MRF Challenge: Reema Al Juffali — breaking barriers

In October, 2018, the 26-year-old Reema became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to earn a racer’s license.

Reema Juffali: “I want to become the best racer that I can be.” Photo: Special Arrangement

Saudi Arabian driver Reema Al Juffali has become a trend-setter and broken barriers in her country. Until June, 2018, women were detained and arrested for just driving a car, but things are slowly changing.

It has allowed people like Reema to choose a new path. In October, 2018, the 26-year-old Reema became the first Saudi woman to earn a racer’s license, just three months after the ban on driving for women was lifted.

Here in the city to take part in the MRF Challenge, Reema spoke about her passion for driving, the decision to take the plunge, and her role as the role model for women in her country. She said, “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 (racing).’”

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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. 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.”

‘Humbled and honoured’

When asked if there were any negative reactions from the orthodox elements of the society, Reema said, “Overwhelmingly, it has been positive, like 95-98 percent. The negative comments are like a needle in the haystack.”

Reema Al Juffali rides her card at the MRF Challenge in Chennai on Sunday. Photo: Special Arrangement

 

On her future goals and ambition — besides being a role model for other Saudi women — she said, “When I started, I only thought about myself and didn’t realise how my whole country was behind me. I was so humbled and honoured to be that person. Like everyone else, I have my own goals, my passion, I want to become the best racer that I can be. And the fact that I can inspire others, it’s unbelievable. That would push me to do even more.”