Reema developed an interest in cars at an early age and made history in 2018 by becoming the first-ever female racing driver to come from Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Supplied

Jeddah: Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver Reema Juffali is an inspiration and role model to female athletes in her country and across the world.

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Reema developed an interest in cars at an early age and made history in 2018 by becoming the first-ever female racing driver to come from Saudi Arabia.

Following a promising debut season in 2019, she became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international race in her home country, racing on the streets of Riyadh in the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy.

In 2021, she competed in the GB3 Championship before making her endurance racing debut at the 2022 Dubai 24 Hours where she finished second in class.

First appearance

Reema subsequently founded Theeba Motorsport to facilitate Saudi Arabian access to and participation in motor racing through a variety of educational opportunities and programmes. The team made its first appearance in the 2022 International GT Open and secured victory on debut — an achievement which made Reema the first Saudi woman to win an international motor race — before scoring a vice championship title in the series’ Pro-Am class.

2023 saw Reema participating in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe; a season in which Reema continued to make history by being the first ever female and the first Saudi Arabian driver to secure a pole position in the Sprint Cup.

It is Reema’s ambition to break further ground by one day racing in the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours with Theeba Motorsport under a Saudi Arabian licence — a goal she will edge closer to by competing in the GT World Challenge.

Reema continues to make waves in motorsport after being named as one of the world’s most inspiring and influential women by the BBC in 2022, and as the main protagonist in the 2023 Mercedes AMG International Women’s Day campaign.

Wild Card

In 2024, she has just been confirmed as a special ‘wild card’ entry in the first round of the ground-breaking 2024 F1 Academy season, which will be taking place in her hometown of Jeddah as part of the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024 on March 7—9.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be representing my country, especially in my hometown. I have raced in Saudi before in Riyadh but for me being in Jeddah, in a familiar city, I never thought this day would come. The day F1 arrived in Jeddah was the clash of both my worlds and now I am actually going to be participating! I’m really looking forward to it and happy to share the experience with my friends and family who are based here. It brings out so many emotions and positive feelings but I know this is probably not going to be the last race I will compete in Jeddah,” she said.

Setting milestones

Noting that she is looking forward to race on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the first time, she said: “I’ve heard so much about the track from other drivers, watched different onboards and walked it a few times as well: it seems so fast and challenging. Racing on it — let alone doing just a lap — will be something I’ve never experienced before. It is the world’s fastest street track so to experience that in a single seater will be absolutely thrilling. As a racing driver you usually go into a race weekend setting goals and milestones but for this one it’s more just about having fun, enjoying the moment, and sharing it with everyone. Hopefully Saudi fans can see that there is a Saudi racing driver out there and it will get them to thinking that ‘this is something I can do!’. It is really for this reason I have decided to take this challenge on.”

Speaking about the need to attract more female racers into motorsport, she said: “Motorsport is unfortunately still such a male dominated sport so anything like F1 Academy that gives women more access and opportunity to hone and fine-tune their skills is a great thing. We have seen in the past that once you give someone an opportunity it can lead in many different directions, into many different facets of the sport. There is so much more to motorsport than just racing and opening doors is a great thing — we need more of it.

“I think in the beginning with anything, as the saying goes: ‘if you can’t see it, you won’t believe it.’ So yes, in motorsport we definitely need more female role models — the more the merrier! The sport in general offers so much excitement to people and inspires curiosity, however, growing up here there weren’t as many publicly known female role models. Now there are many more and I hope this continues to grow via series like the F1 Academy and helps inspire the next generation.”