On the fast track: Reem Al Aboud's quest for excellence in motorsports

In breaking records and defying stereotypes, the Saudi Arabian racer is paving the way for a new generation of female racers to follow their dreams and make their mark in the world of motorsports


Husain Rizvi

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Reem AlAboud - GenBeta drive
Reem AlAboud - GenBeta drive

Published: Mon 1 Apr 2024, 5:52 PM

Saudi Arabia, known for its rich history and tradition, has been witnessing a remarkable evolution in recent years, especially in the realm of motorsports. Among the trailblazers leading this change is Reem Al Aboud, a pioneering Saudi Arabian female racing driver whose recent achievement has sent shockwaves through the racing world.

On International Women's Day in March, Reem made headlines by clocking a mind-boggling 0-60mph acceleration time of 2.49 seconds, surpassing the benchmark set by current Formula 1 cars. Driving the GENBETA electric race car, she not only shattered records but also broke barriers, showcasing the immense potential of women in motorsports.

In an exclusive Zoom interaction with City Times, Al Aboud shared her thoughts on this extraordinary feat and her journey in motorsports.

"To be completely honest, having to be the one to do this, and not only in Formula E but in the world, and even faster than a Formula 1 car from 0 to 100... it's truly an honour," said Reem. Her passion for Formula E, coupled with the opportunity to push the boundaries of speed, fuelled her determination to achieve the impossible.

Breaking barriers, for Reem, started when she became the first and youngest Saudi woman to drive hot laps at a Formula E circuit in a Nissan GEN2 car in 2018, the same year women were first granted the right to drive in KSA. "When I did that, a lot of women cam up to me and asked where and how to start in the sport," Reem recalls. "And now we have a lot of Saudi women excelling in the sports. So being one of the firsts in the sport and seeing how it inspired women, not only in motorsports, is amazing."

Reflecting on her journey from testing the Gen 2 Formula E car to breaking records with the GENBETA, Reem highlighted the technical advancements in each generation. "The difference between the Gen 2 and the Gen 3 are quite detectable... the Gen 3 car felt much lighter and faster and smoother when it came to braking," she explained. However, it was the GENBETA that presented an entirely new challenge, pushing her skills to the limit.

Reem made headlines by clocking a mind-boggling 0-60mph acceleration time of 2.49 seconds
Reem made headlines by clocking a mind-boggling 0-60mph acceleration time of 2.49 seconds

The GENBETA car, a pioneering initiative jointly developed by Formula E and the FIA, harnesses the cutting-edge capabilities of the all-electric GEN3 race car boasting 400kW of power. Supported by Generative AI technology powered by Google Cloud, it facilitated real-time telemetry performance analysis, enabling Reem to establish a groundbreaking acceleration benchmark and propel the forefront of electric motorsport innovation.

Reem's path to success was not without its challenges. From intensive training programs to navigating the complexities of different racing environments, she faced numerous obstacles along the way. "It wasn't easy at all... I honestly did not expect it. But it was fun. I mean, we enjoyed pushing, pushing, pushing," she recalled. "The G-Force from 0 to 100 in the GENBETA car, it was something that I haven't felt ever in any race car."

The time gap between the attempts was really small, making it harder for Reem and her team to achieve what they set out to. Then, in about 10 attempts, a new record was set.

Reem's love for the sport was triggered by her father. "He used to have a car that he loved tuning, programming, and working on to make it faster," she says, "and I was the only one out of his six children who was actually into what he was doing." Young Reem accompanied her father to the races where she watched and learned from her father. "He even took me to watch Formula 1 in Abu Dhabi once when I was young."

Reem is passionate about inspiring the next generation of female racers
Reem is passionate about inspiring the next generation of female racers

Beyond her personal achievements, Reem is passionate about inspiring the next generation of female racers. The only female in KSA's first ever Toyota Gazoo Racing team of five, Reem has collectively achieved more than 18 podiums in the first season. Ahead of the second season which begins in a few months, Reem hopes to represent her country in international races and podiums. In addition to that, she aspires to do help young females to join the sport in karting. "Because karting is the pinnacle of motosports," she said. "So maybe I want to set up an academy or a school for young females to take their first step into the sport."

When asked about the significance of speed in racing, Reem emphasised the importance of focus and dedication. "If you're not 100% focused, you're never gonna win... The focus is everything," she remarked. For her, racing is not just about going fast but about mastering the mental and physical challenges it presents.

As the conversation drew to a close, Reem shared her vision for the future of women in motorsports. While progress has been made, she believes there is still work to be done to achieve true gender balance in the sport. "We need to take initiatives and participate not only as racers but also as part of the technical and mechanical teams," she asserts. "So as long as there is improvement... women are going to aim for the stars."


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