Living life in the fast lane

Living life in the fast lane

Laleh Seddigh, an Iranian female race car driver, is braving all odds to prove that there’s nothing women can’t do. She shares her story with Deepika Nidige

Few people may have heard of Laleh Seddigh. But that is no reflection on her accomplishments. It’s just that, there are not many who would be privy to the fact that there exists a woman race car driver in Iran. Laleh started professional racing during her teenage years and has won several championships (karting, rallies, circuits) till date. The 38-year-old hopes to open a sports academy when she retires.

In an interaction with Deccan Herald, she speaks about her career, struggles, achievements and future plans. Excerpts:

You have a PhD in production engineering. Did your love for machines lead you to pursue car racing?

Actually, no. It was a deal I struck with my father. He said I could race cars if I studied engineering. Given a choice, I would have loved to become a beauty surgeon.

Tell us about your routine. Do you feel the heat sometimes?

I have to involve myself in some kind of physical activity everyday. If there is a race coming up, I practise more often and rigorously. If not, the days are quite open. My family is very supportive of what I do, though they worry a lot if I get hurt. My younger brother accompanies me to all my races for moral support and to take care of me. This makes things simpler and puts me at ease.

How difficult is it to be a professional racer in your country?

In Iran, driving is increasingly becoming an integral part of life. It is not
uncommon to see women driving either to commute or to run daily errands. With the permission of the Ayatollah and my father’s encouragement, I was lucky enough to get my professional driver’s licence. But in the world of racing, things used to be a little different. The male competitors were more aggressive earlier, but things have slowly been changing. Everyone is becoming open to the fact that even women can take up such sports.

I believe you faced many hurdles during your racing journey...
There is always the stress of having to make a mark. Not everyone around you is cooperative or approving of you. There is some amount of reluctance to accept a female racer. In fact, during one particular race, the cables of my car brakes had been cut by an opponent. As a result of which, I was involved in a minor accident. Things like that are meant to demoralise you. But as far as I am concerned, such incidents only make me stronger and determined to achieve more. Also, my coach Saeed Arabian, who passed away recently, was a great source of strength to me. He was responsible for honing my talent, nurturing it and making me a capable sportsperson. I am very grateful to him for that.

What is the best part about a race?
Everything about a race excites me. But my favourite bit is when I win and get to stand tall on the podium. It gives me a sense of victory and success. Someday, I hope to race in a Lamborghini, my dream car.

What would be your advice for women who wish to take up sports?
I would tell all young girls to get into some kind of sport right from a young age. Boys and girls are equally capable of achieving athletic feats. There is nothing they can’t do. They should explore more and be more adventurous. However, girls must also focus on education, because it gives a broader vision in life. And this can be enhanced by playing a sport. I believe that playing a sport can help bring about a mental balance and also, assist in making us better people.

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