Jerusalem Formula One Road Show. (Flash90) Flash90
Jerusalem Formula One Road Show. (Flash90)

Get ready race fans! Israel is opening its Motor City racetrack near Beersheva this May.

By: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

Fifteen years ago, when future Israeli NASCAR driver Alon Day first started training for his successful career in motorsports, he had to use simulators and travel often to Europe because there was no regulation-size track in Israel.

That situation is about to be remedied with the May 22 opening of Motor City, Israel’s first auto racetrack, in Hatzerim near Beersheva in the Negev.

“It’s such a big thing for me and for every motorsport athlete in Israel because we all started when there was absolutely no place to practice here – it was like a desert,” Day tells ISRAEL21c. “And yet in the desert we managed to build this track.”

The first phase of Motor City is an Italian-designed 2.1-kilometer track that meets FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) standards for racecars up to Formula 3. It may later be expanded to 4.5 kilometers in order to meet Formula 1 standards.

Day, 26, is working with Motor City business development VP Ohad Boaz to open a racing school on the premises “so young drivers who want to develop themselves won’t have to go to Europe like I did,” he told ISRAEL21c before heading back there to defend his NASCAR Whelan Euro Series championship title, which he clinched last October.

Hub for mobility and auto techs

The realization of a decade-old dream of two Israeli investors, Motor City plans to host special events like corporate driving days and open-track days when visitors can do laps with their own vehicles.

But Motor City is designed to be much more than a destination for motorsport aficionados, company outings and family fun complete with shops and restaurants.

Within the next year or so, Boaz expects the not-yet-completed site to become a hub for Israeli smart-mobility and automotive technology R&D; an auto showroom and sales center; and an all-weather training and testing ground for European motorsport teams and carmakers.

“The main benefit of our location is the dry, warm weather almost all year round,” Boaz tells ISRAEL21c. “We hope it will be attractive for manufacturers and teams in Europe to come here to train and test new technologies, vehicles and bikes because over there during the winter everything is basically closed.”

Boaz also hopes that eventually Motor City can house both the testing and manufacturing facilities for Israeli startup Griiip of Petah Tikva, which designs Formula cars for the entry-level racing market. For now, Griiip vehicles are made and tested in Italy.

Two Griiip G1 cars were the first to charge down the new Motor City racetrack, sponsored by Israeli companies Autotalks and LiveU, and driven by Day and Yarin Stern.

“We hope to have a workshop for Griiip to move their production home,” says Boaz.

“That is our dream,” agrees Tamir Plachinsky, founder and CEO of Griiip, who won an internship at Italian racecar manufacturer Dallara after taking part in a Formula SAE competition driving a vehicle built by his engineering team at Ben-Gurion University in 2011.

For now, he is happy to see Griiip cars on the Motor City track already starting to serve as a “clean” platform for auto-tech startups across Israel to install and test their products in one location. Last month, the cars were used to conduct the world’s first demonstration of Autotalks’ V2V application for enhancing motorsport safety.

Plachinksky points out that Ben-Gurion University and the CyberSpark national cyber research complex are right nearby in Beersheva, offering additional opportunities for collaborations in smart mobility and connected-car innovations at Motor City.

“It’s really the first-of-its-kind motor park about vehicles and technology in the startup nation,” concludes Boaz.