Reema Al Juffali – breaking barriers
Chennai, February 10: In motor racing age 26 may be considered “old” by today’s standards, but, for Reema Al Juffali, it has been about breaking barriers and going where no Saudi Arabian woman has been as in October last year, she became the first female from the kingdom to race competitively. She took another major step in pursuit of her dreams and passion by competing in the final round of the MRF Challenge which concluded at the MMRT, here on Sunday.
Hailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Reema studied and worked abroad before moving back home once the motor racing bug firmly implanted itself in her. It took her four years before taking the big decision to pursue racing.
At an informal Media interaction here today, Reema said: “It’s been so funny as a story. I started racing quite late in life and the dream came later to me, to pursue racing after I studied and worked at a few things. My passion has always been cars and the racing came along. And after that, it was like I can’t avoid it (racing) anymore and I wanted to pursue it. So, when I moved back home, I had the time and opportunity to pursue racing. In October (2018), I had my first race in a GT 86 car in Abu Dhabi. I was happy with my performance as I finished in the middle of the grid. And then I won my first race in December. So, it’s been very quick, very fast with everything that has been happening. It’s been fantastic.
“Women started driving in Saudi in June last year and my first race was in October. So, it’s like okay, this is not just a big step for Saudi women, but we can also have this. I guess, I was in the right place and right time.”
When asked about choosing to race in MRF Challenge, Reema said: “MRF were racing in Dubai. At that time, I was thinking of such groups. I spoke to a few people, I had quite a few options of joining a few series in winter. But everyone recommended Chennai and this track (MMRT), because it’s quite technical and the cars, something much more powerful than I had driven before. So, it would give me a good base. In other words, I threw myself in the deep-end and learning to swim. I am managing and happy where I am going. I am happy I came here. The conditions and everything are quite tough and I am happy to finish a 20-lap race. And in terms of my future, I have to stay tuned and see what comes.
“People are still surprised and digesting the fact that I am not just driving, but racing. The hardest thing for me was to take that first step, getting over the fear of not succeeding or not pursuing your fashion. When I took that first step, the doors opened for me. If you want to pursue anything, just go for it.”
Tracing her interest in motor racing, she said: “It started when I was in college when I began watching Formula 1 and got a little more familiar with racing. I didn’t have much exposure to racing when I was in Saudi. It was always cars and speed, but not actually technical side. When I went abroad, I was exposed to that and I loved it. I started watching and following and learning. I did some track days here and there, and attended some race schools. When I graduated, I gave myself a graduation gift a three-day racing school in a Formula car. It was an eye-filling experience. That was the first time I was in a race car and that was the start of it.”
On her future goals and ambition, besides being a role model for other Saudi women, she said: “That comes as a plus and I happy and humbled to be that. Like everyone else, I have my goals, my passion, I want to become the best racer that I can be. And coming into this (MRF Challenge), I am putting myself into the deep-end, getting tested, so that I can improve and grow. That’s my goal and where my focus is. And the fact that I can inspire others, it’s unbelievable. That would push me to do even more.”