Reema Juffali, one of the first female race car drivers to hail from Saudi Arabia, made her F4 British Championship Circuit debut this weekend at the legendary Brands Hatch Indy track in England. Although the 27-year-old’s last-place finish in her inaugural race on Saturday was less than she had hoped for (and stemmed largely from an unexpectedly extended pit stop), her participation alone was a resounding victory for the image of Saudi women as it shattered one more glass ceiling.
On Sunday, Juffali improved her performance with a 9th place finish in the first race of the day and an 11th place finish in the second of the day’s two competitions.
“I went into this week end with certain goals in mind and I managed to achieve them, so I’m very happy about that. I finished all three races and even scored some points,” Juffali said following the conclusion of all three races.
Juffali kicked off her racing career just 10 months ago in the United Arab Emirates when she began racing on local circuits there. She ultimately took the decision to leave her financial services job in Dubai to test her mettle on the world’s race tracks.
“Being at such a historic track around thousands of fans made my debut [F4] race very memorable,” she said.
The F4 British Championship, certified by FIA, comprises 10 races around the UK, with the first and last race weekends of the season taking place at Brands Hatch. The Championship concludes on October 12-13.
Given that women were not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia until last June, sitting in the cockpit of a single-seater race car is an accomplishment few would have predicted for a Saudi woman. Juffali, who completed her education in the United States before accepting a Dubai-based job in finance, took her first competitive laps last October behind the wheel of a Toyota GT86 road car at a TRD 86 Cup race at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
Juffali grabbed two class podiums in her debut at Abu Dhabi and won her first race there in December. She then segued to single-seater racing in India’s MRF Challenge, making her debut earlier this year at the season finale in Chennai. In addition to joining the MRF Challenge, Juffali has continued competing in the TRD 86 Cup where she now leads the Silver category and currently holds third place overall.
“All the guys are quite welcoming,” she said of her competitors in the lead-up to the weekend of racing at Brands Hatch. “My teammates, as well, have taken me on as ‘the girl’ on the team. It’s been great…She continued with a smile, “Hopefully, it can add a little spice to the team.”
“All the guys are quite welcoming,” she said of her competitors in the lead-up to the weekend of racing at Brands Hatch. “My teammates, as well, have taken me on as ‘the girl’ on the team. It’s been great.”
She continued with a smile, “Hopefully, it can add a little spice to the team.”
Prior to the start of the three-day event at Brands Hatch, Juffali told the press on Media Day, “In terms of tracks, I think this is the most complex set of circuits that we have in the calendar and for me, someone who has no experience, I think it’s a good place to be put on the edge and be thrown out in the deep end.”
Despite the seemingly daunting quest to break long-entrenched attitudes towards women in Saudi Arabia, Juffali expressed a great deal of pride in her undertaking and praised those who have lent their support.
“In terms of being from Saudi Arabia, it’s such a great thing for me to do and represent my country and it’s a good time in Saudi to be doing such a thing and all the support I’ve gotten from friends, family, people I don’t even know, has been fantastic and it’s only been pushing me to do better.”
Her upgrade to British F4 just six months after her Middle East racing debut was impressive in and of itself, but truly monumental in light of the recently removed prohibition of women driving in Saudi Arabia. With a newly empowered female population in her native Saudi Arabia, women are assuming roles and jobs never thought possible.
Looking forward to her first year of competition in what is arguably the most competitive junior single-seater category in Europe, Juffali is acutely aware that the competition is considered a proving ground for the racing world’s stars of the future.
She joined championship returnee Sebastian Alvarez and Ginetta Junior runner-up Louis Foster in the Double R Racing stable. The oldest of the three, Juffali hoped to show that entering the racing game at the relatively ripe old age of 27 is no hindrance to standing on the podium at race’s end.
“It’s going to be a tough year in such a competitive championship, but I’m ready for the challenge,” she was quoted as saying on the F4 Cup’s website.
As surprising as it may seem, Juffali is not the first Saudi woman to take laps around an asphalt circuit. Nineteen-year-old Reem Al Aboud took some test laps around the track before the start of the Formula E competition in Ad Diriyah, just outside Riyadh, last December, and Aseel Al Hamad took a lap in a Renault F1 car before the start of the French Grand Prix held on the same day that the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was lifted.