If there’s a fire in your belly fuelled by octane, and the thrill of the race is in your veins, you’ll find a way to realize your ambitions on the racetrack. Even if you’re a woman in the strife-torn middle east. And there’s no better proof of that than the Speed Sisters, an all-woman race car team from Palestine.
Yes, Palestine. It’s unlikely to find anyone racing cars in Palestine, and it’s downright mind-bending to find a group of young women screeching around a track, drifting through cones – and did we say, winning? Their latest accomplishment is a documentary film, simply entitled “Speed Sisters,” offering us a glimpse into their backstory and current lives. It almost looks like they’re like the rest of us, alternately embracing and scrapping, shopping, and getting their nails done.
But Noor, Marah, Betty, Mona and manager Maysoon, are defying cultural and class expectations to follow their hearts and race cars. Even in a military occupied zone, when you swoop into the driver’s seat, bear down on the clutch and shimmy around a track, you’re free as a bird. No doubt it’s part of the magic formula for these women.
Practicing their skills where they can – fruit markets, abandoned roads – the Speed Sisters show off their winning style, even though they come from diverse backgrounds. Marah’s family have sacrificed their dream of a new home to buy her a new Suzuki, while Betty strikes a sponsorship deal with a local Peugot dealer.
But on the track, it’s a level playing field. With steely precision, they carve up the dusty makeshift track, elegantly spinning around cones, finishing up with a dramatic burnout. The hearty cheers come from their supporters, male and female, for whom the Speed Sisters represent not just a winning race team, but also, the vitality of their community in the face of occupation. It is a triumph of the spirit – which knows no gender.
Closer to home, collision repair tech Hilary Noack is shredding stereotypes with her all-woman bodyshop named “Ink & Iron.” At a recent open house for her new shop in Mississauga, friends, family and curious strangers celebrated Noack’s achievement. She’s barely been open for a month, and already has more than enough business to keep her all-woman team hopping. Just outside the door, a bevy of classic and not-so-classic vehicles in various states of disrepair awaited their turn in the bay. Inside, there were hors d’oeuvres, sandwiches, finger foods and desserts for the crowd, as Noack wound her way through the well-wishers.
Noack is a role model for any young woman, and not just in the automotive sector. Although she raised some funds for her enterprise through Indie-Gogo, her business is a tribute to her hard work, focus and determination. Her mother, a kindergarten teacher, couldn’t be more excited for her daughter’s success, and her father was simply beaming with pride.
Another testament to Noack’s accomplishment was the presence of Victoria Ellis, the mastermind behind the International Women’s Automotive Society. Ellis had made the trek from Michigan, where she works in a corporate technical service capacity for Chrysler (FCA). Her not-for-profit organization aims to connect and encourage women in the automotive sector. Barely 26 years old, Ellis is a diesel tech who has climbed the corporate ladder at FCA, but wants to do more.
Her father, who was documenting the event with his camera, said Ellis had told him she wanted to work with cars when she was only six years old. Her mother, who was manning the registration and raffle, smiled and nodded. Ellis clearly has her eyes on the prize – she wants to connect internationally with women who have a passion for all things automotive.
In all cases, these are young women who are not afraid to reach beyond their grasp.
It gives me great hope for the future of automotive – and well beyond.