JEDDAH: Merryhan Al-Baz’ has been taking apart cars and indulging her curiosity in the world of vehicles since she was 13 years old.
This passion for motors and engines, inherited from her father, lead the now 30-year-old to participate in the Diriyah E-Prix 2022 as a recovery marshal last month, becoming the world’s first female crane driver in race competitions.
My father loves mechanics; he has old cars that he tries to repair and put back into operation, and I was the only person that sat next to him to watch how he does it.
“No one ever thought a woman could enter this field — the world of mechanics is a male dominated career. Fortunately, in my household, my mother and father always support any talents, ideas, or anything you desire to do,” Al-Baz told Arab News.
“My father loves mechanics; he has old cars that he tries to repair and put back into operation, and I was the only person that sat next to him to watch how he does it,” she added.
Growing up with this type of quality time helped her gain experience and expanded her knowledge of car mechanics.
Wherever there was a car exhibition or race, Al-Baz made sure to be present.
“I’ve loved cars all my life, I have experience in racing and drifting as well,” she said.
Al-Baz added that after the ban on women driving was lifted in June 2018, many opportunities regarding motor vehicles were opened for women in the Kingdom, from becoming driving instructors to racing drivers and mechanics.
“This helped me achieve my dream of becoming a mechanic,” she said. “It’s such an amazing feeling to walk down the street and have people know who I am and greet me, encourage me and even learn from me.”
Al-Baz explained that there are four types of marshals at the E-Prix; fire, recovery, flag, and trackside. On the ground, authorities saw her capabilities and assigned her to join the recovery marshal team.
Recovery marshals must clean up the circuit immediately after an accident happens in order for a race to continue its course.
“Being a recovery marshal is considered a difficult job for women — I was a crane driver tasked with picking up cars whenever an accident occurs on the circuit as quickly as possible,” she said.
Al-Baz noted that it is a time-sensitive job as it directly affects the flow of the race.
“Whenever there is an accident, recovery marshals need to be at the scene as soon as possible because accidents delay the race and we must act quickly. The time the car is causing a road block is taking up time from the other racers,” she explained.
Al-Baz is a self-taught mechanic, with her educational background completely different from her career path.
“I actually studied psychology and media in Lebanon, but I see myself in the world of cars,” she said.
Al-Baz registered at an institute in Jeddah to receive a certificate to pursue her career in a more official manner. Her autodidactic reputation earned her a position as an instructor too, and she hopes that she will be able to open her own automobile repair shop in the near future.