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Car-racing Palestinian girls speed into record books with first all-women team

Speed Sisters

In this photo taken Friday, June 25, 2010, Palestinian Suna Awedia, center left, and Samia Khoury, center right, race car drivers, await their turns to race in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Palestinian women are speeding into record books by participating in their first all-female car racing team, the Speed Sisters. Along the way, they're crashing through another gender barrier in this conservative Muslim society.

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian women are speeding into the record books by competing on an all-female car racing team — the Speed Sisters.

Along the way, they're crashing through another gender barrier in this conservative Muslim society.

The eight women have entered a popular race called "Speed Test." Souped-up cars race around a track, weaving their way around obstacles and spinning circles around others. The all-female team is a first for the event.

"I love sports that are tough and dangerous, because I am a dangerous woman," said Nour Dawood, 20, after a race this week outside the West Bank city of Ramallah.

She wore a yellow-and-black racing suit, sunglasses and a helmet as she leaned against her car, her curly hair pushed back into a ponytail. Around her, drivers revved their engines.

Arabic music pounded out of loudspeakers. A group of fans crowded around the track to watch, including a small contingent of women with large sunglasses.

It's another step for Palestinian women who have been claiming more positions of influence in a still very much male-dominated society. This year, the first female Palestinian governor was appointed to oversee the West Bank district of Ramallah. The mayor of the district's main city is a woman, as are four ministers in the Palestinian Cabinet.

Speed Test began in the West Bank in 2005, as violence between Israel and the Palestinians began petering out. Races take place throughout the territory that is ruled by Israel, with Palestinians administering parts of it. Palestinians want the land — about the size of Connecticut — as part of a future state.

In 2005, only one woman participated — the Speed Sisters' coach, 39-year-old Suna Awedia.

Fast forward five years and eight women are in the race.

As a team, the women get to pool trainers and share a car.

The British Consulate paid for a two-day driving workshop and repaired a banged-up car donated by the Palestinian Union for Race Car Drivers. The union also waived the $70 entry fee.

On the field, the Speed Sisters still need to prove their mettle. Only one woman so far reached the top 10 in this year's three rounds. They've got two rounds to go.

Awedia, their captain, says her drivers, who are mostly in their 20s, need more training, practice and better cars. She's searching for sponsors.

But Dawood says they are already champions.

"Look at us," she said proudly. "We are really into it. We are one team. And we are all winners."

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Hadid reported from Jerusalem.