Jeddah: Speed thrills Saudi Arabia’s youngest official race car driver, Reem Al Aboud.
“Racing is my sweet escape. It’s a feeling that cannot be explained. It’s a rush of adrenaline. It’s the only few minutes in life that I know that I have to give my all in terms of focus, performance and overcoming obstacles,” the 19-year-old tells Gulf News.
Al Aboud made history when she became the first Saudi female racer to drive the Formula E Gen 2 car at the Ad Diriyah E-Prix in Riyadh on December 16 last year.
Ever since Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women’s driving last year in June, more and more Saudi girls have entered the world of racing.
Unlike other young girls who enjoyed playing with dolls and houses growing up, Al Aboud was always interested in playing with cars and motors. Idolizing her father, Al Aboud always dreamt of becoming an ace racer like him.
Her family knew of her obsession with motorsports and was supportive throughout.
“Growing up I thought I did not stand a chance of becoming a racer in Saudi Arabia, but I’m glad I held on to my passion. The credit goes to our beloved Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who gave women the chance to drive,” she said.
As luck would have it, the driving ban was lifted the year Al Aboud became eligible for driving.
The young, passionate racer, then, officially started to drive and train on racetracks in Riyadh.
At first, Al Aboud received a lot of stares and criticism from men around her.
“They thought I was weak and would not be able to excel in such a daring sport, but with time I showed them what I was capable off,” she said.
Saudi racing champion Mahmoud Abed spotted Al Aboud taking laps and offered to train her personally.
“He thought I could be trained quickly and my skills could improve in a short time. I thank God that I lived up to his expectations,” she said.
Al Aboud participated in the first Saudi Women Karting Championship last year but came in fourth.
However, based on her driving skills she was selected to participate in her first international competition at the Bahrain International Circuit last year.
“I was the only female among 15 other racers and the only Saudi. I got P7 overall but I was happy to represent my country in the motorsport for the first time,” she said.
Al Aboud later took first place in the Saudi Time Attack competition held in Riyadh at the Reem International circuit, and soon after followed it by bagging first place at the second Saudi Women Karting Championship this year.
The racing enthusiast then began training for driving electric cars at Nissan Saudia under the supervision of Captain Saeed Al Mouri in Riyadh.
She flew to Le Mans, France to officially practice on the simulator for the Ad Diriyah Circuit.
“The moment I sat in the Formula E car for seat fittings, I told myself that I knew I belonged here,” she said.
Al Aboud, whose favourite car is the Porsche GT3 RS, has driven and raced in GTR 950-1100 HP, GTR 750-950 HP, Renault, Radical, Lamborghini Huracan Performante, Lamborghini Aventador and Porsche Carerra 911.
“The only challenge to overcome in motorsports is fear.”