Saudi Arabia's first female racing driver, Reema Juffali, has been announced as the Race Ambassador by the organisers of the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Saudi Arabia is gearing up to host its inaugural grand prix this weekend to mark the start of an ambitious 20-year plan to create the kingdom's own team, future world champion, and car manufacturer.
"It's an honour and privilege to be in this position," Juffali told The National.
Juffali was born in Jeddah and will be representing her hometown and country during the upcoming race. She is the first Saudi female to race competitively under a Saudi race license and to compete in an international racing series at home.
In October 2018, Juffali made history when she competed in the TRD 86 Cup UAE, becoming the first Saudi woman to race competitively with no prior experience. She has also participated in international races including Formula 4 and this year at the British F3 Championship.
"For someone who just started three years ago, it's fantastic to be recognised and supported by your country, for your achievements," the 29-year-old Saudi racer said.
As an ambassador, Juffali will be present at the events over race weekend, in the paddock area and grid interacting with people before the race. She will also be doing demo laps in different cars and sharing her journey in motorsport.
"Learning something from scratch is difficult, racing with drivers that have a lot more experience and are younger than you. But I found a route to pursue my passion and to keep going," Juffali said.
"So it's challenging but it's been a fantastic journey on and off track. I am lucky to be where I am today and to be a racing driver really."
Jeddah Street Circuit takes shape ahead of Saudi Arabian GP
Juffali was initially drawn to motorsport as a spectator. While watching 24 Hours of Le Mans as a college student, she was inspired to join the sport.
"It was 24 Hours of Le Mans that inspired me to get behind the wheel," she said. "It was so interesting. I saw people of different ages, categories of cars and that's when I started. I told myself I can dream but I don't necessarily have to be an F1 driver and I can still be winning. 24 Hours of Le Mans is still my dream. And endurance racing."
Prince Khalid bin Al Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), said the kingdom wants the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix to inspire young Saudis to pursue careers in motorsport.
“One day we want to have a Saudi race driver, a man or a woman, racing in Formula One and winning the world championship,” he said.
Juffali hopes to inspire the next generation to pursue a career in motorsports and says the country's first F1 will further encourage Saudi's love for the sport. "I hope I inspire others to pursue their itching passions," she said.