Drivers anticipate Cleveland night-race

Champ Car drivers are looking ahead to the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland night-race on July 5 with mixed views. Although the general perception is one of excitement, no-one quite knows what to expect of a circuit that is already notoriously difficult to establish visual reference points under braking

Drivers anticipate Cleveland night-race

"First of all, it was a great surprise for me to hear that we were going racing under the lights because I didn't know that we were racing at night in Cleveland," said PK Racing's new signing Max Papis. "When I found out, I said that this is pretty cool. I am one of the few guys that has experienced driving a car at night at speed, having just came out to the 24 Hours of Le Mans where you actually drive quite a long time at night.

"I'm not so sure how the lighting will be at Cleveland, but that definitely will make a huge difference in terms of being able to drive around the circuit. The biggest difference for me will be not having any lights on the Champ Car, so it will be more of the same feeling that we have when we race at Daytona in the 24-hour race. Even though there is going to be good lighting at the track, it is still going to be very, very difficult for a number of reasons.

"One thing that I've noticed is that you have reflections in the mirrors, and that's something that distracts you quite a bit because you are not use to seeing the car behind you in the way that you are going to see it at night-time.

"The other big factor will be the depth perception; it's pretty different at night. Of course, the lights are going to be up and it will be as close as you can have it to daylight, but the difference that it makes is that everything seems farther away from you and I think that it makes things quite difficult."

Champ Car rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay agrees: "Cleveland is so flat that even during the day it's hard to find your braking references and turn points at the apexes, because there's nothing really there, so at night it might be more difficult," he said. "We'll just have to see. Actually, at night with the light poles up, it might provide more reference points for us to use. As far as sight goes we'll be all right, and the light poles might actually help a little bit."

Hunter-Reay also reckons that the mixed-up running schedule will also take some getting used to. "The night qualifying and night racing throws you off a little bit," he said. "You're still going to wake up when the sun comes up - the only difference is you end up staying up much later than normal. These night races are a bit tougher on the teams and a bit harder on the drivers as well because of the later nights."

Because the Cleveland race is held on Burke Lakefront Airport, which is a functioning facility, the amount of time that it is closed for the annual event is limited. Musco Lighting, the company assigned to illuminate the circuit under floodlights, has less than 48 hours to erect 21 mobile lighting units before practice on Thursday afternoon. And the airport needs to be ready to return to its regular function first thing Monday morning. The company says that lighting the Cleveland GP course will require 23 times what it would take to illuminate a typical stadium for a football game.

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