Race to shed more light

Hella pledges not to fade away into the dark, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Bikes -

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.

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