Reema Juffali the First Saudi Arabian Professional Female Racing Driver Shares Her Story

Lindsay Judge   |   23-09-2022

Reema Juffali was Saudi Arabia’s first female professional racing driver. She began competing in 2019 after deciding to turn her passion for racing and cars into a career.


Reema won her first professional race in Abu Dhabi and has since gone from strength to strength, representing her country around the world. Earlier this year she formed her own racing team “Theeba Motorsport” which competes in the International GT Open Championship.


Reema dreams of competing in her favourite race; the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours race one day and is setting her sights on a global stage. She hopes to inspire other women to go out there and chase their dreams, even when they might seem impossible. We find out more about her journey and her ambitions for the rest of her career.


Congratulations on all of your recent achievements – what has been the most memorable moment for you so far? 

This year has been a big year for me in terms of racing and taking a step into the world of GT Racing, so I can’t pick just one moment! If I had to pick two, one would be my first ever win in racing which was back in 2018 in Abu Dhabi. This is a memory I will never forget because it was unexpected which made it all the better! And another memory would be setting up a race team in and then on the first weekend having great success, I couldn’t have asked for a better first race with the team.



Tell us about your journey to where you are now – when did you first discover your passion for cars and motor racing?

It was quite an organic discovery – I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to be a racing driver – it was far from it. I was a very avid sportsperson when I was younger, I was always part of the sports teams, very active, and at the same time, I had a strong passion for cars. I didn’t come across racing until I was at college in The United States and I started to be exposed to different sports as a viewer, whether it was tennis, basketball etc., then Formula One came on my radar and it connected my two passions for cars and sports. I started watching the races and I was amazed by the unbelievable high level of the sport, it felt like the drivers were from a different planet. I became a fan and it wasn’t until I came across the Le Mans 24-Hour race that I realised that all the competitors were vast, from all different parts of the world, all age groups, different abilities etc. and that’s when I knew this was not an impossible dream, it was something I could do if I wanted to.


That’s where the dream began and from there I started to go go karting, I began to hire cars and go to different track days, asking questions and step-by-step putting myself in different situations. But it was just a dream to get my racing licence, I didn’t know how far I would go. When I moved back home to Saudi Arabia after studying and working abroad for a few years I was at a crossroads in my life. I decided that if I didn’t pursue racing at that point, I never would. So in 2017, I got my racing licence and it was also the same year I met Susie Wolff who was an inspiration to me. I felt that meeting her was a sign that I needed to take my dream more seriously and take action. So I decided to sign up for my first race in Abu Dhabi and I continued to learn, get onto the tracks, and try to understand how to race. The support and the motivation I received from everyone around me were so unexpected. I was doing it purely out of passion on a personal level, but seeing how many people encouraged me, and also wanted to become involved in the world of motorsport made me realise that it was a lot bigger than me and if I was going to do it, I had to do it in the right way. Thankfully I managed to bring everything together and it’s been four years of racing professionally. It’s a dream come true and I keep aiming for higher goals as we speak.



Who has been your biggest supporter along the way? 

My parents. I wouldn’t be here without them. It was my dream but they took a chance and supported me, and if they hadn’t trusted me and put their faith in me I don’t think I would be where I am today.


You have two big challenges; being in an industry that is male-dominated and being a woman in Saudi Arabia where driving for a living as a female is uncommon, how did you overcome these elements?

Everyone has different forms of challenges in their lives and I think for me, being from Saudi and being a woman, I knew from a very young age I was very adamant about what I wanted to do. If I wanted to do something I was very strong and affirmative and I put my foot down, and I think growing up like that helped me in the field of motorsport. I was always competitive with the boys when playing sports, the gender element didn’t get in my way, and I think that helped me in this industry. Also, the reason I wanted to start a race team is that in my sphere, I did not know any other people who raced professionally, male or female. So I had to learn everything for myself – take on advice, make mistakes – and it wasn’t always easy, not because I was a woman or I was from Saudi, but because of the lack of experience and knowledge in my sphere of existence. So I had to be self-driven, have self-belief and have hope. Once I started putting my heart into it I began to feel like I was on the right track and that’s also what makes it so special because I am so passionate and driven. I hope that when people hear about my journey it will give them a sense of perspective or knowledge that this is achievable. That has been the biggest reward outside of racing: being able to encourage and inspire other women, in particular, to do something different that they maybe thought was unachievable.



What is a message that you would send to other women looking to pursue their passions?

I can only speak from personal experience but my biggest obstacle was my own self-doubt – overthinking, overanalysing – at the end of the day, I just had to try things, put myself in different situations, go out there, experience things. Before getting into racing I tried many different things and what really gave me the answer I needed was that when I was on the track, I truly felt happy. That was one realisation but the second was I still didn’t know how I was going to do it. Because it seemed impossible and it was so unknown and I think that is probably what slowed me down, but the more I educated myself and put myself out there, the easier it got and the more obtainable it seemed. So my advice would be to try different things and ask yourself; are you getting in your own way? If you are, don’t be afraid of making mistakes and you won’t know if you don’t try, so go out there and try!


In this issue we celebrate Saudi National Day – what does this day mean to you and what does it mean to represent your country internationally?

It’s such a special privilege. Just yesterday I was at a race event and I was the only Saudi entrant in the race and I also happened to be on the podium! I think when you achieve something on a personal level it’s such a great reward and you get a lot of satisfaction out of that, but when it ends up being for your country and for Saudi in particular, it allows others to dream and to think of doing things that maybe they thought were impossible, that is such an honour.


When I look at how far we have come in Saudi Arabia in just the last few years, it makes me so proud to be a part of the change that we can see happening, especially in the worlds of sports and entertainment. To have big races like Formula One, Dakkar, and Formula E, in our country, is such an impressive and great achievement. Also to see other women racing at these events is incredible. We recently had two women from Saudi Arabia participating in the Dakkar race which is amazing and it shows that if you give people the opportunity they will take it. It’s an honour and a privilege and I hope I can always do my country proud.



How do you think perceptions of women in roles or careers such as yours that may have been deemed unexpected in the past are changing in Saudi Arabia and what would you like to see happen in the future?

There is definitely a lot of change and a lot of new things happening. I think what a lot of people forget is that when something is new it will take time for things to settle and for it to become ‘normal.’ What we see in Saudi is that we are doing big things, we have big dreams, and we are doing some things literally overnight and doing them so well, which is amazing, but at the same time, for us to see it trickle down to the younger generation and for things to happen in general society will take time. The most important thing is that the drive is there and people are excited and passionate and that’s so lovely to see. I think what the future holds is something I can’t even dream of right now but I know it’s something great. This is just the beginning in terms of what the country is doing but also in terms of the talent that we have. I’m excited to see what the future holds.


Where is your favourite place to drive and why? 

California. The simplicity and the beauty are always enjoyable and it’s where I fell in love with driving. But I also love to drive anywhere in the mountains!


What goes through your mind when you’re on the track? 

When it’s an intense race I don’t think of much. My mind is focused and clear and I am just thinking about the next corner and what’s happening in front of me, behind me, anticipating what will happen next. There’s not that much thinking involved, it’s more of a feeling, but it’s actually a very quiet moment. But if something happens or there is a situation that’s obviously a little bit different so you have to be aware at all times.



Who is your biggest inspiration or influence? 

I wouldn’t say there is one person in particular. There are many people who inspire me but someone who I admire and aspire to be anything like is my mum.


What is your ultimate goal? 

Being a part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. And then hopefully winning it one day!


When you’re not driving or training how do you like to spend your time? 

I work on a few different projects with the family and run the race team. I spend quite a lot of time training. I go cycling, swimming, and running – I’m generally very active and I love being outdoors. It’s also important to socialise which sometimes I forget to do! But it’s super important to spend time with family and friends.



What is in the pipeline for you for the rest of the year?

We are in plans to put a racing schedule together for the winter season in the Middle East, so I am looking forward to that. Stay tuned for that!