• April 1, 2017
Purpose-built lighting systems give drivers crucial information at high speed. Photo: Simon Chapman
The future of motor racing is bright as new high-tech lighting systems boost safety across New Zealand circuits to international standards.
With one circuit per 500,000 people, New Zealand is second only to Hungary for most race circuits per capita in the world.
Of the eight tracks in New Zealand, just one is without Australasian company Nautech Electronic’s latest Alitrax lighting equipment.
The North Waikato’s Hampton Downs Motorsport Park and South Auckland’s Pukekohe Park are the latest to adopt the lighting system.
Auckland-based volunteer group The Motorsport Club have benefited from the recent introduction.
Volunteer coordinator Deborah Day said the lighting system meant the effort required to run a race meeting could be halved.
“It does help, because the governing body has said with the system in place we only need to have one marshal per point, whereas without it you have to have two,” Mrs Day said.
“The lights come on simultaneously, so there’s no delay with the message getting out and the marshals getting out their flags and boards.”
Traditionally, flag signals were radioed to marshals at designated points across the circuit. However, the new system means lights can be illuminated in seconds instantaneously.
Like flag marshalling points, high intensity red, yellow and safety car warning lights flash to tell racing car drivers to slow down.
At Hampton Downs, the LED lights can be seen as far away as the neighbouring Southern Motorway nearly 5km away.
Mrs Day said the lights greatly improved safety, and were more visible than flags - especially in treacherous conditions.
“We’re able to put the lights in places we can’t put people, so it means from a driver signalling point of view it’s much better and clearer for them.
Hampton Downs track manager Elton Goonan said the lighting system cuts cost drastically.
“We can monitor the track with less ground staff and it means we can reduce the running costs and make them more cost-effective for the punters,” Mr Goonan said.
With racing experience in Europe, Mr Goonan said the equipment was of the highest calibre he’d seen overseas. He wants all the circuits across the country to feature the same systems for better continuity.
“It’s up there with the best of them. It would be great to see all the tracks running it because then it provides a consistent format for everyone. When racing drivers go to any track they know the system.”