Northern Israeli Town to Get Its Own Auto Racing Track

Cars will race on the runways of Kiryat Shmona's disused airfield, they just won’t be allowed to damage the aviation infrastructure.

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A court Tuesday paved the way for the opening of an auto racing track in Kiryat Shmona when it rejected a petition to delay a tender issued by the municipality.

The ruling culminated a legal saga that began last May, when the city’s economic corporation sought permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to hold car races on the runways of a local airfield that hadn’t been used in years. The city near the Lebanese border hoped a racetrack would attract tourists and become a mecca for local racing fans.

The authority had no objections, so the municipality published a tender seeking an operator for the track. But the company Metayelei Kiryat Shmona, which held the concession to operate the airfield, demanded that the tender be canceled, arguing that it didn’t comply with the authority’s regulations.

That sent the municipality back to the authority for clarifications, and in September the CAA reiterated its approval, on two conditions: The aviation infrastructure at the site must not be damaged, and any activity not linked to aviation must be coordinated with the concessionaire. Thus in November the city reissued the tender.

Metayelei Kiryat Shmona then asked the Nazareth District Court to cancel the tender and sought an injunction barring the city from proceeding with the tender while the main case was being heard. The company argued that the tender had been tailored to ensure that the winning bidder would be Maslulei Formula Israel. It also argued that its investments in the airfield gave it property rights to the site.

But on Tuesday the court rejected these arguments. It said it saw no evidence that the tender was tailored for Maslulei Formula Israel, especially since that company hadn’t even won yet.

“The tender meets all reasonable requirements and I don’t see any substantive flaw on account of which it should be disqualified,” a judge said in the ruling. “Moreover, reading the tender, with the stringent demands it makes of potential bidders, to my mind greatly reduces the suspicion that it was tailored for any particular winner.”

As for the claim that Metayelei Kiryat Shmona had property rights to the airfield, the court said that if the company really believed this, it should take the standard legal route of filing suit. “I see no reason to allow the applicant the raise these claims via the back door in the context of this petition,” the judge said.

Finally, the court rejected the company’s claim that car racing would endanger “the public welfare and national security.” Since bids for the tender had already been submitted, the municipality can now open them and announce a winner.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Takuma Sato of Japan crashes during the closing moments of the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana, May 27, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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