JEDDAH: Jutta Kleinschmidt, one in a line of unsung heroes helping run Saudi Arabia Dakar 2020, is looking forward to returning to the Kingdom for the 2021 race.
Nicknamed “Miss Dakar” after becoming the rally’s only female winner in 2001, the Cologne-born veteran of the bike and car categories has been part of the famous endurance race for over three decades and on three continents.
The former off-road racer told Arab News that she is excited to come back next year. “I spoke to Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal (president of the Saudi Automotive and Motorcycle Federation), and he told me that he wants to do something for women, especially with regards to racing in the Dakar Rally,” Kleinschmidt said.
“I also know that Dakar is starting an academy here, and with the prince’s help, we’re looking into the possibility of starting a class for women to teach them racing. I’m very happy to be one of the instructors.”
Having performed in the Dakar Rally in Africa, South America and now in Saudi Arabia, Kleinschmidt said: “I was quite surprised by the beautiful nature when I came to Saudi Arabia. This country has so many different landscapes. That it’s possible to find everything in one country was very surprising.”
Kleinschmidt added that her experience with the local culture also proved positive. “I didn’t feel during the event that I had to behave any differently. You always respect the culture of the country you’re in, but I had no trouble whatsoever doing what I do anywhere else,” she said.
Of her milestone victory in 2001 and its impact on motorsport in terms of gender equality, Kleinschmidt said: “It shows that women can achieve everything. I loved this sport and wanted to compete, and I never thought about my gender in that process. I was simply a competitor against others, and I wanted to win. I felt that there was no reason I could not achieve that.”
She added: “This is important because of the predominant belief that women aren’t as good as men because of the difference in physical strength, but excelling in motorsport involves many other skills, and it’s not as important to be muscular. This is one of the things I like about motorsport; it’s one of the very few sports that are mixed.”
When asked about returning to Saudi Arabia for Dakar 2021, Kleinschmidt said: “Definitely. There’s no question about that.”