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F1 cars roar past holy sites in Jerusalem

GINAFRANCO-FISICHELLAJERUSALEM, October 8- The streets of the world’s holiest city have been closed for two days, not for a religious ceremony but to welcome the roar of a Formula One show.

In the non-competition showcase, cars sped on Monday and Tuesday outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City — which house some of the holiest sites in Judaism, Islam and Christianity — for the second annual Jerusalem Formula One Road Show.

The region’s turbulent history was hard to forget, with the event pushed back several months because of this summer’s conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Even the name of the race was changed from last year, when it was dubbed the 2013 Peace Roadshow.

But the atmosphere was still festive. 

Ferrari, Audi and Porsche vehicles were displayed in a hangar near Jerusalem’s former railway station, while models posed alongside cars as television crews and avid F1 fans thronged the hall.

The show saw the cars race at speeds of up to 240 kilometres per hour (150 miles per hour) on a two-kilometre (1.6 mile) track that ran past the Old City walls.

Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella tore up the tarmac, the burning rubber from his tyres leaving spectators in a cloud of smoke.

The atmosphere was captured in a slogan hanging in the showroom: “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” 

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Local talent was on display in the form of rising Israeli star Alon Day, who races in the German GT masters championship.

“I’ll push it to the limit, I don’t know about the other guys,” he told AFP with a grin ahead of the show.

Day said he hoped the event would help boost motor racing in Israel.
“It’s crazy” having racing in Jerusalem, he said. “You have to realise there’s been no motorsport in Israel in the past 50 years.”

“This is something extremely big, and will give a really big boost to Israeli motorsport,” he said.

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, a sponsor of the roadshow, said some day a Grand Prix in Israel could even be possible.

“Maybe one day, you’ll have Formula One in Israel,” he told AFP.

The thoughts of many were with French driver Jules Bianchi, whose horrifying crash at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday left him fighting for his life.

But — especially as the event was non-competitive — Fisichella said there were no concerns over safety in Jerusalem.

“It’s a roadshow and everything will be maximum safety, it will be a safe show,” he said.

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