ALULA: Rally Jameel 2023 kicked off in AlUla on Wednesday, with leading female drivers from the region and the rest of the world competing in a race that will conclude in Al-Qassim on March 11.
The event has attracted female rally drivers from around the world since its inaugural running last year.
“I really can’t describe my feelings,” said Saudi driver Maha Alhamli. “The same nerves, the same fears, this is something we’re used to before the race. Preparation is part of the race, good preparation, too. You have to take the rally seriously and prepare for it as much as possible.”
Alhamli said that she has been studying the regulations and taking all the rules into consideration as this is her second participation, with the first race having proven a novel experience for her.
“I had a lot of questions about how the experience will look like and there were a lot of surprises and challenges. Getting stuck and having punctures, it was full of action and every accident that took place I hoped would be the last,” she said.
Other competitors, including Samara Al-Ghamdi, felt proud to have the Kingdom endorsing women’s racing.
“I would like to thank Saudi Arabia for this opportunity on International Women’s Day to test our ability in this challenge,” she said.
Bayan Zakaria, who has been taking part in go-karting and motocross since she was a child, said: “It’s a great opportunity to start experiencing the rally and navigation in Rally Jameel. We had the opportunity and jumped right into it.”
Last year’s launch of Rally Jameel caught the eye of other drivers.
“Last year I read about (the race) and saw it, and I was like, ‘why didn’t I participate?’. So this year, when I knew the time and date, I was definitely going to start,” said Saz Aso Jafaar.
Jasmeet Kaur Batra from India said that her team have competed in many rallies in her home country and are champions at a national stage there.
“But we have never done anything like this there. So this is our first time in a desert, our first time in this kind of a terrain,” she said.
For Sahar Darwa, who is navigating for the first time with a professional rally driver, the prospect of racing was terrifying.
“But as soon as we went on the road and did the first navigation, I felt very calm,” she said. “I had to learn how to navigate. That’s it. So we went through the road book. We took our notes. We had to study all the signs,” she said.