Lalah Saddigh is the toughest thing on wheels in the Islamic world. She
trains in the western Teheran in efforts to become the best rally
driver in the world.
Saddigh is proud of her nickname the "Iranian Schumacher", and after five years of driving on the rally circuit she has earned it. A year ago, she was granted permission to compete against men. It came with great success: Saddigh has beat out her male competitors several times.
The 28-year old hasn’t, however, broken down all gender barriers in Iran. When she bounds from her car and undoes her helmet, you will still find the traditional Islamic headscarf women are required to wear.
At every race, a man dedicated to the Islamic religion, watches the women to make sure they adhere to strict guidelines: "Of course the women must observe the Islamic customs," he explained. "As long as they're dressed, everything's fine."
Saddigh’s father taught her to drive when she was 13-years-old, and continues to cheer his daughter on.
"He is my greatest support and the first love of my life, I definitely inherited my ambition from him," she admits.
"Most of the people here find it strange to see a woman taking part in car rallies, but I want to show them that everybody has potential and that we can all reach our goals," she explains. "Iranian women are proud of me and keep pushing me on to do better things. I hope I can set an example for them that with enough willpower women can achieve anything."
Despite some of the difficulties present for a woman in Iran, Saddigh couldn’t be happier than besting her male counterparts. She says they attempt to make “good face”, but it looks unnatural, she often boasts “that they should practice looking happy for her.”
When Saddigh is not racing, she is a management student, horse trainer, painter and pianist. A crash, earlier this year, which happened on a winding road between the Caspian Sea and Tehran, resulted in Saddigh having to get a metal plate in her thigh; which slows her down a bit. Injuries aren’t new for the young Iranian star, a year ago she broke two vertebrae in a crash and was ordered on bed rest.
"Every day my mother prays for the safety of her speed- obsessed daughter, and tries to console herself with the fact that she has nine lives," explained Saddigh’s sister, Bannesh.
Saddigh is pure proof that women are making inroads in motorsports. Even though she faces criticism, racism and the restrictions of her religion, she still manages to find a way to compete and win, and stick it to the boys.
by Linda Przygodski