BENGALURU: Laleh Seddigh, 38, is no ordinary Iranian woman. The Tehran born lady is all fire and brimstone behind the wheels of a racing car. Not for nothing is Iran’s first woman driver a champion but is also known as the “Little Schumacher”. In India as a guest of the Indian Rally championships race rally in Bangalore, Laleh spoke of her career, travails and her visit to India. Excerpts...
On taking up sport
Well, as a child I always loved speed. So, I was attracted to cars. My father taught me to drive at the age of 13. By 18, I passed a driving test and got my licence.
On getting licence
The Iranian Racing Federation decreed female drivers un-Islamic and refused to give me a pro licence. I approached a local Ayatollah and he was convinced. I requested him to issue a decree that there was nothing un-Islamic. The Ayatollah gave me permission to race and told me that I should always be modestly dressed.
On issues she faces as a woman racer
When I won the national championship in 2008, Iranian state television cameras did not show me with my medal as I was standing above men who had ended second and third. In 2009, I was banned from competing for a year as the authorities accused me of tampering with my car’s engine. It was a conspiracy. I had not committed any irregularities. They simply wanted to exclude me from racing because I was a woman. I had changed my car due to some problems before the race started with due information and permission. Two other drivers, of course both men, had done the same for the same reason. But I was punished and they were not.
On her visit to India
Well, it has been fantastic. I saw a woman participant in the Bangalore rally and was really happy. I’m sure more and more women will come forward and take part. I tried a car as well and found everything to be near-perfect. I have really learnt a lot.