Imagine lights flashing, with a thousand motions happening at once, the sound of revving engines and screeching tires, the smell of burnt rubber filling the air. In the middle of it all is where you’ll find Reema Al Juffali. Saudi woman. Professional race car driver.
What is it about motorsports that got you interested to do professionally? When did your passion for cars begin?
As long as I can remember I have been passionate about cars whether it was naming all the cars I knew at 7 years old, playing with remote control cars or collecting model cars. It has always been a part of my life. I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel, I remember begging to drive around the block every chance I got, barely able to reach the pedals.
The racing dream came later in life for me. I didn’t grow up around a racing culture and I struggled to imagine even driving a car in Saudi Arabia, let alone representing my country as a female racing driver. I used to think that racing was something you had to grow into from a young age, but after watching my first Le Mans race I realized that some of the drivers were much older than me. That’s when I thought why not? It’s not too late. When I was at university, I joined different track days and that’s when I caught the racing bug.
What’s the kind of racing you do?
The type of racing I do is called single-seater racing, specifically Formula 4. This season I raced at the F4 British Championship with the Double R Racing team.
What were the challenges you encountered in trying to get into the sport?
In the beginning, it was always about timing. In between my studies and work I could never find the time to race. I also I didn’t know where to start. There are so many different routes you can take and I had a lot of questions, so getting to know people in the industry helped me make these decisions and take the first step. It’s all very new, so most things I didn’t anticipate. I’m consistently in new situations, whether it’s learning a new track, adjusting to the car or weather conditions… it’s constantly changing, and you must adapt. Staying positive and trusting in my ability has helped me overcome this.
How’s an average day like for you at “work”?
Test days differ to race days. The day starts off early, I’m at the track by 8am. On a test day, I meet with my team and discuss the plan for the day. For the rest of the day, if I’m not in the car, I’m sitting with my engineer analyzing my laps and figuring out where I can improve. On a race day there are a lot more distractions plus my time on track is limited, you have an hour instead of a full day. It’s important to stay focused and make the most out of the time you have.
It’s only the beginning so I’m learning something new every day, which is a great feeling. I love the feeling and rush I get when I’m behind the wheel, that’s where I’m happiest, but more than that it’s the challenge that keeps me going. In motorsport there are a lot of ups and downs, things don’t always go your way and sometimes they are out of your control. Someone can hit you or something can go mechanically wrong taking you out of the race. At the end of the day, all these things just make winning even sweeter.
“Trust your instincts, don’t be afraid to take risks and go after what you love. Take the first step; it’s always the most difficult.” Reema Al Juffali