You would never dream of associating the name Schumacher with Iran, but Laleh Seddigh has earned the title “Little Schumacher”, Trained by by former national champion Saeed A’rabian, she has been recognized as the best female racer in the country. In a male dominated world of racing, this alone is an extraordinary achievement. She has been heard to quote: “Resistance from men does not bother me. Once I get on the track I like to use my technical skills, take control and dominate the other drivers.”
She has had her share of disappointment too, back in 2006, she was not allowed to defend her title, The federation’s vice-president, Hossein Shahryari, said Seddigh had been barred because of a government circular restricting women to female-only events. That decree has now been lifted, he said.
But he added: “Women are speaking highly of themselves and that causes men who sacrifice their lives in this sport disappointment. Women are not champions in this sport, they are only participants. If they observed Islamic regulations more they would not have such problems.”
Her extraordinary achievement was captured in a BBC TV documentary called “Girl Racer”. She started her rally careet back in 2000. She was crowned women Champion 2003 and again in 2004. As captain of Proton rally team, she completed 28 rallies with 7 Podium position and 3 First place position.
Laleh also started car racing in 2004. It seemed that the winning streak was not just confined to her rally career, she completed 5 races (Peugeot 206, 1600 cc & Proton 1500 cc) with 7 Podium finishes, five 1st Places and the icin on the cake was being crowned National Champion Peugeot 206 – 1600c.
The young lady who had to get a special permission from local “ayatollah” to participate in the men world of motor sport, has come a long way and now the iconic racer is training other female drivers to follow in her footsteps.
Although racing is an expensive sport which limits participation, I can also safely say, you will be hard pressed to find a family as supportive as hers due to Iran’s male dominated society who are reluctant to step away from old and redundant traditions. This is changing with more of our women taking the centre stage in last few years. Laleh has mentioned in the passing “the situation is better today for them. They do not have to face the limitations I did at the beginning, because I have travelled down that road. They are just following me and all they have to do is practise and give their best”.
At time of writing this article, this humble writer is waiting to hear from Mrs Seddigh and I hope to be able to provide further insight to our stunning national treasure, so stay tuned.