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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Palestinian champions 'drift' car racing for women

'I want to show the world that just because we are under occupation, it doesn't mean we will stay holed up in our homes'

Palestinian drift-racer Noor Daoud poses by her car during a competition held at the Track Ghibli in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh. AFP
Palestinian drift-racer Noor Daoud poses by her car during a competition held at the Track Ghibli in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh. AFP

Noor Daoud was the only woman to take to the track in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, where the Palestinian racer impressed the crowds with her "drift" driving skills.

Ms Daoud has mastered the art of drift - deliberately oversteering to make the rear wheels skid - and travelled to Sharm el Sheikh for a regional competition.

"Since I was little I've become used to meeting up with the guys to play football or tennis," said the 27-year-old on the sidelines of the competition.

Racing now dominates her life, evident from Instagram where she often poses with her thick wavy hair falling over driving leathers.

"When I was little, I loved cars and I had a collection of them to play with," said Ms Daoud, a polyglot who was born in the US state of Texas and went to a French school in Jerusalem.

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In Sharm el Sheikh, she zigzagged around the tarmac track and dodged obstacles as thick white smoke and sparks came off her car.

"There's only one girl!" said a young enthusiast of drift, which emerged in Japan in the 1970s.

Competitors were judged by a professional panel on their style and their driving skills, which count as much as their speed.

Ms Daoud had to abandon the second round of the competition due to engine failure, but nonetheless picked up a trophy for her participation as the sole woman.

She wishes other Arab women would take part in professional competitions. "Let Arab girls show the world that we also follow our dreams," she said.

There are however more women racing cars in the region, including four other Palestinians who featured alongside Ms Daoud in a "Speed Sisters" documentary.

It has been more than a decade since Ms Daoud first raced, borrowing a car from her mother who she credits as being the sole supporter of her ambitions.

She learnt drifting "on the streets of Palestine" in 2010, before moving to Dubai where she now lives.

Palestinian drift-racer Noor Daoud steers her car during a competition held at the Track Ghibli in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh. AFP
Palestinian drift-racer Noor Daoud steers her car during a competition held at the Track Ghibli in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh. AFP

"At first, in Palestine, people would say to me: 'But what are you doing? The sport is for the guys!'" she said.

"I went for what I want I didn't listen to anyone... When I got successful people started to respect me (and say) 'wow, she did it!'" added Ms Daoud, who regularly takes part in international competitions.

But drifting is more than just sport and spectacle for her.

"We are under occupation so this helps us, it helps me to drive to feel free," she said.

East Jerusalem, seen by Palestinians as the capital of their future state, and the West Bank have been occupied by Israel since 1967.

"I want to show the world that just because we are under occupation, it doesn't mean we will stay holed up in our homes," Daoud said.