Cart racing takes over Tel Aviv

cart racing 298.88 (photo credit: )
cart racing 298.88
(photo credit: )
Yohan Partush of Netanya, 19, won the Red Bull Track Attack cart racing event in a photo finish in Tel Aviv on Friday, with 26-year-old Eli Sayag, also of Netanya, finishing in second and 23-year-old Itzik Menashe of Rehovot claiming third. For winning the race, Partush receives an all-expenses-paid trip to meet the official Red Bull Formula 1 team and watch it compete in the Turkish Grand Prix August 25-27. Sayag and Menashe received $1,000 and $500, respectively, for finishing in the top three out of the original 1,300 entrants who began qualifying back in May. Partush and Sayag, best friends and teammates on the GoKarting Poleg-Netanya team, were the favorites going into the final of the first ever series of races on Israeli city streets. Partush won the first semifinal race, and Sayag won the second. Based upon their respective times in the qualifying events, Sayag was awarded pole position in the final. Sayag held the lead in the final all the way into the last lap, although Partush was never far behind, keeping the distance between then to under two meters. When all was said and done, the driver holding the checkered flag and taking a victory lap was Partush and not Sayag, as Sayag let up on the gas in the last meter of the race, allowing Partush to pass him. Partush finished .007 seconds ahead of Sayag. Mobbed by reporters and asked about the incredible finish after he stepped out of his cart, Sayag replied, "He passed me." Partush attributed the win to good fortune, saying, "it was luck out there today," when asked the same question as he walked to the podium. Although Partush preferred to take pictures with the trophy and his friends rather than discussing the wild and crazy finish further, he was willing to talk about what was going through his mind at the end of the race. "The whole time, I was thinking about winning," he said. Friday's finale featured 61 drivers from 31 cities across the country, ranging in age from 16-54. "It is great because it is the first time city streets have been shut down for a racing event," the organizer of the race told The Jerusalem Post. Guy Emodi, 42, of Herzliya seconded that notion, saying that the Tel Aviv Municipality and Red Bull deserved all of the credit for making the event a reality. Emodi, who was a Formula Ford racer in England during the 1980s, was forced to retire when he returned to Israel because racing is not yet legal here. "We are the only western country without legalized racing," Emodi said. "I hope [the Red Bull Track Attack] will push the regulators to authorize the sport here in Israel." Emodi, who was in second place in the fourth quarterfinal when a flat tire forced him to withdraw from the race Friday, continued his support for racing in Israel, saying that motorsport teaches people how to drive. "We have many accidents here and people need to learn," Emodi said. "It also lets young drivers get their energy out safely on the tracks instead of on the roads." The Red Bull Track Attack racers, fans and organizers - who seem to hope that legalized motor racing is not delayed any further - proved that Israelis love motor sports.