Reema Juffali on IWD: The race car star on making motorsports inclusive for women 

Reema is a wild card for STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024.

Reema Juffali has been breaking barrier after barrier in Saudi Arabia. Born and based in Jeddah, she is now 32 years old and has seen the country change its laws and allow women to drive. She explains: “The current transformations in Riyadh can be described as the renaissance of our time.” She is the Kingdom’s first female professional racing driver, the first woman to compete in an international race in the country, and the first woman to head up a motorsports team. 

As the founder of Theeba Motorsports, she has created a space for Saudis (including women) to learn and participate in motorsports. Now, she has also been announced as a wild card entry for the Formula One STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024, which takes place on 9 March. For International Women’s Day, she shares her thoughts on driving change in the country, 

What was it like growing up in Saudi Arabia?

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I was an active child who loved the sea and was always seeking new adventures. You could find me on a football pitch, riding my bike on Jeddah Corniche or fishing with my father. The culture and environment emphasised the importance of family and community, and instilled values of strength, responsibility and respect in me.

What is the biggest misconception about being a woman in the Middle East?

The prevailing impression surrounding women in Saudi Arabia revolves around the perception of us as reticent and unapproachable. This masks the diverse and vibrant essence of who we are and what we can offer our community around us and beyond.

What’s the best thing about being a woman in the Middle East?

When it comes to womanhood in the region, there is an unwavering unity and support among us, which fosters a deep sense of community. This provides a deep feeling of safety along with a unique sense of empowerment. Most women in the region have a very strong support system whether this comes from family or friends, we are there for each other and present for big moments in our lives.

In motorsports, did you intentionally start breaking barriers?

I did not initially set out to break barriers. It happened organically as I was pursuing my passion. My focus initially was just to get out on the track and enjoy the experience. After participating in my first race, I recognised the support and interest around my journey, and it drove me to start racing full-time in a professional capacity.

Reema Juffali

What are the stereotypes about women in racing?

A common stereotype I’ve encountered is the belief that women aren’t competitive enough.

What changes would you like to see in the sport?

I hope to see more women and more young people from the region in teams and participating in all categories of racing.

Share a sexist moment you faced in the sport. 

I had a challenging incident in my career when I was on the podium. The celebration was delayed because my competitors did not believe I had won the race.

Tell us about women you admire.

I deeply admire my mother for her unwavering dedication and her constant desire to learn and grow. 

What advice do you have for women?

My advice to women is to persevere, learn from failures and believe in the process.

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