Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Racing 4 Peace by Simon Stiel

Today we have a guest piece from Simon Stiel on an excellent organisation which is involved in a scheme celebrating co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. In a relationship which is often marked by darkness on both sides, it is heartwarming to see that there is some light in the relationship. Perhaps politicians on both sides should take note. Whatever your viewpoint on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, It is clear that both sides want peace and they just have different ways of achieving it. I therefore urge everyone to support this excellent project which Simon will talk about below in any way possible.


Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are happening again. They have happened before and arouse hope across the world. Yet they have constantly petered out with no satisfactory conclusion for both sides. Over the last decade, Israelis and Palestinians have collaborated together in several fields as non-governmental organisations: film, the environment, music, academia and sport. Racing 4 Peace represents another endeavour, this time for motorsport.

The Israeli and Palestinian founders of this team met each other at the go-kart track in Latrun, Jerusalem in 2006. Rasheed Nashashibi is the Official Karting champion in Palestine and he met Israeli engineer Aric Lapter. Rasheed described the meeting: “I was racing and wearing my racing suit. I had a Palestinian flag on it and I noticed he was wearing a similar T-shirt. I got a call from the track saying he wanted my number; that’s how he got my number and he called me. He came over to my place and said. ‘I have an idea about racing, do you want to meet up and talk about it?’ That’s all it all started.”

Rasheed was astonished even more when Aric told him he’d the first single seater built in Israel. “I was like, show me the pictures!” The car is a Formula Vee. Based on the Volkswagen Beetle, it is designed for the Formula Vee series, a cheap form of motor racing.

Aric and Rasheed have tested the car at the Arad air strip in the Negev desert in Israel. The tests have demonstrated how well designed the machine has been as Rasheed explains: ““It has at the end, a circle where we do a big turn at the end and we do some cones. We do left hand and right hand turns. It’s all slower than a proper track, but it’s all we’ve got you know.”

A GPS device was fitted onto the car and during the test, the lateral G force was measured at 1.6; which is considered impressive. Six tests have taken place. “It was really good considering the car has old tyres. The last time we drove it we pushed it really hard. The handling is very neutral. It’s a lot of fun, you should try it!” Rasheed laughs.

The two aim to compete in Britain as team-mates. At the moment, they’re looking for $100,000 to cover the cost of transporting the car and racing. So far, due to the economic depression, they’ve only got $2000. Fortunately, publicity has been helped by a documentary being made by renowned Israeli director, Omer Reiss. The BBC has sponsored the film and may pay for two weekends of racing.

The two men aim to be role models for their peoples. Rasheed has helped Palestinian children embrace karting as another popular sport and Aric hopes one day motor racing will be legalised in Israel and open motorsport up to Israeli talent. With the necessary funds, they could make a real difference and they need all the help they can get.

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