Race to shed more light
Hella pledges not to fade away into the dark, writes PAUL GOVER
ANIGHT race in Abu Dhabi has flicked another switch for Hella Australia’s grand prix lighting team. The latest addition to the Formula One world championship will be run as the grand final to the 2009 season on a street course in the Yas Marina area — under lights.
Hella is now chasing Formula One business after missing the contract for the first after-dark grand prix in Singapore. It is looking at Abu Dhabi, the tunnel in Monaco and perhaps some off-track lighting business at Albert Park next year.
‘‘We are in the marketing business and hunting jobs at this stage,’’ says Urbain du Plessis, who heads Hella’s lighting development team.
‘‘I don’t have a good sensational story at the moment, but we are chasing up leads and trying to turn leads into business.’’
The Yas Marina circuit is being built on a 2550ha island as part of a big Formula One development. It includes the first Ferrari theme park.
A night race is not necessary in the Middle East, which is much closer to European daylight time zones than Australia or Singapore.
But organisers are looking for a marketing push and the chance to avoid the heat.
Du Plessis says Hella knows of the track’s plans for next year, though he won’t be drawn on details.
But Hella is pushing ahead with its Formula One lighting system and can see growing potential, much of it outside motorsport.
‘‘The good thing about the night race in Singapore was that it wasn’t a disaster. The concept that you can have a race under lights is now firmly established,’’ du Plessis says.
‘‘We are still pursuing the project and believe we have some advantages.
‘‘I have nothing big or new. But, also, there are no big disappointments.’’
He says there could be an opportunity for Hella at Albert Park, even without a full-scale night race next year, but will give no details.
‘‘We will be talking to some of the local people in a more formal way soon,’’ he says.
‘‘In all these things we have confidentiality agreements.’’
He does, however, reveal something new on the giant lighting units developed in Australia by Hella.
‘‘Part of our strategy from day one was to look at renewable energy applications and that is happening,’’ du Plessis says.
‘‘It’s in Hella’s interests to pursue other activities from a long-term and revenue direction.
‘‘We have had interest, and we are in the early stages with people in other industries.’’
All aglow: Australian Formula 3 Championship driver Leanne Tander tests Hella’s new lights at Calder Park Raceway.