A 26-year-old Saudi Arabian woman, Reema Al Juffali, has broken the glass-ceiling by becoming the first woman from the country to take part in competitive racing.
The kingdom gave women the legal rights to drive only in June last year. Three months after the ban was lifted, Reema became the first Saudi woman to earn a racer’s licence. In October 2018, she became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to take part in competitive racing. She is now going stronger by competing in the final round of the MRF Challenge.
#SEFAmbassador Reema Al Juffali, the first professional #womanracer from #SaudiArabia has had an incredible start to her career, and is quickly turning more and more heads! We can't wait to #follow her #raceseason this year! #WomeninSport #Racing #Motorsport #QueenoftheTrack #SEF pic.twitter.com/uTQr8tN3UP— SEFoundation (@SeanEdwardsF) January 15, 2019
Originally from Jeddah, Reema studied abroad before moving back to the country. Speaking about her passion for driving, the 26-year-old told The Hindu, “Women started driving in Saudi in June last year and my first race was in October. So, it’s like okay, this is not just a big step for Saudi women, but we can also have this (racing).”
Tracing her interest in motor racing, she said, “It started in college when I began watching Formula One and got familiar with racing. When I graduated, I gave myself a graduation gift with a three-day racing school in a Formula car."
“It was an eye-filling experience. That was the first time I was in a race car and that was the start of it.”
When asked about the negative reactions from the orthodox elements of society, Reema said, “Overwhelmingly it has been positive like 95-98%. The negative comments are like a needle in the haystack.”
#SEF are incredibly proud to be behind Reema Al Juffali, becoming the first Womens #ProfessionalDriver from #SaudiArabia, after her #podium finish at the #TRD86Cup opener at #YasMarinaCircuit.#Racer #Dubai #MotorSport #WomeninMotorsport #MakingHistoryhttps://t.co/4NF1EbWUZo pic.twitter.com/RnBQnMyR6A— SEFoundation (@SeanEdwardsF) November 4, 2018
So what made her race in India?
“The series was in Dubai. At that time, I was thinking of such groups. I spoke to a few people, I had quite a few options of joining a few series in winter. But everyone recommended Chennai and this track (MMRT), because it’s quite technical and the cars, something much more powerful than I had driven before. So, it would give me a good base.”
'To become a role model for other Saudi women'
On her future goals, she said she wants to become a role model for other Saudi women. She added, “When I started, I only thought about myself and didn't realise how my whole country was behind me. I was so humbled and honoured to be that person."
“Like everyone else, I have my own goals, my passion, I want to become the best racer that I can be. And the fact that I can inspire others, it’s unbelievable. That would push me to do even more.”
Feature Image Credit: Reuters