RIYADH: Dakar Rally organizers A.S.O. initiated a development project that aims to have female Saudi drivers take part in the 2021 edition of the challenging race.
A.S.O. worked with Saudi circuit racer Aseel Al-Hamad, who is also a board member of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and a representative of the FIA Women in Motorsports Commission.
Al-Hamad proposed a grassroot approach to put young Saudi talents in the driving seat and prepare them for next year’s edition of the desert adventure.
Reem Al-Aboud, a young racing driver and one of the program members, drove the first stage of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 from Jeddah to Al-Wajh. The 20-year-old is a club racer, whose passion for motorsport started with karting.
She also won the second place at Saudi Time Attack and was the first Saudi female to test the Formula-E car in Diriyah ABB Formula E in 2018.
Expressing her excitement to be part of the project, Al-Aboud said: “I never imagined how thrilling it would be. The experience is totally different from track racing. I now know that I would want to be a rally driver besides my passion for track racing. It will require a lot of training and dedication to gain proper experience, and I am up for it.”
Another female driver in the running to be the first female Saudi competitor at Dakar Rally is Dania Akeel. The 31-year-old biker got the first female Speed Bike Competition License issued by SAMF and competed in UAE National Sportsbike Super Series as well as the Bahrain BMR600 Championship.
Among the other names to feature in the program was 31-year-old dirt biker Mashael Al-Obaidan who recently obtained a sport driving license and will be competing in local rally championships while she looks forward to the headline race next year.
Following Al-Aboud’s drive from Jeddah to Al-Wajh in Stage 1, Al-Hamad drove the fifth stage from AlUla to Hail and the sixth stage from Hail to Riyadh, while Akeel was behind the wheel in Stage 7 from Riyadh to Wadi Al-Dawasir. Al-Obaidan, meanwhile, drove in Stage 8, which started from and ended in Wadi Al Dawasir.
“This is just the start. We are doing this to discover our local female talents, work with A.S.O. to train them with Patissier and prepare them to compete at Dakar Saudi Arabia 2021,” Al-Hamad said.
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 takes place over 12 stages contested in 13 days and sees 342 pilots from 62 countries drive nearly 8,000km of uncharted Saudi desert.