Racing lines: how Saudi Arabia’s first racing driver reached UK F3 Car News

The BRDC British Formula 3 Championship kicks off this weekend at Brands Hatch and, as usual, the class is bursting with ambition, expectation and blind hope that it will be another milestone on the path of a lifetime. professional in motorsport.

Among the young men, there is a 29-year-old woman. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it – except that it’s from Saudi Arabia, a place that not only lacks an established racing culture, but also, much more significantly, forbids women. to even drive on the road until 2018. This makes Reema Juffali singularly special – and therefore is the story of how she got here.

Ban didn’t stop her

“It all started at a young age,” says Juffali. My love for cars was pretty clear. This is where I was happiest. But growing up in Jeddah, she was ostracized from her passion, purely because of her gender. “There was definitely a feeling of frustration, ‘I want this, but I can’t have it,’” she said. “I don’t want to give a rosy image. That’s why I appreciate it now.

Saudi Arabia finally lifted its ban on driving women in 2018, a year after Juffali returned home after seven years studying and working in the US and UK, during which time she was free to fully explore his love of motorsport. “It wasn’t until I was in college [in Boston, US] and I had left Arabia where I was exposed to the race, ”she said. “When I was there, I understood that there was more than Formula 1 and that men and women could compete at different levels. I thought it was done and dusted off like something I couldn’t even think of. Now I saw that there was an opportunity for me.

Race from a standing start

Beyond the ban in her home country, what’s really impressive about Juffali is the way she made her way into motorsport from a starting point of zero. “I didn’t know anyone who was running,” she says. “It involved a lot of research and asking people questions, and everyone came back with different answers.”

The seed took root well while she worked in London, but it took a while to flower – and it’s no wonder. “I started doing track days and going around the stage,” she says. “That’s when I started looking for my racing license. It was much easier than I initially thought.

“I decided to take a three-day course at a racing school to understand what a racing car would feel like. But then life came along and I ended up taking a professional path to finance, doing nine to five in London and New York. When I finally returned to Arabia in 2017, there was still this burning desire to give it a go.

“Deep down I knew the day would come when I could drive to Arabia,” she says of the ban being lifted. “In the summer of 2017, they announced it would happen in a year, and when it happened, it was a momentous occasion. I had learned to drive abroad, so when I first got in a car in Arabia I didn’t feel so foreign – but it was really weird.

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This notice was published: 2021-05-19 23:01:23