Amna Al Qubaisi talks racing, adrenaline and ‘driving like a girl’

This Sunday, Amna Al Qubaisi made history in Saudi Arabia

In a UK exclusive, Marie Claire spoke to Emirati racing driver Amna Al Qubaisi ahead of her history-making race in Saudi Arabia. As well as being the first Arab woman to test drive a Formula E car, Al Qubaisi’s Formula E test last Sunday saw her racing through the streets of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia just six months after the country lifted its ban on female drivers.

Formula 4 driver Amna is no stranger to the racing scene: her father, Khaled Al Qubaisi, is a well-known driver and was the first Emirati to compete at the world-famous Le Mans 24 Hours motor endurance race. She credits him as the catalyst for her to start racing at the age of 14, a relatively late entry into a world where starting karting at the same age as starting school is common place.

Combining her time racing with studying mechanical engineering at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, Amna’s day is a busy one – but this routine is something that suits her:

‘I’ve always been quite busy, and I like it because it keeps me going and distracted,’ she said. ‘As soon as I wake up in the morning, I go to the gym for two hours with my trainer then I study for a few hours. After that, I train on a shifter kart to keep the momentum.’

Squeezing in time to speak between racing practice and studying, Amna Al Qubaisi gave us the lowdown on ambitions, balancing work and friendships, and how she’s reclaiming the phrase ‘Drive like a girl’.

What does it mean to you to be the first Arab woman to take part in Formula E?

‘It is a huge step forward and a great honour to represent my roots in this particular field. I’m very thankful to [my sponsors] Kaspersky Lab and Envision Virgin Racing for giving me this great opportunity.’

You’ve previously said that the thrill of the speed doesn’t scare you at all – have you always favoured adrenaline-fuelled sports?

‘Yes, I’ve always had the adrenaline in me, from going to fast roller coasters to jet skis in the sea! Adrenaline completes me.’

amna al qubaisi

Image: Guido De Bortoli / Getty Images for Kaspersky Lab

What do your friends think about you racing? Do they work in similar fields and jobs?

‘My friends were very supportive and helpful. They’re quite impressed but racing requires a lot of commitment and passion, you can’t just become a skilled driver overnight. Unfortunately no other Arab females are in the same field as I am, but I do have my sister who is also racing. Hopefully we get more Arab drivers in this field in future.’

What excites you the most about Formula E?

‘It’s an electric car. The power will be unbelievably rapid, it’s the future. And it also includes the fans in the ‘fan boost’ [the system where fans of drivers can use social media to vote for them to receive more power].’

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👀 @envisionvirginracing #DriveLikeAGirl

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What is the biggest change you would like to see in the motorsports world?

‘I want to see the audience and fans who love motorsports being involved. Not just through buying the merchandise, but also having the chance to meet and have conversations with the drivers.’

The motorsports world is fairly male-dominated – what challenges have you faced in that respect?

‘In the beginning, I was underestimated a lot and have been pushed off track when overtaking. I had to gain the other drivers’ respect, so I started to become more aggressive and pushing back, gaining the respect I deserved on track, just like everybody else.’

What advice would you give to women who want to compete in racing?

‘Go for it! It’s never too late to go racing, no matter what your age. Motorsports are for everyone: if others say you can’t, use that as motivation to push harder and prove them wrong.’

Amna in action in Riyadh. Image: Guido De Bortoli / Getty Images for Kaspersky Lab

What has been your proudest moment?

‘In my first ever F4 race in Adria, I placed 12th out of 33 drivers. I was so happy with that position, since I hadn’t had enough experience with the F4 car.’

Do you have a favourite saying or mantra? 

‘Drive like a girl! People used to use this as insult but nowadays it’s starting to become more of an inspiration because women are dominating.’

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