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“The car is a huge number of different specialties that go into one machine,” said Dor Efroni, one of the project’s managers. “No one thing is more important than the next. Each small aspect needs to be perfect.” Last year, Efroni worked on the car’s steering system; this year he’s in charge of the gearshift. His goal, he said, is to find the optimal balance between the engine’s weight and the car’s acceleration.
The main difference between last year’s model and the current one is that the motor oil is now in a container next to the engine rather than under it, which allows for the engine to be lower and the car faster. Last year’s car went from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than 4 seconds.
After the car is designed on screen, the students work with Israeli auto shops to build the parts, often using their own street-legal cars to move parts from the Negev up north. Students from Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design fashion the car’s siding.
Efroni wants the car done by July, followed by testing and driving training before it is shipped to Italy in September.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” Efroni said of the competition. “It’s four days of a huge high.”
Dekel and Efroni both said they would pursue jobs building Formula cars if the industry existed in Israel, but the country has no racetracks or racing teams.
With the opening of the Bnei Shimon complex, which has been in the works for nearly a decade, that may change. The complex will feature a 1.3-mile paved track for rally cars and motorcycles, and a school for race-car driving.
At a later stage, the 80-acre complex will include an automobile museum and a track suited to Formula cars. For now, Karavany hopes foreign drivers will be drawn by Israel’s weather, which allows for driving in winter when racing is impossible in Europe.
Backers of the project also hope the driving school will help fix a chronic problem in Israel: deaths on the road. “When someone learns safe driving and race-car driving, only then will he learn his limits as a driver,” said Zion Ofri, a lead investor in the Bnei Shimon complex. “Then he learns to drive cautiously.”
Some in the small world of Israeli motor sports would rather see the country invest in races featuring stock cars and motorcycles, which could use the Bnei Shimon track next year, rather than Formula 1.
But for enthusiasts like Dekel, the chance to drive on the streets of Jerusalem is an experience unlike any other. “It was like being Madonna’s opening act,” he said. “To make so many people happy was like magic.”
(VIDEO: visiting the BGU race car laboratory)