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Al-Qubaisi in the fast lane for success

Amna Al-Qubaisi wants to follow in the footsteps of her father, Khaled Al-Qubaisi, and drive her way to the top of motorsport. She will compete in Formula 4 next year. (Photo Courtesy of Amna Al-Qubaisi)
LONDON: Amna Al-Qubaisi does not do simple, easy challenges. The 17-year-old Emirati racer has two aims: First, become a Formula One driver; second, become a role model for females across the Middle East, illustrating there are no barriers as to what Arab women can achieve.
It is not overstating the case to say she has already driven past the first corner in realizing both those aims. This year Al-Qubaisi won the Rotax Max Challenge, the UAE’s national karting championship. That has thrust her toward Formula 4 where she will compete next year. In doing so she will become the first Arab woman to test herself at that level, a traditional stepping stone to Formula One. “Reaching Formula One would be a huge deal because not just am I going to be the first woman to represent the Arab region but also a woman that hasn’t been in Formula One in a long time,” Al-Qubaisi told Arab News.
Al-Qubaisi’s move into Formula 4 comes at a time of change for women across the region. Last month the ban on women being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia was lifted. The move is welcome news to Al-Qubaisi, a woman forging a professional career behind the wheel.
“I’m happy that now they allow women to start driving in Saudi Arabia, It’s not just the first step it’s a really big step,” she said.
“I’m so happy that I’m driving race cars and more so, almost the reason why women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and hopefully not just on the roads, but on the racetracks,” she added.
In that vein Al-Qubaisi sees herself as a role model for women across the region, the timing of her move to Formula 4 being the perfect illustration of the changing culture and attitudes around the Middle East towards women.
“I see myself as a role model but also representing women in a good way. I’m not just representing the UAE but the entire Arab world. I want to show the Arab world and foreigners that we (Arab women) are capable of doing anything. I’m very happy to be the first woman to start racing, and for an Arab woman to race nationally and internationally. It’s a big change and it’s breaking the paradigms and it’s breaking barriers and that’s what we want. We want to make a good cause and something beneficial for the Middle East,” Al-Qubaisi said.
Al-Qubaisi has been racing since she was 13, first inspired by watching, along with the rest of her family, her dad’s racing performances in the Porsche GT3 Club Challenge.
“We’d always go and support him and make posters and cheer for him and sometimes at home he’d start talking about different drivers and going around the world, seeing different tracks and from that point, I just looked at my sister and we both thought, why shouldn’t we try it?” Al-Qubaisi said.
But her dad, Khaled Al-Qubaisi, first spotted the teen sensation’s talent at the age of just five, when she went out driving old quads in the desert with him.
“He saw the talent in me, I knew where the breaks were, I knew where the gas was, and it was my first time on a Quad so dad saw it (driving talent) in me long ago,” she revealed.
But becoming a female racing driver has had its fair share of challenges. Being a girl in a male dominated sport is something Al-Qubaisi has taken in her stride, developing her skills as part of the Damon Speed Academy (DSA).
“It was a tough start, Nobody gave me any attention in the beginning and I used that as motivation. Thanks to the DSA I have improved a lot and learnt so much from every race I tackled until I started to compete with the boys and win races Eventually I won the UAE Rotax max Challenge title in my class (senior),” she said.
Al-Qubaisi ended the season with 1,071 points, way ahead of her closest challenger, Jakob Robinson. And, as that stat suggests, she has no problem taking men on around the track.
“They’re aggressive so you have to be aggressive back and if they already know that you’re fast and have the pace and you’re capable they will respect you back,” she said.
Al-Qubaisi began the hashtag #drivelikeagirl out of frustration about the stereotyping of women drivers as being slow and hesitant. After recently racing in Europe after finishing in the top five in one of her heats, and being one of the fastest on the track she was told on social media.
“People say you drive like a girl?” she replied: “Drive a little faster and you can too.”
As UAE champion, Amna will represent the country at the upcoming Rotax Max Grand Finals in Portugal in November.

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