Willpower and a supportive family

Day is one of 3 Israeli professional racing drivers and was the one who made the initial breakthrough and has become a full-fledged racer.

Alon Day has given up his Formula 1 dream but is happy with GT (photo credit: MOTION COMPANY)
Alon Day has given up his Formula 1 dream but is happy with GT
(photo credit: MOTION COMPANY)
Motor racing wasn’t even legal in Israel when Alon Day began to dream of a career in the sport.
So how does a boy from Ashdod go on to become a professional driver? “Willpower and a supportive family” are the keys according to the 22-year-old Day, who currently races for team Mercedes in the ADAC GT Masters in Germany.
Day is one of three Israeli professional racing drivers, with 19-year-old Roy Nissany competing in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship and 18-year-old Yarin Stern part of the Euroformula Open circuit.
But Day was the one who made the initial breakthrough and has become a full-fledged racer in recent years, competing in Formula 3 before moving on to the GT tours.
Midway through the ADAC GT Masters 2014 season, Day is ranked in 13th place with 30 points after ending the FIA GT World Championship tour in fifth place last year.
Day drives a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 with 550 horsepower, and says he is living a dream that began 12 years ago.
“I started with kart driving as a 10-year-old,” says Day. “I went from the local national championships to competitions in Europe, and at the age of 15 I got my big break. I was given an opportunity to race in a formula car, and that went superbly and my career took off.”
Day, who is currently resting at his home in Ashdod ahead of the resumption of his season at the start of August, knows he couldn’t have achieved anything without the support of his family.
“Until today I’m still trying to work out when I realized this was something I would be doing for the rest of my life,” he says. “I think it was around age 15 to 16 when I began to fly abroad often and started to train a lot. I understood that this is no joke, and I will be doing this for life.
“Willpower and a supportive family are crucial because it is almost impossible to become a racing driver in our country,” he added. “Motor sports are really languishing in Israel, and when I started it wasn’t even legal. It took a lot of hard work, and there is also the issue of financing. It really isn’t easy to find a sponsor in a country where no one is interested in your sport.”
Fortunately for Day, he was born to an affluent family, which spent millions of shekels throughout the years to help him realize his ambitions.
The breakthrough for Day arrived in 2007, when he was handed a test drive in the Formula Renault 2 liter car at a Formula 1 track in Hungary. His impressive showing led to his joining the Asia Racing Team in China, before going on to compete at the Formula Renault Asia Championship – which he won in 2009.
In March 2010, Day was supposed to enlist in the IDF, but the army enabled him to continue his professional career after he was designated a prominent athlete by a special committee.
Day moved on to the German Formula 3 Championship in 2010 and a year later was selected for the FIA Young Driver Academy, together with 11 other promising young drivers from all over the world.
However, despite his family’s massive financial investment, Day found himself at a crossroads two years ago. Continuing in Formula 3 and keeping alive his aspirations of becoming a Formula 1 driver required a significant sponsor, which was nowhere to be found.
“If I wanted to continue with the Formula 3 in 2013 I would have had to invest 2.5 million euros, and no sponsor in Israel would ever provide me with such an amount,” he explains. “I’d like to return to the formula cars one day, but that is simply not going to happen. I’m completely focused on GT, and this is where I want the rest of my career to be.
“The only reason I left the formula cars is because of financing. Even when you get to Formula 1, you still need to have a sponsor willing to back you. I was very realistic with myself and understood it would be impossible for me. I don’t want to move back to formula anymore. I’m happy where I am at the moment, and I’m enjoying racing more than ever.”
After almost two decades, motor sports were legalized in Israel in 2010. Yet the lack of local competitions and Israeli bureaucracy mean any aspiring racer must go abroad to fulfill his goals.
“Initially, it is a serious investment. You have to invest in the best equipment because if you are not the best to start with, no one will look in your direction.
At the lower levels there are thousands of drivers, and you have to be the best all the time,” Day says.
“I wasn’t able to get funding in Israel, and my family had to back me completely at the start of my career. I was fortunate to have such a supportive family that believed in me, because if they don’t believe in you they won’t invest a single shekel. Every company I approached in Israel told me they weren’t interested. They would rather sponsor a soccer team than someone in motor racing.”
While Formula 1 is no longer a realistic target, Day has big hopes to become a GT world champion.
It won’t happen this year, but he won’t stop working until it does – a feat that will perhaps finally help raise the popularity of his sport in Israel.
“I hope to record as many wins and podium finishes as possible in the second half of this season, and I hope that next year I will find a better deal with Mercedes,” he says. “In the long run, my goal is to become a world champion. I want to wake up in the morning and know that I’m the best.”
“There are a few more Israeli drivers these days than there used to be, so there is a little more awareness,” he adds. “But unfortunately, matters always get held up with bureaucracy and politics in Israel, and there is nothing you can do about that – which is sad.”