The landmark races are racking up for Reema Juffali. On Friday, Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver is taking part in the 24 Hours of Dubai, her first time in the endurance race at Dubai Autodrome.
It comes only weeks after the 29-year-old was nominated as an ambassador for the first Saudi Arabian Formula One Grand Prix in Jeddah.
“It was great, it honestly felt like a dream somehow, it was a very magical weekend for Saudi as a whole,” Juffali said. “The whole race weekend was packed with new Saudi fans and enthusiasts alike. We were essentially introducing them to this world of Formula One. I think they took it on. From what I understand, it was one of the most viewed races of the year, so that just shows you that there’s definitely interest and excitement.
“I was so happy to play my part, whether it was sharing my stories as a racing driver, or representing Saudi, it was a great experience. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Juffali has in recent years experienced some of the world’s most famous tracks and said Jeddah Corniche Circuit ranks alongside the toughest and best.
“A street track is one that’s in general quite a difficult one,” she said. “Exciting, but it’s always difficult because there’s no room for a driver. And this track was definitely very thrilling, but also on edge for a lot of the drivers having only come for the first time, so that made it very interesting.”
For Juffali on a personal level, watching the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a very poignant moment.
“In terms of the surroundings and facilities it was something special to be on the coast of the Red Sea in Jeddah, my city,” she said. “Around surroundings that I’m familiar with, and the race track was just at my doorstep, I recognised the mosque where we would walk by, and the pit, and the racetrack is just like one of the corners out there. So it was a very surreal moment and it just shows you how fast Saudi is growing and what it has to offer.”
She spent 2021 racing in the British F3 Championship with Douglas Motorsport, which was a huge learning curve.
“Overall, the experience was probably one of the toughest and maybe also the one that I’ve learned the most from as a driver. I feel like I’ve grown so much from it,” said Juffali. “But also, because of the circumstances, whether it’s the pandemic or being away from family and friends, and completely dedicating my time there, I think it definitely added value and also took some things away.”
In particular, she praised the “great team” at Douglas Motorsport as she now looks to the new stage in her career.
“The support I received from them, I really felt that I took big steps in my career, but unfortunately it wasn’t really reflected in my performance and results,” she said. “But I definitely feel a lot more confident and moving from an F3 and a jumping into GT3, and the fact that I felt comfortable in the GT3 from the start just tells me that I’ve taken the right steps and that I am ready for what’s to come and I’ve grown as a driver.”
Getting into the GT3 for the 24 Hours of Dubai will be a new experience for Juffali, one that required new levels of preparation and conditioning.
“To put it simply, I’m going from a sprint to a marathon,” she said. “So a lot of the prep that I’ve done outside of the track is working on my endurance, whether it’s cycling and running or power in my lower body. It’s a lot of repetition, a lot of focus and attention required. I’m in the car for three times as long, even more than that, as I am usually, so it’s going to require a lot of attention and pressure and managing different situations.
“The more physically fit you are, the more attention you have to focus on what you have ahead of you on the track. That’s what I’ve been doing a lot behind the scenes, just preparing myself physically and mentally for what’s to come.”
As part of SPS Automotive Performance team, Juffali is one of four drivers splitting the 24 hours at Dubai Autodrome on starting Friday.
“It’s split up equally, six hours, but obviously not six hours in one go,” she said. “I would say a minimum of an hour and a maximum of two hours per stint, depending on what’s happening on the track, of course. We will always adapt and adjust the strategy accordingly.”
Beyond the 24 Hours of Dubai race, Juffali is keeping her options open as to the next steps in her career. There is, however, one destination she is hoping to reach ultimately, one of motorsport’s most famous races.
“I think for me, it’s now about taking this next step into GT racing and looking at that as the way forward,” she said. “I’m not ready to announce my plans for the upcoming season, but I can definitely say that I’m moving in this direction and getting closer to my aspiration, which is to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”