioned that it is a very big tourist attraction, but the circuit was in an industrial area. How is the area around the circuit?
"It is in an industrial area, but you will be amazed how much Thailand has changed. I was there 20 years ago and it is a different place altogether; the area where the circuit is built is really amazing. Thailand builds a lot of major products now and it is unbelievable. It's an hour-and-a-half from the Bangkok airport and is really easy to find."
Qatar and Thailand both seem like amazing places to visit. What is your opinion of these places?
"Qatar is a really impressive place, the wealth there is unbelievable; and it is such a beautiful place. Thailand you can find anything you want. It is another culture and another World all together, but it also has its charm."
Greg Atkins was talking to Geoff Meyer www.mxlarge.com
Info from the Team Suzuki Press Office - February 16.