Palestinian drivers from all corners of the West Bank, some traversing dirt roads around Israeli army checkpoints, have staged their first-ever motor rally.
The air was filled with the smell of burnt rubber as hundreds of Palestinians on Friday lined the paved route on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ram Allah.
They cheered and whistled in delight as the BMWs, Peugeots and Subarus skidded around curves through rocky hills.
For many it was a respite from four-and-a-half years of violence with Israel.
"People outside this country would think that we have only violence and funerals and gunmen, but it is good to show them that we have sport," said Saed Karezon, 22, who
shook his fist in the air in excitement. "I'm used to seeing these races only on TV and now I see them for real, so I am excited."
The race was held not far from Israeli army checkpoints. The course was 2.5km long and drivers raced it individually in a time trial.
The star of the race was Fadi Jaber, 25, an Arab Israeli who has participated in races in Cyprus and Jordan. Dressed in a blue and white racing suit, Jaber drove a yellow Subaru decked out in the stickers of his sponsors. The engine roared and the muffler rumbled before he peeled out at the start.
"Sport brings people closer together and cleans the hearts of people," said Jaber, who edits a race car supplement to a magazine that sponsors him.
The winner of the race was Rami Jaber from Ram Allah who drove a 2004 Audi. The course took him 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
"People outside this country would think that we have only violence and funerals and gunmen, but it is good to show them that we have sport"
A Palestinian spectator
Five drivers from distant parts of the West Bank were prevented by Israeli army checkpoints from reaching the race, organisers said. Others manoeuvred their shiny cars over dirt roads to avoid the checkpoints to get to the race.
One car, a red Peugeot 206, was draped in a Palestinian flag at the start and a sticker on the windshield read Freedom Team. The cars varied from a rather old four-door Fiat to BMWs and Mercedes that looked like they had just come off the sales lot. At least two competitors
raced in jeeps.
Only Jaber had a wicker bill on the trunk, a wing-like apparatus designed to prevent rear lift.
The competitors included one woman, Rand Abu Hajer, who said she had not trained and wouldn't exceed 80 kilometres an hour, but couldn't resist the temptation to participate in the 'historic event'.