In Senegal, an all-female car race defies expectations

Anne-Sophie FAIVRE LE CADRE
Aby Fall was one of the oldest competitors when the Mousso Trophy women's car race in Dakar resumed after a 13-year break in (AFP Photo/Seyllou)

Dakar (AFP) - Women in Senegal's seaside capital Dakar on Sunday competed in an all-female car race, a rarity in the conservative West African country.

After a 13-year hiatus, 21 women took turns to race two Peugeot 206s on the asphalt of the capital's Senghor stadium, in the Mousso Trophy, previously run from 2002 to 2007.

Celia Cisse, who works in communications, organised the event on Sunday, after growing up watching her mother race cars.

"Some sponsors didn't believe in this project, but we succeeded," Cisse said, smiling.

"Sport is a way to awaken women's leadership," she added.

On Sunday, the women -- some of them veterans of the old competition -- careered the cars around a makeshift circuit marked by plastic cones.

"It's a feminist race," said Awa Dionne, one of the veterans, and a vice president of Senegal's motorcycle federation.

"In Dakar, if a driver is overtaken by a woman, he will do everything he can to get ahead of her again, sometimes risking his life," she added.

Khadija Ndiaye Sarr, another driver, said that taking part in the race was a way of proving that women can do what men do.

"It means that we have the same abilities as them, she said.

Despite the oddity of such an event in the country, few turned out to watch the dented Peugeots plastered with stickers do their laps.

But the thin crowd was curious and enthusiastic.

"The fact that this is a women's race is a bit of a change of pace," said mechanic Babacar Ba.

Ibrahima, a 10-year-old boy sporting a tattered football jersey, was watching the race wide-eyed.

"I'm not used to it, men are the ones who usually drive," he said.