First Saudi woman driver to race car in kingdom - GulfToday

First Saudi woman driver to race car in kingdom

Reema

Reema Al-Juffali poses in front of her car during an interview in Diriyah district in Riyadh. AFP

Reema Juffali, 27-year-old Saudi female race car driver is set to blaze a trail in the male dominated motor sports as the first woman to race in the kingdom. She will be competing in the Jaquar I-PACE e TROPHY, an electric race in Dirriyah.

Such adrenalin rushes were unimaginable for women in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom until June last year, when it overturned the world's only ban on female motorists as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's wide-ranging liberalisation drive.

Sliding behind the wheel of a sleek electric SUV, Juffali made her motoring debut just months after the decades-old ban ended.

Reema 2 Reema in her electric racing car. AFP

"The ban was lifted last year and I never expected to race professionally," said Juffali, sitting in her black-and-green Jaguar I-Pace, an electric sports utility vehicle.

Juffali, who hails from the western city of Jeddah and was educated in the United States, will participate as what organisers call a "VIP" guest driver, becoming the first Saudi woman to race on home soil.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's sports authority chief, has touted it as a "watershed" moment for the kingdom.

Juffali, who made one of her first appearances in competitive racing at the F4 British Championship at Brands Hatch in April, has only about a year of professional racing experience under her belt.

Reema 3 Reema Al-Juffali is pictured inside her car in Diriyah district in Riyadh. AFP

But she has had a passion for fast cars since her teenage years and grew up watching Formula One.She passed her driving test after she moved to the United States to study some years ago, and is now one of only a handful of Saudi woman to have obtained a "racing licence" in her home country, a mandatory requirement to race professionally.

Even outside the Kingdom, only a few Saudi women have raced professionally.

"For a lot of women who haven't had the opportunity to learn how to drive, to get behind the wheel is definitely something scary," explained Juffali.

Juffali said her dream is to one day race at Le Mans -- a 24 hour competition in France that is one of the world's most prestigious and grueling competitions.