JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first ever women-only motor event has ended with all 34 teams arriving safely in Riyadh after the final leg of the 1,105-kilometer three-day Rally Jameel.
The race, launched in front of Hail’s Al-Qishlah Castle by Hail Gov. Prince Abdulaziz bin Saad Al-Saud, was won by Annie Seel and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky from Sweden, in their Toyota RAV4.
Seel is a Dakar veteran racer with a long list of wins during her 30-year racing career.
Princess Abeer bint Majed Al-Saud, who participated in her Porsche Cayenne with co-driver Nawal Al-Mougadry, said: “It was a great experience. To be honest, I took part because rally racing is a hobby that I wanted to be part of and grow in.
“It’s a sport I always wanted to be part of growing up. I have always raced on circuits, but this is my first 4x4 experience, and I learned a lot. I did face a lot of difficulties with my car, and I had a punctured tire almost every day. But I am grateful I made it, and it is a true honor to have met all these women, and I wish to stay in touch with all of the participants,” she added.
The rally was an initiative by Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, and was organized by Bakhashab Motorsports, and sanctioned by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation.
Hassan Jameel, deputy president and vice chairman of Abdul Latif Jameel, said: “As Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, we are honored to help drive women’s participation in sports through Rally Jameel.
“As a motorsports event inspired by Saudi Arabia’s mission to empower women under Vision 2030, we are committed to building on the rally’s success and further assisting in this progressive Kingdom-wide transformation.”
The race was held to encourage more women throughout the Kingdom and region to get involved in motorsport and rallying, along with other sports.
Abdullah Bakhashab, general manager of Bakhashab Motorsports, said: “I am very happy with Rally Jameel coming to its end and crowning all the winners who took part in this historic, first-of-its-kind, women-only, navigational rally in the Kingdom and the Arab world.
“I would like also to express my satisfaction with the huge participation, where foreign racers from 15 countries, such as the US, Sweden, and the UAE, took part in the rally, alongside nearly 21 racers from Saudi Arabia. And most importantly, they all reached the end point safely. I look forward to seeing them again in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
The navigational rally, which was not designed as a speed test, followed road and off-road routes from the north-central city of Hail, through Qassim, and then on to Riyadh, via hidden checkpoints and challenges.
Despite a number of well-known rally racers and Dakar winners being involved in the event, for most of the entrants it was their first taste of any kind of motoring experience.
Walaa Rahbini, participating in her first motoring event driving an MG RX8 with her sister Samar, said: “The rally was really challenging and fun, but not that easy. We needed more practice.
“The navigation was OK, but sometimes when you lose your way you have to go back and recalibrate the kilometers, so you can continue, which was challenging. But I would definitely do a rally like this again.”
The rally passed by historic sites, including Jubba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its Neolithic rock art, Tuwarin Village, and Uyun Al-Jawa in Qassim region with its famous Antara’s rock.
The route also took competitors past the iconic Saq Mountain, before heading to Rawdat Al-Hisu, close to the Ruwaydat ash Sha’ Basin, and finally finishing at rally HQ in Shaqra, where a new university was recently opened.
Emme Hall, a former winner of the US-based Rebelle Rally, said: “It’s been so cool to come to Saudi Arabia and see some of the amazing sites and landmarks the country has to offer.
“Because speed wasn’t part of the event, we actually had a little time to look around and enjoy the scenery. That made this even more special, and my co-driver and I can’t wait to come back again.”