Here's How A Small Israeli Firm Is Transforming Affordable Motorsport
We take a look inside what it takes to build a racecar manufacturer from the ground up.
In Israel, there is a small team of motorsport fanatics starting the country’s first racecar manufacturer. Tamir Plachinsky, is a man determined to put Israel on the motorsport map and leads this passionate team known as Griiip. Tamir’s Motorsport journey started in 2010, when he was just a university engineering student in Israel. I was lucky enough to spend some time interviewing Tamir who was more than happy to give me a deep dive into his journey to motorsport success.
The Formula SAE Days
During his studies, Tamir started Israel’s first Formula SAE team guided by his background in engineering and passion for motorsport. Formula SAE is a global organization that prompts university students to build formula racecars as if they were commissioned by a manufacturing firm to sell a production vehicle. These cars are raced and judged for their reliability, cost, and fuel economy to name a few metics. A rigorous event like this requires dedication and engineering prowess to succeed, honing Tamir’s skills for his future in racecar manufacturing.
In their first outing in Formula SAE, Tamir’s team place 15th out of 57 teams in an international Formula SAE competition in Italy. This successful debut helped Tamir land an internship at the Italian formula racecar manufacturer, Dallara.
Following Dreams Of Motorsport
During his time at Dallara, Tamir’s passion for motorsport was stoked with racing fuel. “Those 6 months were amazing for me, like getting a front row seat to see the amazing Motorsport industry in action. When I returned to Israel, it was clear to me that being part of this industry is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”
After steeping in motorsport-crazed Italy, Tamir returned to an automotive desert home in Israel. He was left to forge his own path to impact motorsport, without the guidance and expertise he was accustomed to in Italy. Thankfully, a desert is a place without expectation, and Tamir saw Israel’s lack of a motorsport industry as a huge advantage. “We are not confined by traditions and dogmas about how race cars should look or how they are supposed to be operated. We can divert Israel’s advanced technology into our race cars and further impact the entire automotive industry.”
The Birth of Griiip
Tamir never gave up on his dream after graduating college, finding a position as a faculty advisor for the Formula SAE team he established, while teaching engineering at a college in Tel-Aviv. “The inspiration was to take the love of motorsport and make it into something we do daily.” Tamir’s constant work with Formula SAE inspired him to eventually pursue a full-time career in motorsports. Together with Gil Zakay, Tamir’s partner from their the first Formula SAE team, they assembled a small 4-man team of engineers and a designer for an after-work building session. This group became known as Griiip, Israel’s first racecar manufacturer.
The Griiip team would spend time designing their prototype G1 racecar after their full-time positions ended for the day. After two years of designing and building their beta G1 prototype, the Griiip team was finally ready to assemble their first Formula 1000 racecar in Israel.
The team chose the Formula 1000 racing series since it matched their previous experience from their Formula SAE days. Formula 1000 is also a very inexpensive racing series that accommodates a small-scale manufacturer like Griiip. “We believe that this is the best entry-level category when you combine performance and costs, and we also believe that this category is far from fulfilling its potential and can grow greatly in the coming years.”
Designing The First G1 Prototype
The team spent 4 months assembling their G1 Formula 1000 prototype but tight customs regulations impeded progress. “There were many cases of parts getting held by the customs, and parts that were defined ‘for race use only,’ which required special documents,” explained Tamir when asked about the challenges he faced during the early years of Griiip.
Despite all the hurdles importing parts and assembling a freshly designed racecar, the team was finally ready to test their masterpiece when they ran into a peculiar problem. There was nowhere in Israel for Griiip to test the G1 prototype. So they boxed up their first racecar and shipped it to Italy, a land full on inviting racetracks.
After the 2 months tests with the prototype in Italy, the Griiip team returned to Israel, and redesigned the G1. Six months later, in April 2016, Griiip returned to Italy to start the manufacturing of the first 5 cars series.
After the massive redesign, problems arose. The G1s experienced overheating issues that irritated the team. “We tried everything to fix it. We traced the problem back to the bodywork design – the air just didn’t enter the side pods in an efficient way, and together with the position of the oil radiator in the side pod, almost no air flew through it.” The solution was discovered after taking the car in for Computer Fluid Dynamics analysis to figure out how the airflow affected the car’s cooling system. After identifying the issue, the exterior bodywork was once again redesigned to cool the engine.
Building A Relationship With Aprilia
While manufacturing the first series of cars and racing it in Italy, the Griiip team became acquainted with Mario Manganelli, the head of Engines at Aprilia Racing, an Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Once Aprilia saw Griiip’s potential, Aprilia wanted to become Griiip’s engine supplier for their upcoming G1 Formula 1000 racer. Although two race winning G1s were completed with Suzuki engines, the Griiip team made the switch to Aprilia V-4 racing engines.
The connection with Aprilia allowed Griiip to circumvent a vexing problem for all Formula 1000 racecar manufacturers: Large motorcycle manufacturers are not interested in selling brand new engines to low volume racecar manufacturers, which means all other Formula 1000 race cars rely on used motorcycle engines. This makes it difficult to guarantee the quality of the racecar since the engine’s past life is a huge variable. Griiip wanted to use brand new engines to ensure they gave their customers the best product possible.
Aprilia’s V-4 engine may have set the Griiip team above the competition, but this engine offered unique engineering challenges. Since the G1 was designed around the very different GSX-R 1000 engine, it required a substantial redesign of the car to accommodate Aprilia’s radically different V-4. “When we made the switch to the Aprilia RSV4 engine, we had to go back and design half of the car from the beginning – frame, air box, exhaust, cooling circuits, new and unique dry sump lubrication system, and wiring harness.”
Creating Racecars A World Away
With the G1 finally designed and a strong relationship with Aprilia as an engine supplier, Griiip moved all manufacturing the Italy, which meant leaving the design team a time zone away in Israel. The time difference and removal from the physical car posed some unique challenges for the engineers. Imagine designing something as complicated as a brand new formula racecar over the phone or through email. If the team wanted to measure a piece of the car they couldn’t simply walk over with a tape measure. Instead, it required prolonged communication and cost valuable time.
Once all the parts arrived at the workshop in Italy, the engineering team would fly over to work on the final assembly and testing. As with any small volume car manufacturer, timelines are always tight. “These testing days are very intense as you can imagine, and all the extra costs associated with travel and accommodation are not easy on a young company like us. But the bigger challenge is dealing with the manufacturing of the cars.
The Future Of Griiip
“Being so far from the workshop, made it difficult to identify problems and provide immediate answers, makes it very challenging for us.” With the manufacturing hurdles cleared, Griiip has plans of affordable motorsport in the future. They are currently working on the launch of the G1 racing series in Italy, the ‘G1 Series’, which will allow them to further develop the cars to perform better and become more cost effective. They also hope to move into Formula 1000 racing series here in America.
At the end of the day, Griiip is more than just another car company looking to make a cool profit off your racing addiction. As Tamir puts it, “Today’s motorsport structure forces drivers to pay increasing amounts of money for the opportunity to race. That must be changed. Our goal at Griiip is to provide the most attractive and affordable racing experience to drivers and viewers, using technology." Between the endless flights, design meetings, promotional events, and races, Tamir took the time to share his passion for Griiip with us via an email interview. His excitement for Griiip and the future of affordable motorsport paints a bright picture for all car enthusiasts.